Bob Ross Painting Night!

games, Resources, Uncategorized, youth ministry

Hi friends!

It has been a LONG TIME since I have posted, HOWEVER I did something really cool with students at our Overnighter last month, and I wanted to share it with you here!

First of all — I LOVE Overnighters, and I realize I’m overdue with an “official” post on why they are so great, and what we do at them! But the basic trick to them is this: scheduling something every hourish to keep students engaged. This year, we added “Bob Ross” hour at 2am! That’s right, 100 middle schoolers were invited to paint along to a Bob Ross Video at TWO A.M. And you know what? It was a SUCCESS!

HERE’S HOW I PREPPED:

The most important part was choosing the right video. I wanted it to be simple enough we could follow along — especially since “real” painters use a variety of brushes and paint colors. Here is the video I chose:

HERE’S WHAT I PURCHASED:

  • Paint Tray Palettes. You could also, of course, use paper plates — but this was a really easy way for us to issue paint to students!
  • Spatulas. We also used plastic knives too — which worked just fine.
  • Fan Brushes. This is a variety pack — the size differences did not seem to matter.
  • Acrylic paint. Bob uses oil paint, but that was not realistic when painting with students. I purchased 3 cases for around 65 paintings. We only used one, and maybe an additional white.
  • One-inch brushes. Bob uses 2-inch brushes, but since we use a very tiny canvas, this worked better for us!
  • 8×10 Canvas – This was the best bang for our buck, and worked just fine for our paintings. Each size item we purchased accompanied this size canvas perfectly.
  • Flat Brushes – I don’t think Bob actually uses anything like this, but it’s nice to have a “normal” paint brush.

HERE’S WHAT WE DID:

  • On each table, we set up cups of water, paper towels, and extra plates so that students could use them to blend colors
  • We learned the hard way: You should also put down plastic tablecloths or butcher paper.
  • On the Palettes, we put white in the center. Then we used the rest of the colors for the other holes. The only colors you don’t need are pink and orange. We also had adults do this — it was easier to create an assembly line than have students do theirs themselves.
  • We passed out canvas and permanent markers first and told students to sign their names on the back. The canvases we used give space for students to even name their paintings!
  • I led this activity, and painted along. I would tell students to listen to Bob fully, then I’d pause it after he did something and allow students to catch up.
  • We let students “skip” painting the parts that they didn’t love. As it gets to the end and Bob starts doing the bushes and the path, it doesn’t make sense at first. This would be an awesome thing to preach on, if you have a message that evening! Sometimes you can’t see what God is doing, but if you go along with it you might get something beautiful and unexpected.

Here is a look at my painting (the best art I’ve ever done!) and a few other pictures of our activity!

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I would 10/10 do again! We finished around 3am, and they were dried and ready by 7am. We had several kids get frustrated (our boys, let’s be honest) and trashed so they could play foosball or “reinterpreted” their paintings, as you can see. But overall, everyone loved the activity.

7 Quick Christmas Games

christmas, games

2

REINDEER GAMES
MATERIALS:Panty hose, balloons.
INSTRUCTIONS: Divide group into teams. Each team gets one pair of pantyhose, and a set number of balloons. Give 2-3 minutes for each team to blow up their balloons, put in the pantyhose, and get the pantyhose on someone’s head (like reindeer antlers). Judge to see who has the best-looking reindeer antlers!


3

WRAP BATTLES
MATERIALS: Rolls of wrapping paper, tape, and bows for each team
INSTRUCTIONS: Each team must wrap one of their members up like a gift. The best wrap job in a 5-minute period wins!

4

SANTA BEARD
MATERIALS: Cotton balls, vaseline
INSTRUCTIONS: Play up-front or in groups. One willing participant will put vaseline on their chin, and their partners will place cotton balls on their face to make a “beard”. There are SO MANY variations to this — make it relay-style, throw the cotton balls, or whatever makes it fun for your group!

5

STOCK EXCHANGE
MATERIALS: Stockings, bells or gift bows
INSTRUCTIONSThis is another game that you can use variants to make it relay style or an up-front game. One person holds a stocking, and the other tries to throw jingle bells or gift bows into it. Most in a minute wins!

6

SNOWBALL FIGHT
MATERIALS: Balled-up pieces of paper
INSTRUCTIONS: Dodgeball-style, divide the team into two, and have them use paper instead of dodgeballs, getting each other out!

7

CHRISTMAS ME
MATERIALS: Items to decorate a Christmas tree — garland, bows, ornaments, ribbon, etc.
INSTRUCTIONS: You can play this relay-style, in groups, or up-front. One person gets decorated by a friend or a group into the best Christmas tree!

8

TREE TOSS
MATERIALS: A Christmas tree, a tape circle around the tree, two colors of ornaments
INSTRUCTIONS: Divide groups into teams, and put them against one another to see who can throw the most ornaments on the tree in a one-minute period. They must stay outside of the circle surrounding the tree. Ornaments that bounce off the tree and outside the circle are fair game.

Some Fall Games I’ve been playing!

games, Ministry, youth ministry

I haven’t posted in a while; I got married last month! I’ll post some pictures soon (and I’m excited to tell you our love story).

I just wanted to pop in to share a few of the games that we have been playing in our middle school ministry this fall. They’re a little random, but a total blast. Feel free to use any of this material, including the graphics, which I created quickly in Canva.

Gobble Hobble.png

The “Gobble Hobble” is the name I gave this game in a frenzy this last Sunday morning, when everything was going wrong and I needed to come up with a quick game. I remembered playing a version of this a few years ago and wanted to give it a quick funny name. Best part: It takes 3 minutes to prep.

Choose one person (we chose 4 — one from each grade) to go out into the hall and be blindfolded by a leader. Tell the group to, together, hid a “turkey.” The “turkey” can be anything, as long as you can decipher it with a blindfold on. In a pinch, we used a basketball. Invite the blindfolded person in, and lead them to the “turkey” only using “gobbles.” The same way you’d play hot-or-cold, the closer they get to the “turkey,” the more the crowd gobbles. First person to get to the “turkey” wins. It was complicated playing with four people, because no one knew if they were correct when we were gobbling. It worked out for us, though, and we were able to play two rounds (with instructions) in less than 7 minutes. Not a bad way to start off a Sunday morning!

dice wars.pngDice Wars is another great game — otherwise known as “1 to 100.” Since we are in a multi-purpose space, sometimes we find out last-minute that we have to switch to round tables for an event right after our youth group. That’s how I came up with this game. Here are a few games — that I, truthfully, copied and pasted from the internet. There are tons more games, too!

What you need: Each player needs a piece of paper to write on. You also need one die and one pen.

How to play: Everyone sits in a circle, either around a table or on the floor. One person starts out with the pen, and the person to their left starts out with the die.

Let’s say Paul has the pen, Tasha is to his left with the die, and Adam is sitting to Tasha’s left. When the game starts, Paul starts writing legible numbers, starting with 1 and going up to 100, as fast as he can on his paper, while Tasha starts rolling the die as fast as she can, trying to roll a six. As soon as she does roll a six, she gets to grab the pen from Paul and start writing numbers on her paper, while Adam grabs the die and tries to roll a six. As soon as he does, he grabs the pen, and the person to his left starts rolling. Play proceeds around the circle like this. The next time Paul gets the pen, he starts writing where he left off. The first person to write to 100 on their paper wins.

FALL PARTY GAME.pngI love puns, and I was inspired by a Buzzfeed post to create this game. I used some from Buzzfeed, some from elsewhere.

Click here to access my link from Canva, and edit or download for yourself!

FIND SOMEONE.png

This was a game I used at the beginning of the school year, in order for students to make some new connections. It was a blast, and a traditional youth ministry favorite!

Click here to download and edit from Canva.

Mission Impossible Night

games

One of the timeless games that is played in youth ministry is a variation of what we call “Mission Impossible.” I remember playing this game each year at camp, running around in the dark trying to find a secret “chip” and avoiding flour bombs.

In four years of camp, I don’t think I EVER found that secret chip.

Here’s the way we are playing the game THIS Friday night!

Supplies: glow sticks, flashlights, super-soakers

Set-up:

  • 1 Volunteer at the Lodge with glow sticks (enough for each student, plus extras)
  • Heather: Horn/Whistle/Megaphone. Located in the general area outside.
  • 4 color of bandanas and face paint for each team. We also got fake mustaches for “secret spy disguises”
  • 4 hidden buckets throughout the campus with labels on them for each color.
  • Volunteers scattered throughout campus with flashlight lasers (4 people) or super-soakers (4 people)
  • 1 Volunteer at each bucket (to make sure that no one steals those glow sticks). They are given a noodle that they can hit students with.
  • PJ is hidden with his secret costume — if a student finds him, they get a SPECIAL item in a secret envelope (immunity for one capture, ten extra points, etc.)

Object of game:

  • This is MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE. Students are faced with the impossible mission of getting their Glow Sticks to their team’s bucket, which is hidden around the dark parking lot. The team with the most Glow Sticks wins.
  • But it’s not that easy: Throughout the parking lot are leaders with flashlights and water guns. If a student gets “tagged” by either, they must stop, drop their glow stick, and go back to home base (The Lodge) and begin again.
  • There are four leaders by the buckets with pool noodles to “watch” the buckets and make sure no one steals from another’s bucket. They may tag students with noodles.
  • There are more leaders scattered with flashlights/laser pointers and water guns to tag students.
  • A student may grab a fallen glowstick and attempt to make it to their bucket with it.
  • Leaders MAY choose to instead torture/humiliate the student by making them do a challenge: Sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or do 10 pushups or propose to the next person who gets caught. Then students can go on and do the challenge.
  • Once students have dropped their Glow Sticks in the bucket, they will run back to Home Base and begin the challenge all over again.
  • The challenge will end at 8:30 sharp (so, about an hour and a half to carry out the mission). Buckets will be collected, and the winning team gets a prize!

If you play the game, research the SEVERAL ways to play it! Last year we played with Skittles, and if caught the students would eat their Skittle. The issue was that everyone’s hands were covered with dye!!!

“The Awesome Game”

games, youth ministry

A few years ago on our mission trip, we played a game one evening called “The Awesome Game” when a different outing was cancelled. We had THE MOST HILARIOUS time, and now it has become a staple for our youth ministry on Kickoff Sunday.

Here’s what you do:

  • Type up a list of different challenges — I’ll share mine below. You want these challenges to be a mix of things. You want to do some things that cause them to get to know one another, some that give good photo or video opportunities, or some that are just OBNOXIOUS.
  • Cut up those pieces of papers, and put one copy in a gallon-sized plastic bag.
  • Split your students up into groups (we did small groups). Give each group a bag and a time limit (anywhere between 30 and 60 minutes).
  • Give some way for them to count what they’ve done — give them another bag, tell them to ball up the ones they’re done with, or put the ones they’ve done in your pocket.
  • At the end of the time, the team that has done the most wins!

Here are some examples of challenges you can place in the bag:

  • Make a two-minute video talking about your love for cheese
  • Interrupt another Small Group completing their challenge.
  • Run around for 60 seconds yelling “We won! We won!”
  • Come up with a team chant
  • Join in another Small Group completing their challenge
  • SOMETHING STINKS! Walk around the room for 60 seconds and act like you’re trying to find the smell. Get obnoxious!
  • TIME TO PROPOSE! Have two people give a two-minute proposal, with everyone else encouraging them to break up.
  • Create your own “challenge” like Ice Bucket Challenge or  KeKe Challenge. Make a one-minute video inviting people to take part in your challenge.
  • Spell out MSM (for Middle School Ministry) on the floor by laying down!
  • FORM A BAND: Sing a nursery rhyme at the top of your lungs using full air-band motions and sounds
  • Go to the Ga-Ga pits outside and play one round of Ga-Ga Ball (basically–hitting the ball and not getting hit in the feet–if you get hit, you’re out!)
  • Play Duck-Duck-Goose for 2 minutes
  • Challenge another group to a dance battle. Battle it out for two minutes, even if they don’t participate back.
  • Run up behind other players and make farting noises for an entire minute.
  • I’m not crazy–you’re crazy. Create a straight jacket that one person must wear for the remainder of the game.
  • Choose one person to stand on one foot for the remainder of the game
  • GET ON ALL FOURS! Each person choose a different farm animal and act it out for one minute.
  • MAKE A PROMO VIDEO: Choose an accent and talk about why Middle School Ministry is awesome for an entire minute.
  • Each person must do 10 jumping jacks.
  • Do a runway walk from one end of the Great Hall to another
  • Have one person pretend like they’re underwater until the next challenge is completed
  • Try to get another group to dance like robots with you.
  • Each person talk to another person on your team like they’re your celebrity crush
  • Pretend like your clothes itch. Scratch, roll on the floor…JUST GET IT OFF!
  • Run up to another group. Narrate their challenge like a Sports Announcer
  • Have everyone spin around 5 times, then walk ten steps in a straight line
  • Run up to another group and tell them “YOU MADE ME CRY” and drag it out until they ask why!
  • Choose one player to talk like a cat the rest of the morning.
  • Run up to another group and ask them if they believe in fairies until someone says yes!
  • VROOM VROOM. It’s the Indy 500! We’ll let you off with just one lap, though: run one lap around the gym.
  • 1,2,3,4, I declare a thumb war! Have a thumb wars tournament. The winner gets cheered by the rest of the group!
  • Go around the circle and say your FULL NAME–INCLUDING MIDDLE!
  • Create a new Yoga pose and give it a name! Everyone must do the yoga pose.
  • RAP TIME. One person raps while everyone else beatboxes.
  • Choose a fitness instructor–lead the group in a workout routine for an entire minute!
  • TIME FOR THE GREAT DEBATE: Debate for two minutes on whether you are pro-pickle or anti-pickle.
  • TIME TO RAGE: Run up to another group, and start a mosh pit! (for those of you youngins…that means to jump up and down, bumping into other people)
  • Pick a random object in the room and make a one-minute commercial for it.
  • Start a back-rub train: Each person must rub the shoulders of the person in front of them. Once you’ve rubbed for 30 seconds, turn around and rub the other person’s shoulders.
  • Start a conga line–take one lap together around the gym.

Here are some videos from our adventures:

Grass Eating Challenge for @ywmissions . We tag THE WORLD.

A post shared by St Luke’s Middle School Min (@stlukesmsm) on

We love Playdoh. @ywmissions

A post shared by St Luke’s Middle School Min (@stlukesmsm) on

 

Let me know if you try it!

DIY Trophies

Resources, youth ministry

This year for our annual “Confirmation Awards” (the awards I give to students who have actually completed all of their requirements), I decided to do something different and make trophies for each of the students who won!

This was such an easy DIY, and I learned some things, so here we go:

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The first thing to do is collect your supplies. I went to the local Dollar Tree, where dreams are made.

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I hot-glued plastic plates onto plastic cups. I decided to double up the plastic plates, because I thought it made it sturdier and matched the texture of the cups more.

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Then I hot-glued the various figures on top. For some of them, I added plastic cups that I found. For the football one, I hot-glued a “gold medal” to it. For the princess one, I broke the wand in half and hot glued it to the plate.

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I spray-painted them after this. I noticed it was tough getting into some of the crevices, but if I spray-painted it from the bottom first, it made it easier. ALSO: DO NOT OVER-SPRAY PAINT. It gets tacky.

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Here they are! I wish I took better pictures, but this is how they ended up looking. My one regret, besides over-spray-painting, was not picking the hot glue off before I spray painted.

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Seriously easy! My favorite trophies were the dinosaur ones, and the corn one.

How I Plan Curriculum

curriculum, lessons, youth ministry

One of my biggest strengths is that I am a Master Curriculum Planner. In my setting, I kind of have to be. We have a Sunday School-style program in that because we have one main hour of programming each week, and we have Confirmation smack dab in the middle of our middle school years. So, we split off into three groups: 5th & 6th grade, 7th Grade Confirmation, and 8th grade. We still have large-group teaching and small groups, but each group has their own curriculum and discussion questions… which equals a lot of work! Fortunately, I’ve had the ability to work on it one or two years at a time, and refine the previous year’s as I work on a new year.

You might be saying, “Heather, why don’t you just purchase curriculum? That’s what it’s for!” My answer: I love most purchased curriculum out there. I’m a huge fan of Orange, Sparkhouse, LIVE, Credo Confirmation, The Thread by y360, and other comprehensive curriculums.

But for us, I assessed the needs of our context and decided to do a four-year comprehensive curriculum. 5th & 6th grade rotates Old & New Testaments, 7th grade does Confirmation, and 8th grade addresses their identity through Spiritual Gifts. You can read more about how I develop a long-term curriculum by reading my article published in YouthWorker Journal.

Here is a look at the way I format curriculum over the course of 4 years:

56 Year 1 – Old Testament
56 Year 2 – New Testament
7th Grade / Confirmation
8th Grade – Spiritual Gifts

On top of Sunday mornings, we also have lots of retreats–it’s one of the hallmarks of our ministry! I typically plan the curriculum for our retreats, as well as for Middle School Mayhem, our weeklong Day Camp. Again–I could buy curriculum for these events, and I do for some retreats. But for Middle School Mayhem, I like to mimic what is happening in Vacation Bible School since it happens the same week. This year we’re branching off from VBS week, so I may have more freedom in the future.

But again…I enjoy writing curriculum and am good at it.

Today I want to share my favorite way to plan curriculum over a series.

  1. Basically, I fold a piece of paper into the number of lessons that I need.
  2. I write the things that I need to plan: Date, Title, Bottom Line, Scripture, Notes, etc.
  3. Then, I fill in the blanks. My big secret for finding scriptures that match themes is the Topical Bible.

Easy, right? Here are some examples:

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This is how I planned our 8th grade year on Spiritual Gifts. I divided up the 15 gifts (from LeaderTreks) into 5 categories: Leaders, Teachers, Movers, Judgers, and & Helpers. Then I planned out some scriptures.

mayhem 2018

This is how I’m planning Mayhem for this upcoming summer! I’m drafting this on paper, then I’ll form it into a document (like the next two)

Mayhem 2015

This was our first year of creating Mayhem, a day camp, so this was my first way of formatting what I drafted on paper into a document, with additional details: like, notes and games. This year’s camp was MOUNTAIN themed!

Mayhem 2016

This year’s Mayhem was CAVE-themed. As you can see, I added “Snack” and some other categories to plan all aspects of the camp.

Hope this helps someone out there plan their pwn curriculum! For me, I always find looking at the week as one comprehensive piece and viewing its parts as part of a whole helpful. It’s allowed me to be really imaginative and thorough, whether the series has been exegetical or topical.

Cheers!

DIY: Giant Lite Brite

games, Resources, youth ministry

I’ve had dreams, okay?

Dreams of building a GIANT LITE BRITE for our Middle School Ministry’s NEON NIGHT.

I looked online, and I didn’t see much:

  • This really hard DIY that I don’t have the energy for
  • This really cool one used at a middle school ministry event, that would take a lot of drilling and water bottles (and we’re a green church, so that’s a no-go)
  • This Lite Brite Table that seemed cool
  • And this Lite Brite used for a stage decoration, but not for interactive play

SO. I had to do this from scratch! And it wasn’t easy. Thus begins my journey:

Step One – procure Lite Brite pegs

I found Lite Brite pegs on eBay, no where else. Not on Amazon, not on Facebook Marketplace, not on Craiglist. I figured initially that I would need 1500, but after I purchased the pegboard, I realized I needed more like 2500. It cost about $80 for all of the pegs…not a cheap venture. I also had to wait for some of the pegs to arrive (but that was no big deal – I was working in advance!)

Step Two – procure pegboard

I went to Lowes, and decided to make two 4×4 Lite Brites. I tested the pegs in the board to make sure they would fit. I realized it could work with just one peg board, but might be best with two. I thought “let’s just get this in my car first.”

It wouldn’t fit in my car. So I karate-chopped it.

Then I knew I’d need two more pieces– and I just knew they’d fit in PJ’s vehicle, since he has a crossover. I waited a week, we went to Manards and found the same 4×4 pegboard.

And it didn’t fit. So I karate-chopped it.

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Step Three: Adhere pegboard with wood glue

I thought I could make it work: So I overlapped the pieces to make them strong. I used almost an entire bottle of Elmer’s Wood Glue.

But the pegs didn’t line up. I had two options:

  1. Drill each hole individually in order to get the holes to line up better
  2. Start over from scratch (yikes)
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I called some buddies – a group of men at  our church that love doing construction projects. They took it off my hands, purchased four new pieces of pegboard, put them in their truck, told me next time to just call them, glued it together, and put studs in to keep the holes all lines up while it was drying. Bravo, men.

PS, I definitely called these men on International Women’s Day. I didn’t take it personally: The best thing a woman can do is ask for help when she’s overwhelmed. Did I mention I was fighting off a flu-like plague during all of this?

Step 4: Paint Black

It took me under two bottles of matte black spray paint to paint the peg board. I only painted one side, because… remember how I was initially ahead of the game? By this point it was the day before the event. I made sure to paint inside of the holes too to make the pegs vibrant.

Step 5: Light up

This was tricky, too: We were using the Lite Brite at our “Neon Night,” which was great, considering the pegs shined better with a blacklight. However, it still needed some bright light from the back in order to make the pegs shine bright. We were fortunate that our staff’s videographer came by, and he hooked us up with 3 lights that he uses for filming.

And…Voilá.

Thoughts for improvement:

I have a few ideas that might make it better:

  • glue a piece of black butcher paper or tissue paper between the two pegboards. This would allow it to be REALLY black in the spaces that are unused.
  • Block out the sides with blackout curtains or tablecloths. That way the light is super-contained behind the lite brite.
  • More blacklight! That would really make it special. We experimented with putting the light in front or in back.
  • Spray a clear paint over it, so that the black spray paint doesn’t transfer on our hands/clothes as we transported it. It’s too awkward to move without getting dirty.

PS – We spent about $130 total on this project. $10 per sheet of pegboard, around $15 per 500 pegs (2500 total). Affordable, but definitely an adventure! I will be thinking of ways to reuse it, for sure. 

All in all, this truly was an easy project; someone just had to be the first one to do it. You are welcome, world.

More about “Neon Night”

Neon Night consisted of many more components, including:

Last, we had a glow bar with:

Neon night is always a favorite of mine…but it is absolutely the most expensive evening of the year, and takes hours to put up. I was very fortunate to have some great volunteers, including DJ PJ, to help with all of it. Can’t wait for next year!

**By using my Amazon Affiliate Links, I will receive a small amount that helps keep my blog and Women in Youth Ministry Alive! Thanks!

Students’ Letters to Congress about School Safety

lessons, social activism, youth ministry

The other day I published a list of ideas to help talk to students about school shootings. As I stressed, I believe that the church should be a place where students feel safe–on both a physical level but also safe to have hard conversations…even about the most controversial issues.

School safety is one of those; everyone has a different idea of how to make our schools safer from mass shootings. But I know that all of us do believe that there should never be another mass shooting again…especially on a school campus.

Right now in our 8th grade class we’re talking about the spiritual gifts of prophecy, givers, and encouragement; gifts I’ve called the movers. Movers are people who speak out, who get things done, and who push for social and personal change.

At the end of each section of gifts, students have an opportunity to put those gifts into action. With recent events, I asked students to write letters to our Senators and Representatives.

I stressed repeatedly: I am not telling you what to write. I did provide a sample letter that I found online and beefed up a little. I also encouraged them to focus on one of the three main factors that people believe impact school shootings: gun laws, mental health, and general school safety. That was all I gave them.

Afterwards, I did give them some questions to process this. In truth, they didn’t have time to discuss my questions because they were so into the letter-writing and discussing their ideas for change. It was really cool to watch them think critically. Often times our kids only hear us diss our politicians, not think about how to constructively interact with them.

But the questions I gave them were about what it means to mold our politics and our faith together:

  1. How is this “speaking out?” How does this activity change your view of a “prophet?”
  2. Why is it our “Christian duty” to speak out against injustice?
  3. Why should Christians not only speak out, but also put their words into action?
  4. What else could we, as Christians, do to prevent school shootings?
  5. Often times we talk about a need for “separation between church and State.” When and why should your faith impact your political beliefs? How does your faith personally impact your political beliefs?
  6. When prophets predicted Jesus’s birth, they prophesied that Jesus would be a “great king” that would bring about “great political reform” to save them. It’s interesting that, even then, religion and politics worked together. What do you think Jesus would want to change today?
  7. (this question can get dicey, but let’s go for it) Why do you think religious people can have such different political beliefs? (be nice, don’t just blast Trump/Hillary/Bernie/Republicans/Democrats…think critically)

But onto the letters, because that’s the main reason I’m writing this post: I want to share some excerpts from the letters that these precious students wrote. I loved that our students had a range of political beliefs (I super-love that about my church), but that they were able to think really constructively and talk with one another about their differences. At the end of each teen’s letter they asked the senator/representative to write them back.

Aren’t you glad that these kids will one day rule the world? (Snapchat debaccles aside)

Here’s what they wrote:

“I am writing to you to ask that you help make school safer. I don’t know about other schools but the only form of security seems to be a police officer. I feel that we should have the type of security that airports do. Even if it will cost a little more it is worth it to keep us safe. I feel like kids should also be monitored better because the shooter in Florida had talked about it for months but no one did anything. I just feel like I should be able to feel safe while learning.”

“My friends are scared. They don’t come to school sometimes because of their fear. I am also spooked, by stomach aches and my head hurts because of it. It’s hard for me to focus and it’s hard for teachers to teach.”

“Recent events have sparked conversations on social media, at school, at church, and within my family. I recently learned something that had never occured to me before. It recently occured to me that this didn’t happen in past generations. My generation is the only generation that knows how to do a lockdown drill. I have memories from first grade of hiding in the corner of my dark classroom, being silent, and waiting until we got the all clear. A feeling of fear in my own school, a place where I should never be scared of losing my life, was planted in me at a young age. I do not feel safe in a place where I am forced to go every day. I should feel safe at school, a place I go to learn how to be functioning member of society. Giving guns to my teachers would not help that.”

“We are asking you to consider how we feel, and we are using our voices to the fullest extent that we can. We are asking you to do the same.”

“I am writing you to ask that you help make school safer. I am concerned that going to school can put my life at risk. That EVERY student at my school may be at risk of a school shooting. School should make you feel safe, not in danger.”

“I am currently aware of the political debate over gun control. I may just be a student, but I have a voice that needs to be heard. I want to speak up about my perspective on gun control. Our president believes giving more guns out to the teachers of our district can benefit our schools. I believe that there should be stricter gun laws. Putting more firearms in a harmful situation can only make it worse.”

“I hate that kindergartners have to know how to hide from a person with a gun, trying to kill them. School should be a safe and secure place where you don’t need to be afraid. Now days people can easily buy a gun as long as they have enough money. This needs to stop. I can’t imagine losing my best friend in a school shooting, or getting a call telling me there has been a shooting at my child’s school.”

“School should be a safe place to learn, not a place to question your safety.”

“I am writing to you after hearing of the shootings in Florida. Although I’ve supported Republicans all my life, I feel as though we need a flat-out ban on assault rifles. NO good comes from semi-automatic rifles. When our founding fathers wrote the second amendment, they had no army and therefore relied upon citizens to take up arms against enemies of the United States. Also they had muskets, not assault rifles back in the 1800s. We can protect ourselves without military grade assault rifles now. We also have a military to protect us, unlike back in the 1800s. We can protect ourselves with handguns, shotguns, crossbows, etc. I appreciate your help and ask that you please send me a response and maybe an autograph?”

(that one made me laugh)

“I’m already a very paranoid person and school is scary enough on its own, but with the threat of a school shooting my brain goes crazy. Columbine, Sandy Hook, and the most recent school shooting in Florida are some of the worst and most terrifying. I shouldn’t have to worry about going to school, and while I don’t believe we need to band guns I do believe we need to make a change. From my observations, some of these kids that are planning to or actually do commit these crimes are social outcasts, people who don’t know how to fit in, people who are bullied by what they believe to be “popular” people. For example in Columbine the shooters wanted revenge on their popular peers. We, the schools, need to stop talking about laptops in the lunchroom, we need to be talking about caring for people, we need to destroy the whole “I’m popular and you’re not” philosophy. Maybe then, after making these kids feel loved and helped, the problem won’t be so bad.”

Y’all… let’s do right by our kids. Let’s give them an opportunity to use their own voice, from their own perspective, to speak their own truth. For some of these kids, their truth was a little different than my own. But that’s why it’s important that I listen to them–because that’s the only way to learn from them. And I think in this situation–it’s the only way to bring about change that can positively impact their lives.

Addressing School Shootings in Youth Ministry

lessons, youth ministry

I have two major philosophies in youth ministry:

  1. The church should be the safest place in the world. Every kid has the right to have a place where they belong, where they can be themselves, where they can share their story and feel known. I work with middle schoolers because no place feels safe to this age: home can feel like a war zone, friends change more than their underwear, and the need to compete and be perfect in academia and extracurriculars is making our children anxious. Plus… their bodies are betraying them.
  2. In order for the church to be the safest place, we have to have the toughest conversations here. Conversations that are otherwise untouchable become essential to understanding our human condition and our calling as Christians.

And while I hate that I have to write a blog post about how to discuss school shootings, I do so because I recognize that (a) our kids literally don’t feel safe right now and (b) it’s our duty to make sure that students can talk about this at church.

As I process the latest school shooting, my heart is full of grief and lament. My love lost a long-time dear friend in that shooting, a man who lost his life protecting children. When I initially heard the news last Wednesday, I quickly moved on. This happens all the time. It hit me at Ash Wednesday service, when our pastor began the service with a lament. I was sitting next to two middle schoolers, and I almost felt like it was inappropriate to remind them of their reality. Isn’t that crazy? And when PJ found out his friend’s life was robbed, I still hadn’t quite connected it all. It wasn’t until Sunday, when PJ was grieving in worship and our pastor stood up and called it our Christian duty to react that I realized: I had been numb. Apathetic. And that is nothing more than pathetic. 

Today I repented of my apathy, and committed myself to doing whatever it takes to make sure that those who are grieving have the space and resources to turn their grief into holy work. And since the voices of this movement are young, I feel like it’s only appropriate that we make the church a place where students can react and take action.

Here are some ideas and resources for both discussion and action:

Tools for Discussion

Ideas for Action

  • Partner with other churches. Contact your denominational office, nearby churches, etc. to see how you can partner.
  • Partner with “March for our Lives.” More information will come out about what this looks like, but do whatever you can to make sure that your church has a presence.
  • Collect money. March for our Lives is also a great resource for that.
  • If you partner with one main local school, consider making your church a hub for the walk-out on April 20th. Definitely ask parents how they feel about this before you condone skipping school. I remember in high school we did a “walk-out” once, and most of my friends ended up rioting; so if you have a place where students can come grab snacks and hang out, then that could be helpful.
  • Pray over the names and pictures.
  • Adapt a “Safe Shooter Policy” at your church. We went through this a few years ago, and it was really difficult for me to sit through a seminar on what to do if a shooter walks into your church…but it’s important.
  • Write letters with students to local congressmen. Click here to find your representatives. You can also use the “Town Hall” feature on Facebook.
  • Research to see if there are any Town Halls, or if you can get school shootings on the agenda at your local town meeting. Show up with students.
  • Whenever you can, make sure that students are leading the efforts within the church. This is THEIR concern, let THEM tell the story from their perspective. The only way this will change is if it gets personal–and we needs kids telling adults their story.
  • Allow students to write prayers of lament.
  • Support campaigns of students as they come up with them, like this Facebook page students started or this one that killed Kmart sales of guns after Columbine.
  • Create an evening of prayer stations. Here’s one (created for All Saint’s Day, but still amazing).
  • Or these prayer stations, created for the Belgium terrorist attack.
  • Go OT and build an altar on your prayers.
  • Share this article with parents from PBS.