Parable Scavenger Hunt (Choose Your Own Adventure!)

5 09 2011

Our theme for the month of September is “Choose Your Own Adventure,” and at youth group, we’ll be focusing on the little everyday decisions that slowly build into a lifestyle of faith. Tonight, our youth got to meet the people who will be in their small group and choose which topic they will study this month.

Our “introductory activity” was a scavenger hunt based on a modern-day version of several parables. (And by modern-day, I mean, Taylor Swift is the “Jesus” figure in one of the stories!  For what it’s worth, this analogy actually went over incredibly well with our youth…they ended up in some heated discussions about this particular parable!). I wrote the scavenger hunt based on those old “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, which are told in second-person point of view and allow the reader to determine the outcome of the novel.

So, our youth got to insert themselves into the parable retellings and decide things like:

If I was given money to take care of, would I invest it or bury it in the ground?
If I saw someone on the side of the road who had been beaten up, would I come to his rescue or pass him by?
If my dad asked me to help him mow the lawn, would I say yes or ditch him for my friends?

**Disclaimer: I know the modern-day analogies aren’t perfect (Taylor Swift, after all, is not Jesus), but it was a creative way to get our youth into the Bible!  And, whenever they reached a card that had a blue box in it, they had to read the actual Scripture and talk about it before moving on.  They actually remembered the parables pretty well at the close of the evening!

All in all, I included 6 parables in the hunt, with 7 possible endings.  The stories seemed to be just long enough to be interesting, yet not so long that they got bored by the activity. Our version was a scavenger hunt around the church (into the vast uncharted territory known as the “Adult Wing”), which lasted about 25 minutes. But if you wanted to make this a longer activity, you could leave clues all over town and do the hunt by van.

If you’re interested in doing this activity with your youth, I tried to make a customizable version in pdf.

Download here: Scavenger Hunt CYOA

Instructions:
1. Find 31 hiding places for clues. (or, if you choose to have a central ending location, you only need 24)

2. Fill out the cheat sheet on page 1.  This will help you keep track of the stories!

3. Go through the 31 clues, and add your own locations in.

4. Hide the clues!

5. Give your students Clue #0 and a Bible, and send them on the hunt!

6. Let me know how it goes! 🙂

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How Local is the Local Church?

1 09 2011

As a lifelong Methodist, I don’t claim to have any expertise in Catholicism.  However, one of my Catholic friends once explained their parish system to me in such a neat way that it has always stuck with me:

Because the Mass will be the same at every Catholic church, it doesn’t really matter which church you go to.  The focus is on the Mass, not the priest or the specific church.  So you usually end up going to whichever church is closest to your house.

I know that the church is not a building, it’s the community of believers. But most churches do have a building, which means that they have a very specific geographic location as well as a unique role within their immediate communities. And I believe the church, as a body of believers, has a responsibility to that local entity: to know the neighbors, contribute to the community, and reach out to meet local needs.  For that reason, I do think there is value in living near your home church, so that your spheres of influence (both as an individual and as a church member) intersect in strategic ways.

When we lived in Atlanta, we certainly did our fair share of church shopping, with mixed feelings.  But there was definitely a part of me that felt it would be most healthy and faithful to drop the “shopping” aspect altogether and just settle down at a random church.  After all, if you truly believe that each local church is a microcosm of the body of Christ, then it shouldn’t matter what kind of music they sing or what kind of donuts they serve before the service. Eventually, if you get involved, it will start to feel like home.

We currently attend (and work at) a 101-year-old mainline church, with a congregation that is probably 90% white and middle class.  The neighborhood surrounding the church is ethnically diverse, with mostly low-income residents.  The majority of our members drive a significant distance each Sunday morning, passing several other churches along the way.

Last year our church hired a group of evangelism consultants to research our community and congregation and help us develop a strategy for church growth.  Informally (that is, off the record), one of the consultants commented that we should be training our church members to evangelize the people in their own neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools.  He said that while it was all well and good to focus our mission efforts on the neighborhood around us, we should not expect this outreach to result in church growth.

I’m sure his recommendation was based in real church experiences…but when measured against the gospel and message of Jesus, his dichotomy is misguided at best and dangerous/racist/heretical at worst.

Yes, it’s easier to stay in our comfort zone with people who look and think just like we do.  But Jesus calls us to do hard things.

Yes, we absolutely should be reaching out to people in our own neighborhoods and workplaces.  But that does not absolve us of our duty to reach into other neighborhoods and other workplaces.  If I’m not mistaken, Jesus’ commission should be taking us all over the world!  And the Apostle Paul rejects any kind of “us vs. them mentality” that would even allow for a distinction between “our people” and “the neighborhood people.”

Yes, we like to pat ourselves on the back for providing charity services to the poor folks in the neighborhood.  But Jesus calls us to do more than that: to know our neighbors by name and care for them as individual people rather than as labels.

Yes, integrating the church is slow, hard, uncomfortable work.  But if our church is not attracting the poor and marginalized in society, then we must ask ourselves what we’re doing wrong.

What do you think?  What has your experience been with this ministry/evangelism dichotomy?  How is your church reaching out to its local neighborhood?