Project 365: Day 160 First Day of Unofficial Art Camp


During the last several months, I have discovered a love for creating art and I have a dream of sharing that love with others. The process of creating art can be relaxing, healing, even a way to connect with God. I would love to lead a ministry someday that encourages people to nurture their creativity.

I often use art and creative expression as part of the senior high Bible study I teach. Even though I have more enthusiasm than artistic talent, I don’t let that hold me back. This summer I thought I’d experiment with leading a mini art camp at my house.

How it worked: I invited just enough students (my friends’ kids) to fit around my kitchen table. I researched ideas from Pinterest and my own art classes, picked up supplies, sketched out a lesson plan. Old shirts were purchased from Goodwill to serve as art smocks, a drop cloth was out down, and voila! Art Camp!

Day One was focused on drawing faces and basic art elements. We created art journals and portfolios.

As a class, we came up with the following rules before we started:

1. We are all artists. (We are made in the image if a great Creator and Artist – Claim it!)
2. Be nice to others.
3. Sharing is what we do.
4. Be nice to yourself. (We tend to be our own harshest critics so those negative thoughts were not allowed at Art Camp!)
5. Everything is an experiment.
6. Be careful.

Pretty good rules to live by, don’t you think?

How could you adapt this idea and use it in your ministry? Who can you ask for help?

Here are pictures from Day One of Art Camp:









Project 365: Day 99 A Lent/Passover Bible Study on John 13:1-35


Wednesday night is senior high Bible study night (SBUMCSHBS). Tonight we continued our series on the book of John and Jesus’s last days. Tonight’s lesson was multisensory and went really well, so I thought I would share it with everyone.

Supplies: dish tubs filled with warm water, towels, chairs, hand sanitizer, matzah, kosher grape juice, kosher candy (optional), Kings Hawaiian Sweet Bread loaf (or whatever your church uses typically for communion)

The study begins before anyone enters the room. A sign on the door asks participants to remove their shoes and socks, and to enter and sit quietly.

In silence: One person at a time, leaders guide each person to a chair in front of the water tub. Ceremonially wash and dry each person’s feet. We ended with leaders washing each other’s feet.


Then we welcomed everyone to Bible study and reviewed the stories we have been reading (for us it was Jesus raising Lazarus and Mary anointing Jesus’s feet)

We took turns reading parts of John 13. I’m putting the text here, courtesy of, with some of the discussion questions interjected:

Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

This led to discussion about whether or not Jesus was naked under the towel. Did towels look like we think of today? The good news is we are in the habit of visualizing the stories as we read! (Religious scholars and historians feel free to help us out here. I’m just reporting what we talked about.)

6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

At this point we talked about how it was a common practice of hospitality to provide a basin for washing guests’ feet. The actual washing would be done by a slave, not the host, so Jesus’s act had more meaning. How did it feel to have your feet washed?

Jesus Predicts His Betrayal

18 “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned[a] against me.’[b]

19 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. 20 Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”

21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”

At this point I introduced the matzah and explained it’s history in Jewish tradition. We talked about the significance of unleavened bread to God’s saved people. I also taught about what “kosher” food means. We sampled kosher grape juice with a piece of matzah as we read the next section:

22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”

25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”

26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.

Snap! What just happened? What did it look like when Satan entered Judas?

So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” 28 But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. 30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.

Here we tried the sweet bread so everyone could taste the difference between leavened and unleavened bread.

Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial

31 When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him,[c] God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.

33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

The last two verses are our memory verses for next week. Whoever can recite them next week earns a candy prize. To close the lesson we shared our joys and concerns, we prayed, and then everyone got to sample a piece of kosher candy on their way out.

How does it feel to have someone serve you?
When have you served others?
How is your foot washing like baptism?
Which character would you be in this story?
What did you think of the foods?
How do you show love to one another?

Project 365: Day 85 Lazarus Bible Study


John 11:35 “Jesus wept.”

It is the time of year when we consider resurrection. At senior high Bible study tonight we discussed the story of Lazarus. Read Luke 11:1-44.

Found in John chapter 11, A quick summary of Lazarus is story is that Jesus and Lazarus were friends. Jesus is away but gets word that his friend Lazarus is very ill and needs Jesus’s healing. Before Jesus can get to Lazarus, Lazarus dies and is entombed. Once Jesus arrives, he finds that his friends are wailing and weeping & Jesus wept too. He opens the tomb (much to the objection of Mary and Martha and the others) and tells Lazarus to come out. Alive, a resurrected Lazarus comes out of the tomb.

The raising of Lazarus from the dead is a story that comes right before the leaders coming and turning against Jesus. Through this story of Jesus with his friends we can sense God’s humanity and his empathy for others.

What do you think about resurrection?
Do you think the next thing you’ll hear after death is Jesus calling you?
Which person in the story do you relate to best? Why?

An unexpected bonus tonight was that we talked about how to read and study the Bible. We still lack a clever acronym, but we came up with this process:

After reading a passage, ask:
What does the passage Say?
What does the passage say about God?
What does the passage say about Us?
What does the passage say about the Relationship between God and Us?
What else stands out?

I also shared that Google can be a great starting point as long as you’re careful.

We suggested following a Bible reading plan and I use this list of reading plans.

Where would you begin?&p;

Light-hearted Yet Deep St. Patrick’s Day Lesson

Monday is St. Patrick’s Day, so I can’t think of a better time to share the following YouTube video with you, St. Patrick’s Bad Analogies:

I was introduced to this video during the Intro to Theology class I visited when I was checking out SMU Perkins School of Theology. I love how the video is very deep theologically, but fun as well.

If you are a youthworker sharing this video with your youth ministry, or even an adult sharing this with your Sunday School or Bible Study, you might want to ask the following discussion questions:

  • Who is God to you?
  • Who is Jesus?
  • Who is the Holy Spirit?
  • Before this video, how did you describe the concept of the Trinity?

Read through John 1 and discuss who is the Word and what this passage says about God, about the Trinity.  You could follow this up with reading through historical creeds found in the United Methodist (or your denomination) hymnal.

And there you have it, a quick and easy Bible study on the Trinity and St. Patrick, just in time for St. Patty’s Day!

May the luck o’ the Irish be with you, Erin Go Bragh, etc,

Erin (or as my dad always called me, Erin O’Seamus O’Shansky O’Toole)


Project 365: Day 57 Senior High Sabbath Bible Study


Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.
Psalm 46:10

Tonight I gave SBUMCSHBS the gift of quiet time with God. We have been studying time, Sabbath and connecting with God a lot this year. We began the hour by centering ourselves, getting the noise out of our heads and putting aside our phones:


Students, journals and pens in hand, quietly rotated through five prayer stations. Each station had a description, Scripture, reflection questions, an activity and a prayer.

They lit a candle and asked for God’s light in the areas of life that needed guidance:


They wrote on a stone as they remembered what God has delivered us from and what He has given us:


They enjoyed grapes and bread as they remembered God’s blessings from the earth:


With water, they were cleansed and made whole and renewed:


And, perhaps most importantly, they
simply rested in quiet meditation:


What a joy to share the gift of quiet time with God!


How do you observe Sabbath time?
What can you do today to quiet yourselves and just be in God’s presence?

I love you, Lord…But I AM MAD AT YOU!

This is an article I wrote for The YouthWorker Movement, thought I’d put it here on my personal blog, too:


Are we failing the students in our youth ministry by teaching them to be too polite to God?

I recently visited a different mainline church’s youth group program.  During the lesson time, the youth pastor asked the opening question, “What are different ways we can pray?”  The room contained a wide range of students from goofy 6th grade boys to mature 12th grade girls, so the maturity of answers varied a little, but the gist was: Prayers in church, silent prayer, singing praises, spending time in nature, prayer with movement, liturgical dance, writing down your prayer, reading the Bible, saying grace at dinner…and so on.

While listening, it occurred to me, all of the prayers we tend to teach and model to youth are very polite, reserved even.  And maybe even a little fake.

When I’m honest, there are times in life when I don’t feel polite at all.  When tragedy strikes and it’s on the news – innocent children murdered while at school, civilian hostages being shot and killed in a Kenyan shopping mall – the emotions I feel are shock, horror, sadness, grief, anger.  When I lost my job, I felt wounded, betrayed, stunned, hurt.  I’ve silently grieved the loss of unborn children lost through miscarriage.  These emotions boiling inside of me are neither polite nor reserved.

Learning to cope with strong, often changing emotions is one of the biggest challenges a teen can face.  If I reflect on my adolescent years, emotions I felt then were similar to the ones I feel now, more intense even.  I clearly recall specific times of anger, pain, grief, doubt, disbelief, betrayal, abandonment and more ugliness.  As a teen, I did not know much beyond my own personal experience and emotions.  What is different for me now is I have a faith mature enough to recognize that, no matter the circumstance, God is still good and God is still in control.  Teens don’t all know that yet.  Is there a way to help them deal with pain and anger and other strong emotions by teaching it is okay to feel these emotions, even to pray toward God with them?

What if we taught that it was okay to be real, to even yell at God?  

Here is how I introduced the concept recently:  In this clip from the classic movie, The Apostle (1997) you can see an entirely different model of prayer, one I know that my United Methodist senior highers had never seen before.  In case you haven’t seen the movie (it’s really good), what you need to know is the main character, Sonny, is a preacher that is a complicated, imperfect character.  He just lost the church he started and his marriage is falling apart.

(Follow this link if the above clip doesn’t play for you:

I showed this movie clip to my senior high Bible study last week, followed by questions on how they have seen people pray.  Well, no one had even imagined yelling at God before.  In church we tend to focus on the pretty parts of the Bible, but if you take a close look, there is a lot in Scripture about struggle, anger, pain, grief, jealousy and more.  We followed the clip with a Bible lesson on the wide range of emotions found in the book of Psalms, having the youth read to themselves.   Youth reflected on their week, read Psalms from the list in the lesson that spoke to them, prayed and then wrote their own psalm prayer.  (Here is the complete handout I used: How to Use the Bible to Improve Your Prayer Life, adapted from to “Holy Things for Youth Ministry“ by Brian Hardesty-Crouch.)

Maybe United Methodists in general are never going to feel comfortable with actually yelling at God, especially in front of others, but maybe we should.  What I learned through this Bible study is that there are deep emotions going on in the youths’ lives, even on an ordinary Wednesday school night.  We fail our students if we don’t teach them that it is okay to be honest with God.  Sometimes honesty is a painful thing, yes?  By giving a method to pray about their emotions, by giving permission to be honest and to deal with hard things head on, healing and growth begin.  By teaching how the Bible can give practical help in times of struggle, students learn to turn to God’s Word for guidance.   The youth and I also learned that they are creative and can make parts of the Bible their own story.  My prayer for you is that you can model honesty with God, even when the truth hurts.




What other creative ways have you or your church taught about prayer?  About dealing with emotion?

Is there someone you know whose life would be changed if they knew it was okay to yell at God, to release their anger and hurt?

No More Pizza for the Youth Ministry

Feeding the masses at your youth group gathering but out of fresh menu ideas?  Meal planning for a retreat?  Or are you looking for an easy menu list to pass out to the parents who graciously volunteered to make snack supper for the youth group?

It’s okay to admit it – are you just plain tired of pizza?  Try these 9 inexpensive menus for a change.  Each menu is designed to be easy to make, easy to multiply and less than $3.00 per person.

9 Cheap Snack Supper Meals that are Not Pizza

1.    Ballpark Fare: Hot Dogs/Chips/Fruit             

Suggested shopping list: Hot Dogs & Buns (estimate 1.5 per person), ketchup, mustard, relish, bag of chips per person; Apples & Oranges (1 fruit per person)

Estimated Cost Per Person: $1.50-2.00

2.    Italian Night: Spaghetti or Lasagna/Bread/Caesar Salad*

Suggested Shopping List: Spaghetti  & sauce or Large Frozen Lasagnas, loaves of  French bread, butter, bags of romaine lettuce salad, Caesar dressing, croutons, shredded parmesan cheese.

Estimated Cost Per Person: Spaghetti meal $2.00; Lasagna meal $2.50-3.00

3.    Hoagies/Sandwich Bar

Suggested Shopping List: Either loaves of wheat & white bread or sandwich rolls, sandwich meat such as roast beef, turkey & ham, American and provolone cheese, lettuce, mayonnaise, mustard, tomato slices, peanut butter & jelly, bags of chips, sandwich cookies.

Estimated Cost Per Person: $2.00-2.50

4.    Mexican Menu: Tacos/Taco Salad/Nacho Bar

Suggested Shopping List: Ground Beef, Taco Seasoning (cooked ahead of time), heated taco shells, tortillas, shredded cheddar cheese, lettuce, salsa, nacho cheese heated in Crock Pot, extras: jalapeños, sour cream, guacamole.

Estimated Cost Per Person: $1.75-$2.00

5.    Frozen Food You Heat & Eat: Taquitos, Chicken nuggets, Corn Dogs

Suggested Shopping List: buy bulk quantities of whichever items you plan on serving (estimate 6 taquitos, 6 nuggets, or 1.5 corndogs per person) serve with cut fruit, chips, cookies.

Estimated Cost Per Person: $2.00-2.50

6.    Grill it: Hamburgers & Fixings

Suggested Shopping List: hamburger patties and buns (estimate 1.5 per person); American cheese slices; ketchup, mustard, pickles, lettuce, tomato slices.  Serve with sides such as chips, cookies.

Estimated Cost Per Person: $2.50 per person

7.    Breakfast for Dinner: Pancakes/French toast sticks with fruit cup or Breakfast Tacos with fruit cup*

Suggested Shopping List:  For Pancake/French Toast Sticks Meal: Pancake mix, butter, syrup, frozen French toast sticks, powdered sugar, fruit cups, milk and orange juice; For Breakfast Taco Meal: scrambled eggs with and without sausage crumbles (cooked ahead of time), flour tortillas, cheese, salsa, fruit cups, milk and orange juice.

Estimated Cost Per Person: $1.50-2.00

8.    Soup & Grilled Cheese Sandwich*

Suggested Shopping List: tomato and chicken noodle soups, loaves of white bread, butter, American cheese slices.  Remember to have bowls and spoons on hand.

Estimated Cost Per Person: $1.50

9.    Baked Potato and Salad Bar*

Suggested Shopping List: Potatoes (1 per person), shredded cheddar cheese, bacon bits, butter, sour cream, bags of salad, Italian and Ranch dressing, croutons, optional carrots or additional veggies for the salad.  Caesar salad is also a really popular option.

Estimated Cost Per Person: $1.50-2.00

Money saving tips: You can save more by buying in bulk packaging – serving from large bags of chips instead of individual bags will reduce your costs, for example.  Instead of individual soft drink cans, offer 2 liters to choose from or even cheaper, water & lemonade.   Note: I did not include drinks in most of the menus, costs for drinks will be anywhere from free water to about 50 cents per person.

*These menus are easily adapted to meet vegetarian diet needs


Do you serve a meal when your youth group meets? 

What non-pizza menus have worked well with your youth group?

Pin It!

I put together a little Pinboard for snack supper ideas – feel free to check it out.

Special thanks to my youth ministry colleague/former caterer/feeding frenzy expert, Michelle Freeman, for her input on this article.

10 Quick-Prep Activities for Super-Small Groups

I wrote the following article for The YouthWorker Movement, but the main reason I wrote it was to help out my awesome Just One Starfish Mentors with activity ideas.  Feel free to pass this on if you know people who’d like it.  In Christ, Erin

Can you have fun and learn about God with just a couple of people?

Whether you’re a big church youth group leader looking to make things smaller and more personal through small groups, or it just happens that on Wednesday only 2-3 youth showed up, or your entire youth group qualifies as a single “small group” at best, everyone can still get to know each other better and learn about God through these 10 quick prep activities.

The activities below are a mix of active and conversational games that will all work best with groups of 2-8 people.  If your group is larger, split into smaller groups.  I’ve suggested a few Bible verses to go with each activity, would love to hear from you if you have suggestions for others.

Be blessed!


10 Quick-Prep Activities for Super-Small Groups           

1. If cards

Supplies/Preparation: Prep a set of cards for each small group ahead of time

How to play:

Ask the group to sit in a circle. Write 20 ‘IF’ questions on cards and place them (question down) in the middle of the circle. The first person takes a card, reads it out and gives their answer, comment or explanation. The card is returned to the bottom of the pile before the next person takes their card.

This is a simple icebreaker to get young people talking and listening to others in the group. Keep it moving and don’t play for too long. Write your own additional ‘IF’ questions to add to the list.

  1. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
  2. If I gave you $10,000, what would you spend it on?
  3. If you could watch your favorite movie now, what would it be?
  4. If you could talk to anyone in the world, who would it be?
  5. If you could wish one thing to come true this year, what would it be?
  6. If you could live in any period of history, when would it be?
  7. If you could change anything about yourself, what would you change?
  8. If you could be someone else, who would you be?
  9. If you could have any question answered, what would it be?
  10. If you could watch your favorite TV show now, what would it be?
  11. If you could have any kind of pet, what would you have?
  12. If you could do your dream job 10 years from now, what would it be?
  13. If you had to be allergic to something, what would it be?
  14. If you sat down next to Jesus on a bus, what would you talk about?
  15. If money and time were not an issue, what would you be doing right now?
  16. If you had one day to live over again, what day would you pick?
  17. If you could eat your favorite food now, what would it be?
  18. If you could learn any skill, what would it be?
  19. If you were sent to live on a space station for three months and only allowed to bring three personal items with you, what would they be?
  20. If you could buy a car right now, what would you buy?

Faith Connection: Consider talking about some of these important “If” statements from the Bible

  • “Jesus said: ‘If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.’
” -Matthew 21:22
  • Jesus said: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.”
-John 8:31
  • “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
-Romans 8:31

2. Masks

Supplies/Preparation: You will need crayons or paints, markers, scissors and a piece of white card stock per person for this activity.

How to play:

Give each young person a piece of white card. Ask them to draw and cut out a life- sized shape of a face. They can also cut out eyes and a mouth if they wish. Each young person is then asked to decorate their card face. One side represents what they think people see/know/believe about them i.e. on the outside. The other side represents what they feel about themselves i.e. things going on the inside, what people do not necessarily know or see.

This is best used in an established group where the young people are comfortable and at ease with each other. ‘Masks’ is also a good discussion starter on self-image and self- worth.

Faith Connection:

  •  “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” – Genesis 1:31
  • “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” –Matthew 7:15
  • “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
  • “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” –Hebrews 13:8

3. Flags

Supplies/Preparation:  Provide large sheets of paper, crayons, markers and paints.  An option would be to have old magazines for cutting out pictures.

How to play:

Ask each young person to draw a flag which contains some symbols or pictures describing who they are, what’s important to them or what they enjoy.

Each flag is divided into 4 or 6 segments. Each segment can contain a picture i.e. favorite emotion, favorite food, a hobby, a skill, where you were born, your family, your faith. Give everyone 20 minutes to draw their flags. Ask some of the group to share their flags and explain the meaning of what they drew.

(Variation: you could make “coats of arms” instead.)

Faith Connection:

  • “May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory, flying banners to honor our God. May the LORD answer all your prayers.” –Psalm 20:5
  • “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil… take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness” –from Ephesians 6:10-17

4. Suddenly Stories

Supplies/Preparation: A method to record the conversation (cellphone, video camera or even a cassette recorder if you want to go old school)

How to play: The leader starts a story with a sentence that ends in SUDDENLY. The next person then has to add to the story with his own sentence that ends in SUDDENLY. Continue the story until everyone has contributed. The story becomes crazier as each young person adds their sentence. Tape it and play it back. For example; ‘Yesterday I went to the zoo and was passing the elephant enclosure when SUDDENLY…..’

Faith Connection:

  • Talk about any “suddenly” passages of the Bible, or when the disciples dropped their nets at once to follow Christ.
  • ”Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.” Matthew 14:28
  • “There were shepherds camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.” From Luke 2

5. Object Stories

Supplies: Collect together a number of random objects and place in a canvas bag. The objects can include everyday items i.e. a pencil, keys, cellphone, but also include some more unusual ones i.e. a fossil, a Christmas card, wig, random freebies from a convention, etc.  Optional: timer.

How to play:

Pass the bag around the group and invite each young person to dip their hand into the bag (without looking) and pull out one of the objects.

The leader begins a story which includes his object. After 20 seconds, the next person takes up the story and adds another 20 seconds, incorporating the object they are holding. And so on, until everyone has made a contribution to your epic literary tale.

Faith Connection:

  • This activity would work well to open a study on materialism or on stewardship.
  • “To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given.” -Luke 19:26

6. Classic 20 Questions

Supplies: None

How to play:

Before you rule this one out, consider how you will make a “classic” game like this fresh and new by adding the faith component.  One player is selected to think of an item. The rest of the group tries to guess the item by asking a question which can only be answered with a simple “Yes” or “No.” Truthful answers only please,  anything else will ruin the game.

(A similar classic is “I Spy,” in which one player secretly spots an item and says “I spy something (color)” and everyone tries to guess the correct item.)

Faith Connection:  This would work well with a study on the mystery of God, how God reveals Himself through Scripture, etc.

  • “But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation”. – James 5:12

7. Paper Airplane Fun

Supplies: A sheet of paper per person, optional markers/crayons for decorating. Optional prizes.

How to play: Create and decorate paper airplanes.  Come up with categories for the fun and award points for the best flights– farthest, straightest, highest, shortest flight, quickest divebomb, etc.  You could make targets or have participants try to get the planes through hoops.  Award points and remember that points are free so award them by the millions!

Faith Connection:

  • “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” -Isaiah 40:31
  • “I  have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize…” -Philippians 3:13

8. Newspaper Race

Supplies/Preparation: two sheets of newspaper per player, determine the race route

How to play: Each player must race to the turning point and back, stepping only on his or her newspapers.  Each player steps on one, lays the other paper down in front of him and steps on it, moves the first paper forward, steps on it and so on.

Faith Connection:

  • “Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” -Hebrews 12:1
  • “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.”  -Psalm 119:32
  • “I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” -2 Timothy 4:7

9. Four Square

Supplies/Preparation: a flat, hard floor space where you can make a four square grid on the ground with chalk, duct tape, painters tape, paint.  Number squares 1-4.

How to Play:

1. The player in square 4 serves the ball by bouncing it in his square and tapping the ball into another square.

2. The player in that space must tap the ball (after one bounce) into another player’s area, and so on, until someone misses the ball, lets the ball bounce twice, or sends it out of the grid.

3. The player who misses the ball steps out and the remaining players rotate up through the numbered squares.

4. If you are playing with more than four players, a new player enters the game at square one.

5. The player who is out waits in line to re-enter the game once square 1 is open again.
 Whoever is now in square 4 serves the ball to resume play.

Faith Connection: The strategy in this game is to knock other people out, how do we knock people out to better our position in life?

  • “Whatever you do, do well.” Ecclesiastes 9:10

10. Horse

Supplies/Preparation: Need a basketball and basketball goal.

How to Play:

Players line up. The first player announces what shot he is going to make and takes his shot. If he misses, he goes to the end of the line. If he makes the basket, the next player must make the same shot. If the second player misses, he gets an ‘H’, and it is the next player’s turn to announce a shot and try to make it. Each time a player fails to make a shot that his predecessor made, he gets another letter until someone has spelled ‘horse’. At that point the player is out. The other players continue play until only one player is left.

Variations: If there are large differences in height, you may want to outlaw the dunk shot. Some players allow the player who has received the “E” one more shot to try to stay in the game. If longer or shorter games are desired, different words can be spelled (PIG, GOD, JESUS, GRACE, JUSTIFICATION, SANCTIFICATION)

Faith Connection:

  • You can play this game with any word, so pick a word that relates to your study or lesson.
  •  “If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well.” –James 3:3

What if we threw away our curriculum and just used the Bible?

Last night at the Senior high Bible study I teach, I did a revolutionary thing.  Instead of coming into the class with a lesson plan full of activities, skits, handouts, etc., I brought the Bible.

Here’s how it worked:

We opened to a book of the Bible (Jonah – which is hard to find, so we used the Table of Contents).

I talked briefly about the background of the book to set the scene.

I asked for volunteers, and a youth read Chapter 1.  We talked about it verse by verse.  What do you think was going on in Jonah’s heart?  What must the Ninevites have done to get that reaction from Jonah?  What does this text say about the nature of God?  (What we concluded: God is powerful, creative, merciful, answers prayers and has a sense of humor.)  I had done some research ahead of time, so I added a little bit of information from scholars on the text.

Then we moved on to Chapter 2 and did the same thing.

At the end of the evening, we did what we always do.  We closed in prayer and passed out a little card with a Bible verse (Jonah 2:1-2) on it.  If the youth memorize it and can recite it next week, they get candy.  Maybe this is bribery, but I say it’s worth it if I get youth thinking about Scripture and getting it embedded in their thinking.

Here’s what we got from the lesson:

Incredible conversation.  The ability to discuss it without worrying about the theology of the author.  Depth.  Laughter.  Youth listening to youth.

Here’s why it’s revolutionary:

I have shelves of youth ministry curriculum in my office.  I tend to use it like a crutch or a lifeline.  Instead of relying on my own creativity and knowledge, I just grab the book of the shelf, pick what looks fun, look at the supply list and try to recreate someone’s learning scenario.  It’s not bad or inherently evil or anything, but it’s also not awesome.  It feels like creating entertainment more than creating engagement.   What I’ve learned is there is beauty in the simplicity of just reading the Bible and discussing it.  The youth agreed.

So my question/challenge for youthworkers out there: What would youth ministry look like if we made the Bible our main source of curriculum?  How would this change the face of youth ministry?  Pros/cons?  What keeps you from doing this?