By Brian Drinkwine
It’s a Sunday evening and students arrive from surrounding neighborhoods at the local student ministry gathering. As students enter the room, they are greeted by loving and caring adults. Each student is given a name badge — “Hello, my name is…..” — with the name of the student in black marker.
On the stage there is a simple lighting arrangement that highlights two giant name badges with “Fake I.D.” written on them, which is the name of the new and upcoming teaching series.
After some hang time, announcements and games, and music– the youth group communicator gets up and begins teaching the first week of Fake I.D. Fake I.D. is an XP3 series that directly deals with identity. The aim of the series is to invite each student to consider making Jesus the defining centerpiece of who we live for.
After the talk, students are invited to response to the message. The were asked to write on blank name badges the false identity that others have given them. For example some students wrote these names on their badges:
All these fake names were placed on giant boards which hung on each side of the stage. Students were invited to reflect on all these fake names they have been accused of being and encouraged to discuss God’s true identity for who He is calling them to be. Creating space with intentional direction for reflection paves the way for students to experience what they just learned. Bottom line allowing time for students to reflect and respond has the potential to not only be very helpful but powerful time for the student to encounter God in a very personal and real way.
Why Response Times Are Helpful
Response times are not simply great elements to add into your weekly program. They are vital to leaving a lasting mark on the hearts of your students. Each week you have the chance to see lives changed, to watch God change the trajectory of your students eternal direction. It’s important to maximize every second of your programming to create an opportunity for students to respond to God. When the teaching portion of the program is completed, students will naturally ask, “What now?” They want to respond. They need to respond.
Five things to focus on when designing response times in your student ministry environment:
- Focus on the message’s bottom line. If at all possible, it’s best to center every service element around the bottom line for the program. In another words, reinforce the big idea you want students to take away. For example if your bottom line is challenging students to give up something, ask yourself how a response time can effectively help students process what needs to go in their lives?
- Focus on Jesus. This may sound obvious, but it can be very easy to have a “powerful” moment that has nothing to do with Jesus. It’s always a great idea to respond to the Gospel. In other words, how does your response time help students understand their own brokenness, their need for Jesus, their understanding of Jesus as rescuer, and God’s unconditional pursuit of their hearts?
- Focus on the environment. Design your environment to facilitate a better response time for your students. Ask yourself these questions: Where do you want students to go? What should they do? How does the lighting impact the response? What about sound? Should a band or worship leader be on stage? How should the room smell? Think about all five senses and how the environment sets the stage for spiritual movement. Appeal to your student’s senses.
- Focus on advanced planning. It’s easy for us sometimes to get into the habit of following the Spirit in the moment, but it’s not bad to plan ahead. Besides, the Spirit can move as much during planning as it does through spontaneity. So plan ahead and come prepared.
- Focus on transitions. The transitions into and out of a response time are crucial. When transitioning into a response time, make sure you clearly articulate why students are being asked to respond and exactly how they should proceed. When moving out of the response time, be spiritually sensitive. It may be necessary to extend the time or to transition in a way that allows certain students to continue praying or sitting silently. It can be a good idea to dismiss silently so that remaining students can continue to interact with God in the moment.
There is no “right” way to put together a response time for your students. As you explore how to engage your students in your own environment, be encouraged to know that your teaching is having a profound impact on their lives. After all, you were called to this. With each week, consider having a response time. Instead, it will allow students to personalize and internalize the message, making youth group talks more than just points and verses. The teaching time will become an even greater vehicle for God’s eternal movement in the hearts of your students.
Brian Drinkwine has been a creative thinker, innovator, and strategist in youth ministry since 2001. He is a dynamic speaker and is known for his creative insight, visionary leadership, and teams-based ministry approach. Brian is currently serving as Student Ministries Pastor at New Life Community Church in Phoenix, Arizona, and is happily married to his wife, Sarah.