Youth Group as Seminar

Forgive the title of the post. I dislike the term “youth group” but it was the most concise way to title the post. Let me give a brief explanation of what I mean by the title. When referring to “youth group” in this context I am referring specifically to the mid-week program that we run at IBC. I’m not referring to the “youth ministry” as a whole, or any other event, meeting, gathering or program which we run. Now, on to what I want to say.

I’ve been having a variety of interesting conversations recently, most of them spawned by my post on preaching. This is all to the good, although they have failed to completely sway me from my views. I have, however, begun to think about the possible implications of my thoughts on preaching as it relates to youth ministry. Someone recently posed the question to me, “How does preaching differ from lecturing in a classroom?” The answer is, of course, that any good course will not only include lectures but assignments that complement the lectures. As I thought on this more I began to wonder if there was a way to translate any of the pedagogical principles that are used when designing a college course to a youth ministry. It is fairly unlikely that students would read textbooks, write papers, take exams, prepare timelines, or other activities normally deemed “school-like.” But, I think I have at least one viable idea.

As my thoughts on the subject outlined above converged with my thoughts on how to help students take ownership of the youth ministry without overwhelming them I came up with the following idea:

Perhaps we could run the teaching time of our Wednesday night meeting as a seminar. A seminar obviously has sound pedagogical principles behind it which I need not delve into here. But it doesn’t necessarily have a school-like feel. I also think that by being a bit more informal than a normal seminar style course typically is I can remove any last vestiges of said feel (leaving aside the question of why our culture has deemed that feel so repugnant). If I were to try this, our Wednesday night teaching would look something like what follows. Students would pick topics or passages for us to discuss ahead of time. I’d then ask for volunteers/assign students to particular passages/topics after I had set a schedule. Those students would be responsible for coming up with some thoughts on that topic or passage. Some students, no doubt, will put only a minimum of thought or time into this. Others, I believe, might really grasp the concept and enjoy it. An example may help to shed some light on the idea.

Let us say the topic is justice. Let us also say that two students are responsible for this topic, the first is Steven, the second is Emily. Steven is pretty busy and so doesn’t spend too much time thinking about the topic and what he thinks about it. He manages to look up a few verses before our meeting though, and decides he’ll say something about the Lord’s Prayer, and how if God’s kingdom comes on Earth, then that must certainly mean justice would happen. Emily, on the other hand, takes things a little more seriously (or maybe she’s just less busy?) and talks to me about what might be a decent passage to look up. I give her some ideas, and even suggest a few websites. She checks these out and finds she’s quite interested in the topic. She asks if I have anything else she might read. I give here The Little Book of Biblical Justice by Chris Marshall.

When Wednesday roles around Steven gets up in front of the group. He nervously shares his thoughts on the Lord’s prayer, anxiously answers a question while managing to only look partially confused, and then sits down. Next, Emily gets up and talks about how the topic really excited her, so she went overboard in preparing. She stumbles through her presentation (due to nervousness, not any lack of preparation), talking about the poor, widows, and orphans and how we need to help them. She doesn’t make all of her points clearly, but she seems to enjoy it. After this, I get up and spend a few minutes tying things together and sharing some of my thoughts on the topic of justice.

I hope by doing this that students will be given a chance to get excited about a topic. It also involves them in taking ownership of the youth ministry and helps give them ways to learn that don’t simply involve me talking with them. I’m very interested to hear people’s thoughts on this idea. Do you think it has merit? Is there a chance it might work? Am I being too idealistic? If I wasn’t clear enough please ask and I’ll attempt to clarify.

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2 thoughts on “Youth Group as Seminar

  1. I think it’s worth a shot. I think we’ll run into problems with students saying they’ll do something and then forget, or students not wanting to participate because they’re too nervous about speaking in front of their peers. But if the students would give it a shot, I think it might just go well.

  2. I agree. But I thought tonight went okay. We’ll see how it goes next week when we actually have some topics put together for them to “signup” for.

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