||Jonathan's Resource Ezine
Weekly Resources, Ideas and Articles from The Source for Youth Ministry
Tuesday, May 4, 2004
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Featured Article: Programming "Hang Out" Time
by Jonathan McKee
May 4, 2004
I like to survey students whenever possible, and one of the purposely-vague questions I
always like to ask is, "What is your favorite thing to do for fun?"
Can you guess the number one answer I hear? You might think it's something like,
"play sports" or "listen to music." Yes, those are up there on the list,
but not #1.
The #1 answer I hear sounds something like this: "Kickin it with my friends" or
"Just hangin out" or "Chillaxin wit' my homies."
Just a few weeks ago the leaders at one of our training events were complaining about how
all the kids were talking through their worship time in their own program the week before.
One leader said, "These kids don't see each other all week, and the first thing they want
to do is just sit around and talk. It's hard to program that!"
You see- we have a catch 22. Students want to just hang out?it's the #1 thing they want to
do. Yet, if we don't provide anything to do, they'll say "we're bored." (especially jr.
highers!) Not to mention, if we're going to reach kids for Christ and make disciples of
Him, we probably need some content.
On the other hand, if we program the whole evening, they often talk through the entire
thing or bail completely, going somewhere else where they can just hang out.
So what's the answer?
OVER-PROGRAMMING or UNDER-PROGRAMMING ... THAT IS THE QUESTION
Sometimes youth leaders over-program, and sometimes they under-program. Where's the
I've been to groups where there is no "hang out" time. Students come right in, take a
seat and worship or game time begins immediately. The temptation for students is to
ignore the program and just talk with their friends that they haven't seen all week.
This is very common. One of the most common questions I receive on my ASK JONATHAN page
is, "My kids keep talking during youth group. What do I do?" (For one of my answers to
that question, CLICK HERE)
We need to plan "hang out" time.
I've also been to groups that have nothing planned but "free time." No content, no
discussions, nothing relevant to meet the needs of students desperately trying to find
As much as kids like to just "hang out," I like to provide something. I like to try to
find a balance. And if I err on one side, I linger on the side of "hang out" time.
After all, this is an opportunity for my volunteer youth leaders to build relationships
with kids. We have the opportunity to "hang out" with them and get to know them better.
We can make "hang out" time with students a tool for relationship building. Not only
during our programmed "hang out time," but throughout the week as well. Students like
talking on the phone, hanging with their friends at the mall, or just "kicking it" at
Starbucks. This is an open door for "one-on-one" time with students. As youth workers,
we can invite them to Taco Bell for some greasy food, McDonalds for a milkshake, or
Starbucks for a Vente Latte (two words that kids didn't even know a decade ago).
One-one-one time with students is always one of my high priorities in youth ministry.
Many kids in today's generation are growing up with very little, if any, one-on-one
attention from positive adult mentors. You may find that students that are normally shy
or reserved in a crowd will really open up one-on-one. (I talk more about making one-on-one
a priority in my article about the power of one-on-one time
So how do we find this balance of "hang out" time in our programs and events?
In our weekly programs, provide a "hang out" time at the beginning. A fun atmosphere with
munchies, music, maybe even a coffee bar (pretty popular these days). But then dive into
your content in a real, relevant and relational way. Something that still gives them a
chance to interact with each other. Small groups are a good way to still cover content,
but in a relational way.
TRIPS AND EVENTS
In our trips and events, provide "options" for activities, plenty of "hang out time," and
clear boundaries so you don't lose kids between the cracks. I talked a little about this
in the context of a weekend retreat in my article about PLANNING WEEKEND RETREATS
I find it great news that the #1 thing students like to do is be relational. Youth
ministry is relational, and our God is relational. God wants a relationship with our
students, and our students are looking for a relationship. Not bad, huh? We have the
awesome privilege to introduce students to what they are looking for.
CLICK HERE FOR MORE ARTICLES BY JONATHAN MCKEE
Or take a look at what others are saying about his book,
THE TOP 12 RESOURCES YOUTH WORKERS WANT
Jonathan McKee is president of The Source for Youth Ministry and
author of the new book "Do They Run When They See You Coming? Reaching Out to Unchurched
Teenagers." (CLICK HERE FOR
THE BOOK) Jonathan speaks
and trains across the country and provides
free online resources, training, & ideas for youth workers at
Something You Can Use: End of Year All Nighter Ideas
Looking for an end of the year event? Here's a couple ideas:
PROM A LA MODE
Unfortunately, the thing that most kids like to do after prom is drink, get high, or jump
in bed with someone. What if you offered something else?
How about an after prom party?
Darlene, a youth worker in Arkansas, wrote me a little while ago with an after-prom idea
that she's doing for her students. She doesn't want to do the typical "game night." I
don't blame her. Most kids wouldn't want to give up prom festivities to play chubby
bunnies, baby food relays and pin the tail on the donkey. So she wanted to come up with
something a little more creative, with a lot of "hangin' out" time.
Darlene has a facility with a lot of options. She created an atmosphere with fun things
to do, or fun places to just "kick it." She set up an old time photo shoot with costumes.
She planned a movie area and an area set up with video games.
In addition, she went to the community to get donations for door prizes. It's amazing how
many stores and small businesses will donate to a good cause. Usually you'll get great
results if you draft a letter explaining your event (providing an alternative to getting
drunk on prom night) and put it on the letterhead of your church or organization (with
your official non profit 501 (c)(3) number if you're in the US). These gifts can be used
as "door prizes" and given away throughout the night, saving the best for last.
I've always found a lot of success with rotating locations and activities throughout the
evening. Logistically this requires transportation (don't let students drive in the middle
of the night), but it cures boredom that sets in with some kids after a couple of hours.
Try this- an event called KICKIN' IT.
It's an all night party with plenty of activities and plenty of time to hang out, or
just "kick it."
You could almost market it as just that.
Calvary Youth's All Night Party
Plenty of Stuff to do ... and Plenty of Time to Just Kick It!
Then plan activities for all night, starting at your normal meeting place. Then go to
different fun places where kids can participate, or simply "hang out."
FOR MORE FUN EVENT IDEAS
- Movie- at someone's house where their basement or large room is set up like a movie theater
- Swim (at a person's house- a neighborhood pool, even a local hotel if you can pre-arrange)
- Lazer tag
- Costume parties (theme driven)
- Door prizes
- Prizes for who brings the most friends
- GOOD food (nachos, pizza, M&M's, Pepsi, etc.)
CHECK OUT OUR EVENT IDEAS PAGE!
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