Take a 2020 Soul Survey

Dec 17, 2020 9:00:00 AM / by Tera Michelson

2020 has been a rough year in youth ministry—and all around. Before you turn the page on this year, take a deep breath and a look back. As the beginning of the church year and simultaneously the end of the calendar year, Advent is the perfect time for reflection.

Reflection gives our experiences meaning. When we pause and make observations, we allow our brains to connect the dots between where we’ve been and where we are going. God shapes our minds and hearts from life experiences. This year stirred up all of our emotions, sometimes all at once. Help yourself and your students, parents, and volunteers unravel the overwhelming knot of 2020 with the opportunity to knit together a path of hope into the new year.

Engage all of the senses to review 2020 and examine how it has made an impact. Consider these four styles of soul surveys:


  1. Hand Signs

Brainstorm categories of topics from the year and invite students to flash a rating of one to ten with their fingers, expressing their satisfaction in each area and discussing their responses. The simple act of offering feedback allows space for insights.


  1. Rainbow Timelines

Create a colorful timeline of 2020, using different colors to represent the range of emotions evoked from historical events. Mark news events of the year and highlight personal life events in between. This linear walk through the year recreates the roller coaster of feelings in this year of ups and downs. Mark a star on each spot of the timeline where you felt God’s presence.


  1. Firepit Feedback

Write the negative experiences of 2020 on strips of newspaper, crumpling and tossing them into the fire and watching them burn. Light a sparkler and until it burns out, name the meaningful moments that resulted from events of the year. Imagine that each spark is a hope, a gift from God, launching into the future.


  1. Enlightening Luminaries

For each disappointment of the year, make a cut in a white paper lunch bag with scissors or a hole-punch, keeping the bottom intact. Note that each bag looks as different as our 2020 experiences. Set a battery-powered tealight in the bottom of the bag, creating a luminary. Ask God to create something beautiful and useful from our broken lives.

Our faithful God showed up in 2020. May the days ahead be filled with whatever you need.

Topics: Youth Ministry

Tera Michelson

Written by Tera Michelson

Tera Michelson is a silver-haired youth leader, serving the church since 1994. She loves Jesus and teens. She is a pastor’s spouse, mother of three, and writes at the world’s loudest house on a hilly street in Ohio.


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