Some years ago, I recall playing a popular youth group game called "Bigger and Better." Perhaps you've enjoyed it yourself or with your youth group. You and your team are armed with a small inexpensive item and sent out into the neighborhood to knock on doors, requesting a trade for something "Bigger and Better." At the end of the evening, whichever team comes back with the biggest and best item, wins. It's a game worth trying out.
And yet, I often wonder if the concept of that game has migrated into all areas of our ministry.
Bigger events, louder music, farther mission trips, deeper lesson content, messier games, greater numbers, funnier videos, bigger ministry budget, busier lock-ins, and on and on. It seems to be the trend that the more spectacular the idea, the greater our hope that through it we will win our kids to Christ. While a "Bigger and Better" approach to our ministry can keep our teens busy, and potentially be a lot of fun, I wonder whether this approach actually has the faith-growing impact we desire.
What if we got quieter with our kids instead of louder? What if we did less programming every second of the night and left a large chunk of time open for silent reflection? What if we did less talking and more listening? What if we taught less about Christian topics and let scripture speak for itself?
During last week's Youth Ministry Resource webinar, Lectio Divina was mentioned as a resource for your youth group. Lectio Divina is a process of quieting oneself and allowing God to speak to us through words and short phrases found in scripture. It requires very little: A Bible, a quiet room, and perhaps a pen and paper. The general format of Lectio is a four part process:
- LECTIO: Time to read through the scripture passage. In a group, I tend to read through the verses 3 or 4 times, each from different people. Sometimes using different Bible versions can be helpful for each reading. You may want to consider using the familiar text, or allow words from a less familiar translation bring new insight into the passage. As you read through, encourage your group to write down a word or short phrase that captures their attention.
- MEDITATIO: A great way to understand the concept of meditating on scripture is to picture a dog chewing on a bone. Focus your attention on that word or phrase. Let it roll around in your thoughts. Turn it over and over. Allow this passage to stir up ideas, pictures, or emotions. Taking the time to simply allow the passage to be "in your space" is a necessary part of the Lectio practice and one that you don't want to skip over quickly.
- ORATIO: The third section is your opportunity to listen to God. Why this word? Why these images or feelings? What is it God wants you to hear from this passage? What is he calling you to do? To change? To give up?
- CONTEMPLATIO: The final step is to simply rest in the presence of God. Take the time to be aware of God's active work in your life and give him thanks for it.
I've had the privilege of leading a group of over 70 teens through a 15-20 minute meditation, as well as many opportunities to lead a handful of teens through a 60 minute Lectio meditation (on Friday afternoons, after school!). While the four part process is quite fixed, the time allotment and number of people in your group can vary.
While this form of meditation is good for personal reflection, I firmly believe that it's ideal for groups. At the end of the meditation, it's important to allow a few from your group to share their experience. It's also important to recognize that not everyone will "get something out of it," but that the time spent in Lectio is your gift to God.
I encourage you to create space to allow your students hear the still small voice of God. Below is a handout that you can use to facilitate a Lectio Divina experience in your youth group.