Commit to Anti-Racism This Year

Uncategorized

Happy 2021 friends!

The other day my friend Karli posted this on Twitter:

She lamented how Black people have conversations about racism every single day, but it takes a tragedy for a white person to get involved. It’s exhausting for our black friends. I was chatting with a few of the women who sit on my leadership team for Women in Youth Ministry, and they lamented how the questions they’re asked about race typically start at the very beginning, usually with something “google-able.” That’s how far behind we are, white friends.

So much good work was made last year in the work of anti-racism; but I’m curious — are you still growing? It’s been a while since a tragedy has caught national attention — are you still paying attention? Are you still reading the books, listening to the podcasts, watching the documentaries, learning from black people? Or is it going to take another tragedy to move further on your anti-racism journey?

When I was in middle school, my Senior Pastor shocked our church in his New Year’s Sermon. Most pastors take this opportunity to set the trajectory that the church will go in that year, and this year in 2003 my pastor chose the route of anti-racism.

Settled in Ferguson, MO one mile from where Michael Brown would be brutally murdered by a police officer 10 years later, my pastor made a big statement to the church: We are a primarily white church in a primarily black community. As good evangelicals, it is important for us to evangelize to our neighbors. And if we want to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, we have to prepare for our church to look different; namely, for black people to sit in our pews. And if we are going to effectively reach our black community for Christ, that means that our leadership at the church will need to look more like the community. Namely, we would want to have black people on our pastoral staff and lay leadership teams.

You are probably reading this and applauding, yes? Expecting that the church gave a standing ovation, and everyone lined up to sign themselves up for our new efforts to reach the community?

I was in 7th grade when this happened, and I was so excited to finally be in youth group. I had been a “bus kid,” one of the kids who rode the church bus to church each Sunday without my parents. I was an at-risk kid who the church brought in and loved. I remember hearing this message and going, “Whoa, I never thought of this stuff… but it makes sense. Sign me up.” I actually lived in Ferguson and was not intimidated by this message. But most of the congregation had already white-flighted out of there in the 90s, including our youth families. Every single youth family left the church, including our youth leader.

My pastor made good on his promise to make our church more diverse, and hired a black youth pastor. On my youth pastor’s first night, it was just him, his wife, their niece, and me. My youth pastor groomed me for ministry, and we grew the student ministry. And over time, the church would re-grow and look the way our pastor dreamed.

It didn’t come without sacrifice. My church wanted to be “all things to all people,” which meant sometimes out of accommodating people excellence was sacrificed. But it was beautiful that way. We added praise-dancing and group-led worship and gospel choirs and allowed our young people to lead in any capacity they wished. In addition to our sacrifice of excellence, we also sacrificed some of our patriarchal theology. Women were now allowed to pass the offering plate. Women were allowed to prophesy from stage through music and prayer. We also sacrificed traditions. Our potlucks changed, the fundraisers we did changed, and even the night we did youth changed. We did all of this to reach our community. And of course, we sacrificed people. Many people would continue to leave when they realized we were serious about our work.

Last year my current church, St. Luke’s, made a commitment to be anti-racist. We are a primarily white church, and serve a very diverse community of people, being situated right on the line of Indianapolis and Carmel. Next door we have $300,000 condos, a mile south have multi-million dollar homes, and a mile on either side of our road we have low-income apartment communities. We are 20 minutes away from most people in the Indianapolis area, and we serve people in all areas.

The term anti-racism originated with Angela Davis:

“In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”

Angela Y. Davis

At St. Luke’s, we talk about how anti-racism is a combination of understanding our biases (especially as white people) but also dismantling racism where we see it. When we see racism in action, we do what we can and what it takes to call it out and work to break it down. This is such a basic overview. Here are some books where you can read and learn more. If you’re a church leader, I also recommend this book.

As we launched our anti-racism work, we started having conversations with our students, starting with baby steps especially for our middles. What is privilege? Who might be marginalized? What can we do?

It was met with some frustration from families. They’re too young to talk about racism.

It brought me back to 7th grade, to the sermon given by my pastor. It was the first time I thought about racism in terms of my role in dismantling it, even though I had grown up in a primarily-black community. It set my life down a different trajectory, including ministry. It was a shock for sure as a 13-year old, but it was needed. My pastor made a commitment for our church to be anti-racist, and it changed my life.

So, it’s a new year, 18 years after the sermon I heard in 7th grade. And it’s the same New Year’s message:

  • How are you going to commit to anti-racism this year?
  • Where do you need the influence of BIPOC (black, indigenous, & other people of color) bloggers, teachers, podcasters, preachers, leaders, authors? In your work, home, church, hobbies, friendships, and otherwise?
  • Are you ready to make sacrifices? Are you ready to be uncomfortable? Admit that things might be awkward until you arrive to the future that God has asked of you?
  • Are you ready to have difficult conversations with coworkers, friends, family, and even strangers when racism happens?
  • Are you willing to talk about racism and promote anti-racist efforts with the young people in your life?
  • Are you willing to have a different future than the one you planned, a future that is full of diversity?

If you don’t know where to start, here are some things that have helped me:

  • Asking Google first.
  • Ask a black friend about their experiences. Last year I sat down with one of my best friends who is mixed race, and asked her for the first time in our 6-year friendship about her experiences.
  • Start absorbing content made by black people. One small change that has made a big impact for me was following every black entertainer (musician, artist, actor, etc.) I loved on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I also asked my Twitter friends for BIPOC & LGBTQ+ theologians they loved and followed them. It changed my entire feed.
  • I started watching some of my black friends’ church services online.
  • I made a commitment to myself in 2020 that I wouldn’t read any books by white men, which was my default author-type.
  • When deciding what show I should binge next, I looked at the cast list.
  • Join Be the Bridge Facebook Group — read the rules first.

We have a long way to go — will you commit to be on this journey with me?

New Years’ Goal-Setting Workshop

Uncategorized

With the New Year comes a time to set new goals. Whether you choose to do a SMART plan, a “word” for 2021, or make a half-hearted promise over the champagne toast, 80% of New Years’ Resolutions fail by February.

In my opinion, the reason resolutions fail is because they are too vague. We don’t think through the potential obstacles, hard conversations, or limiting beliefs that holds us back from achieving something, even if it could literally change our lives. Then we find ourselves believing that we can’t actually achieve our goals, because we believe we have “tried before,” even though our attempts were really half-attempts.

As your coach, I’ll provide the tools to help you conquer 2021. No more excuses for incomplete dreams, failed visions, and another year of not hitting resolutions.

Group Workshop – $20

Ideal for someone who already knows what goal they want to set, and doesn’t mind setting it in a group setting. Groups will be capped at 10 people.

There are three times to choose from –

  • Saturday, January 2nd at 10am EST
  • Sunday, January 3rd at 1pm EST
  • Thursday, January 7th at 8pm EST

Individual Session – $50

Ideal for someone who wants a more individual approach, especially if they feel what will get them “unstuck” is undetermined yet.

Times will be on Fridays & Saturdays throughout January, although an alternative time can be scheduled by contacting Heather directly.

If you decide to add on a 3-month coaching package, it will be discounted by $100.

Serve-at-Home Saturday

Uncategorized

I am convinced that the best ideas in ministry come from being curious about what other youth ministries are doing, and then adapting them to fit your own context — and this is 100% true for my new favorite service activity during this season, Serve-at-Home Saturday!

This idea came from Queen Katie Edwards, over at Saddleback. She cheered me on as we adapted to our context! Because Queens cheer on Queens.

Since BINGO on Instagram was so hot last month, we decided to go that route for our students — complete a BINGO, and you get a prize! We delivered small care packages the following week with snacks, a branded Youth Ministries Magnet, and some candy.

Here is what it looked like!

Use this link to download from Canva and use for yourself!

This month we are doing it “Scavenger Hunt” Style. We are still creating what this looks like, but we are partnering with our Children’s Ministry so that it’s an activity for the whole family! Families will have to complete one activity from each category:

  1. Serve your HOME
  2. Serve your NEIGHBORHOOD
  3. Serve your CHURCH
  4. Serve your COMMUNITY

Many of the activities are the same as the ones from the Bingo Board, with some additions that make it more kid & family-friendly. I’ll update this post with what we decide to go with!

Navigating Screen-Related Addictions and Teenagers in the Midst of COVID-19

Uncategorized

With schools closed for the rest of the school year, data says that most children ages 6-12 are spending at least 50% more time online, with no definitive statistic for teenagers. But as I talk to our teenagers, and use my instincts from my personal increased screen time, I can guess that that most of our tweens and teens are spending most of their days online.

It’s no one’s fault, really, that our whole lives have turned into online lives. Everything we do now happens there – our learning, our work, our television, our hangouts with friends, even ordering our food. Our entire lives have gone almost completely digital, and in many ways it’s helping us feel more connected.

But there are many dangers that happen when we increase our screen time –

  • Exposure to pornography, which happens for the first time at an average of 8-11 years old
  • Being “numbed” by the violence and sexualization of television shows and movies
  • Feeling fatigued by online meetings and gatherings, even adding to long-term loss of emotional or social intelligence
  • Poor eating habits as we snack while Netflix’ing
  • Depression from over-exposure to sad news

These dangers are increased for our teenagers, whose prefrontal cortexes are not fully developed until age 25. Teenagers are in a crucial stage where what they consume can actually define the way their brain looks for the rest of their life. Psychologists call this the “use it or lose it” principle; that what you are exposed to in the teenage years lasts forever, and the parts of your brain that you engage are the parts you engage for your lifetime. This is why we often teach foreign languages for the first time in middle school – because this is when your brain is the most vulnerable to keeping new pieces of information.

Of course, addiction to bad behaviors can happen at any age, but considering most of our students’ screen time is unsupervised and the risk they are especially under, my point is to be cautionary during this period of time.

So what can you do?

MONITOR WHAT THEY’RE TAKING IN

I cannot say it enough: Look at your students’ search history. Take a look at what’s in their feed on Instagram or Tik Tok from their phone so you can see what is advertised to them. While Instagram can be an innocent app, you might be surprised as to who is messaging them or what is on their search page – that is the content they look at!

There are even ways to monitor their phones. If you have open communication with your teen (which hear me: is not easy to have), ask them what they look at. Ask them if they’ve ever seen a pornographic image. Open up the dialogue and see what they say.

LIMIT THEIR SCREEN TIME

A feature I find cool on Apple Products is the Screen Time feature – you can limit how much time is spent each day on it. You can password protect that time, as well. I have it set so that I only spend a certain amount of time each day on social media and games.

I also encourage you to set limits like no screens after a certain time or screens only in certain rooms of the house. And unless your child relies on their phone as an alarm clock, I encourage you to remove screens at bedtime.

CHANGE THE TYPE OF SCREEN ACTIVITIES THEY DO

Often when I tell parents about the “use it or lose it” principle, one of the first questions I get is, “So, should our kids play video games?”

My answer? Actually, yes! But consider the games they play and what it is teaching their brains. Games that involve strategy or physical movement or healthy competition could be really great for teens. Games like first-person shooter games should be more limited. I think Fortnite is a blast, but I also think it should have time limits and “real life” should be returned to.

GIVE THEM OTHER ACTIVITIES TO DO

“Back in my day, all I had were Barbie Dolls and Legos.” It’s true, the world has changed a lot in 20 years. When I was a teenager, I’d ride my bike all over the neighborhood, get in trouble for coming into the house covered in mud, and on rainy days I would read books and make crafts.

This is a great time to get a little old-school. I’ve loved watching families sew masks together, play Monopoly, and garden. I’m curious if this is the time to do more activities where we step away from our screens and get creative!

I also think taking breaks during the day is important, too! Taking an hour to paint or have a 15-minute dance party just to get away from the grind of E-learning is a fun way to give the eyes a break.

ENFORCE A BEDTIME

Students have shared with me (and they could be making this up, who knows?!) that they’ve been staying up until 3am, even 5am, on their devices, and then sleeping until 1pm.

I waiver on the issue of trying to keep as much normalcy as possible, because like, we are going through a global trauma right now. Just this evening my friends had to give in and let their kindergartner have bubbles in her bath, even though that’s a “Saturday thing.” Each day we pick our battles and some things just aren’t worth fighting for.

But when we think about teens and what they need, they actually need more sleep than any other age group; 9-10 hours! Enforcing a solid sleep schedule with our teens (and giving them grace to sleep in, since they usually get far less than this), is really important.

WALK THE WALK

When I talk to teenagers about their screen usage, they totally throw their parents under the bus. They talk about how their parents are always looking at their phones, taking business calls, etc. And look, no judgment; my husband and I have conversations about screens and how it impacts our relationship often. And while screens seem like an easy escape when we are annoyed with one another, I have noticed that screens actually cause us to disconnect more.

When I was a teenager, my mom would say to me, “Do as I say, not as I do” and I would retort, “Actions speak louder than words.” Teenagers are brilliant. And so, if we have an expectation for them, it is fair that we follow that expectation ourselves.

I love the way the book Right Click approaches this topic, as they talk about creating a family covenant for screen time. This makes it so that it’s not just on the teenager to create better habits, but so that it’s for the whole family.

This time is unprecedented. There is no research that tells us what to do or how to behave. But six weeks in, we are beginning to notice that some habits are forming in our teenagers that have the potential to cause damage permanently.

At St. Luke’s, we want to partner with you. If you want to talk through any of this with us, don’t be afraid to reach out! This time is confusing, but we have resources to help you through it.

How I Do My Makeup!

Uncategorized

People are always asking me to teach them how to do my makeup, and TBH, I’m terrible on camera.

Peep this youtube video I made once:

But people always ask me, so I’ve compiled a list of my holy grail products!

PRIMER:

EYE PRIMER:

FOUNDATION:

CONCEALER:

POWDER:

BRONZER/HIGHLIGHT

  • They don’t make it anymore… but this in another shade.

BLUSH

EYEBROWS:

EYELINER:

MASCARA:

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

My Happy Planner

Uncategorized

For Christmas, my little sister gave me a Happy Planner, and I couldn’t be happier!

(What? I had to make that joke)

I wanted a planner that could do several things for me:

  • I wanted it to start on Monday and end with Sunday (since Sunday is the “pinnacle” of the week)
  • I wanted an hourly schedule, but I didn’t care so much about Friday or Saturday since I’m “off” typically on those days
  • I wanted a place where I could write out my habits
  • I wanted a place for a looooooooooong to-do list
  • I wanted a space for the items that I do EVERY week
  • I wanted a TON of space for notes in the back

I decided to go for the Happy Planner, because:

  • You can take pages in and out as much as possible, which means a never-ending notebook at the end of my planner
  • You can use their special hole-punch to put in notes from meetings, hand-outs, or other important information (like budgets, school calendars, yearly performance objectives, metrics, etc!)
  • This also means that you can create your own planner and put it in!

Okay, so obviously you know where I’m going with this: I created my own planner pages.

But first, let’s talk supplies:

  • I started with this planner! I chose the Happy Planner Notebook, because it comes with pre-punched note paper, and not a calendar. I wanted to make my own planner!
  • I purchased bigger rings. There are three sizes, and I wanted the medium size! But okay, I purchased the mega size, too.
  • I purchased just a butt-ton of stickers.
  • Some people love washi tape. I’m mixed.
  • THIS IS IMPORTANT: the punch! This is what turns ordinary paper into Happy paper.
  • I am also OBSESSED with these sticky notes.
  • Thick project paper to print Happy Planner sheets on!

Now if you AREN’T into making your own planner calendar, note that there ARE some already out there! There are also some you can purchase off of Etsy.

But here are my pages: DOWNLOAD HERE

  • I love that each week, my to-do tasks that never change are already written on my planner. Before, I had to write them down every single week.
  • I also love that I have a space where I can write out exactly how Sunday is going to go.
  • I decided to make my pages without months/dates, and utilize Happy Planner Stickers to fill those in.
  • I wrote pre-existing stuff in a lighter font, so that it’s easier to write over if I need, although I do love me some white-out tape.

And here are two examples of how I use them!

Here is another week!

With COVID-19 changing my schedule so that I work from home (and my weekly appointments look different now), I decided to change up my pages — here is what it will look like next week!:

I love this new format because I have a space on the right page for different projects that I’m working on! And of course — Women in Youth Ministry has its own spot!

Every time I am completed with a month, I take that month out and file it into a folder — if I need to reference that month in the future, I have it! But it’s not taking up space in my planner.

Other things I’ve hole-punched and keep in my planner:

  • Our all-church calendar (printed from our Google Calendar)
  • Our Youth Calendar, including dates that schools leave for spring/fall/winter/summer breaks.
  • My performance objectives for the year
  • My personal goals
  • A printout of the most recent metrics
  • A printout of the most recent budget report
  • A list of my weekly work-flow (it explains my job just in case I were to get sick!)
  • A few other printouts that I like to keep on me at all times.
  • A hefty notes section in the back.
  • (Because of all these additions, I only have 6 months of printed months at a time — which is why I archive completed months and have a full calendar in the front of my planner!)

I’d love to see the ways that you are using your planners — so PLEASE tweet me your pics!

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

COVID in the Midst of Lent

Uncategorized

If you’re like me, you are mourning right now. You’re morning all the cancelled events – Spring Retreats, Mission Trips, summer camp, Confirmation, Easter Sunday, weddings.

It’s a lot.

The tendency, at least for me, in situations like these where there is so little that I can control, is to over-compensate, over-program, and over-plan. And since the news of COVID-19 hit hard last week with the president’s press conference, that’s all I’ve done:

  • I’ve stayed up way too late creating ideas, clocking in hours far outside of my pay grade.
  • I’ve been up at 4am, anxiously thinking about families and what they’re going through.
  • I’ve acted like I’m a video editor, trying to film videos and piece it all together like a professional.
  • I’ve tried to come up with daily “pep talks” and devos on Instagram.

And I can already say that in the last week I’ve already tried two things to reach students and have failed.

It’s a lot.

I’ve felt my chest tighten with anxiety, as I try to figure out how to balance ministry, reach kids, support parents, take care of my own family – and oh yeah – not get sick.

Today I was in the middle of a freak-out when I heard the words, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46)

Be still? Are you crazy, God? I got a ton to do! And it’s all for you! If I don’t get it together, your kingdom will collapse.

What’s so ironic to me about this pandemic is that it is during a time of the year when we are supposed to be still – Lent. We are supposed to subtract things away that distract us in order to becoming closer to God, and yet in church life we end up adding so many more things as we try to reach people during the busiest time of year in church life.

I find it so ironic that we are forced to halt as a church during what we like to call the “Super Bowl of the Church.”And as heartbreaking as it is to sacrifice Easter Sunday, Confirmation, Graduation, and Spring Retreats, what if this was a chance to embrace what Lent is really about?

I became burdened by my own hypocrisy this week, as I spent an entire day creating content, suddenly realizing that I was just creating “more” for families to do together. From our church alone this week at least 4 emails were sent out to families, plus a daily devotional via Instagram, Facebook, and email; plus two newsletters from our senior pastor; plus a personal invitation to a Wednesday night Zoom class; the list goes on…

If Lent is about subtracting the things that distract us from getting closer to God, then what can we do to limit the “noise” that families ingest? How can we set ourselves apart from the communication that is sent from the schools or the local news? How can we embrace what Lent is all about?

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Create a “hub” on the church website where families can review resources. I’m obsessed with this one by White Rock UMC in Dallas.
  • Combine newsletters into one. Rather than having a separate Preschool/Elementary/Middle School/College newsletter, create one for the whole family!
  • Text/call parents. Spend the time you would have spent creating things to foster connection. Ask them how they’re doing and what you can pray about.
  • Don’t over-create. There’s no need to create your own mid-day devotional for students, if your church already has one.
  • Back off of event promotion. Let’s just get through one season at a time.
  • Deploy Small Group Leaders. If you are in a medium-to-large sized youth group, ask your SGLs to create Zoom hangouts, group chats, Netflix Watch Parties, or Smash Bros parties. Let them foster connection however is most natural, and support how you can. And as we “return back to life,” encourage small group events versus large group events.
  • Don’t be afraid of failure. So, maybe Zoom youth groups aren’t going to work for you. Maybe you don’t get the numbers. That is okay. Not everything is going to work or look pretty.

This is a time for the church to listen to the needs of families and deploy the church outside of these 4 walls. That doesn’t automatically equate as “we need to do more.” It just means that we do things different.

So, be still. Listen. And don’t be afraid to dial it back this season. If you’ve done your job properly up until this point, families will know you’re there for them without the constant reminders. Be innovative and creative, but don’t be afraid to be still.

How I did Zoom Youth Group!

Uncategorized

I saw quite a few of my millennial friends in ministry talking on the internet this last week about how indispensable my generation — who are often thought of as lazy, entitled, and obsessed with the internet — are finally proving their worth to the church! If there is one “good thing” that can come out of COVID-19, it’s that all of our millennials in ministry finally get to step up and shine with their e-gifts.

But if I was to be honest, I feel totally out of my league when it comes to moving the church online. And I had a “moment of crisis” last week when I realized that I was creating a lot of things, but what was I doing to foster authentic community?

Today we launched our first Zoom Youth Group, and it went FANTASTICLY. there were definitely some points of troubleshooting, but I’d love to share with you all we did!

Here is an overview of our “order of worship,” and then I’ll talk specifically about some of our steps.

  1. Intro
  2. Game
  3. Announcements
  4. Prayer
  5. Teaching
  6. Small Groups

Intro

  • First, let’s talk about Zoom! We used a PAID FEATURE, because it allows you to screen share and put students into breakout groups.
  • Click here for a brief on Zoom by my friend Josh at Stuff You Can Use
  • A half hour beforehand, I texted out the link to all of our parents utilizing our Church Database software.
    • I reminded parents to help their students get set up, since I have 5th-8th graders.
    • WHAT I LEARNED: Tell students to specifically put first and last name and grade. This makes it easier for breakout groups!
  • Until students came on, I played this countdown video. I downloaded it, and clicked “screen share.”WHAT I LEARNED: any noise I make is conveyed, even if I’m screen-sharing. You can’t mute your mic and have your video play. At least, I think.
  • I played a playlist as the video played of some of our favorite songs!
  • I left a few minutes to allow everyone to get on!
  • I made sure to hit “mute all” and clicked “don’t allow participants to unmute themselves.” A friend of mine had a student meow during prayer!
  • I also made sure that they could not screen share so there were not Zoom Bombers.
  • I also sent a MS Email to our families earlier this week with all this info — so that if they couldn’t tune in, they at least could at home. It also included some links to resources!

Game

We played a “Scavenger Hunt” with our Middle Schoolers, and this free DYM game with High School.

We had our middle schoolers find the following items:

  1. Fridge Magnet
  2. Roll of Toilet Paper
  3. Banana
  4. Hand Sanitizer
  5. A Pet
  6. Your parent
  7. Rubber band
  8. A pair of mis-matched socks
  9. A school picture
  10. A Bible!

When they found their item, they “raised their hand” using the feature. I wrote their names down, and will send them a gift. It was a little messy but it worked! I also unmuted students for this part so the screaming was great!

We made sure Bible was last because (1) We want them to remember to bring their Bibles and (2) our one announcement involved a Bible Challenge!

Announcements

I had one announcement for our students: our 40-day Bible Challenge!

Prayer

  • We wanted to utilize our Prayer time to teach students that while washing your hands, the Lord’s Prayer is the perfect amount of time!
  • Link to our video. Again, I used my iPhone to film, iMovie on my mac to edit and Canva to add the images.

Teaching

In Middle School, we used this FREE SERIES by Grow!

In High School, we did the Easter Series by Orange.

Small Groups

  • While the teaching video was playing, we sorted people into Breakout Groups!
    • With 100 students, this was TOUGH. So next week I’m going to have people put their grade in their name to help me sort better. I try to think I’m a hero, but it’s hard remembering 100 people’s last names and grades, and some students had “iPhone” or “cat luvr” as their name!
  • I gave the Leaders the Small Group Guide in advance, but I also dropped it into the Chat. Some of the students thought it was hilarious and downloaded it, too.
  • I unmuted everyone and turned their muting/unmuting permissions back on.
  • I told leaders that whenever their small group was done, that their group could leave. Some groups stayed longer than others!

I would LOVE TO HEAR what worked for you. I’m no expert. but today went well!

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!

IMG_1524
IMG_1519
IMG_1520
IMG_1521

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.

Youth Group Birthday Games

games, Uncategorized, youth ministry

it's a bowling birthday party.png

My birthday fell on a Wednesday this year, and I decided to throw a birthday party for my middle school students!

I took inspiration from my dear friend Elisa, another youth worker, who at a former church shared a birthday week with her co-diretor of youth ministry. They threw a huge birthday bash for all of their students. For them, they called it “everyone’s birthday party”–so no matter when your birthday is, your celebration was that evening. For me, I marketed mine as “Heather’s Birthday Party…FOR YOU!”

I love the idea of sharing your birthday with students! I came up with some silly games. Enjoy!

Balloon Stomp

PREP: Balloon Stomp is one of the most classic youth ministry games of all time–each person has a balloon and a piece of string. They blow up the balloon, tie it to the string, and tie it to the foot (make sure that they tie it so that there is slack on the string–some of my students like to cheat and make the balloon TINY and then tie it to the ankle).

OBJECT: Students stomp on each other’s balloons. Once you’re popped, you’re out. Last balloon standing wins.

TIPS & TRICKS:

  • As the number of students dwindles down, make sure to also reduce the space.
  • One way to do this is to have everyone make a circle, hold hands, and stomp on each other’s balloons.
  • To make it chaotic, I like to call out to those who have been eliminated to get back in there and stomp on the balloons to eliminate quickly. You could even play a version where, from the beginning, when someone is eliminated they still play!

Human Piñata

OBJECT & PREP: Students are holding candy (in their pockets, on their person, etc) and a pool noodle. Students will hit each other, and if so, they give up candy.

VERSIONS:

  • Each person has a pool noodle and has candy (in their shirt, pockets, wherever). Essentially, students just go crazy and hit each other. When you get hit, you have to drop some candy. This game doesn’t really go smoothly, it’s just an excuse to hit each other and give out candy. After a certain amount of time, you yell out and everyone collects candy.
  • Each person has a pool noodle and candy. When a person is hit, they’re “out” and must drop all of their candy. At the end, you tell the last person that they get all of the candy. Then, say “just kidding” and everyone else gets in there and collects too!
  • One or a few people have a pool noodle, and a shirt that has candy taped to it (or, a bucket taped to their back with some candy in it). Students try to grab candy from the person’s clothing. If they get hit, they are out.

Extreme Pin the Tail on the Donkey Relay

PREP: Put a “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” game on the wall (we used “Pin the Like on the Emoji” from Five Below). Make enough Tails for each person–in sticker form or with tape on it. Since this is a relay, you can have on Pin-the-Tail game per team, or have them all race to one board.

OBJECT: Students spin around ten times (counting out loud), then run to the board and pin their Tail on. They then run back, tag the next person in line’s hand, and they do the same. The first team to get all their Tails pinned wins!

Cupcake Wars

VARIATIONS: You can play this as an up-front game with a large group, or you can include all students with a medium or small-sized group.

PREP: 

  • Bake or purchase enough cupcakes for each student.
  • Get some supplies to decorate the cupcakes: Frosting, icing, sprinkles, candy (Skittles, Mike & Ikes, M&Ms, Red Hots, Runts, etc.), chocolate chips, etc.
  • Place supplies in the center, put plates in each placeholder.

OBJECT: Best cupcake wins!