I am currently in charge of the 5th & 6th grade youth group at our church. Now this is an age group that often gets overlooked, because they are really too young to be included in the junior high group but are still too old for some of the elementary functions. So our youth group meets only once a month for a specialized event at the church, usually on Sunday afternoon when they are bored and looking for something fun to do!
One of our events was the “Cookie Bake Off”. We had selected several cookie recipes and purchased the ingredients for them prior to the event. Our goal was twofold, to have a great time baking cookies and to have cookies left over to place out after service on Sunday for the coffee hour (to teach the kids about about serving in the church). We also hoped that each youth could come away with a new recipe that they could replicate at home.
We divided the kids into teams or singles, depending on how many we had. I would suggest having one adult supervisor per two teams, since they do have a lot of questions and need a watchful eye! Their recipe they would be working on was already at their cooking station along with whatever items they needed (tools, ingredients, etc). Make sure to preheat those ovens so you are ready to go!
This entire baking session took up two hours, and yielded plenty of cookies to taste test, take home, and have 4 dozen left over for service the next day. For the older youth groups, you could include a panel of 3 judges who must vote on the cookies and hand out awards. These categories could be best cookie, most unusual cookie, melt in your mouth cookie, etc. Prizes could include the standard 1st, 2nd or 3rd place prize ribbons or something funky like spatulas or mixing spoons.
If your youth session was going to be longer than 2 hours, you could also include games that focus on food items, which I had originally planned for thinking I would have down time in between batches. To be quite honest, they loved the baking so much that we didn’t have time for anything else.
Then I had the kids create index cards to tent next to the platters of cookies for Sunday service. They had to come up with a fun name for their cookies (like Don’s Peanut Butter Delights) and then I also allowed them to take home a copy of any of the recipes that they wanted. They also had to plate the cookies and wrap them so they were ready for the table.
When working with youth, you sometimes wonder what kind of impression is made at some of these silly events we do. I was at a school event for my son and in his classroom there was a dessert table. I grabbed some samples of desserts which included some chocolate chip cookies. When my husband tasted them, he immediately recognized the recipe (they were that distinctive) and asked who made them. A youth from our church that was in my son’s class said he made them. His mom said he has really taken an interest in doing some more baking since that day! He had a great time at the event and wanted us to get him some more recipes. The connection we made with this youth in baking alongside and showing an interest in what he was doing had a lasting impression on him. Sometimes it is not always what we say, but just being there and showing God’s love that makes a difference.