Archives For Free Resources

A range of resources for working with young people that can be used and adapted for free

'Sauce Policy' by jasonEscapist on Flickr

I’m sorry about the low amount of posts recently. I’m desperately trying to ensure I put at least one thing up here a week to keep some level of continuity. Part of the reason I’ve not had time to post is due to getting my head around the operational procedures of the church here. A big portion of this is reviewing and updating various policies, and hence, the reason for this post.

I was directed to birthtofive.org.uk, a website by Lincolnshire County Council which has a wealth of resources and information. The focus is on early years child care services so might not be directly relevant to the youth work world, but they have posted on the site a number of templates for policies and procedures including Safeguarding Children, CRB checks and Social Networking among many others. Check out this page.

In updating our (quite comprehensive) safeguarding documents, I’ve found the site useful especially for its simple, clean policy templates. I was able to take the information in our documents, update them slightly and present them in a much easier-to-read format.

So if you need Staff Appraisal records, Managers Report Layouts, Codes of Conduct, etc. it’s a very helpful place to start!

'Worship1' by dtcchc on Flickr


The following is a session plan for youth groups on the importance of worship that I wrote a number of years ago. It was included as an extra on a Distinctive Spring Harvest youth worship album.

Aim
The aim of this session is to understand what it means to praise God and to explore why we should give Him praise. Often as Christians we focus on what God does for us rather than who He actually is. This song ‘Great Is The Lord’ [on the CD] is about praising God for who He is.

Ice Breaker
Split the group up into pairs facing each other. Explain that on your command, they will have 30 seconds in which to say as many positive things about each other as they can. These can include comments about their character, or more physical attributes such as hair, clothes etc. The only catch is that they must not stop or pause during that time – both must keep talking until the time is up. As soon as anyone pauses or changes the subject, they are out of the game and have to sit down. The winners will then find a new partner and be timed again. In this way, the group will slowly get eliminated until there is only one left.

Scripture Scramble
In groups, get the young people to have a race looking up and reading the following Bible verses:

  • Psalm 145:10
  • Hebrews 13:15
  • Psalm 150:3-5

Once everyone has finished, explain that when we look through the bible, particularly the Psalms, we are continually told to praise God. The word praise means to celebrate or say good things about something.

Although we can give praise to anything, we were made by God to praise and celebrate Him: [youversion]Psalm 145:10[/youversion]!

We should praise God both for who he is (the ruler of the universe, the creator of everything, the one who loves us) and for what he has done (sending Jesus to die for our sins, giving us life, keeping us safe). [youversion]Hebrews 13:15[/youversion].

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name. (NIV)

There are many ways to give praise to God. Read: [youversion]Psalm 150:3-5[/youversion].

Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre,
Praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute,
Praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord. (NIV)

Discussion questions
In small groups explore the following questions:

  • What do you think about God? Do you love to praise him?
  • What reasons can you think of to praise God?
  • In what ways do you currently give Him praise? Can you think of any new ideas?

Arty Activity
Get everyone in the group to think of a simple statement of praise to God. Ideally it should be personal to the individual (an example could be “You help me when…”). Then using pens, card and other craft materials, get them to write their statement down as big and bold as possible. Once finished, clip or glue all the cards together to create one big banner of praise.

Indoor Chariots

8 December 2010 — Leave a comment

Photo: Chariot racer, Jerash , Jordan by Rikdom on Flickr

A frantic and silly race around the room for teams.

Numbers: 6 people or more
Suitable for: Any age (with appropriate supervision)
Preparation time: Under 5 minutes
Venue: A large space, room or hall
Safety First: Watch out for scrapes and grazes if people fall off their ‘chariot’
Equipment needed:

  • Sleeping bags or other suitable materials
  • Something to mark out a racecourse (cones, tape, chairs, etc)

The game:
The idea of this game is to have a simple race around a pre-defined course. The first team to cross the finish line are the winners.

Teams are usually made up of three people; one is the ‘rider’ who will get pulled around the course, and the other two are ‘horses’ who need to drag the rider. The actual chariot could be made of whatever material you have around. Sleeping bags work well on smooth floors, but you could use blankets or even flattened cardboard boxes.

The rider sits on the end of the chariot facing forwards, using their hands to hold on as best as possible. The horses each grab the other end of the chariot and hold it behind them, so they too are facing forwards. On your command, the race starts and the horses run around the track, pulling the chariot and rider along the floor behind them. Of course, the chariot is not very stable and the riders tend to slip off or lose their grip at some point. When this happens, the horses must stop and allow the rider to climb back on before continuing the race.

Adaptation:
Try making it a relay race where on each lap, the ‘rider’ swaps places with one of the ‘horses’. If you don’t have enough space to race lots of teams, do time trials with one team at a time to see who can be the fastest.

Photo: 'The Shepherd' by a4gpa on Flickr

The following is a short drama I wrote a few years ago for a Christmas production at church. It’s obviously very brief and quite light-hearted. The intention was to explore the idea of Jesus bringing hope to people who felt hope-less.

Feel free to use and adapt this as necessary for your needs. Just link back here please!

The Shepherds Hope
The three shepherds are sitting around a fire in the centre of the stage facing the audience. A conversation arises between shepherds 1 and 2. Shepherd 3 is mostly ignored by the others for his irrelevant comments.

Shepherd 1: I hope it doesn’t get much darker! We won’t be able to see the sheep very well.
Shepherd 2: I hope it doesn’t rain! This is a new fleece and I don’t want to get it wet.
Shepherd 3: I hope it doesn’t get any colder! I won’t be able to pick my nose if my bogies freeze!
Shepherd 1: What are we doing out here anyway? I know we’re looking after the sheep – it’s our job, but why hasn’t anything changed? God promised us he would rescue his people and instead we’ve had nothing but bad kings for hundreds of years!
Shepherd 2: Yeah, and now we’ve got the Romans bossing us around too! Things are going from bad to worse. It’s all a bit hope-LESS.
Shepherd 3: [holding up an empty bag] Yeah, AND I stubbed my toe earlier and now it’s gone all black! [Other shepherds turn away in disgust]
Shepherd 1: Did you ever read all the stuff in the scriptures about the Saviour that God is sending? Micah actually wrote that he would be born here! In Bethlehem of all places!
Shepherd 2: I can’t really believe that now. There’s nothing here! No Saviour, no Royal family, NO HOPE!
Shepherd 3: [Pause] But there IS a great little restaurant round the corner that serves excellent lamb kebabs!
The shepherd is interrupted by a bright light shone from the back.
Shepherd 1: What’s that?
Shepherd 2: I can’t see!
Shepherd 3: Is it morning already?
The voice of an angel calls out over microphone:
Angel: Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
The light goes out
Shepherd 1: [excited] A saviour!
Shepherd 2: Finally!
Shepherd 3: [confused] What’s he doing lying in a feeding tray?
The shepherds start gathering up their things as they speak
Shepherd 1: We’ve got to go and find him. This is the one that God promised would save us all! I can’t believe this is happening!
Shepherd 2: THERE IS HOPE! God hasn’t forgotten about us!
Shepherd 3: But what about the sheep?
Shepherd 1: Don’t worry about that! I hope we can find him! We need to get the right stable. [walks off stage]
Shepherd 2: I hope he’s awake! I want to get a look at him. [walks off stage]
Shepherd 3: I hope we can go past the kebab shop! [walks off stage]
End

The following is an assembly that I have used with students in Secondary Schools to illustrate the point of thinking differently about a problem.

Introduction:
Ask everyone to put up their hands if they have recently faced any kind of problem. Most people should raise their hand. Ask them to keep their hand raised if they were able to solve their problem and were happy about the outcome. You will probably get a more mixed response to this!
Explain that sometimes the key to dealing with our problems is to think differently about them. Today you are going to be thinking differently about Post-It notes!

Post-It Animations:
There are some really creative videos out there that use post-it notes. Consider showing one of them (like the one below) to illustrate how you can think differently about everyday objects.

A Happy Accident:
Tell the story of how post-it notes were invented. I found the following summary at Xperimania

In 1970, a chemist named Spencer Silver was working in the 3M research laboratories trying to develop strong glue. His work resulted instead in an adhesive that wasn’t very sticky. When pulling apart two pieces of paper stuck together with that adhesive, Spencer discovered that the glue stuck either to one paper or the other. That seemed like a pretty useless invention. Four years later a colleague who was singing in the church choir was however hit by a brilliant idea. He used markers to keep his place in the hymn book, but they kept falling out. So he coated them with Spencer’s glue. As if by magic, they stayed in place yet lifted off without damaging the pages. The Post-it note was born. Today, it is one of the most popular office products available.

Explain that by thinking differently about the seemingly useless glue that Spencer had created, they created a very successful and versatile product. Sometimes our failures and problems can seem huge, but maybe if we look at them differently, they could become opportunities!

A Different Diet:
Tell the story of Daniel and his friends from [youversion]Daniel 1:8-16[/youversion], where they refused to eat the rich foods from the king’s table and instead asked for vegetables and water:

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”

Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.”

So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days. At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

Explain that by thinking differently and doing something that wasn’t the usual way of doing things, Daniel and his friends were far healthier than everyone else and changed the diet for the better!

Challenge & Reflection:

  • What problems are you facing right now in your life?
  • Who could you turn to, to talk things through?
  • Thinking differently about your problems, what opportunities might there be? What could you learn from the situation?

This week when faced with a problem, consider how it might be an opportunity for you. Try to think differently about the issue and help others to do the same.

Image Credit: p4nc0np4n on Flickr

Own Your Space

29 September 2010 — Leave a comment


I spotted this little gem as a retweet from a twitter buddy, but thought it was such a good resource that I needed to post it here.

Own Your Space–Keep Yourself and Your Stuff Safe Online” is a fantastic little digital book for teens giving sound advice on all aspects of online life.

Help teens ‘own their space’ online. Whether you are a parent, caregiver, or educator, you can keep up with the latest computer and online safety issues and help kids learn to avoid them. In partnership with security expert and author, Linda McCarthy, we offer a free downloadable version of her new book, “Own Your Space – Keep Yourself and Your Stuff Safe Online.” Written for Internet savvy “tweens” and teens specifically, this book is also a useful resource for the adults they rely on.

Each of the 16 short chapters focus on a different topic such as Bullying, Shopping, Social Networks and Private Vs Public Data. In addition, it’s all presented in a simple but fresh style with great anime style illustrations.


The book was written in 2006 by Linda McCarthy, an online security expert. This expanded and fully updated 2010 edition is published under Creative Commons Licensing and with the help of corporate sponsors like Microsoft, is now available for free download from various corporate, non-profit, and social networking sites, including Facebook and MySpace.

So go download it now, and recommend it to all the teens you know!

Labyrinth

10 September 2010 — 1 Comment

This is a session plan for an alternative worship experience using the concept of a labyrinth. Basically a labyrinth is a maze-like path set-up in a large space where people walk along, stopping at various points to think about a particular idea. Unlike a maze they have only one path – there are no dead ends. People walk the labyrinth slowly, as an aid to contemplative prayer and reflection, as a spiritual exercise, or as a form of pilgrimage.

Our use of the labyrinth in youth worship was inspired by the brilliant resources at Labyrinth.org.uk. On their site there is a full explanation of the ancient history behind the contemplative practice, and the way in which they have developed a contemporary version for use in cathedrals with an mp3 player.

For our young people, and we have run a number of different versions over the years but each requires a large space like a hall and a number of different stopping points or ‘stations’ with an activity at each one. It is important to set the right kind of atmosphere, so we have often used soft lighting, bean bags, cushions, drapes, candles, etc. to make the whole experience welcoming. We have also found it useful to mark out a physical path on the floor such as tape or footsteps to guide people around the labyrinth. A possible template is available here. You may also want to put up screens or barriers between the path to encourage participants to focus on the journey rather than spoil what is coming later, but it’s up to you how you choose to lay it out.

We decided to make our labyrinth as interactive as possible, while also retaining the concept of ‘journey’ and personal reflection that the larger-scale installations have. We narrowed the number of stations down to eight, as this seemed more manageable with our group, and put a practical activity at each one. Each station also has written instructions to explain what they must do.

The following are examples of stations we have used previously. They are fully adaptable and I would encourage you to develop your own ideas.

  1. Welcome
  2. Equipment: None
    Text: Welcome to the labyrinth. Please “Take off your sandals, because you are standing on holy ground.” Exodus 3:5
    Inside the hall is a pathway mapped out on the floor for you to follow. As you walk along, you will come to different sections where there is an activity for you to do. Spend as much time as you like at each one. They are designed to help you spend time with God.

  3. Noise
  4. Equipment: An iPod with static white noise on loop OR a detuned TV showing static, Pens, Paper, Notice board.
    Text: Welcome to the first station. Sit down and put on the headphones/look at the TV.
    Noise. What do you think when you hear this word? Dogs barking? People talking around you? Music?
    In technical terms, noise means ‘interference in a signal’. Noise is the fuzzy sound when you’re listening to the radio that stops you from hearing the music. Noise messes up the picture on your TV, and makes it go all blurry or jump around.
    God wants to spend time with each and every one of us. However, often we do not spend time with God because there is too much “noise” or interference in our lives. Think about what might distract you from spending time with God. Now write down what you can do to reduce these distractions and pin your ideas on the board.

  5. Letting Go
  6. Equipment: Bowl of water, Collection of stones, Washable Pens.
    Text: Before you meet with God, it’s a good idea to get rid of all the things that are bugging you. What are you upset about? Who has annoyed you today? What is making you angry?
    Write these things on the stones, then place them in the water. Watch those worries wash away. Allow God to take them from you now. You can now focus on meeting with Him!
    “Brothers and sisters, think about the things that are good and worthy of praise. Think about the things that are true and honourable and right and pure and beautiful and respected.” Philippians 4:8

  7. Self
  8. Equipment: A Large Mirror, The following verses printed on transparency and placed over the mirror OR written directly onto it: Jeremiah 29:11, Matthew 10:29-31, Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:13-16.
    Text: How does God see you? What makes you special?
    Not sure? Look into the mirror and read what God has to say about you. How does it make you feel?

  9. Holy Space
  10. Equipment: A tent, gazebo or other structure to create an “inner sanctuary”, Curtains, drapes, cloths, Bean bags, Bibles.
    Text: Imagine that this is the “Holy of Holies”, the centre of the temple in the Old Testament where God’s presence rested. Only the high priest was able to come in here and meet with God. Read 1 Kings 6:14-38 to find out what it looked like.
    Later Jesus changed all that. Everyone can now meet with God anywhere! That includes you! How do you feel being in this special place? Can you ‘feel’ God here? Take some time to just be with Him.

  11. Thanks
  12. Equipment: Pens, Paper with the word THANKS written down the left hand side.
    Text: This is your chance to say “Thank You” to God for all the things he’s done! Think about what you are thankful for today then take one of the sheets and write a poem. The word ‘Thanks’ is written down the side. Use each letter as the beginning of a line of your poem. When you’re done, leave it for others to see!
    Beautiful words fill my mind. I am speaking of royal things. My tongue is like the pen of a skilled writer. Psalms 45:1

  13. Prayer
  14. Equipment: Candles/Tea-lights, Matches, Sturdy Table (or other safe place to leave candles), Fire-cloth, Water.
    Text: This section is about praying for others. Spend some time thinking of someone you know who could use God’s help right now. Now take a candle and light it. The flame represents your prayer to God. Make sure you do spend some time in prayer asking God to help that person before you move on.

  15. Exit
  16. Equipment: Post-it notes, Pens, Bibles, Card
    Text: This is your last stop on today’s journey. What have you learnt? What questions do you have? Have you met with God in a different way? How have you changed? Is there anything that you are going to do now? Write down your answers to some of these questions on the Post-Its and stick them to the walls.
    Spend as long as you want in here. Pray, Read the bible, relax.

In the past we’ve also used paints, lego bricks, hand massages, fruit to taste, etc for different stations. The response from young people to the labyrinth has always been very positive, with people saying that it gave them an opportunity to avoid distractions and actually spend time with God. On our most recent installation, a number of non-Christians took part and commented on the amazing atmosphere and sense of peace they felt while doing it.

So has anyone else tried out a labyrinth with young people? What has been their response?

For more creative prayer and worship spaces, check out Breathe by Dare2Engage.

Watchtower and fence system
Next Wednesday is Holocaust Memorial Day. HMD is commemorated internationally on 27th January each year. This date was chosen as it is the anniversary of the day in 1945 on which the Soviet Army liberated the largest Nazi concentration camp – Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The following youth group session is designed for church groups and can be used to explore the events of the Holocaust, while also explaining the Gospel message. It is based upon a BBC News article about a British Soldier who snuck into the notorious Auschwitz during the Second World War. Unbeknown to him, his actions saved the life of another.

Caution: This session requires the young people to understand some of the atrocities committed during the Holocaust and should therefore be handled sensitively. Background information for this session was mostly taken from this Wikipedia article. I also used certain historical images to illustrate the conditions at Auschwitz. These were taken from the official memorial website.

Take My Place
Background: Auschwitz
To understand the significance of the story, we need to know a little bit about what happened at Auschwitz. You might want to briefly cover the information below with some pictures in a powerpoint presentation.

Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest of Nazi Germany’s concentration camps and extermination camps, operational during World War II. The three main camps were Auschwitz I, II, and III.
Auschwitz I, the original concentration camp, served as the administrative center for the whole complex, and was the site of the deaths of roughly 70,000 people, mostly ethnic Poles and Soviet prisoners of war.
Auschwitz II (Birkenau) was an extermination camp and was the site of the deaths of at least 960,000 Jews, 75,000 Poles, and some 19,000 Roma (Gypsies). This was the largest of all the Nazi extermination camps.
Auschwitz III served as a labour camp.

Most prisoners to Auschwitz arrived by train. Thousands of Jews were crammed into carriages with no food or water for hours on end until they arrived at the entrance to the camp nicknamed “The Gate of Death”. This is a transcript of the message that played to them when they got off the train:

“Gentlemen and Ladies,
“We know that you are very tired, that you had a very long and exhausting journey. Neither food nor water was plentiful. We are sorry, but this is not our fault. Now, that is behind you. We will put you into a Camp. Those who are able will work. All will live in normal conditions.
“We are sorry that we have to give you some bad news. To the Camp, where you would live and work, are some 3 km and so happen that just today we do not have transportation. Thus, we are asking now that:
“All females, mothers with their children no older than 14, all men sick or disabled to go to the left.
“The rest that are able to work, and thus able to walk to the Camp, to stay put on the right of the ramp.”

The was part of the Nazi’s infamous “selections”, where incoming Jews were tricked and divided up into 2 groups. Those deemed able to work were admitted to the camp, and those who couldn’t were immediately taken away and gassed. Less than an hour after stepping off the train, families were separated forever.

Everyone had their personal belongings taken away and were made to wear identical striped clothes. When the Soviet army eventually invaded the camp in 1945, they found 348,820 men’s suits and 836,255 women’s garments! Those who were able to work lived in terrible conditions. There are horrendous stories about what happened to those in the camp. Many died from the hard labour, lack of nutrition and terrible conditions. Many were also shot or experimented on. Most people however were killed in the gas chambers. The first gassings were carried out at Auschwitz in September 1941. People were stripped naked and crammed into empty chambers which were then pumped full of cyanide gas.

In early 1943, the Nazis decided to increase the gassing capacity of Birkenau. By June 1943 four crematoria were in use. Most victims were killed during the period afterwards. No one knows the exact amount of people killed in the camp, but estimates are around 2 million men, women and children. The bodies of these millions of people were never buried, but piled outside and burned.

At the end of the war when the Nazi’s knew they were losing, they evacuated Auschwitz and forced those who were fit enough to walk 35 miles through the snow. Of 60,000 prisoners, 15,000 died on the way.

Game: Sweetie Smuggling
In order to lighten the mood and to keep the group active and interested, you could play the following game.

Promote two people in the group to become ‘guards’ and station them outside of the room. Tell the rest of the group that they are ‘prisoners’. The aim of the game is for the prisoners to smuggle as many sweets (candy) past the guards as possible, and the guards to confiscate as many items as possible. The winning side is the one with the most items at the end.

One by one, the prisoners have to choose if they want to smuggle an item, then walk out of the room past the guards. If they are carrying an item, it should not be visible. This should lead to some very creative hiding items on people. The two guards are only allowed to ‘search’ half the number of people in the group. For example, if you have a group of ten prisoners, the guards can only search five of them. This way, the guards must choose carefully who they want to search.

Obviously it is not a good idea for the young people to physically search each other, so an adult should keep an eye on who has an item, and make sure they are honest when challenged by the guards. If the guards catch someone smuggling, then they confiscate the item. If a prisoner makes it through with an item, then they get to keep it. If a prisoner is accused of smuggling but is not carrying an item, then they can go free.

When the game is finished, get everyone sitting down again and tell the story of Denis Avey.

Denis
Denis Avey was a British soldier in World War II, who was captured by the Germans and imprisoned in a camp connected to Auschwitz. Even though he was a Prisoner of War, he was treated well and had relative freedom including sending and receiving letters from home.
Denis was a red head. He says: “I had red hair and a temperament to match. Nothing would stop me.”
Denis had heard rumours about what was going on inside the main camp and wanted to find out the truth about the gas chambers, so he could tell others.

After careful planning Denis built the trust of a Jewish inmate and arranged to swap places with him for one night at a time. He exchanged his uniform for the filthy, stripy garments that the inmate had to wear. For the Jewish man it meant valuable food and rest in the British camp, while for Denis it was a chance to gather facts on the inside.
Denis described the camp as “hell on earth” and says he would lie awake at night listening to the ramblings and screams of prisoners.

“It was pretty ghastly at night, you got this terrible stench,” he says.
He talked to Jewish prisoners but says they rarely spoke of their previous life. Instead they were focused on the hell they were living and the work they were forced to do in factories outside the camp.

“There were nearly three million human beings worked to death in different factories,” said Denis. “They knew at that rate they’d last about five months”.

Denis traded places twice and slept overnight in Auschwitz. He tried a third time but he was almost caught and the plan was aborted.

Discussion:
Imagine what it must have been like to sneak into somewhere like Aushwitz. Discuss in your group what you would have done in that situation.

Jesus:
The Bible tells us that Jesus did exactly what Denis did. He chose to put himself in a dangerous situation and swap places with those who were going to die. But unlike Denis, Jesus actually died on our behalf. Read the following passages:

But he took our suffering on him and felt our pain for us. We saw his suffering and thought God was punishing him.
But he was wounded for the wrong we did; he was crushed for the evil we did. The punishment, which made us well, was given to him,
and we are healed because of his wounds.
We all have wandered away like sheep; 
each of us has gone his own way. But the Lord has put on him the punishment 
for all the evil we have done. ([youversion]Isaiah 53:4-6[/youversion])

Christ had no sin, but God made him become sin so that in Christ we could become right with God. ([youversion]2 Cor. 5:21[/youversion])

Christ carried our sins in his body on the cross so we would stop living for sin and start living for what is right. And you are healed because of his wounds. ([youversion]1 Peter 2:24[/youversion])

Theologians call this trading of places ‘Substitutionary Atonement’. It’s a complicated way of saying something very simple: Jesus died in our place.

Ernst
Denis’ story is one of bravery, but that’s not the end… It was in the camp that Denis met Jewish prisoner Ernst Lobethall. Ernst told him he had a sister Susana who had escaped to England as a child. So back in his own camp, Denis contacted Susana via a coded letter home to his mother.
He arranged for cigarettes, chocolate and a letter from Susana to be sent to him and then he smuggled them to Ernst in the camp. Cigarettes were more valuable than gold and Ernst hoped he would be able to trade them for favours to make life easier. He traded two of those packs of cigarettes in return for getting his shoes resoled.

Denis never saw Ernst again, but did meet his sister Susana when he got home after the war. Both of them thought Ernst was dead. Miraculously though he had actually survived, thanks – in part – to the smuggled cigarettes. His new thick-soled shoes helped save his life on the notorious death march out of the camps during the winter in 1945. Where 15,000 people died in the snow, he survived.

Ernst moved to America after the war, where he had children and lived a long and happy life. He died never even knowing the real name of the soldier who he says helped him survive Auschwitz. But before he died Ernst recorded his survival story on video. In it he spoke of his friendship with a British soldier in Auschwitz who he simply called “Ginger”. It was Denis, now aged 91.

This is a short clip of Denis watching the video that Ernst made before he died (The clip doesn’t seem to be available to download but you can view it online here).

Discussion:

  • How did Denis’ actions save Ernst?
  • How is it similar to Jesus’ actions on the cross? How is it different?
  • What do you think Ernst would say to Denis is he were still alive?
  • What would you say to someone who had done that for you?

Prayer:
Spend some time praying for those effected by the horrors of war. Thank Jesus for what he achieved on the cross and what it means for us.

Paper Snowball Fight

12 December 2009 — 2 Comments

Paper Balls
Regular reader Ralf wrote in with this game. It’s a very simple paper snowball fight that’s a lot of fun!

Numbers: 10 and over, enough for two equal teams
Suitable for: Any age
Preparation time: None!
Venue: Large room or hall
Safety First: As you will be throwing paper around the room, watch out for faces!
Equipment needed:

  • Lots of scrap paper
  • Optional tape
  • Optional Buckets

The game:
Ralf explains:

We have two teams in a bigger room, separated by a line. Every team gets a number of crumpled up paper balls (5 per person or so…) and has to throw it over the line into the field of the other team. The other team has to clear up their field and throw it back. You can play a song or just measure the time [e.g. 2 minutes]. When the song or the time is over, you count the remaining paper balls in every teams field.

Adaptation:
Try giving each team a bucket and tell them to aim for the one on the opposite side of the room. At the end of the game, the team that gets the most snowballs in the bucket is the winner.

Photo Credit: net_efekt on Flickr

Santa’s Beard

3 December 2009 — 4 Comments

Santa
A silly, sticky Christmas-themed game!

Numbers: Up to around 10 at a time.
Suitable for: Ages 8 and upwards.
Preparation time: 5 minutes.
Venue: A large room or small hall.
Safety First: The game involves putting a sticky product on facial skin. Check with young people if they have any allergies or skin irritations before they take part.
Equipment needed:

  • A sticky spread like honey, jam or chocolate spread. Marshmallow spread can work well and fits with the theme!
  • Cotton wool balls

The game:
Get your leader or young person to sit at the front of the room and explain that they will have to cover their face with the spread you have provided. Check in advance that they have no allergy to the products. Half the fun of this game is the preparation, so make a big deal of them spreading it on their face!

When this is done, nominate a number of other young people to come forwards and give them a big pile of cotton wool balls. A smaller number like three is better as it doesn’t get too out of control. Explain that their task is to try to create the best santa-style beard by throwing the cotton balls and making them stick to the volunteer’s face! Allow a bit of space so that they don’t crowd the volunteer and so that and spectators can see (you might like to mark a line on the floor).

When you say “Go”, they can start throwing! The game ends when either the beard is complete or they run out of cotton balls.

Adaptation:
Have two or more people at the front with teams competing to create the best beard in under a minute!

Image Credit: kevindooley on Flickr