These ideas can help you have a smoother event.
Arrange six-foot tables along the walls around the main dining area. Tape off two-foot sections on every one of these "display tables." Much like a state fair, these sections will be saved for exhibits by the teens.
Three weeks before the banquet, invite the teens to bring school yearbooks, photo albums, trophies and awards, or anything else they want to show off for others to see. (We called them "Bragging Spots") This not only gives many teens ownership in the banquet, it also tells the rest of us a little bit more about the teen who set it up. We've had a lot of fun with the Teen Display areas. People will mill around at the opening of the banquet, reading and learning about the teens in the youth group.
FOR THE AWARDS BANQUET YOU WANT TO RECOGNIZE:
All-Star girl, All-Star guy: (Voted by the staff) Leadership, personal testimony & friendliness, attendance, witnessing efforts
Society of the Year: (Top team within the youth group , most points acquired. This applies to those youth groups who divide their teens into teams, as we describe in our Youth Leader's Tool Box manual.) A nice touch is for the teens to dedicate the main trophy to a long-standing member of the church. One church named their main trophy the Pastor's Trophy, and had him present the award every year. Another church named it after the first deacon of their church, and the Valentine trophy (named after Mr. Roy Valentine) has been presented for many years, even after the Christian gentleman had gone on to be with the Lord.
Spirit Award: (Voted by the staff) One teen from each team who has showed good sportsmanship and enthusiasm as well as a strong Christian testimony throughout all competitions.
Friendship Award: (Voted by youth leader and spouse) Friendliest teen to both regular attendees and visitors; also zeal for soulwinning.
Parent Appreciation Award: (Voted by Staff) Parents who supported the teen and the teen group the most.
NOTE: Dinn Brothers has a catalogue of Trophies that offer awards for over a 50% discount. Engraving is free up to 40 letters. They can send trophies and get them to you within 72 hours. Shipping is free. Call them at 1-800-628-9657 and ask for a free catalogue.
LOVE MY PARENTS BANQUET: THE BEST KIND OF SWEETHEART BANQUET
Rather than set up a Sweetheart Banquet that is potential for hurt feelings when Susie can't get a date or Robbie gets rejected by every girl in the youth group, why not have a different kind of Sweetheart Banquet: where the teens show love for their parents!
The invitations are sent personally to the parents by the child, and the teens will be the servers at the banquet. The fare doesn't have to be fancy. We had lasagna and salad with good success. Ice tea and lemonade rounded out the drinks and a simple ice cream dessert added the final touch. The teens enjoyed being waiters for this affair...right down to wearing all black and white, complete with bow ties!
We played a version of Family Feud for entertainment, but then culminated in having a special presentation rather than a speaker. We gave parents and teens alike a paper to fill out if they wished in which the writer expressed their feelings for their other family member. To the teens we gave a page that had only these statements:
My parents are special because...
The names of my parents are...
The parents received pages that only said:
My child is special because...
The name of my child is...
Everybody could fill out their page and go up to the front and read it aloud. What a great time we had! There were hugs and tears, all in true affection, and the banquet concluded with a prayer for the special relationships that God had forged between parent and child. Great memories were formed, and kind words that will long be remembered.
HINTS TO MAKE A MORE POWERFUL AWARDS BANQUET FOR YOUR TEENS:
CAN WE UTILIZE THE TELEVISION? As the teens and their parents come in, have a TV/VCR situated near the entrance to the banquet hall. Show videos of the Christmas banquet, amusement park trip, after-church activity, and mission trip. The tape should be edited so that the scenes are spliced together into one hour-long running video. This is a great introduction for the banquet as people mill around and get settled in for the evening. At one banquet, we had four TV sets in each corner of the hall, running teen activities on video.
WILL EVERYONE ENJOY THEMSELVES? Please allow me to mention one main point in this area. Of course you will try to make sure every person is comfortable and aware of the direction of the evening's events, but many times youth directors make a mistake - a big mistake at banquets. It comes with COUPLES attending the banquet. AAARGH!!!! For years it was the bane of the existence of the Awards Banquet.
Avoid the "dating trap." Don't even mention bringing a date. This alienates those who cannot bring a date and may even cause friction before the banquet when Joe asks Mary instead of Sue, and Sue thought he was going to ask her, and so Sue tricks Alan into asking her, then Bill gets mad...you see what I mean?
WHERE WILL THE BANQUET TAKE PLACE? For your youth group this should be the biggest event of the year. Try to arrange for the banquet to be at a restaurant or banquet hall. Your teens will be willing to pay a little extra for a special place - just do them the favor of letting them know early enough in the year so they may save up their money for it. Many banquet places will cut you a good deal if you have your event on a weeknight rather than a weekend. Try to avoid having the event at the church...choose an off-site location.
SPEAKER OR NO SPEAKER? In all my years as a youth leader, we have only had one special speaker presentation...and it was a disaster. (Sorry for the bluntness.) In fact, I have attended precious few Christian teen banquets where a speaker was effective. In fact, I've BEEN a speaker myself at other youth group banquets and it's not what the teens want.
We don't have speakers anymore. Instead, we give three teens two minutes apiece to give their testimony, reflecting the past year.
In addition, our "special speaker" is a ten-minute slide show of the year in review - pictures we took of the whole school year in the teen group. It is all set to music. It gives the overview of the activities and accomplishments of the teen group in an easy format. Parents love it as well as the teens.
Whether it's a school-year ending party or a Christmas awards banquet, honoring efforts in the first school semester, it's a valuable tool to have a special dinner that treats the teens who have worked hard. We will spend the next two days discussing ways to make the banquet extra special. Don't slap together this event - make it special!
For the set-up, ask yourself these questions:
WHAT BANQUET ICEBREAKERS WILL GET THINGS ROLLING?
Arrange six-foot tables along the walls around the main dining area. Tape off two-foot sections on every one of these "display tables." Much like a state fair, these sections will be saved for exhibits by the teens. Three weeks before the banquet, invite the teens to bring school yearbooks, photo albums, trophies and awards, or anything else they want to "show off" for others to see. (We called them "Bragging Spots") This not only gives many teens ownership in the banquet, it also tells the rest of us a little bit more about the teen who set it up. We've had a lot of fun with the Teen Display areas. People will mill around at the opening of the banquet, reading and learning about the teens of the family.
WILL YOU BE TAKING POSED SHOTS IN FRONT OF A BACKGROUND?
We sure hope so! It's worth the cost to rent a trellis for one night for a QUALITY backdrop...also, arrange for a quality photographer to take the shots with a high quality lens...PPLLLLEEEEEAASE no Instamatic cameras from 25 feet away! We have found that families were willing to pay up to $5 apiece to get a good group shot suitable for framing! Although you may not want to go that far, do make it a point to put together a great background and photo opportunity. At the end of the banquet, have the whole family gather for a picture.
WHAT'S ON THE TABLE? Nut cups are okay, especially if they are attached to a picture of the teens. These don't need to be studio portraits, either. Get some of the pictures by asking anyone in the family to donate pictures for the banquet. You may get over a hundred! Even the table decorations, if tastefully done, could have group shots of the teens. Don't leave the tables bare. Let everyone have a nice conversation piece at their table.