Category Archives: Holiday

Abraham Lincoln and the Meaning of Thanksgiving

NOTE: This is such a powerful Thanksgiving message, we are reposting it again in 2017.

A note from interlinc President Allen Weed: My long time friend and co-laborer in youth ministry Ron Boehme sent me his Thanksgiving post this morning. His insights on President Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation blew me away! With Ron’s permission and our editor’s kind readjustment, Ron’s thoughts are here as a Guest Blog Post.

These thoughts and application points will be foundational for our family discussions over the next couple of days. I hope you will find them equally as helpful. Jesus Christ is the same – 1863, today and forever! Happy Thanksgiving to you, your family, and the kids in your youth ministry.

Thanksgiving is a uniquely biblical holiday (should we go back in time and rightly rename it a “holy day?”).

It is not simply a day off, with turkey and trimmings, time with family members or a good football game. Yes, it can involve all these elements, but it is much more than that.

Thanksgiving is a “reality reminder” day: There is a God. He is awesome, loving, and just. And everything we have and hope for comes directly or indirectly from him.

At least once a year we should “re-center” our lives and spend a day giving thanks to Him.

Abraham Lincoln, our most respected president, understood that truth. Here is his reminder, during a grim time in American history that can help us navigate our own.

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Bill O’Reilly’s book Killing Lincoln has been out for over a year and is currently ranked at number two on the New York Times best-seller list (amazingly his new book Killing Kennedy is number one–and both are excellent reads).

Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln, starring David Day-Lewis, is also out in theaters this week and is getting excellent reviews. I am looking forward to seeing it as my “movie of the year.”

What made Lincoln a great president was his clear, uncompromising faith in God and his view that history is being guided by a Being who is worthy of our prayers, devotion, and thanks.

Here is his text for an 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation. I would encourage you to read it slowly to get the depth of his thinking. In between paragraphs, I will comment on his wisdom.

Washington, D.C., October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.”

Lincoln reminds us that we tend to “forget” about God. Do you forget him in your daily life and struggles? Lincoln rightly reminds us that God is our “source” of everything good in our lives. He says that our gratefulness to God should “soften our hearts” and make us aware of God’s watchful providence in our lives. Is your heart soft toward God and his blessings? Do you realize that a Loving God is watching over your life as well as guiding the affairs of nations?

“In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.”

Lincoln is grateful that even during our nation’s darkest war, there was a peace and harmony in the world that only God could create and maintain. If left to ourselves, everything would explode or fall apart. But God keeps the world together with his ever-wise and loving care.

“Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.”

Despite the war and national travail, Lincoln is grateful that America is a fruitful, growing nation in which he expects a “large increase of freedom.” Do you expect same? Does your faith go beyond the horizon of your personal circumstances and national problems to thank God for his abundance?

“No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”

Abraham Lincoln understood sin–and God’s anger against it. If you love people and truth then you must hate evil and its destructive forms. But he also knew that God was gracious–and that ALL the great things in America have come via his grace and mercy. Do you consciously realize that truth? Do you give God credit for all the good things in your life?

“It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.”

I love Lincoln’s word choices here. Solemnly–don’t joke away Thanksgiving or fail to give God serious thought. Reverently–with respect, prayer, and admiration. Gratefully–it only has meaning when it is directed toward someone. Gratefulness in general is just pleasant feelings. Gratefulness to God grows a loving relationship with your Lord and Savior.

“I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

Lincoln asks all Americans to observe Thankgiving day–whether they are atheists, pantheists, or believers in God. It will benefit all because, whether they believe it or not, God is there. You may not see the sun for the clouds, but it is there and you couldn’t live without it. Even more so with God in whom you live, breathe and have your being (Acts 17:28). He exhorts all Americans to the double barrels of joy–thanksgiving and praise. One recognizes what God does and the other, who he is. He is our Father whose home is in the Heavens (the ultimate destination of his children).

“And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”

Lincoln finishes his Proclamation with three distinct admonitions:

1. That we have repentant hearts over our “national perverseness and disobedience.” What would Abraham Lincoln think of the evolution of those sins today? Do you care? Do you grieve over America’s perversion and turning away from God? In 1863, the president of the United States encouraged our citizens to repent.

2. That we reach out to the needy, hurting, and unfortunate in our society. God cares–so should we.

3. That we pray that God would heal and restore us to Him. Have you personally prayed today beyond bowing your head before the turkey is served? Were your prayers passionate for your family and nation?

“In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.”

“Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.”

“By the President: Abraham Lincoln.”

There’s no mention here of the phony definition of separation of Church and State. Abraham Lincoln, the President of the United States, calls all Americans to repent, thank God, praise Him, and serve others.

Will you act upon his timeless words?

Happy Thanksgiving–in the year of our Lord 2012 and of the Independence of the United States the Two-Hundred and Thirty-Sixth.

Join or renew your YLO membership and we’ll give a FREE Membership to the youth leader of your choice!

Halloween Resource Ideas

102014_halloween_500It’s Halloween week, and if you’re looking for some fun and festive resources, we’ve got ‘em!

Check out some of our favorite “creepy” music videos, including “Zombie” by Family Force 5, “Monster” by Skillet, “Only A Ride” by Steve Taylor and The Perfect Foil, and “Paganini” from Andy Mineo.

Plus we found this fun behind the scenes of the “Zombie” video:

So what songs or videos would be on your “Creepy” playlist? Share with us in the comments.

It’s no TRICK! Join YLO this week and we’ll add extra TREATS to your first box. 

Made You Laugh

Tripping With Your Seniors

080414_trippingwithseniors_bts_590x200From YLO87 | Mark Pittman, interlinc

Editor’s Note: This month, as we all get in the back-to-school groove, we’re featuring articles from previous Youth Leaders Only Resource Books — articles that hit on some of the fundamentals of student ministry. We picked these articles because we know that “Back to School” is also an important time for your youth ministry as you incorporate new volunteers, new students, new systems, and new ideas. From all of us at interlinc … Welcome Back to “Normal”!

You know how a “good idea” can get shoved to the bottom of the priority list in a busy youth ministry schedule? I had an idea for a senior trip, but it took a back seat to a confirmation class that I was informed I would “have to do” for four important seniors. Towards the end of the class someone suggested that we take a trip to celebrate, which seemed like a good wrap-up event to me. So we went. After the weekend was over, I drove home stoked about the good conversations we had.

Right then and there I knew that the senior trip would become a yearly ministry event.

My students were insanely busy, so I scheduled our senior trips to occur about seven weeks before graduation. This made sure that we had an open weekend and wouldn’t infringe on finals or the many grad activities. Doing the trip so early meant I was able to set the table for graduation—the words and memories from our senior trip would be the frame for them as they threw the cap and looked toward life on their own.

A good senior trip can be a perfect time to push “pause” and clarify the things in their life that contributed to their spiritual growth. I wanted them to finish the trip with a clear plan to get plugged-in to a church and keep growing after graduation. So the purpose of the trip was both celebration and reflection.

We had a lot of fun decorating the vehicles that we used—shoe polish on the windows, streamers inside—we made the trip feel like a party. We even created mix CDs of songs from all four years of their high school and played Name That Tune while we drove. Since we spent most of Friday traveling we didn’t have much time or energy to do a big meeting. I always started with playing a fun grad-focused board game. The game is like “Candyland” or “Chutes and Ladders,” but the players encounter various college situations (“Eat Roommate’s Food, Go Back 3 Spaces”).  After the game I had them start on their “written plan” for continuing to grow in their faith after graduation. The paper had these questions: “What are the three biggest questions / concerns you have as you graduate? What way do you think you’ll change the most after graduation? What about who you are do you think won’t change at all? What kind of pressure do you think you’ll feel the most at college / on your own?”

On Saturday, we played. I took lots of pictures, had a ton of fun, and made sure that I had some good solid time with each senior.  By the end of the day I knew what everyone was doing for the summer, where they were going in the fall, what their major was going to be, and when they were leaving. We also reminisced—I could easily get them going on the “remember when…” stories.

Saturday evening or Sunday morning I had a graph that the students filled out. On the horizontal axis was their age (1–18) and on the vertical access was “Close to God” and “Far from God.” The graph helped them see that spiritual growth is not a 45-degree line, but that there are ups and downs. I had the seniors write down two “victories”— times that God showed up in their lives big time. I think it’s very powerful for seniors to see their spiritual progress graphs and be able to look at them again later.

I had the students unpack Proverbs 3:5 & 6.  I also loaded them up with a bunch of verses how we must bring God into our decision making process. I then had them talk through Matthew 21:28–31 and write the answers to: What decisions have you made that helped you live out your faith? What decisions might you need to make before you’re faced with a situation?

Finally, I had the seniors write what aspects of church helped them grow, what parts of discipleship helped them grow, what life-values helped them grow, and what service projects helped them grow.  They ended up with a list of what to search for and reconnect with in a new church or college ministry. I then had them fold up the paper and stick it in the front cover of their Bible.

I tried to have coffee with each senior individually sometime between the trip and graduation. Walking a senior through his or her spiritual growth over the last four years and highlighting gifts or traits that you love about him or her can have a huge impact.  In August I called all the parents and got the new addresses and e-mails for the grads. Then I sent encouraging e-mails monthly and asked my former seniors about the church / ministry where they were plugged-in. I also scheduled coffee or lunch with those grads when they came back home for Christmas break.

Want to pass this article along to your adult leaders or volunteers? Download the PDF here. 


Every edition of Youth Leaders Only includes great articles like this one. Learn more about YLO Membership.

One On One

080414_oneonone_bts_590x200From YLO92 | By Todd Pearage, The Gathering Dayton, Ohio

Editor’s Note: This month, as we all get in the back-to-school groove, we’re featuring articles from previous Youth Leaders Only Resource Books — articles that hit on some of the fundamentals of student ministry. We picked these articles because we know that “Back to School” is also an important time for your youth ministry as you incorporate new volunteers, new students, new systems, and new ideas. From all of us at interlinc … Welcome Back to “Normal”!

As a fifteen-year veteran of student ministry, I’ll admit that I love the big events. I love planning them with my team and working out the details. I love the excitement of seeing a ton of students having a blast – in church. I love the crazy games, the loud music, and the free t-shirts. Throw in a Christian band and I’m in heaven.

However, in recent years there’s been a movement to shift away from the big events, and “programming” has become a dirty word. Youth pastors have been told to abandon the program and “just hang out with kids.” When you talk with youth workers, it does not take long before the conversation turns to the “program vs. relationship” debate.

Before we go and split the church over this philosophy of ministry (don’t laugh, it’s been split over far less important issues), let’s agree that both sides of this conversation have valid points. We have all seen the benefits of the big event, and I believe there will always be a place for them. But, I am convinced that impact happens person-to-person. So here are a few things I do to make an impact.

  1. Get Out of the Office I have two offices at my church – I have the “official office” which is really just a cubicle right outside my Senior Pastor’s office, and I also have a “secret office” which is in our student ministry area. Truthfully, I love my “secret office.” I can listen to Thousand Foot Krutch as loud as I want, search YouTube for the latest viral video, and even catch the latest episode of Duck Dynasty, all while getting my work done. But as cool as my secret office is and as funny as it may be to watch Uncle Si’s crazy shenanigans, the truth is – before long, I want out. I want to be at the school helping out with the Bible Club, or eating lunch with students, or just hanging out. I want to live life with them. And I can’t do that when I’m in my office all the time.
  2. Unplug If you’ve been in student ministry for more than fifteen minutes, someone has “encouraged” you to unplug. We all know that students are on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook – well, some homeschoolers are still on Facebook. (Just kidding, I love both homeschoolers and Facebook!) But, we need real human interaction and so do our students. We need to sit down knee-to-knee and eye-to-eye with them. Buy them a coffee, milkshake, or smoothie and put the phone away. You’ll be surprised how much better you’ll get to know them!
  3. Know the Calendar Here in the north we have “snow days.” I love snow days because they provide me with an excellent opportunity to grab some students and do something fun. But if I know the calendar, I can be even more intentional when students have a day off from school. Let’s be honest – we know they already forgot what you spoke about last Wednesday. So use those off days to create memories that will last a lifetime.
  4. Plan Better Sometimes I’m not as prepared as I should be. (That’s probably not a big surprise, since I just admitted to watching Duck Dynasty in my office!) I can’t tell you how many Sunday mornings roll around and I’m adding that last-minute video to the media presentation or making copies of permission slips instead of engaging students as they walk into the room. Instead of having the time to ask them how their week was – and REALLY listen, I’m running around doing tasks that should have been done during the week.

I know I need to do a better job organizing my week. I know I need to use my office time to plan and prepare. I know that when I am better prepared, real ministry can happen. And when real ministry happens, impact happens.

Back in November my family and I went back to Pennsylvania for a friend’s wedding. On our way home to Ohio we stopped and visited our “home church.” I was the youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Milton, PA for five years and we are still very close with the people there. After church we went out for lunch with some of the “students” who are now adults. We laughed for over two hours retelling stories and reliving memories.

Want to pass this article along to your adult leaders or volunteers? Download the PDF here. 

Every edition of Youth Leaders Only includes great articles like this one. Learn more about YLO Membership.

By The Time I’m Done With You …


Featured in YLO85 | By Doug Ranck, Free Methodist Church, Santa Barbara, CA

Editor’s Note: This month, as we all get in the school groove, we’re featuring articles from previous Youth Leaders Only Resource Books — articles that hit on some of the fundamentals of student ministry. We picked these articles because we know that “Back to School” is also an important time for your youth ministry as you incorporate new volunteers, new students, new systems and new ideas. We’ll include a PDF download of each article in case you want to pass these along to your adult leaders. From all of us at interlinc … Welcome Back to “Normal”!

Do you remember the last time you lost something important and desperately wanted to find it? I recall those moments all too well. In the midst of my searches, I even had moments where I could imagine the lost object sitting in the place where I believed I left it. I can also feel the disappointment I experienced when it was not to be found. Our imagination can play tricks onus, but it can also be a very helpful tool.

In 1960 Maxwell Maltz wrote a book entitled Psycho-Cybernetics. Many motivational and self-help speakers based their principles on Maltz’s idea of “a positive outcome through visualization of that positive outcome.” (Psycho-Cybernetics Author; Plastic Surgeon Tries to Heal Inner Scars, Los Angeles Times, November 2, 1973).

When I was in college, I took a class called “Theory and Technique of Team Sports Skills.” In one of the lectures, we talked about how to coach an athlete on shooting proper basketball free throws. The professor talked about the usefulness of pscyho-cybernetics and imagining what one would do to complete the perfect free throw. Have you ever imagined what it would look like for a high school senior in your ministry to be fully-discipled and perfectly ready to enter the next stage of his or her life? What would you want that student to know? How would you want him or her to act? While we know that no one on this earth is perfect, we need to “aim high” in our vision for loving and equipping the youth that we shepherd.

Accomplishing this is all but impossible if we are not willing to do the work of creating a profile describing the character of such a person. There is no one perfect description fitting all youth, so youth leaders can enjoy the freedom of creating a tailor-made vision for their youth. Where do we start?

  1. Begin with prayer. Ask God for insight and wisdom.
  2. Include the primary principles Jesus taught us to live.
  3. Take the best character traits of godly men and women throughout the Bible.
  4. Develop a list of everything you believe should be in the profile. No initial list is too long.
  5. Allow key parents, youth leaders, and students to review the list adding their own suggestions and input.
  6. Edit, combine, and pare the list to a manageable, measurable number of qualities (somewhere between seven and twelve).
  7. Publish the profile and put it to use. Let it influence your teaching, guide your curriculum choices and be at the center of your ministry strategy.

About fifteen years, ago I took the time to develop a “Profile of a Discipled Student.” I was mentored through the process by patient volunteer leaders, older youth pastors, and students who sincerely wanted to grow. Over the years I have used this document in many different forms, given it different titles, and emphasized various parts. Below is the profile we have created in our ministry. I hope it will serve as an example for your reflection, prayer, and planning. Feel free to use it in any form – you don’t even have to change the words! When a student graduates from our ministry, he or she will exhibit these qualities:

  1. Love for God (Mark 12:30) –Regularly participates in corporate and individual worship of God; disciplined in quiet times; internalizes the truth of sin, salvation, the sacraments, and God in three persons.
  2. Faithful to God and others(Romans 12:1-2, 10) – Practices spiritual disciplines; keeps appointments; fulfills commitments to others and projects through setting priorities; practices the holy life and integrity in living.
  3. Student of the Word(2 Timothy2:15) – Spends consistent time in the Word; changed behavior as a result of internalized truth; uses God’s truth in everyday decisions; grows in the skills/disciplines of memorization of verses/significant passages or can identify the location of important stories/teachings.
  4. Pray-er(1 Thessalonians 5:17)– Committed to regular times of prayer; initiates or suggests prayer in the midst of life circumstances.
  5. Critical Decision-Maker(1 Kings3:1-15, esp. v.9) – Demonstrates ability to decide right and wrong on an individual basis through the power of the Holy Spirit and the instruments of Scripture, tradition, experience, and reason.
  6. Life-Long Learner(2 Timothy3:14) – Lives a life of obedience and servanthood; asks thoughtful questions; seeks growth opportunities beyond “growth level” events and youth group experience; responds and acts on instruction.
  7. Life-Leader(1 Thessalonians 2:8) – Knows how and is willing to be a witness; understands the spiritual battle and the need to be a positive influence through Godly example in word and deed.
  8. Commitment to the Community of Faith (Hebrews 10:19-25, esp. v.25) – Values the fellowship of Christ’s body and the variety of gifts to be used for “the common good” of the Church.

Download this article as a PDF.

Every edition of Youth Leaders Only includes great articles like this one. Learn more about YLO Membership.

The Long View


From YLO87 | By Doug Ranck, Free Methodist Church, Santa Barbara CA

Editor’s Note: This month, as we all get in the back-to-school groove, we’re featuring articles from previous Youth Leaders Only Resource Books — articles that hit on some of the fundamentals of student ministry. We picked these articles because we know that “Back to School” is also an important time for your youth ministry as you incorporate new volunteers, new students, new systems, and new ideas. From all of us at interlinc … Welcome Back to “Normal”!

People in ministry know about the circle. The circle is where you often sit with other ministry teammates. In the circle, you go around and share. On this day we were sharing, or more correctly, presenting our ministries. The assignment of the moment, “Tell us about your youth ministry.”

What youth pastor/leader, to some degree, has not dreaded this time? In these conversations we hear about the amazing things God is doing at other churches while we fidget, knowing the reality of our ministry, and wonder if we are the right person for the job after all.

Whenever we sit in the “circle”, we tend to compare. But when we compare, we lose. We either become proud, or we wallow in martyrdom. The root of this problem is usually found in our need to be successful. We want others to know we are capable and have something great to offer. If we cannot present a positive front, our biggest temptation is to then produce a successful “spin.”

What is your definition of “success” in youth ministry?

Is success having a full youth room on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings? Is it having the biggest group at your winter camp? Is it having growing and active small groups with students who carry a Bible/notebook and are eager to learn? What do you talk about when people ask you to describe your youth ministry? What would cause you to feel like your youth ministry is effective?

Our descriptions, lists, and profiles mostly focus on the “here and now.” For too many years, I defined my success only in terms of temporary fruit. I believed if youth said they wanted to follow Christ and were actively living their faith that we had succeeded and could now move to the next “project.” I also believed the inverse of those kids who rebelled and made a stand against participating in the youth ministry and following Christ. This thinking, I now understand, was shortsighted. We limit ourselves with “small picture” thinking while God is only interested in the “big picture.”

After twenty-nine years of youth ministry there are many times I feel that I know less than when I started, but one thing I do know: there is a “long view” to youth ministry. Keeping my eyes on a teenager beyond high school into adulthood gives me a greater glimpse of God’s perspective.

Here are three tentative conclusions (with accompanying comments) I have made which helps me navigate a healthy evaluation of success and failure in my own ministry:

This is not my ministry.

My role is to be a faithful servant/shepherd and to offer opportunities for youth to begin a relationship with Christ, grow in their faith, and serve Him.

I cannot make anybody do these things or be a Christian. God completes the work as people choose to follow Him.

There are many different scenarios in the faith journey of youth.

  • Youth may be great Christians throughout their time in the youth ministry but reject it in the college years.
  • Youth may be growing Christians through middle school and reject it in high school.
  • Youth may not follow Christ at all through their teen years, but come to Him later in life.
  • Youth may do one of the first two scenarios and come back to the Lord in college or later in life.

No program or even a fully invested relationship can guarantee the path of a teenager in his or her relationship with the Lord. What works for one may not work for another. We are all different, and we have the freedom to choose to follow the Lord. We must accept these different journeys as a part of the youth ministry profile and remember this is God’s ministry.

Long view = Hope view

Opening my eyes wide to the possibilities of God’s work in a person’s life, at any time, offers me a whole new frame of reference to assess the “successes and failures” of ministry. I have learned after all these years (twenty-five of them in the same ministry) to never give up hope.

Some will measure their success by how many former students are now in full-time ministry, missions, etc. To hear them speak of those youth we would naturally guess they were active, growing Christians in their teen years; carefully groomed and nourished through the loving investment of youth leaders. However, over half of our youth who now serve God full-time in ministry or missions were not even Christians through most of their adolescent years!

The next time you sit in the “circle” and wait for your turn, in the moments that you are tempted to second guess your “success” – may God remind you that His work is not yet done. May He affirm in you the passion to continue your walk with youth beyond high school graduation into the rest of their lives.

Want to pass this article along to your adult leaders or volunteers? Download the PDF here.

Every edition of Youth Leaders Only includes great articles like this one. Learn more about YLO Membership.

Write Group: Ideas for Thanksgiving

Editor’s Note: We asked some of our Write Group members — the youth leaders who write the Bible studies and articles for our Resource Books — to share some of their favorite Thanksgiving ministry ideas. And we want to hear your ideas! Share them in the comments.

We do an all-youth Thanksgiving worship time on a Wednesday night before the holiday, bringing together all youth, 6th-12th grade. We meet in the front part of our sanctuary mixing in a lot of worship music led by our youth band, scripture readings, Thanksgiving video clips, quick devotional by one of the leaders, communion and add what we call “stool time.” We set a stool up front, give youth the opportunity to come up, sit on the stool and tell about something for which they are thankful.

— Doug Ranck

Pancake Breakfast: I know it sounds strange, but we used to cook pancakes and sausage that morning. Our students cooked and served the breakfast. It was always a huge success because people don’t want to cook 2 meals that day.

Turkey Bowl: The day after Thanksgiving we have a flag-football game. We order 3 color shirts — Red, Blue and Black (for refs) — and do a school yard pick ‘em then pass out the “jerseys”. We serve hot cocoa and pizza after the game. We also have a camera man and repeater doing pre-game and post game interviews. The video is then edited (interviews and highlights) and then show the following day.

— Todd Pearage

I’ve always had a Staff vs. Students football game after church on the Sunday afternoon of Thanksgiving weekend.

I’ve also used the week of Thanksgiving, which many of our kids have off of school, to take teams of kids to the local Salvation Army facility to help prepare, serve, and clean up dinner for the homeless folks that depend on the SA. I take one team of 7 or 8 kids per evening on Monday, Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday.

— Ken McCoy

Ours was a Turkey Bowl football game on Thanksgiving morning: Old Guys (29 and up)  vs Young Guys (13-29). Old guys won of course :)

— Paul Turner

Serve Thanksgiving Dinner for the homeless.

Take boxed dinners to parks, downtown, and other areas where homeless people are.

— Cindy Engøy

10 ways to remember students’ names

Excerpted from the YLO89 Feature Article “How To Care For Students”
by Doug Fields

See all our #BackToSchool themed posts here.

This material is originally from the “Leaders are Learners: 15-Minute Youth Ministry Training” Series

Leaders Are Learners is a series that I did for volunteer youthworkers to help them in their journey of becoming more healthy and effective. Before we go any further, I want to thank you for serving God through your love for students and I want to thank you for learning. Leaders are learners and when you stop learning, you’ll stop leading.

Also, thank you for being a significant adult in a teenager’s life. Teenagers need adults who will take an interest in them, love them, and point them in the direction of God’s passionate and unconditional love.

Let’s start with the very basics of youth ministry: shepherds know their sheep by name. You might be thinking, “I was afraid you were going to say that. I’m lousy at names.” Well, so am I, and, so are the majority of youthworkers I know. It’s an easy excuse to fall back on.

I recently had a student say to me, “Thanks for knowing my name; that means a lot to me.” I know it means a lot to teenagers, because it’s their greatest possession. I felt good when he said thanks, because more often students say, “Hey Doug, what’s my name? I bet you don’t remember.” Many times, I can’t. Shame, guilt, and inadequacy quickly follow.

A name is a personal and powerful possession. It’s part of an identity. To know a student’s name is to know part of his or her identity. Let me give you some practical suggestions for memorizing names.

  1. Take photos of students and review as flash cards.
  2. Repeat a student’s name three or four times in your first conversation. (“It’s great to meet you Tina. So, Tina, where do you go to school? Hey, Tina, how many times, Tina, do you think, Tina, that I can say your name, Tina, in a sentence, Tina?”)
  3. Ask for identifying information that can solidify a name. (“Hey, let me see your drivers license, student ID, passport, bail bond, tattoo … “)
  4. Associate his or her name with someone else you know of that name. (Dave – tall, thin, goofy hair – Dave Letterman.)
  5. Study his or her face while you’re being introduced.
  6. Transfer the name to a concrete image (Mike – like a microphone)
  7. Ask the student to test you on it. (“What’s my name, Doug?”)
  8. Write it down (into your phone, on your hand, whatever). The act of writing it will help you retain it.
  9. Ask God to help you remember and care, because we remember what’s important to us.
  10. Or, forget all these ideas and use nametags.

Movie Resource: The Passion of the Christ

We were privileged to be asked to create a series of student-ministry resources for The Passion of the Christ movie when it was released several years ago. Each year at Easter we try to make sure you have access to some of these great articles and studies. Below are links for three of the feature studies (PDFs). You can use these along with a full viewing of the movie if you choose, or maybe you just want to use clips from the movie to illustrate the Easter message.

Study: Why Did Jesus Have to Die?
Study: Who’s Who in The Passion
Study: Feeling Sad for Jesus isn’t Enough