Last night while I was teaching my life group, I asked my boys a question and got absolutely no response. It was a pretty basic question. No response.
The section of the lesson was about reaching out to people around us when they’re having a bad day. I asked them, “What’s a good approach to reach out to them? Is it better to ask them about themselves or to tell them a story about yourself?” We had been talking about how Jesus reached out to the demon-possessed man in Mark 5. Jesus started by asking him what his name was.
There wasn’t a word of response to my no-brainer question.
I took a different approach that changed everything. I asked, “Has anybody ever asked you how you’re doing? As you’re telling them, they interrupt you to talk about themselves?” That changed everything! They could have talked for hours. The lifeless group of 20 freshman boys had come alive. They were angry because they were all thinking about a time that happened. They suddenly understood the point I was trying to teach. Jesus was able to reach people because he asked hurting people about themselves, and then listened to their responses. He was being the model of how he wants us to care for others.
This radical difference in the life of my students last night reminded me of an important teaching principle: Help students internalize the lesson by relating it to their personal experiences. In other words, make it about them. When they feel an emotion connected to what I’m teaching, the lesson will stick with them long after the night is over.
Don’t you love it when you see the lights go on inside their heads? Let there be light – lots and lots of light.
Each week parents are sending desserts with their boys to Life Group. I got to where I couldn’t remember if somebody said they were bringing it. I always had a box cookie mix I could make in a pinch, but then a youth ministry friend told me about SignUpGenius.com. I used it to create a schedule for the entire year of life group. Parents can sign up for which ever weeks they want. They get an automatic reminder a couple of days ahead of time.
Taking it to the next level
I miss making desserts. I believe the boys should have homemade desserts because in today’s culture, for some of them it may the only homemade thing they get that week. I also believe if they can make the dessert themselves, it becomes a memory. I’m for sure going to take pictures of the night which will become part of the senior slide show for their graduation in a few years.
To get the best of both worlds, I’ve started putting the ingredients on the sign up list for parents to sponsor a theme dessert night. Next up on the list of stuff for parents to send is 4 tubes of crescent rolls and 2 containers of ice cream. I’m providing strawberries. Students will put the crescent rolls in the waffle maker, then top them with ice cream, strawberries and whipped cream. It’s going to be amazing!
- Parents still get to participate
- Students get homemade dessert
- Everybody gets a memory from the night
Dessert is such an easy way to make our ministries more dynamic. If we put a little thought into the “why” behind the “what” we do, our efforts can be much more effective. Those memories are amazingly helpful to make connections with students a little easier and relationships with them a little deeper.
Saw this blog post over at DownLoadYouthMinistry.com by Justin Knowles. He wrote a brilliant post about why you may see youth staff not hanging out with students. Strategic youth workers will do what he does. I’m posting an excerpt from the post below. Click here to read the whole post. You’ll have a better understanding of why that should be happening.
Looking back at my year I have spent a majority of my time with our leaders. Even if your ministry is at a point where you can hang out with all your students the way you want (that is awesome because it is a gift, I wish I had the capability to do that) but as you grow you will need to switch to this model quickly to be more effective. The Andy Stanley quote comes to mind as I have been wrestling with this whole thing: “Do for one for what you wish you can do for all. Continue reading…”
Got a text message this morning that really made my day.
My small group boys from last year are now in a college-age small group. Their leader contacted me today to meet up to talk about them. I love this for a few reasons:
– I love those boys and I’m stoked to help their new leader know them better
– I love that their leader cares enough about leading them to reach out to me to find out how to lead them more effectively
As leaders we do our students a huge favor when we serve them strategically. That’s what this leader is doing by setting up our meeting this afternoon. It makes me happy to know that my boys, who I poured into for 4 years, have a new leader who cares about leading them as much as I do.
My Life Group students all graduated last year. This year I’m back to teaching Freshmen. This week we went to the park for our lesson. Afterward, they ran around the field pushing each other over and being very rough. All of it was in fun, but I’m so not used to that anymore. Kind of took me by surprise. I’m also finding that I need to learn how to teach to this age group again.
I love how each age has unique needs that require me as a leader to grow or relearn skills I haven’t used for a long time. It keeps me fresh and requires me to rethink strategies. As youth workers, we can become like old wine skins that can break with changes like this. I find myself reminding myself I need to be renewed, rather than expecting students to adjust to my “get off my lawn” stage of life and what I’m used to having with my seniors from last year.