I felt ill prepared to lead such a large group of young people. What did I have to offer? It took me a while to find the answer to that question, but when I did find the answer, my eyes were opened to a completely new world.
I learned that the best youth leaders are those who have youth age children in their homes. This serves as a motivator to those of us who feel they are too old to understand or relate to youth. At least, this is what I discovered for myself after taking on the role as youth leader in our church.
My son was a member of the youth group and I felt this would be a way to stay involved in his life. Most youth aged children; mine included, found ways to stay away from their parents. I wanted to continue to be part of his life and understand what he was going through. I think he would agree these times spent together in youth activities drew us closer to one another.
Some of the things I discovered and the successes we had as a group are too good not to share. It would be nice if I could tell you that I took this responsibility on and was the reason for the successes, but of course, I can't. No one person can take on such a huge undertaking and not have support of other leaders to help lead such an active, fun, impressionable group.
After forming a youth council comprising of youth, teachers, parents and other leaders in our church, we started brainstorming about things to do for fun and things to do where the youth could learn. At one point in one of our sessions, a teacher remarked that they had a Saturday Night Live in a church he attended years ago.
Of course, we wanted to hear more. His description the event intrigued and inspired us. After several planning sessions, our monthly Friday Night Live was born. It's hard to say who enjoyed the monthly get together more, the youth or the leaders.
Our first Friday Night Live was experimental and was a huge success. Here is what we did.
Inserted black light bulbs into the light sockets of the room we chose for the event. I would advise that the room you choose is a room where food is allowed. Several of the youth also loaned black poster lights. This served to give the room an ambiance youth enjoy.
We placed rectangle tables in several long rows, covering them in white paper and placed crayons all along the tables. Those youth arriving early created graffiti on the paper. Even those arriving on time had opportunities to create their art.
We encouraged our youth to bring a guest or invite friends to attend. Our night began at 9:00 p. m. This was past most of the leaders’ bedtime, but we knew the youth were just getting wound about that time. Upbeat Contemporary Christian music played in the background, a little too loud for my taste, but just right for the youth.
We planned a talent show. The youth were to be the talent, but the teachers had a surprise for them. We planned to perform one song. We pantomimed to the Elvis Presley's I just want to be Your Teddy Bear.
We previously build a platform, had canned spot lighting we made ourselves; yes, out of cans. We came out on stage in pajamas and gripping teddy bears. We tried doing a routine and most of us overacted. The youth laughed so much it was difficult for us to finish, but we did.
This took some doing on our part. Most of the leaders were not performers by nature and we had to step way out of our comfort zone. We found though that the youth loved seeing us in a different light.
After the talent show, we had games planned. Games such as a tricycle race, bubblegum-blowing bubbles contest and several kid like games. Everyone participated and seemed to enjoy the silliness of it all.
After the games, we gathered, sang a few group songs and had a guest speaker who spoke for fifteen minutes or less. This time served as time to encourage and strengthen the youth as well as a time to present the gospel to the youth who did not know Christ as their personal Savior.
We provided a meal for them. That first night we had sandwiches, chips, and assorted junk foods. Other nights we served Pizza, Mexican, and Italian foods.
A lot of work went into these events, but it was worth the efforts. Those youth who have since moved into the young adult phase of their life, continue to make positive comments regarding those fun Friday Night Live nights.
Other Friday Night Live events varied in our presentation and planning; the New Year's Eve event lasted longer than most of the others. Our guest speaker shared in the sanctuary and at the stroke of the New Year, we allowed the youth to take turns ringing our church bell.
I believe these events can be altered to fit any group of youth. Our setting was in a rural country church. The Saturday Night Live the leader talked to us about was in a larger city church. It takes much effort and great imaginations to pull off such an event. That is why I believe it is important for every church no matter what size, have a youth council to help plan and prepare for the youth in our world. If we don't reach and teach them, it scares me to think who will.
Darlene has articles published in the Lookout magazine, a feature article in the Kentucky Monthly with one of her scenery photographs chosen as the cover of the June 2007 issue. A short story was published in The Storyteller. On Mission, Working Nurse and Hopekeepers magazine, all have purchased or accepted articles for future publication. A Christmas story she wrote was published in an anthology titled I'll be Home for Christmas. She writes part time from her home in Central Kentucky. She has been married for thirty-two years to the only man she has ever loved. She has one child, a son who is married and one grandchild.