Once upon a time, I thought it would be a great idea to fill a hot tub full of milk, sardines and pigs feet.
Who hasn’t, right?
It was one of those crazy youth ministry program nights where our leadership team thought up absurd things we thought we could get students to do. The teens knew coming in that it would be off-the-wall hilarity, and in turn invited a bunch of friends out.
I’ll come back to that in a moment.
The hot tub was typically used for church baptisms, but it was a top-of-the-line model that had a lot of depth to it and even tons of jets (which we never used in baptisms, obviously). The milk was originally powdered milk, but after we added water it became an opaque lake that rose to the top of the hot tub. We called the game “Bobbing for Pigs Feet,” which is obviously why we tossed pigs feet in.
The sardines? That was just our way of making the whole thing even grosser. We’d gone this far, so why not go further?
At the end of the night when we unveiled this spectacle and surprised the students with it, everyone applauded. Some teens said, “No way,” but did so smiling. Others dove their heads in and began competitively looking for pigs feet. It was grand.
A success, right?
The story even has a funny epilogue to it. Three weeks later, our church had a baptism and (as always) used the hot tub. Although I’d thoroughly cleaned it out the night of the original event, during the baptism we encountered several sardines floating up out of the jet holes where they’d been embedded. I cleaned it once more. Two months later at the next baptism, it happened again.
Great story, right?
I thought this was the norm of youth ministry.
After all, this one time years earlier when I was in high school and checking out Christianity our youth ministry had a big event at a winter retreat where three toilet bowls were in the middle of the room… in a boxing ring the retreat team had created. The toilets were plugged up so they wouldn’t leak, because each was filled with dark apple juice and several small Baby Ruth-like candy bars. Guys had to dunk their heads in to get as many as they could before time ran out.
After that event, a group of girls were challenged to passionately kiss a large fish (dead, of course, bought from the grocery store) that they were each handed. The girl who won really played it up, even slipping it some tongue. We all applauded her Oscar-winning performance. The next morning she had a swollen rash all around her lips and couldn’t eat breakfast. We thought even that was hilarious.
Yes, I can sense your reaction to all of this.
You think you see where I’m going with this, and I see you seeing where you think I’m going with this. You likewise have a conclusion about the topic at hand that I’ve been somewhat passive-aggressive at raising.
That’s why I’m not going to raise the topic with any further clarity. Your mind is made up on this, isn’t it?
Some youth workers would say these games are horrible, as they’re no different than what students might experience in a college hazing. Others would argue they’re good-natured fun with some edge, much like Jimmy Fallon has built a platform for on the new Tonight Show. I imagine some youth workers are writing down the details of the stories I shared as you plan your next retreat.
So that’s why I’m just telling you some stories here.
I’ll simply end by returning back to an earlier comment…
our students invite their friends out to these events.
Maybe that’s why we do them, because we know a certain crowd of kids won’t come to a deep Bible study but will come to a pigs-feet, toilet-bowl fish-kissing night.
Maybe that’s why we shouldn’t do them, though.
This one time I thought one way about it all. Now I think differently.
Your mind is made up… or maybe it isn’t.
What do you think?