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Jesus was the first Boy Scout.

For almost a century the Scouts have followed an essential motto — “Be Prepared.” Of course, Jesus was way, way ahead of the curve on this one. More than 2,000 years ago he told the parable of the 10 bridesmaids (Matthew 25:1-13) — hammering home how important it is for us to be prepared for his return.

Not to be left off the bandwagon, the U.S. government took the “be prepared” message to heart a few years ago and created a Web site (www.ready.gov) that lists all the electronic gear, first aid supplies, and nonperishable food items we’re supposed to have on hand in the event of a terrorist attackthat cuts us off from essential services.

If “be prepared” means we should collect supplies for an emergency we might not ever face, how much more should it be the functional motto for every youth leader in the country? We have plenty of guaranteed emergencies coming our way — not just injuries or bus breakdowns or lost kids at an amusement park, but the dreaded “now what?s” when our numbers are unexpectedly low (or high), when an activity fails or takes far less time than expected, or when our schedule and our plan just don’t mesh.

For these “be prepared” moments we look to God and L.L Bean — in particular its large, long-handled Boat and Tote bag available for $24 at www.llbean.com. Once this youth ministry essential shows up at your door, you’re ready to stock it with your own set of emergency essentials — a Youth Group Emergency Preparedness Kit containing the following:

1 first-aid supplies
Most churches forbid the dispensing of any kind of over-the-counter pain medications to teenagers, so skip the ibuprofen. But make sure to include many sizes of self-adhesive bandages, an antibiotic wash or ointment, dental wax (for lost fillings), feminine hygiene products sealed in envelopes, burn-relief spray, and plastic bags to fill with ice if needed.

2 one small rubber ball
In my youth group we often play a time-eating game we call Think Fast. The group sits in a circle. The leader holds the ball and names a topic: Bible books, parables of Jesus, beatitudes of Jesus, women of the Bible, U.S. cities, sports teams, fruits and vegetables, and so on.

The leader then tosses the ball to one person in the circle who has five seconds to name something that fits the topic. He or she then tosses the ball to another who names a different something. If a person repeats something that’s already been said or fails to think of an answer before five seconds, he or she is out. The game ends when there’s only one person left.

More Think Fast topics include: book titles, sports stars, celebrities, movie titles, Halloween (anything related to it), Christmas, Easter, girls’ names, boys’ names, things found on a beach, things found in a park, European cities, bodies of water, Lord of the Rings characters, and people or things associated with the Nativity or the Crucifixion or the Resurrection.

3 a deck of cards
Play the classic card game Killer (if you like, morph the name into the less-violent Survivor). Form a circle and give kids each a card (include the ace of spades), face down. Secretly, they each look at their cards. Whoever has the ace of spades is the “Survivor” — he or she surreptitiously winks at others, making sure to not get caught. Kids who get winked at are out — they wait five seconds before turning in their card. The game is over when two players remain or when a player catches the Survivor winking at another. If a teen wrongly accuses someone of being the Survivor, he or she is out.

4 a pillar candle and matches
This will quiet a rowdy group. Sit in a circle and place a candle in the middle. Ask if anyone has a prayer concern. That person lights the candle and says, “I’d like us to pray for [a family facing divorce].” The person who lights the candle can pray, or the group may sit in silent prayer for a minute or two. When everyone who wants to has prayed, the person who lit the candle says, “In Christ’s name” and blows out the candle. Then ask for the next prayerconcern.

5 boxes of markers and sheets of white paper
Name acrostics can slurp up 15 to 20 minutes for a group of 20 and double as a great teaching or affirmation tool. The leader passes out the paper and markers and has the group write a name lengthwise down the left side of the paper. Then each person has 10 minutes to write descriptive words about the name using the letters of that name. For David (King David), a teenager could write: Daring, Adventurous, Valiant, Incredibly smart, Devoted to God.

Once everyone is done have them read their acrostics to the group, one at a time. You can use your kids’ names, biblical names, adult leaders’ names, and names of states or countries.

7 flashlight and batteries
Power outages happen, and so do stretches of “we’ve always done it this way” boredom. So keep a flashlight and fresh batteries in your bag — not just for emergency lighting, but to change the environment. For example, instead of leading your Bible study or small group time with the lights on, turn them off, gather everyone in a tight circle, and put the flashlight in the middle. The change will rivet their attention to your study.

8 paper towels and duct tape
Experience has taught me that these two staples are almost always necessary at some point in a typical youth ministry activity. Messes happen, and there are few things duct tape can’t fix or substitute for (for example, you can use it instead of a rope for an energy-releasing game of tug of war).

9 charged cell phone and youth group directory
Sometimes during an event or activity you have to call the parents of your kids. And sometimes you have to do it quickly — don’t waste time searching the church office for a phone book. Also, many of today’s parents are only accessible via cell phone or an unlisted number, so a current directory of their home and cell phone numbers is essential.

10 discussion-sparkling resources
Instead of simply filling up empty space in your meeting, or on long trips to a retreat or outreach location, why not start a great discussion about Jesus? Group has something that’s tailor-made to throw into your emergency bag — it’s a deck of oversized cards held together by a ring called JC Q’s: 150 Jesus-Centered Questions (written by group editor Rick Lawrence). The questions are surprising and loopy — and will keep your kids talking for a long time. Or try Incredible Illustrations: News You Can Use in Your Ministry (Group) — it has dozens of biblical discussion starters that use real news stories to light the discussion “fuse.”

My Youth Group Preparedness Bag comes and goes with me to every youth group event. Before every gathering, I choose a couple of riddles or discussion questions, make sure the flashlight works, and restock the necessary supplies. When you’re working with teenagers it’s impossible to be over-prepared. •

erin is a veteran youth leader in Ohio.

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