Playing in the Park

This is a lesson that emphasizes community building and is appropriate for middle or high school students.

Enhancer of Joy

Community

Lesson Developed by

Kelly Antonson and Caroline Ainsworth Hughes

Goal

A Day of Creating Community in God's Creation

Tips to Prepare

  • Study the scripture in advance of the session and think about how it might relate to your specific group of youth.
  • Recruit student leaders to help facilitate the event.

Materials Checklist

  • Nametags
  • Markers
  • Tug-of-War Rope
  • Info About Me Sheets

Setting the Atmosphere

  • This event should take place on your church grounds or outside in a local park.
  • Student leaders should be ready to greet students with an abundance of energy and enthusiasm.
  • Upon arrival, students should be welcomed and asked their name for a name tag.

Scripture Focus

Matthew 6:10

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

This scripture was selected because the Lord’s Prayer will likely be familiar to many/all of the youth. This verse highlights that the Kingdom of God in Heaven is actually what God seeks for us to build here on this earth. By loving and serving in Christ’s name as part of this community they can bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth.

Purpose

In this session, youth will grow comfortable with being a part of youth group and gain excitement about participating in future offerings. This program is geared toward showing youth the welcoming nature of your community, experiencing fellowship, and having fun! This event can be used for a Kick-Off week or early in the program year when youth are getting to know each other.

Objectives

Youth will meet each other and start to get to know each other. Students will be encouraged to be on teams with new people, and will engage in “getting to know you” games with those teams. Youth will reflect upon who/what/when they felt welcomed and included, just as Christ included all.

Gather

Gather [5 minutes]

Greeting One Another:

Have student leaders greet youth, introduce themselves and give kids a name tag as they enter.

Opening Prayer:

For some youth, praying aloud may be intimidating, so you may want to consider a call back prayer. The leader says a few words at a time and the kids recite it back all together. This enables youth to see how easy it can be to pray without putting one student on the spot.  For this event, select a youth group leader or student leader rather than asking one of the kids to do the opening prayer.

Leader or Student Leader:

Dear God, we ask that today as we gather for the first time as a new youth group community that you guide us to build new friendships and be open to new experiences. We give thanks for the opportunity to be in your creation and celebrate the year ahead! In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen!

Introducing the Session:

This lesson is all about breaking through barriers and beginning to build a community. When youth are told they are welcomed it is inviting; yet when they experience radical inclusivity, they feel joy.

The priority should be to break through social cliques, grades, gender differences etc. and build one community that could mirror the world God imagines for us.

The inhibitor you will likely encounter is that students will gravitate toward their peers and friends whom they are most comfortable with. This is where your student leaders can help show them how to build relationships with new people. When splitting youth up consider keeping them with one of their friends so they feel comfortable, but they can still push outside of their comfort zones.

Engage

Engage [30 minutes]

Activity 1: Movement Name Game

Split the group into 2-3 teams/groups depending on the size of your overall group. Each group should form a circle.

One youth in the circle will start. They will say their name and add a motion to it. Example: Youth one says, “Kyle” and does a jumping jack.

Everyone in the circle will repeat that first person’s name and motion. Then the person to their right (youth two) will say their own name and add a motion to it, everyone will repeat the name and motion of youth two and one. Then the next (youth three) will say their own name, adding a motion, and then everyone will do the motion of youth three, youth two, and youth one. So on and so forth until everyone has gone.

1st Round: To get to know everyone in the group’s name and see a bit of their personality.

2nd Round: Compete with other teams to see which group can complete their circle the fastest or loudest.

3rd Round: See if one member from each team is up for the challenge of repeating all the names/moves on their own.

Activity 2: Tug of War

Split group based on birth dates – January to June is one team and July to August is another. If one team appears much larger, even teams out by moving the month with the smallest number of birthdays over or just pick a few students to move. Play traditional tug-of-war and consider doing a few rounds. You can also consider some friendly competition of adult leaders + student leaders vs. other students.

Reflect

Reflect [5 minutes]

Activity 3: Pass out Info About Me Sheets

  • At the end pass out an information about me sheet and split the group up evenly with student leaders who can help them complete the sheet.
  • Each member of the group needs to learn what each member in their group enjoyed most about the summer and what makes them feel welcome in a community.
  • When everyone has completed the task ask them to circle up in the larger group and share what  makes someone in their group feel comfortable and welcome.

 

Send Forth

Send Forth [5 minutes]

  • Gather the group in a large circle and ask the kids to discuss what was different about being at youth group than at school or their other extra-curricular activities. How did they feel? What surprised them about spending time with people who they may have not known prior to today? Celebrate their positive responses (how easy it was to make a new friend, something new they learned about someone etc.)!
  • Remind them that what they did today was exactly was Jesus calls us as Christians to do – be kind and acknowledge all of our brothers and sisters.
  • Ask youth to close their eyes and think of someone in the other communities in which they belong who could use a bit of kindness shown to them. Challenge them to put their faith into action and reach out to them this week.

Closing Prayer:

Ask one of the student leaders to close the group in prayer.