The other day on the train, my friend was explaining why a song he’d written hadn’t been picked up by a record label. The song was catchy, rhythmic and had a strong beat, but there was one problem, lyrically it had no progression. After the first mention of the song’s main character, there was no more information given about her.
A good song tells you a little bit of information, then a little bit more, then a little bit more as characters are developed throughout the song. A good youth group program is the same.
For example, during a night based on human suffering you might introduce it by asking the group if they have heard the question ‘why is there suffering in the world?’
Next you might play the youtube clip of images of human suffering set to 'Where Is The Love?' by the Black Eyed Peas to help the group understand what suffering looks like.
Next you might play a game that simulates the suffering in the world, we played 'The Rickshaw Game' from the TEAR website.
Next you might have a Bible talk that answers the question, ‘why does God allow suffering in our world?’
Then you might profile a person or group of people (Christians or otherwise) who are suffering and pray for them.
The advantage of a progressive program is that you introduce the idea early on, you get the people thinking about the idea and coming at it from different angles. The whole night is bundled up together with the same idea, and there’s no chance anyone could think that youth group is just about playing games with a Bible talk tacked on the end.
There are good ways and bad ways to get this progression happening. Here’s two things to avoid.
Firstly, don’t try and fit any old game around the theme. I remember once at youth group playing captain ball with pieces of bread caught and thrown with tongs because the main idea of the night was that Jesus was the bread of life and because our church conveniently had 30 sets of tongs. If a game fits use it, if not don’t worry.
Secondly, the program isn’t the only factor in youth ministry. Preaching the word and building relationships is far more important, so let the program serve this aim, not dominate your thinking.
So when you’re next writing a youth group program, aim to build on the idea throughout the night, like the lyrics to your favourite song.
A great summary for anyone wanting to prepare a talk for teens