My wife and I just had the first meeting of a junior youth group. As with any group, it doesn't exactly fall into the ideal situation. There are 5 starting out, instead of 9 or 10. They are all boys, so no mix of gender. They are very unfocused and don't quite know what's going on.
On the other hand, this is the most ideal junior youth group I've started. For the first time I'm beginning with actual 11 year olds, as opposed to a mix of ages (my first group) or starting with mostly the same age but starting in either 7th grade (second group) or 8th grade (third group). That means for the first time, I could potentially study through all of the available curriculum with them, and it means I can start at an early age where they are still forming habits and attitudes.
As with any group, there are always little moments that make it all worth it. Out of the five, two of them are from Baha'i families, and one of those announced that he had read the section of the first book before coming, even though we didn't start the book on the first night. One of the boys not from a Baha'i family asked, "What if I don't want to come?" and I said, "Then you don't have to come?" The puzzled look on his face was part of his realizing that he's starting to make his own decisions, and if he attends then he'll have to own it.
After discussing the goals of the group and talking about expectations, we asked them to come up for a name for the group. The ideas ranged from, The No Name Group, The Awesome Group, The Group, The Couldn't-Think-of-a-Name Group, The Five Amigos, and much much more...
We did an activity of what I call "drawing telephone", a game where everyone writes a description of some crazy scenario on the top of a stack of stapled paper, then everyone passes the stack and has to draw a picture of the description, then the stacks continue getting passed around, alternating between drawing and describing. At the end everyone was rolling around laughing as their story was converted into some totally different scenario.
We concluded the night by everyone, including me, running around the house whacking each other with foam toys.
Do you find mixed-gender groups to be ideal? My experience is that girls are much less open and assertive in discussion in a group with boys in it. That being said, I love my current (mixed-gender) group, but we have both male and female animators involved, which helps. A lot of important conversations happen privately, rather than in the larger group.ReplyDelete
I think mixed gender is much more difficult to pull off well, but if you can do it, mixed gender would be better than single gender. It's not a big deal though, since it's so much easier to deal with just one gender, and the groups already take a lot of energy to do them well. I've always had a female co-animator, so that wasn't an issue.ReplyDelete
At our second meeting, they decided to call themselves, "The Group"