Once upon a time I was a church youth leader…

Meeting Point
A while ago(!) I used to be one of the youth leaders at my church back in sunny Harrow. Me, and all the other leaders of the time have now moved on – but I thought it would be nice to list out the activities we used to do for the benefit of others! (And of course for my own benefit should I ever need to entertain a bunch of teenagers…) We used to meet on Sunday evenings from 7ish till 9ish in the church hall for the best part of 7 years (actually ‘Meeting Point’ is something like 35 years old now, it keeps being re-created for/by each new generation) anyway…
Activities – Things to form the core of an evening!
  • Chocolate tasting – buy several different kinds of chocolate, blindfold and taste.
  • Saussage tasting – as above but with saussages, don’t forget to cook them!
  • Treasure hunt – photo treasure hunt round a town or village, everyone makes teams and gets a list of things to find (including silly photos to take for bonus points) produced by the organisers. We used to get the members (the teenagers) to make the list…
  • First Aid evening with a twist – Most of us had been in cubs/scouts/Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, so we’ve all done first aid training before. We decided to make it more interesting by producing fake injuries, using make up and some foodstuffs. If you use flour and the right blends of food colourings you can make very realistic fake skin, red food colouring and golden syrup make great blood and the right combination of vaselline and eye shadow can create very good burns.
  • Catapults! Everyone splits into teams and gets the following: Some short bamboo canes (about 1m length max), some string, some rubber bands and a plastic drinking cup. They may also need/use scissors. The object of the exercise is to build a catapult that will fire as far as possible. We use water balloons (small-ish ones!) as the object for throwing (outside of course!). On a hot summer afternoon/evening this works really well, assuming they break on impact as it marks the spot for where it landed. A few other tips – make sure you get proper water bomb balloons, using real balloons means they don’t burst on impact – and be prepared for the (inevitable?) water fight…
  • Paper Towers! Teams are given some newspaper and a roll of Sellotape. The object of the exercise is to build the tallest tower. The ‘correct’ answer is to roll the newspaper up into tubes and build it out of these – I actually had the same exercise at a job interview in 2005. The winner (of course) is the team with the highest tower than stands up.
  • Egg Towers (this can be a bit messy) – the same as the paper towers, except that each team also has to support an egg on the top of their tower (and somehow get the egg there, if it’s taller than a person can reach). Make sure you have a mop/bucket/cleaning cloths available! Note for leaders – spare eggs are highly recommended. As with paper towers, the winner is the highest egg that can stay up for long enough to be judged.
  • Spaghetti bridges… (or cardboard bridges) – Each team gets a roll of sellotape and some spaghetti. We did a couple of variations, with different point scoring systems. The judging criteria can be a mixture of the span of the bridge (you will need a tape measure) and the weight supported (coins from your change jar are a good unit here, or a coathanger + bucket of water if you’re testing more substantial cardboard bridges). Teams get a set period of time to design and build their bridge before the deadline, where each is tested in turn. We collected cardboard boxes from the supermarket for the cardboard variant.
  • The Egg Olympics! This was a great fun evening themed around eggs and the olympics. I think it must have been easter time – events included egg dancing (dance with your egg for 3 minutes), egg decorating (make your egg look like yourself.. or someone else using felt tip pens, coloured paper and a few sheets of elt. There were egg and spoon races up and down the hall (some of which I think had obstacles in them!), and the final (messy) event egg darts – throw your egg at the target for maximum points. There was a fair bit of cleaning up involved and quite a few eggs were harmed in the process.
  • Egg drop… Another egg related challenge. Teams get some newspaper, cardboard, scissors and sellotape, plus one egg. They have to construct an egg protecting device that will ensure it lands unbroken after being thrown from the highest accessible point (such as the top of the church tower!). Be careful not to hit anyone, or to get the egg capsule stuck in any gutters – which could cause some damage next time it rains! A good activitiy for summer months when the wind isn’t too strong.
  • Cross making: requires two very large bits of wood (I got them from Wickes) and some BIG nails, hammer and a spade if you want to put it up in the Church garden. As an easter activity we made a life-size cross in the church garden and put it up the week before easter. Digging the hole was quite a mucky job which made a bit of a mess of the garden and our shoes – however I think everyone felt that the message of the crucifixion was brought closer by having the cross on show. After the Easter weekend we took it apart and later used the planks of wood to level gravel for our Meeting Point equipment shed.
  • Emmaus course – it’s an off the shelf thing (I think.. ) worth a look.
  • Wide Games – check out resources from the scout movement for game ideas. In my experience the best ones involve water balloons and flour bombs, but there are also less messy ones. Essential equipment for this type of thing is really just a watch and a good whistle.
Games – to fill in the time between more substantial things.
  • The gordian knot, a simple ice breaker – Everyone stands in a circle, then puts one hand up in the air (it’s a good idea to do all lefts, or all rights at the same time). They grab a hand from across the circle – and the whole process is repeated with the other hand. Once everyone is attached the challenge is to dis-entangle the knot without letting go! Depending upon the number of people it can take between 5 minutes and forever (sometimes it isn’t possible to dis-entangle beyond a certain point…)
  • General Bunnyhopper – not actually a game we ever played at Meeting Point. Everyone stands in a circle. Someone starts with their hands making bunny ears and the two people either side make one ear nearest to the person making both ears. When the person making bunny ears decides, they clap and point to someone else in the circle who becomes the next General Bunnyhopper. And so on, if someone doesn’t make the right bunny ears, then they are out and have to sit down!
  • Matthew Mark Luke & John – Someone else must have written a better description of this, but here goes anyway. Set out chairs in a circle, with 4 slightly further back in a more prominent position. Everyone sits down, with the four in the prominent chairs being Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, everyone on a regular chair should number off.
  • “I have never…” We also played this game. Some of you might be used to playing it in a rather different (and drunken?) context. Obviously this version is entirely innocent.. think “I have never been to Japan”. If you’re used to playing the adult, alcoholic and uncensored version, it can take quite a lot of concentration and mental energy to keep coming up with suitable things to say. The kids on the other hand were young enough not to have this problem.

 

  • Simon Says. Again it isn’t one we actually ever played at meeting point, but I was at a management workshop last week and it was used as an ice breaker activity. If you don’t know how to play then you really should look it up on Google…
  • Chair Racing – For this game you need at least two teams and a few chairs. Each team should have the same number of people and one chair less than the number of people in the team. Both teams start at one end of the hall with the chairs in a line and have to leapfrog across the chairs (passing the end chair forward each time) to the other end of the hall. If anyone falls in to the lava then the whole team has to go back to the start. Be careful what kind of chairs you use, some might be missing stoppers that could damage any sensitive flooring – and others might not stand up to a bunch of people clambering over them.
  • Benchball – This is basically netball with a person standing on a chair at each end of the hall. Two teams compete to pass the ball (no running with the ball or dribbling allowed) to their catcher on the chair at the other end of the hall.
  • Quarters – Divide the hall into four (roughly equal) quarters. Each team gets a quarter and has to keep the ball out of their zone. A leader blows a whistle at random, whoever has the ball in their quarter at the time wins a point – the winning team has the lowest score after-all. The whistle blowing leader should also keep score!
  • The sitting down game – Everyone sits in a circle. Someone starts by saying something like “If you are wearing jeans, move one place to the left”. Everyone who is wearing jeans moves round one to their left. Then the person next to whoever started (or in the next occupied chair) makes another call. It could be things like clothes people are wearing, hair or eye colour, if you are a girl or boy, if you have a brother/sister etc. Obviously this game can get a bit ‘stacked’ with people sitting on top of people sitting on top of people. So you probably want to use your judgement and not play with anyone who is too heavy, large, small, smelly etc. or in places where the chairs aren’t very solid!
  • Human Table Football – The principle here is the same as a fooseball table, except with humans instead of blue and red plastic men. Teams should arrange themselves in facing rows along the length of the hall, goalies are not required (as this would make it impossible to score). Each row is only allowed to move sideways and must hold hands/link arms at all times. Leaders are necessary to get the ball when it goes out of reach of one of the rows, and to re-start the game after a goal.
  • Sardines: Hide and seek in reverse. Everyone goes into one room, except the ‘chosen one’ who goes and hides somewhere. After a couple of minutes everyone else leaves the room and has to find the chosen one – and hide with them! The last person to find the group gets to be the person to hide next time. We used to play it in the church and the church hall, wth the only area people weren’t allowed to go the sanctuary. Again with this game you should be sure that the kids are sufficiently mature not to hide anywhere dangerous (air ducts, cellars, the roof, on top of furniture) and that the play space is sufficiently large that you can find everyone again at the end!
  • The Ball-of-wool game! Requires several balls of different string/wool/twine ideally in lots of bright colours (don’t worry they are re-usable!), a bunch of tables/chairs/random objects like pianos (nothing fragile mind you!)
Trips out and about:
  • Alton Towers – Because kids love theme parks (and so do some adults). We used to go on an annual weekend away to Alton Towers, usually the last weekend of the year that they are open, when they sometimes have fireworks and late opening. All kids considered responsible were allowed to roam the park freely in groups. The less responsible children joined the leaders group. We also filled out the weekend with a trip to ‘The Rock’, a re-used church in Derbyshire that is now a climbing centre.
  • Fireworks! We used to go to a local firework display for the weekend of the 5th November. Wrap up warm and don’t forget the gingerbread.
  • Ghost Walk – We did a Ghost Walk in London once, during the summer. We had ‘dinner’ in McDonalds (or maybe that was just me…) and then followed a walking route with a great guide around some haunted places in the City. Definitely one for the summer months.
  • Ice Skating – We had a trip to go Ice Skating at the O2 centre. It was fun!
  • Movie Night/Games Night – We had the occasional movie night, borowing the church projector to show movies in cinema size on the walls of the church hall – or to play Wii. Note to other leaders, be careful when playing Wii… you should in particular make sure that all players are a safe distance appart. Otherwise there is a risk that they will accidentally hit each other very hard. Fortunately nobody was seriously hurt.
  • Paintball – We did this once. It was a lot of fun, but a bit too expensive and painful to do again.
  • BBQ on the beach – The end of the school year was traditionally marked by a day at the beach and an evening BBQ (in the special BBQ area) at Studland beach down on the south coast. It’s one of the most beautiful beaches in the UK, perfect for swimming in the sea or just paddling/building sand-castles/burying annoying children/leaders up to their necks in sand (far enough up the beach so that they won’t drown if the tide comes in of course!). Studland beach also has a nudist area, so it’s a good idea to make sure you park in the right car park!
Helping Out
We did a lot of things to help out with the life of the church. These included a few ‘set piece’ items that the group has been doing since everyone can remember – such as cooking a tea for the Choir at the annual Nine Lessons & Carols service, then serving mulled wine to the congregation afterwards. The big event of the year was always a full Christmas dinner, served on a Sunday night before Christmas. Guests were always invited to the dinner, including the ministry team, former leaders and any ‘adults’ who had helped us out throughout the year.
We also used to run stalls at the annual June summer fair – running a face painting tent for children and the smash hit stall being ‘Smash-a-Plate’. All you need are some wooden balls, an old climbing frame/dresser, a few boxes of chipped crockery and a large plastic sheet (otherwise you will be picking out bits of broken plate from the church lawn forever!). I think we used to charge 50p for three throws…bargain! One year we even built a life-size gunk tank and raised money in a competition to dunk either the Vicar or the Choir Master.
Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme
We used to deliver the Duke of Edinburghs award scheme (working under the operating authority of our local council), so our members would be out and about doing their service sections helping in the community. The most involved part of the DofE programme for us was training members for their expeditions, including skills like basic cooking, map reading and navigation. We had some adventures supervising expeditions!
Churchy stuff
Obviously we didn’t JUST have fun. Each meeting would close with the grace and we would take part in church services on a regular basis – either doing readings, or perparing our own evening service (leaders helping the kids), in collaboration with the ministry team. Ocassionally we would also hijack (with permission of course) the main sunday worship and do the sermon, readings, prayers etc. The ethos of meeting point was that it was something fun for young people to do (because Sunday morning worship isn’t always exciting), where we could do our best to set an example of Christian behaviour in a relaxed environment and where kids would feel comfortable to bring along their friends as part of the outreach of our church.
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