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If there is a theme to my closest circle of childhood friends, it’s that we all attended United Methodist churches as youth. We were a part of Methodist Youth Fellowship.  This means we spent our summers playing late-night, sweaty, parking lot volleyball tournaments against each other. We passed our winters curled up in drafty cabins or hunting jackalope on Mingus Mountain. We danced far too close wearing far too much Jovan/Sand and Sable to Boyz II Men at countless dances and lock-ins. We adventured for weeks in vans trekking across the western United States volunteering  in forests, sleeping on hard church floors and eating copious amounts of Taco Bell until we thought we would eventually ring.

And at some point, we became adults and scattered.

It’s funny to think of it now — the Yas — all in this group. As are many of my closest male friends. I spent so much of my teenage awkward years in a church fellowship hall flirting, eating pizza and rolling my jeans, it is amazing I learned anything from my pastor. Most of my friends don’t attend church today. Just as I can’t imagine my life without it, they cannot image theirs with it. To each is own.

On top of a few of the other changes happening around here this week, I’ve accepted a part-time gig at my church to help with children’s ministries. I am really looking forward to creating a MYF group, strengthening Sunday school curriculum, getting more kids and parents involved and making church a fun place for little ones to come spend time.

So — this is where you come in. Do you have any happy memories of church as a child? What and how did you learn that you still remember today? If you are a parent, what types of activities do you like to see your children involved in with church? What seems to work?

I am completely new to this type of ministry and would love any suggestions of books, activities, etc you may have. So, please delurk and leave a comment.


P.S. Get the girls in the car and we’ll still sing any Boyz II Men song at the top of our lungs. Also, we’ve been known recently to still enjoy copious amounts of Taco Bell.

22 Replies to “MYF”

  1. Kelli;
    I loved your post! As you know, I too, spent my high school years hanging around those pesky MYF boys. We too, did mission trips, volleyball, group dating, etc. When I see the youth in our church today, speaking about what they have done, or what they plan to do, I usually remind them, that they need to be careful who they befriend. I married my MYF boyfriend (still married after 34 years), my best friend, Joni, married her geeky MYF boyfriend, and so the legend goes. What great fellowship!!
    I know you know this, since the MYF boy I married is your father, but I wanted to validate the whole MYF thing. It’s a great program, and can change lives (and quite often does).

  2. At my church we called it “UMYF,” but I was in that too (and Wesley Foundation in college, which is where I met Matt.) You are going to make a great youth group leader. I led a small group of kids at a Methodist church while I was in law school. The key to getting the kids to settle down and listen (maybe?) is the sweaty exhausting games. You have to wear them out or you’ll never get them to settle down. Good luck – you’re having all kinds of new beginnings this week!

  3. And some of us (ahem: you know who you are) don’t much remember that particular trip to Taco Bell. Others of us proved WE’VE STILL GOT IT! (a la flirting for free churros).

  4. Delurking as commanded! I do have fond memories of church as a child – mostly revolving around snacks and crafts. After attending church casually through college, my sister and I are now co-leaders of our church’s junior high fellowship group and it has been a crazy, but wonderful experience.

    There’s a lot of game-playing to get out all that excess energy (though I took a hit with a soccer ball right in the uterus last Sunday, LOL, those 13-year old boys are strong!) and then usually we pick something to talk about. One week it was about “being green” and we challenged the kids to do three things at home to be more energy efficient and report back the next week. Another week we sent kids on a Bible verse scavenger hunt (thanks to google! The internet has awesome fellowship ideas!). Last week I brought in a DVD my sister made of some of my photos from Kenya, along with all sorts of stuff I bought there while studying abroad, and that generated a lot of conversation. It’s great that kids are fairly uninhibited when it comes to asking questions. We also do things that play a role in what the congregation is doing – like baking bread for food baskets we give out at Thanksgiving, or bake things to sell at the church fair. There’s also larger missions too – we’re doing the 30-hour famine in two weeks ( I know with your crafting and cooking skills, world travel, and fond memories of your own fellowship experiences you will make a great leader!!

  5. This is such an interesting question/topic. I began Sunday School in an AME (African Methodist Episcopal) church and then in the third grade was in Unitarian Sunday School. Sophia Lyon Fahs’ curriculum and books were used in many of the classes. She actually began her work in religious education in the UM church. See for more info on her here:

    I have the greatest memories of Sunday School. One year, we were read the stories of the creation of the world from different cultures. Loved the reading to us and loved the stories. So, very different and so cool. Lots to learn. One year, we learned about Jesus, the Carpenter’s Son and another year, we learned about Moses and Abraham. Another year, we learned about different faith traditions and visited different congregations.

    I know that my younger siblings got to learn all about nature and do all kinds of cool art projects in their classes.

    So, we did plays, projects, had fun discussions. It was a blast! And, you, with all your skill sets, the youth will have a great time learning, serving, and teaching with all the wonder of the world.


  6. Wow, so glad I chose today to catch back up with the world of Kelli! 🙂

    We attended Happy Hills Christian Church camp every summer for 1 week. It was on an old farm in Carrolton KY, in the middle of nowhere, for the most part. Our dorms were old barns, converted for sleeping. Wooden bunk beds, crude electrical systems, cinder block shower stalls with cold water. Sounds like prison, doesn’t it?

    But, I can honestly say these were my happiest of childhood days. We learned so much about friendship, and Jesus, and love and right & wrong. Every year, from Kindergarten until my Sophomore year in high school, with the same group of kids.

    We’ve all moved in various directions in our lives, but I still consider these girls my closest friends. It’s your oldest friends that you accept the easiest, because when you’re young you don’t realize you have a choice in NOT accepting them. You just love each other because you always have loved each other. It’s so simple.

    Anyway, I really hope & pray that I’m able to find a place like this for my children to attend with kids they will grow up with. It was an invaluable experience, and I wish everyone had a Happy Hills 🙂

  7. Kelli,

    Yet another connection!! I too am a Methodist, although in our town of 95% Catholics, we didn’t (still don’t) have enough young people to have an MYF group so I can’t really help you there. As you can probably understand growing up in a town like mine, I am always amazed when I meet another Methodist (which happily happened when I met my husband as well. Wasn’t really an amazing thing for him though, in the area he’s from everyone is a Methodist!).

    Happy day!

  8. I’ve always gone to a Baptist church, but I specifically remember lessons on the Lord’s Supper..especially the ones where we had lemonade and nilla wafers or pita bread and grape juice..So snacks are good 🙂
    How lucky to have such a close group of church friends growing up..I’ve always been pretty much the only person my age in my church..

  9. hey, that sounds like lutheran youth group!

    lots of fond memories of my sunday school class then youth group years. definitely a solid fondation. enduring friendships, lots of wholesome fun, and can’t forget the many cheesy youth group/camp songs embedded in the corner of my mind. funny thing is that 20 years later, i was surprised that those are the songs that whisper out of my mouth when i rock my baby to sleep. (what?? 20 years ago??!!!! already?!) i feel the good memories bubbling up just thinking about it.

  10. Where should I start? Spending a day in the cabin with a friend while everybody else played in the snow, building houses in Mexico for families that didn’t have but a cardboard box, learning that God does really work in mysterious ways oh and who can’t forget racing down the hill from Mingus??? My kids are having a good time learning what I did when I was their age. My oldest will be in Jr high soon and then comes the fun! I loved my MYF times. I have many, many memories! (and the pics to prove it!)

  11. I was in Luther League, which sounds like the same thing as MYF, only for Lutherans. The town I lived in was mostly Catholic, though, so occasionally I went to CYO with my Catholic friends. Then there was the 2 years of catechism class, Sunday School, choir, Vacation Bible School.

    You’ll be a great youth leader, you’re impacting people of all ages in positive ways!

  12. Kelli,

    I am delurking as commanded. I, too, have many fond memories of my high school youth group (Mennonite for me). I’m sure there are great curriculums out there, but, honestly, I don’t remember much of the actual “lessons”. I remember the people and youth leaders who were honest, compassionate, real. They gave of their time and their food, lots of food, and that is how we learn about God’s love–through the love of God’s people.

    I only have one tip: give the teens you work with real choices and roles in the group so they have a sense of ownership of the group and of the church. I think those of us who still go to church as adults do so because we feel it is a place where we belong. That feeling comes because we are told we are needed in the church body.

    I feel like I’m rambling and not making too much sense so I will quit.

  13. The games are great.

    I loved taking simple childhood games, and running the kids through those (duck, duck, goose; Red Light, Green Light; Mother May I; Ring Around the Rosie; etc) tying a lesson in after that. We played and then settled in with a lesson, reading a scripture, and then having dinner.

    For the last several years I have enjoyed working with the Combos materials from Cokesbury (which are on closeout now)

    The lessons bring together a neat lesson, with a series of activities and discussions according to a common theme.

    The short answer is to be authentic, have fun, be faithful (build disciples, not just athletes, or games gurus), and do what you remember being fun, and challenging.

    Having a base curriculum helps to bring parents and other leaders on board because they know that they do not have to “think it up” for themselves. That then makes it easier for no-one to face burnout, and for you to have some relief if you are sick or tired, or just cannot make it for a week. Teams are your friend

  14. I have no fond memories of church, unfortunately, during mass or CCD classes. I only remember being bored and utterly confused at what was going on.

    I did, however, also wear Sand and Sable. The thought of it makes me smile!

  15. My first youth week at St. Matthew’s was when Rev. Turner’s son died in a plane crash. We were all dancing, singing while watching Back to the Future in Fellowship Hall when somebody came in and told us all to gather in the sanctuary. It was after midnight. Some went home, some stayed. Most of were crying. It was a sad, painful, surreal week.

  16. I grew up Lutheran and was in Luther League. In my town in the 1960’s, schools had early release one day a week for religious education and we had our various youth group activities after our education. Our church was one block from the synagogue and I remember one time going to Hebrew school while my friend attended my catachism class. Often we got together with youth from other churches for activities. We went ice skating, camping, swimming and played games. We also did various service projects such as volunteering to rake leaves, singing at nursing homes, visiting shutins, and serving at benefit dinners. I know you will have fun working with the youth at your church and you will give them memories for a lifetime.

  17. I grew up attending church and Sunday School weekly. I have great memories of my mom teaching Sunday School–she taught for years! Loved our youth group activities especially when we adopted families and went shopping and wrapped gifts for local families!

  18. HOW EXCITING! You are going to have so much fun with the youth and they are going to love you! Some of my funnest memories of Mutual (as it used to be called in the LDS church) now it’s just called Young Men/Young Women or YMYW for short:) are….
    Any combined activity with the boys
    Making various cookies/treats and randomly delivering them to other members of the church
    Dances dances dances dances:)
    Scavenger hunts
    Scripture mastery/scripture chase – were we had a list of scriptures to memorize or to find
    Movie nights
    Skits and mini plays of scripture stories
    Those are the ones that come to mind:)

  19. I went to MYF too! I as really close to that group of friends, but like your friends we’ve all scattered as adults (and I’m not close to them now…only ‘see’ them via Facebook).

    Happy memories include church camp each summer, Christmas caroling in the winter, ‘lock-in’s and movie nights, hitting the road to attend conferences. I don’t remember much ‘religious study’ in our group – but I do remember the fellowship. I do think there’s something to say about that. I hope Dahlia can have similar experiences.

  20. My nearly-five-year-old is just starting her participation in our Unitarian Universalist church, so I don’t have much insight. Two of my good friends are the Youth Group coordinators there, so I’ve had a few glimpses about what to expect in eight or so years. The biggest? My friends’ official title is Youth Group COORDINATOR (not LEADER)–they believe that the distinction is pretty essential. The youth run their own group, with advice from the adults, and apparently this experience is pretty empowering.

  21. I too came of age in MYF. Our favorite game was saridines. Basically there is the one who hides. Then as people find the hidden person they join them. Be very quiet! The last person to find the whole group is it for the next game. I just remember being a squished in closets and under church pews trying not to giggle.

    As for Sunday School- I am going to have to get you the name of our curriculum. It takes one verse or big idea per month. One week the kids cook, the next they do a skit, the next they may do a science project or an art project. The idea is they learn the one verse/idea per month in several different modalities. The Sunday School is growing by leaps and bounds-so something about it is working!

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