There has been a trend in recent years to spend the first twenty to thirty minutes of class time in youth groups having bonding activities. These are usually some sort of game that really has no point other than getting the kids to have fun together. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all for teens enjoying youth group. I love a good game or silly activity as much as the next guy. What I question is do these activities really accomplish what we want and are they the best use of our time?
The problem for the vast majority of teens is the only Bible they get is during the time they are in youth group. Even the most “faithful” families often are so busy they leave Bible study to their official “Church times”. If the teens in your group are getting two hours in Bible classes a week at most and often only an hour a week periodically, how should we be spending that time?
My other issue is the idea that playing games creates meaningful bonding. At the most, these games create a sense of fun about your class or ministry. That’s not bad per se – after all Teach One Reach One was created in part to make Bible classes more enjoyable. True bonding – the type where your teens help each other grow spiritually and support each other like the Christian family they are supposed to be won’t come from games.
Research has proven (and I am sure you know this from personal experience) real bonding comes from baring our souls to each other. Your teens need to have the time and environment to really get to know each other at the core. That will bond them for life in ways only God understands. They need time to ponder important questions and talk about how they are thinking and feeling about them. They need time to support each other when they are struggling.
The problem with using 20-30 minutes of class time playing “bonding” games is that it probably realistically leaves you with at most 15-20 minutes of class time. That is barely enough time to read a little scripture and try to make one or two points. It doesn’t allow time for your students to ask questions about what you are sharing. It doesn’t give them the time to think about what you said and decide whether or not it appears valid to them. What you say could help them discover questions, doubts or interests they want to explore. They know time is short though and won’t bring them up to you or the class – or probably any one. Fifteen minutes doesn’t allow you the time to teach the teens how to apply these principles in their daily lives and help them brainstorm ways to be more godly using them.
The next time you plan a teen lesson. Think about time management. You can still do fun, hands-on things with teens. Just make them have a stronger tie to the points in your lesson. Make the time spent on them much shorter. Give the bulk of the time you have to helping your students get to know God better. The time in your class may be one of the few opportunities they have at this most crucial time in life to work through their relationship with God. Please don’t fritter it away!