Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on rethinkingyouthministry.com and is reprinted here with permission.
by Brian Kirk
I’m not a big fan of big back-to-school bashes. They are sort of the bait-and-switch of the youth ministry world: We bring them in with noise, activity, and entertainment; then when they come back the next week, we roll out the Bible study.
Even so, it’s hard to resist the temptation to open the youth year with a bang. So, maybe you’ve already had your big kick-off event or at least its in the works for an upcoming weekend. Lots of activity, entertainment, food, music, games. Once that is out of our systems, how about trying one of these smaller, quieter ideas for setting a faithful tone for the start of your school year together.

Plan a Mission Project

Put the focus on serving others with a group project in your neighborhood or town.

Cook a Meal

Join together for a pizza-making night or some other meal that will give your group a chance to develop community, talk, laugh, cooperate, and break bread together. Turn the meal into a sacred love feast celebration of communion.

Create Group Art

Creative art projects, if done as a group, can be fun for artists and non-artists alike since the focus is more on the collaborative process, and the final product is the work of everyone mixed together. Paint a mural together, build a sculpture, craft prayer flags, make masks or a group portrait.

Tie-dye T-shirts

Here’s a fun, messy project that anyone can do, and you end up with cool, hand-designed shirts. Here’s an extension of this idea that translates this project into an opportunity for worship.

Build Community

Lead some non-competitive team-building activities (like a Zen Scavenger Hunt) to illustrate the working together of the Body of Christ. These sorts of games take the focus off “winning and losing” and on the oneness of the group. See some of the creative group simulation activities at the Insight blog.

Practice Sabbath

Unless you want to send the message that every gathering will be high octane activity, why not plan an afternoon or evening of rest, silence, and creative contemplation?

Plan a Worship Service

Divide into teams and plan a collaborative worship service, ending the evening by bringing together all the gifts of the group.

Walk a Labyrinth

Take a road trip to a local labyrinth, or create your own and introduce this ancient spiritual practice both as a metaphor for the journey of faith and as a way to get teens talking about the journey you will take together this school year. See here or here for complete instructions on creating your own.

What are you doing for your back-to-school kick off?