Working as a youth group leader is an exciting and rewarding experience; however programming interesting activities meeting after meeting can sometimes be a daunting task. The Boy Scouts, church, synagogue and community center youth groups might each have a different philosophy; however there are certain universal rules which can be followed to ensure a creative and interactive activity.

1. Pick a topic that is relevant, especially to the age group you are leading. For example current events might be more age appropriate for a high school group. An arts and crafts activity about an upcoming holiday would be good for elementary school age. When considering a topic ask yourself if an interesting or exciting activity can be programmed around it.

2. Research your topic; make sure you have accurate information. It is always a good idea to check if there are any old programming kits on file that covered something similar. Most youth groups are connected to larger organizations and have a database of old activities as well as appropriate research resources. Old programs can usually be tweaked to fit your target audience.

3. Set your goal for the activity. Make sure it is realistic. What do you want your youth group to get out of this meeting? Decide on a set of reasonable expectations.

4. Implementation: Now we get to the meat of the activity itself. How are you going to do it? How much space and time do you need? There are an incredible variety of ways that you can implement a topic depending on the age of your group. Younger groups might enjoy the following: treasure hunt, arts and crafts, storytelling, map games, dramatic readings. Middle school and high school youth can be engaged with role playing, values auctions, mock trials and simulation games. These are just a few ideas.

5. Write out your sequence of events. It is always better to over plan in order to ensure your meeting doesn't run short. The following is a suggested sequence for a meeting:

Games and Mixers: In order let the kids start interacting with each other.

Trigger: A question, thought or action to introduce the topic.

Main Activity: The "meat" of the meeting.

Wrap Up: Tying the activity together, stating the goals and engaging the group in a short discussion.

6. The "Wrap Up" is the most important and difficult part of the meeting. It means bringing closure to the activity. It is very important to prepare a well thought out group of discussion questions to engage your youth. It gives them an opportunity to process and learn from their participation in the activity.

7. Don't forget to relax and expect the unexpected. It doesn't matter how well an activity is planned, the unexpected can always happen. The kids don't participate the way you thought they would or their answers to your discussion questions are off-base. Your task, using positive reinforcement, is to explain the goals of the activity and encourage them to continually think and learn. Remember, you want them to leave the meeting planning on coming to the next one.