10 Tips for Running an EDGE Night

One time the high school youth minister and I felt on top of the world because we thought that we had planned the best night ever. We were playing “Eat that Bag” as a gather game when one of the teens came up to us and said, “…You know nobody’s having fun, right?” Then we looked, and a 9th-grade girl was struggling to eat a whole onion. Yikes. At that moment, we realized that maybe we don’t have it all together… but hey, that’s okay. I still have some helpful tips up my sleeve, and I’m going to share them with you now. I promise there are no onions involved.

  1. Have Fun Music Playing as they Walk-In: This sets the tone for the night because it helps the teens get out of their heads and ready to do something new. Create a fun playlist! If you’re up to it, you could even start every EDGE night with 1 minute of a wild dance party to help them to open up.
  2. *Pandemic Planning: If you have youth ministry via zoom, kick-off by asking every teen to play 30 seconds of their favorite song right now.

  3. Two Words: Good. Food.: When I was in college, my professor told us the secret to good middle school ministry (or really just youth ministry in general) the key to their hearts is their stomachs. Feed them good food and they will come. When I first started this job, one of the kids told me, “I come here every week because the first thing we get to do is eat.” Duly noted.

    *Pandemic Planning: Individual everything can be kind of exhausting, but not when you’re serving “walking tacos” to the kids! Look it up; they love it.

  4. Core Members are Key: These people are the real MVPs. If you want to run an EDGE Night, you need these superheroes who are willing to commit to walking with the middle schoolers. When we started youth ministry this year, we had one core member returning. But, after a lot of prayer, we have ten people! Ask your pastor if you can talk after every Mass. Put a plea in the bulletin—post on social media. Do everything you can! Invest in your core team, and your youth ministry will run happily.

    *Pandemic Planning: Core Team members are still vital even if everything is via Zoom! You can give a talk (or your core member can) and transition to break-out rooms to have small groups.

  5. Exciting Games (That They Actually Enjoy): Games or social nights build community, and it’s essential to incorporate them into your plan to help the kids get out of their heads! However, games are often the most challenging part of the night to continually get creative with. That’s why Life Teen has compiled a super helpful resource to get you dreaming about your next Sunday Funday. You can view it here: Game on. Also, having prizes to give out to the winners of your games is a great way to be relational!

    *Pandemic Planning: Realize that the Lord may be calling you to go back to the basics! One weekend we did a simple game of spaced-out musical chairs with rave music, and it was a HIT. If you’re online, see these new resources: Red Rover, Red Rover Please Don’t come Over, and Cyber Showdown.

  6. Short, Powerful Talks: They don’t have the attention span to sit and listen to your 20 minute TED Talk about the Eucharist. Trust me; I figured this out the hard way. You want to aim to give the best talk you can in 10 minutes. After that, it lights out for a lot of teens, unfortunately. If you want to win their hearts, it’s helpful to think, “What is the key point I want them to hear?” Then say your key point 10 times.
  7. Learn Names and Use Them: One of my goals is to always say hello to every single teen. Not just a simple hello, but I try to know every person’s name! It makes a huge difference when they realize that they aren’t only a number to you, but that you actually know who they are. If you can, try to even follow up with them from last week with a personal question besides “How are you?”

    *Pandemic Planning: Temperature check is a great opportunity for this! You pause to point that thing at their head; you might as well take the opportunity to show them you care.

  8. They Need Your Energy: You need to remember your “why.” Why are you a youth minister? What is your favorite part? Where have you seen God show up in the past? Which teen needs your love the most this week? It’s hard doing ministry. There’s a lot on our minds to facilitate, but middle schoolers need our energy. What helps you get excited? The most important thing to remember, though, is that this is God’s work. He makes up for what is lacking in you. Say, “Come Holy Spirit,” and let him surprise you!
  9. Good Communication with your CORE Team: During the week before Sunday, send the resource and the schedule to your CORE Team so that they can be familiar with the small group questions beforehand. In our youth ministry, we use GroupMe to communicate (and it is also helpful with the teens!). If you have two Core Team Members in each group, you can make a GroupMe with your small group to send out challenges/encouragement during the week!
  10. Shoe Pockets-but for their Cell Phones: My middle schoolers don’t know how to put their phones away. So when the teens check-in, I have a core member ask them to put their phone in a little shoe pocket for the night. Sometimes there’s groaning, but we remind them that it’s only for an hour and a half, and it always helps them to engage so much more! If you have no idea what I’m talking about, see here.
  11. Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable: This is the greatest piece of advice I’ve ever received. It’s not easy to sit next to that teen who is hard to connect with, to ask your Core Member who always sits in the back of the room on their phone to go and talk to a teen before the night starts, or to ask a teen if you can pray with them after they’ve shared something hard. But, these are the moments when real transformation happens. If this is about encountering Christ, we must always be vigilant to facilitate that and make ourselves available for Him to love through us.

I pray that these tips will continue to bless your youth ministry and bring joy to your life!

About the Author

Kaitlyn Callahan

Kaitlyn Callahan is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville and is a Middle School Youth Minister in Atlanta. When she is not cooking hot dogs for EDGE, she can be found in a flower shop, writing poetry, chatting over Dunkin’ iced coffee, or encountering the beauty of life with her fiancé.

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