///Using movement to engage teens

Using movement to engage teens

Like many congregations, mine uses a traditional educational hour or Sunday school format. This means that our junior high and high school students meet separately for 45-minutes each on Sunday mornings.

I love the opportunity this time provides for interaction with students.

What I don’t love is how asleep teens are at 10 am on a Sunday – exhausted after a full school week, an equally scheduled Saturday, and an evening out with friends or family. As a result, I often see a room of teens whose eyes are only partially open or whose eyes often appear glazed over.

One simple strategy for combatting this is to get teens moving.

Certainly, you can do this through games. The problem, though, is that we often use games as our openers, something that keeps teens awake for the first 10 minutes we’re together but not necessarily after that, once the teaching or discussion begins.

So, find ways to incorporate movement into your actual teaching time as well. One simple way to do this is to utilize an activity that I call Walk Across the Room.

During Walk Across the Room, have all students stand and move to one side of the room. Then read a subjective statement related to your teaching topic that asks kids to walk across the room if they agree with the statement. As you lead this activity, force teens to make a decision. There is no middle-ground for people. 

For example, during a recent conversation about seeing and hearing God, I asked teens to “Walk across the room if you think it’s possible to hear God in our world TODAY.”

After teens silently made their decision about whether or not to move, I asked people on BOTH sides of the room to explain why they chose to stand where they did. Teens who walked across the room told stories of how they’d heard God in their daily lives. Those who didn’t move asked questions and vocalized their doubts (based on their own experiences or lack thereof) about God’s ability to speak today. As teens talked, others walked across the room, indicating a shift in their view based on something convincing their peers had said.

After discussing this one statement for about 10 minutes, we returned to the rest of our discussion. When we did, teens who hadn’t engaged previously, suddenly did – something I routinely see happen after a quick round of walk across the room.

As leadership expert, Brad Lomenick says in his book, H3 Leadership,Physical motion is a creativity accelerator. Every 60 minutes of meeting time needs at least 10 minutes of motion.”

If that’s true of adults, then it’s certainly even MORE true of teens.

Movement awakens teens and engages them in the discussion that follows. It emboldens teens who won’t typically speak during a regular discussion or small group and invites them to actually share their opinion. By not allowing for a middle ground, it forces teens to think about what they actually believe. What’s more, through the physical act of movement, it gives teens – even those who don’t (or won’t) talk – a way to actively participate in the conversation.

So next time you gather together with your teens, try it and see.

Insert a movement activity not just at the start of your time together, but in the middle of your time together. Then watch as your teens come alive and engage your topic in new ways.

By | 2017-01-26T11:22:07+00:00 May 5th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

About the Author:

Jen serves as the director of youth ministry at Faith Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus and the corresponding student devotional, The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel). She's currently writing her third book, Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abindgon Press). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. When not doing ministry, she and her husband Doug can be found hiking, backpacking, and traveling with their toddler, Hope.

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