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Youth Worker's Idea Station

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Spark Plug


I had kept this mostly to the football season at the local high schools, but it became such a hit that my wife and I extended it into other parts of the school year. As the summer months approach, I would highly suggest this for the Friday nights of June, July and August:


Every Friday night during the high school football season, open your home - not the church, or another building, but your home, youth pastor - for the Senior High students alone. The Junior Highers need to be left out of this one, because the Senior High teens need to have a little "privacy" once in a while.
Open your doors at 8 p.m. and close them promptly at midnight. You will not want to have teens hanging around at 2 a.m. or later. Be firm on this and the teens will respect you (and your neighbors will like you a lot better!) Any teen may call home and let their folks know they are coming may also make calls to let them know their son or daughter is on their way.

Whats the course of the evening? Nothing. Do not have a set plan...on a night after a football game the teens will want to talk about the game, the week, their car - about anything you can think about. We even told the kids that we wouldn't supply food! We finally did break down and supply Coke and Pepsi, but only as long as the teens brought their own chips, pizza, or cookies. You may think this sounds cruel, but not only does this plan save on our budget, it also gives the teens ownership in the night. A couple of chess, checker, Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit games are laid out for anyone to enjoy, but the teens may go wherever they like. We have had teens sitting and chatting in the hallways and stairwells. Many unsaved kids came and enjoyed the time, getting to see that our family truly enjoyed Christ and weren't one-eyed monsters!

Halfway through the year, we started a 9:30 p.m. break that featured the opportunity to ask any question about the Bible or Christianity. This "no-holds-barred" part of the Senior High evening became a favorite. The maximum time allowed for the Q & A session was 45 minutes unless the teens agreed that it could go longer. We had some powerful discussions!

I think the reason why teens like this so much is because they get to see the youth workers as they are: no hype, pre-packaged setting, or lesson prep. The brutal openness and honesty, set in a home atmosphere, is the attractiveness of this evening activity.



How about some illustrations?

Here are some good ones to remind your teens about humility.


History tells us of a small incident in the life of George Washington that nevertheless made a great impression on those with him:
Once while riding with a group of men throughout the countryside, Washington suggested they cut through a certain field to reach their destination. Doing so would cause them to cross another's property, which was an acceptable practice then. As the horses were vaulting a low stone fence, one of their hooves knocked over some stones. Washington immediately dismounted and went over to replace the stones on his neighbor's fence. A member of the riding party cried out, "General, you are too big a man to be doing that!" Without a pause, Washington looked at the now-mended fence and replied," Oh, no, I'm just the right size."

Matthew 23:12 - "And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted."


Mischa Elman, the Russian violinist, has been recognized around the world. The child prodigy has been playing since he was a toddler, and by the time Mischa was 7, he was already a veteran of concert-playing. He recalls, however, that this did not keep him from some moments of humbleness. "I was an urchin of seven," he remembered, "and I flattered myself that I rattled off Beethovens 'Kruetzer Sonata' very well. The sonata has in it several long, impressive rests. During one of these rests, an elderly lady leaned forward, patted me on the shoulder, and said, 'Play something you know, dear.'"

Exodus 10:3 - " long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before Me?..."


The well-known story circulates in France of the time Thomas Jefferson displayed his credentials as United States minister to France. The French premier reviewed the documents and remarked, "I see that you have come to replace Benjamin Franklin."
"I have come to succeed him," corrected Jefferson. "No one can replace him."

Now, jump over to the sermon illustrations page for some fresh ones I just added this morning.


TODAY, LET'S TALK ABOUT SOME GOOD IDEAS FOR RETREATS AND SPECIAL NIGHTS. I have seen the Lord use these two ideas in very powerful ways through the years. Add them into your file of successful retreat ideas. You would be surprised at how your young people will respond to the call for kindness and for spiritual submission.

When you send out your fliers detailing the next retreat, be sure to require that each teen bring their own personal mug. As they arrive at camp, have them put their mug on a common shelf. Have your staff prepare a big vat of hot chocolate.
During the breaks between Bible studies, especially in the evenings, stop everything and tell each camper they are to find someone else's mug and serve that person. Nobody is to get their own hot chocolate! You would be surprised how far this little act of kindness goes. It is truly humbling and yet very special. Perhaps the theme of your retreat could be on kindness or caring about others ...this is James 1:22 in action. The teens will be learning the first steps of service to others.

We call 'em retreats because we feel the teens need a little "first aid" as they are out at the campsite, away from the bustle of everyday life. Getting into the Bible and sharing with others may be just the "medicine" your teens need. Let's carry that idea a little further. Local doctor's offices may be able to get you a box of surgical masks. Start a competition to see which teen shows up Friday night for the trip with the best medical gear on! Award points for doctor bags, stethoscopes, and surgical caps. Emphasize the need for Christians to be willing to help other hurting Christians heal and for each of us to be willing for the Lord to do "spiritual surgery" and remove sins that so easily beset us.



Before the meeting, have the teens put their full name - including middle name - on a piece of paper. Collect them well before the service gets started. Take three girls and three guys and have them sit in a "quiz panel" up front. Open up a meeting by having a contest and see which group - the guys or the girls - can name other people in the room by their middle name. Give only the middle name and see which group is the first to correctly identify the others. For added fun, get the middle names of some of the adults in the church and make it multiple choice.


Gather your teen staff together and have them think of a reason to give a prize to everyone in the teen group.

Example: I would give Tom Smith a prize because he is so friendly to everyone. I would give Marty Wrenton a prize because she is such a funny person. I would give Jim Carson a prize because he is always forgetting things. I would give Brent Wittens a prize because he always sits in the first row at church....etc.
Head to WalMart and buy a big bag of candy bars and start the Honor Bars. It's all tongue in cheek, but every week, hand out three or four candy bars to various teens in the group. Read out the reasons they win. This is light- hearted and gets a lot of supportive applause from the rest of the teens. You may even hand out a few because of a recent funny episode on a camping trip or overnighter!

I am still adding new pages each day. If you have any questions, e-mail me at


Brad Kent Zockoll

born May 29, 1959
born again August 17, 1977
married to Jill Anne Livesay; two sons, Nicholas (13) and Peter (9)
been in youth work since 1981


RISKING DAYLIGHT - Christian adventure trilogy (published in serial form on Focus on the Family's BREAKAWAY magazine)
YOUTH PASTOR'S TOOL BOX - how-to book for youth workers
SEVEN SILVER KEYS - Children's adventure novel
SPACE FLIGHT 2001 - Vacation Bible School program for local churches
PROMISE COLLEGE - an 8 week intensive discipleship course for local Christian youth groups.

founder, Smoky Mountain Youth Conference (

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The Youth Worker's Idea Station has been serving you since April 11,2001

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