Gift ideas for your graduating seniors


 Guest post by Chris Wilterdink, Director of Young People’s Ministries Program Development for the General Board of Discipleship of the United Methodist Church

A friend of mine recently posted in one of our collaboration groups, looking for suggestions of gifts for their seniors upon graduation from high school. A great conversation ensued not only about items to give, but about graduation season in general.

Just because a young person is graduating out of high school doesn’t mean they are graduating out of the life of your church or ministry. Now that a young person has wrapped high school, you may feel as though your role as a youth minister is completed – you’ve gotten another class of young people through graduation after all! The gifts you have poured into your youth will continue to bear fruit for years to come. Therefore, the specific gifts you give them to celebrate their graduation from high school shouldn’t focus the end of a journey, or the end of this time in their lives. Instead, the gifts you give at graduation should remind them that they will continue to be loved and cared for by your congregation no matter what life holds in store for them!

A youth’s desire to learn more about faith, and needs from God will change as they transition into young adulthood. The gifts you choose to give in this season should serve as reminders that your youth still have a collection of people that will care for them as brothers and sisters in Christ. That being said, here’s 7 great ideas for gifts this year.

ConGRADulations Music + Media Gift from interlinc  
Less than $10, 21 songs, devotional book, and ‘personizable’ for your youth group. Help your message stay in your new graduate’s ears! Plus, you can pair it with a Bible for around $15.

Water bottles with church/youth group logo
College campuses get more and more into sustainability each year, and water bottles are a must have. Why not have it be yours?

Congregation Care Package
Have members of your congregation ‘adopt’ a graduating youth. Then they create a ‘care package’ and deliver it to the new graduate. Could include school supplies, coffee or shopping gift cards, home baked goodies, soap, shampoo – all those necessities!

Graduating Class Cross
Try to get a group price on matching crosses for all of your graduates for the year. Get crafty and paint names, nicknames, graduation year, etc on them. Keep one of the crosses with each graduate’s name on them in your youth space. Gift the other crosses to the graduates to bring to college, or their other new living space.

Monogrammed bath towel or flip flops
Stick with me on this one, a little weird of a thought at first – but showers after you’re not living at home any more don’t get cleaned that often. A good pair of flip flops and a towel they’ll use everyday will be great helps. Remember your baptism and be thankful!

Laundry bags
Doing laundry is a must, and a chore. Having a decent laundry bag to haul the dirties and turn them into cleanies will be an item in constant use. Think of just how awesome God is, that no matter how dirty something is it can be cleaned!

Photo Collage
Have a volunteer pour through old pictures and put together an old school collage of each graduating senior at various church events. This could even go back to childhood times if the photos exist! Leave a blank space to fill with ‘moments still to come’.

How about you? Have you gotten creative with your senior recognition gifts? Share your ideas in the comments.

Made You Laugh

I bet many of us can relate to this man’s Saturday mornings …

“Circle of Life” flashmob on Brisbane flight

As a parent of an almost-6-year-old daughter, I’ve been hearing her rendition of “Let It Go” — the song from Frozen for those of you who don’t have youngsters around — a LOT lately. In the car. At the dinner table. On the walk to school. It really has no limits.

But the good news is another Disney favorite is alive and well! Check this out:

From YouTube:

Australian cast member, Toni Stewart captured, this amazing impromptu ‘Circle of Life’ performance on a flight from Brisbane to Sydney. The cast had just had an amazing day at THE LION KING Brisbane season launch announcement.

Made You Laugh

Hat tip to For The Win from USA Today for this one! From the blog:

CBS owns the rights to March Madness highlights, meaning that scores of local news stations aren’t allowed to show footage of the game until the day after it happened. This was especially problematic for ABC affiliate WCJB-TV in Gainesville following the Gators’ Elite Eight win over Dayton, so instead of showing still photos of the game, broadcasters simply recreated the highlights on a mini-hoop.

Kids learn by doing: Making music work in your ministry


Editor’s Note: This article was originally written as a “how to use music” primer for volunteer youth leaders, but there are ideas and reminders for all of us in how music can help reinforce Biblical truths with our students.

There is a misconception that many adult youth leaders have bought into. This misconception believes that if we can present the truth to youth people, then their lives will change. You might think of this concept as (where “→” means “leads to”): Absolute Truth → Attitudes/Actions → Godly Lifestyle

However, just because we as adults can move from truth to application doesn’t mean that teenagers will do the same. Most students learn this way: Experience → Discover Attitudes/Actions → Identify Truth → Carnal Lifestyle

So how is a youthworker supposed to get God’s truth into the hearts of teenagers? By changing the formula slightly. Here’s what you should strive for: Experience → Personalized Absolute Truth → Attitudes/Actions → Godly Lifestyle

The Bible studies/meeting guides included in each edition of Youth Leaders Only (YLO) provide you with a step-by-step process that walks you through this kind of learning experience. Each session begins with an experience (Warm Up), moves to helping kids personalize God’s truth (the Song and Bible Study), and encourages students to plan what actions and attitudes they will build into their lives (the Student Guide). Let’s unpack some of these elements to show you how this process can work with your group.

Warm Up
Since young people learn by doing, each of the sessions in Youth Leaders Only begin with some sort of “crowdbreaker” that will get your young friends involved in doing right off the bat. The Warm Up provides your students an experience that you can use to initiate the learning process. By involving your kids in an activity at the outset of your program, you’re sending them the message that your meeting is something they participate in, not just watch.

By asking the well-thought-out questions provided in each session, you can help students identify the issues that you will be dealing with. Here are some guidelines for encouraging good discussion:

  • Ask open-ended questions and avoid “yes/no” queries.
  • Enlist response or rebuttals to answers already given. Young people love to debate!
  • If you have more than twenty participants, breaking into smaller discussion groups is wise. By working with small groups, more kids will get involved in the discussion rather than sitting in the back and daydreaming.
  • Avoid correcting your students’ responses. In a discussion you are attempting to bring what your students think out into the open. Your instruction opportunity will come later in the Bible Study section of your meeting.

The Song
This can be a second experience that you provide your group. To make the most of this valuable resource, make sure you involve not only the ears of your group, but their minds as well. A group listening to a song can soon turn into a “lap looker” experience – something every youth leader wants to avoid. So, you’ll need to get creative to engage the minds of your kids during the playing of the song. An activity such as “fill in the blanks” lyrics or keeping track of how many times a singer says a certain word can be used to keep the students focused during the song.

After listening to the song, another Transition should take place to bridge the group into God’s Word. Lead the group in another discussion, assisting your students to personalize the truth contained in the song. This discussion will serve to introduce the Bible Study.

Bible Study
The outlines provided in YLO are just outlines. Don’t expect to be able to read the Leaders Guide to your group and communicate clearly the points of the lesson. Use the outline as a starting point for your own preparation. Do some background research into the Scriptures used in the lesson. Personalize the outline with illustrations from your own experience. Make the outline work for you, rather than feeling like you have to work the outline.

Wrap Up
Young people always have one unspoken question on their minds as you teach: “So what?” You must answer that question, or your teaching will not be effective. In this Wrap Up portion of your meeting, use the Leader Guide ideas to answer that question for your young friends. Give them a means to personalize the truth they’ve learned, and plan to do something about it!

This information can be applied to most youth meeting situations: Sunday School, mid-week youth meetings, outreach events, camps and retreats. The more experience you gain in teaching-through-doing, the better your results will be. This material should take a lot of work off of your shoulders so you can concentrate on leading students to discover God’s truth, and help them put that truth into practice in their everyday experience.

Not a member? Learn how to make Youth Leaders Only part of your ministry.

Made You Laugh

Why All The Mess?

Guest post by Rick Bundschuh from Kauai Christian Fellowship

Editor’s Note: Rick is one of the coolest lunatics you’ll ever meet. We are proud to have him as a member of Team Interlínc, and as one of our WriteGroup contributors. His video of their recent Middle School retreat (you can see it here) is what prompted us to ask him to explain, “Why all the mess?” You’ll no doubt identify with his explanation!

I walked into the big room used by the Middle School every Wednesday night. There were feathers everywhere. There were feathers in the light fixtures, feathers on the shelves, feathers piled in the corners and feathers in the window screens. My first thought was, “It sure looks like someone (other than a goose or chicken) was having a load of fun!”

A certain part of youth ministry gets messy because messy means more fun.

Tie a donut on a string and have a contest to see who can eat it first. This could make a lot of crumbs, but it is really not all that messy. Take the same donut; dip it in chocolate syrup, and feed it to a partner lying on the floor and you now have “messy” with a capital M.

The messy factor is what turns an okay stunt or game into something that kids talk about for a long time and one that they tell their friends about.

Of course messy doesn’t attract prissy girls or too cool guys—but it sure works great with the average Middle School monkey.

  • Getting messy is what mom won’t let you do at home, which makes it even more fun.
  • Getting a girl messy is the way that a Middle School guy shows affection.
  • Getting your friend messy is the way that you show brotherly love—in Middle School terms that is.
  • Getting messy makes for great movies, photos, and publicity on social media.
  • Getting messy makes for lots of laughter and even more mess.

Messy is part of the message that says to kids, “Hey, this Christian thing is wild, fun, and exciting!” It wins us the right to talk about the “abundant life” with credibility because, for a Middle School kid, the more mess you make, the more abundant life truly is!

And yes, messy can have some downsides. Someone has to clean up all that mess. Shaving crème stings the eyes. The chocolate handprints your cleaning crew missed will come back to haunt you in the form of a scolding by the non-messy lady from the Women’s ministry. A few killjoys may make noise about bad stewardship in the waste of noodles, feathers, shaving crème, cooking oil, etc. Or, you may have to get out the vacuum and go after the feathers that your cleaning crew didn’t see in their hurry to suck up eight pillowcases worth of down.

But messy is one of those things that adults have generally grown out of. We have forgotten the pure joy of rolling in mud, being lathered in a bath of Jello, or getting a pie in the face. We would never think of bobbing for Baby Ruth bars in a toilet filled with Mountain Dew, or rediscover the missile launching pleasure of a good old fashion food fight.

And in a way, that’s too bad.

But, making a mess in the name of Jesus is what we in youth work are called to do. Many of us take great pride in our, mess, uh, err, work!



I decided to become a youth minister when I was a camper at summer camp. The camp was a small, under-funded, very-little-to-do-there place high in the Sierras that my church’s youth group attended each year. Our cabin’s counselor that week was the camp speaker—a theology professor from a Baptist Bible College, of all things—who didn’t spend much time with the dozen rowdy boys in our semipermanent tent/cabin thingy.

I don’t know why, but in the absence of our theology professor adult figure, I became the default “Counselor” of my cabin. The other guys in the cabin with me were from a different church—and boy were they, umm, “carnal”! I had my hands full all week trying to encourage those guys to keep out of trouble, let alone follow Jesus.

I remember praying a lot that week.

At the end of the week, eight of those guys approached me as a group. I thought maybe they were gonna pound me, but they wanted to give me their drugs, booze, cigarettes, and, uhh, birth control devices so that I could dispose of those items. And, they wanted to give Jesus their hearts and lives.

“Ken, we’ve always thought that Christians had to be boring and lame. This week, you’ve shown us something different. We want what you have.”

Whoa! I had NO idea that living for God could be such a rush! I was more than thrilled!

The last night of that camp, around the campfire, all the students were giving their testimonies and generally working themselves into an emotional state. (I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.) I, on the other hand, couldn’t shake the thought that I wanted to experience again and again the joy I had felt in seeing my new friends come to Christ. And so, I stood in front of that fire and verbally committed myself to a lifetime of youth ministry. (I didn’t realize then what that commitment would mean—to my parents, my future wife and kids—and now, my grandkids. Something about “Be careful what you ask for” comes to mind.)

That fireside comment was made to a group of friends a LONG time ago, and I’m still living out that commitment.

Summer camp is like that. Someone once told me that summer camp is a youth minister’s payday. We work hard, day in and day out, for months and months—and then, we are rewarded at camp. That idea makes sense to me. I don’t get a paycheck every day; it comes only after a couple of weeks of labor. Summer camp IS a youth leader’s payday!

The Spring edition of Youth Leaders Only is dedicated to helping you get the greatest paycheck you can—in the life-changing, kingdom-building sense. I hope that God does everything you hope He’ll do with your camp this summer. You might even have a teenager decide to spend his or her life in ministry because of your efforts.

That would be a huge paycheck!

Made You Laugh

Seriously … what’s not to love about this?!?

Still buzzing about Alone Yet Not Alone

The buzz continues for the movie “Alone Yet Not Alone” and specifically about the OSCAR nominated-and-then-not-nominated theme song for the movie, performed by Joni Eareckson Tada.

We posted previously about the song’s OSCAR nomination (and then its un-nomination), if you need to catch up on things. And here are some other news stories you’ll want to read:

“Alone Yet Not Alone” Might Have The Last Laugh

‘Alone Yet Not Alone’ Supporters Taking Fight to the Academy

‘Alone Yet Not Alone’ Finds New Life at Movieguide Awards

Make sure you sign up to get our free exclusive “Alone Yet Not Alone” Youthworker Insider Resources and 5 free tickets to the movie.