Whenever you start a new position at a church, one of the first things to do is learn and listen about the rituals and practices of the community you’re coming into. Soon you’ll know what sacred cows you can’t really touch for awhile and which ones you might want to tweek. When I first heard about this part of the High School youth group, I didn’t really know what to expect. The conversation I had went a little something like this:
Previous Youthworker: “So – then at the end – we pass around the Pig of Truth…”
Adam: “Really? What…is…it?”
Previous Youthworker: “It’s just a little tea light in a plastic pig candle holder.”
The “okay-I’m-the-new-guy-let’s-change-things-up” part of me immediately thought, “Sweet, now I know what the first thing I’m going to get rid of is…the pig of truth.” So, the first youth group night came a few weeks ago, and I figured, “What the hell, I’ll bust the pig out – and give it one last final hurrah.” It had been a pretty crazy night, and I didn’t think we were really going to settle down, but as soon as the lights were lowered a bit, the pig of truth was present and the tea light lit, everyone just stopped and listened. The rule with the pig of truth is that you can’t talk unless you’re holding it; and everyone honors that rule.
Then we pass the pig. Sometimes there is a theme, or a question (“Where did you see God at work this week?” – something like that). And I was amazed. People were sharing deep things, listening to one another, laughing and really experiencing some authentic community. All because of a stupid plastic pig.
A similar thing has happened the past few weeks with the middle school group. At the end of the evening, I got everyone to sit around a candle that we light and then did a version of ‘popcorn prayer.’ And again – I was absolutely amazed. These middle school students – who had been exhibiting tons of energy throughout the night – really sat down, quieted themselves and they prayed. They prayed a lot – they each had significant prayer requests and people who they prayed for.
So, perhaps it’s the plastic pig. Or an open flame. Or just the fact that something represented the presence of the holy in their midst. Whatever it is — I certainly have no plans on getting rid of the plastic pig. For now – for us – it’s one thing that allows God to speak into the lives of our youth. What about your ministry? Do you have any rituals that might seem odd but seem to really resonate with your youth?