The life of the Christian is marked by disciplines, practices, and commitments that help shape the foundation of our faith. So how do we help youth encounter and choose to embrace some of these practices as they move into a faith that they claim as their own?
The Life is a four-week study designed to help youth consider spiritual practices and what those practices can mean in their lives. Each week, they will consider the practices of being committed to a church family, of prayer, of giving, and of sharing their faith with others. The ideas and lessons are reinforced with exercises and daily devotions, found in the Groove: The Life Student Journal, designed to help them reflect and apply these disciplines in their own lives.
The Groove Bible study series invites teens to learn the essentials of their faith, own their story, and engage the world in serving Jesus. Each topical study consists of four weekly sessions that are easy to lead and relate to life issues teens face. With up to 48 weeks available, Groove is great for Sunday and mid-week gatherings for both large and small groups as well as retreats. The leader guide contains everything needed to lead teens through a Groove study, including teaching outlines, leader notes, Bible background, reflections, and parent communication.
About the Author
Mike Adkins graduated from the University of West Georgia in 2009with a degree in Psychology. He has been in youth ministry for a decade,serving as an intern for two years at Cornerstone UMC in Newnan, Ga., beforestepping into full time ministry at Shepherd of the Hills UMC in Douglasville,Ga. He is currently at Forest Hills UMC in Macon, Ga., where he has served asthe youth minister for four years. He has unhealthy levels of love for reading,survival methodology, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Read an Excerpt
Groove: The Life
By Michael Adkins, Jason Sansbury
Youth Ministry Partners and Abingdon PressCopyright © 2015 Youth Ministry Partners and Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
The church helps us live in to the two-fold command to love God and love others.
Scripture References: Exodus 20:5; 1 Peter 5:1-3; Hebrews 10:24-25
"Don't stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing. Instead, encourage each other, especially as you see the day drawing near." (Hebrews 10:25)
For the next four weeks, we'll be breaking down four essential elements to the life of a Christian: involvement in the Church, prayer, generosity, and sharing the faith. Attending church can feel like a chore to your youth and can even feel like a dispensable activity, but it has tremendous potential benefits. Beyond being a place where Christians gather to worship God together, the church is also meant to be a place of mutually beneficial community to all its members, where God is encountered and our needs are met through generosity and compassion. Our hope is to convince your youth of the importance of church now so that he or she might continue to see its importance later in life. Your child is not only in need of the church but is needed by the church.
A valid question from the mouths of your youth: "Do I really have to go to church in order to be a Christian?" Well, no, but it certainly helps. The aim of this message is to show young believers the two-fold role of the church, which directly mirrors the two-fold command from Jesus to love God and love others. The church is certainly more than a building, but this lesson focuses on the church as a gathering place and how it benefits all who attend. However, it is not where we go to just to take, take, take. It is where we go to give as well.
Theology and the Topic
Is church really necessary?
There is no list of prerequisites for faith beyond the Greatest Commandment.
The significance of the church is stressed in both the Old and New Testaments.
The church is a place to encounter God.
God is jealous for our attention, affection, and devotion.
Attending church communicates to God how much we value God.
Attending church places God in focus.
How do we prepare to meet with God?
Do we expect God?
The church is a place of mutually beneficial community with others.
The church community can help meet our spiritual needs.
1 Peter 5:1-3
The church offers care, guidance, and mentorship.
The church community can help meet our physical needs.
Acts 2 and 4
Communicating our needs with humility will lead to our needs being met through generosity.
The church community can help meet our emotional needs.
The church community can help us through tragedy and can celebrate good times with us.
"Don't stop meeting together."
The church helps us live in to the two-fold Greatest Commandment.
For youth to grasp the significance and importance of the church to their Christian lives, they have to better understand its value. They have to understand that it is much, more than a building that asks for their money and throws the occasional potluck lunch. It is a place that can connect them with their Creator and support them through community — and do both in ways that will have a tremendous impact on their lives.
Consider the following:
Why do you appreciate a church as something more than a gathering place for an hour or two a week?
How has a church positively affected your understanding of a good and loving God in a way other than by way of words spoken from a pulpit?
How can you better connect your youth with "elders" like the ones described in 1 Peter 5:1-3?
Half of a pool noodle (High Energy Option)
Box of cookies (Low Energy Option)
Clean tarp or other floor covering (Low Energy Option)
High Energy Option: Animal Bop
Create a circle of chairs facing inward, with one fewer chairs than players. Choose one player, the "Bopper," to stand in the middle of the circle. Give the Bopper half of a pool noodle.
Beginning with the youth in the center, have each player decide on an animal and a corresponding hand sign or motion for that animal. For example, someone who chooses "gorilla" might beat his or her chest or an "eagle" might flap his or her arms like wings. Once everyone has selected an animal and motion, have the players quickly demonstrate their animal and sign once more. Instruct the players to pay attention. Knowing someone else's animal and sign will be the key to avoiding getting bopped with the noodle.
To play, choose the first player to stand up and speak the name of an animal while simultaneously performing the associated sign. That first player may then take a seat. The animal who was called must quickly stand up, simultaneously speak his or her animal name and perform the sign, and quickly speak another player's animal name and do the sign before the Bopper whacks him or her with the noodle. Play continues until an animal is bopped before completing all of the steps. If that happens, the bopped animal takes the noodle and becomes the Bopper. The old Bopper then stands up and speaks the name of the next animal and also does its sign. This is a very fun and fast-paced game.
Low Energy Option: Face the Cookie
Put a clean tarp or other covering on the floor and put two chairs on it, facing each other.
Have the players form two teams, and have them line up on either side of the chairs for this seated race. One at a time, players will sit in their team's chair and attempt to maneuver a cookie from their forehead to their mouth, using nothing but the facial muscles. If a cookie falls onto the floor, the player may pick it up and resume the race by putting the cookie back on his or her forehead.
When the cookie reaches the player's mouth, he or she may stand up with the cookie in his or her mouth. The first to stand up with a cookie in his or her mouth wins the round. Let each team member have a chance to play, while his or her team cheers.
Absolutely hilarious faces will ensue, so be quick with a camera or videotape the whole thing. If you have a couple of teens who seem to excel, pit them against each other with two cookies at the same time in a championship round.
Do you think that attending church is absolutely necessary for Christians? Why, or why not?
Say: "There isn't a very detailed prerequisite list that outlines exactly what it takes for us to be considered Christians. The closest thing we have, really, is Jesus' declaration that loving God and loving people are equally weighted commands upon which everything else hangs (Matthew 22:37-40). Part of the reason is that a checklist, of sorts, would make it too easy for us to slip into a works-based salvation instead of trusting in Jesus and his grace. However, a number of things are encouraged throughout the Bible that are meant to strengthen the faith of believers and facilitate their love of God and of others, and being a part of a church community is among them. So how does attending church accomplish this? And how necessary is it, really?
"In Exodus 20:5, God declares, 'I, the Lord your God, am a passionate God.' (Some versions use the word jealous.) God yearns to be the object of our attentions, affections, and devotions; and while God has no rival, God does have competition. Many things in our lives compete for priority. Attending a church regularly helps carve out some dedicated time to spend with God as we try to keep our focus on God. This honors God greatly. Just as we communicate that we value another human being by setting aside time to be with him or her, we communicate to God that we value God by doing the same.
"But it's about more than simply showing up. Before God dispensed the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, God told Moses to get the people ready for God's arrival. On the third day, when God promised to show up, the Israelites were waiting in anxious anticipation of God's presence. They had prepared to meet with God, and they expected God. This encounter was a big deal.
"Do you prepare yourself to meet with God before you arrive at church for worship and youth group? Do you expect to meet God here or just hope that God shows up? If we were to treat church like the scene in Exodus 19, our coming to church would be anything but routine. It is a holy encounter with the Living God. It is absolutely true that we can prepare for and encounter God outside of a church. Jesus even suggests that we can do so in a room all by ourselves (Matthew 6:6). But worshipping God exclusively by ourselves will leave us missing out on the hugely helpful aspect of community with others.
"Just as the church is a vehicle (not necessarily the vehicle) for communion with God, it is also a means by which we commune with others. It is meant to be a place of mutual benefit for all, a place where we not only gather to worship God but also to have our needs met and help meet the needs of others. Our needs are threefold: spiritual, physical, and emotional. Each of these needs can be addressed in community with other Christians.
"When we are younger or new to the faith, we may need much help understanding when it comes to the Scriptures and the life Jesus calls us to live. Having those who are mature in their faith in your life to guide is not only wise but biblical.
"In his first letter, Peter appeals to the elders of your church community to 'tend the flock of God among you. Watch over it. Don't shepherd because you must, but do it voluntarily for God. Don't shepherd greedily, but do it eagerly. Don't shepherd by ruling over those entrusted to your care, but become examples to the flock' (1 Peter 5:1-3). Their directives are your potential benefits: care (verse 2), guidance (verse 2), and mentorship (verse 3).
"It's great to have brothers and sisters in Christ — peers — but it may be even better to have spiritual moms and dads. These caretakers can help meet your spiritual needs, as mentioned; but they can also help meet any physical needs you have by connecting you with free meals or a job. Few of your peers can do that. The glimpses of the early Church we read about in Acts 2 and 4 show that no member had any physical need left unmet; because everyone who had a need expressed it in humility, and others met it through generosity. Your church can do the same for you.
"Over and over again in the New Testament, in particular, the members of the body of Christ — the Church — are called to support one another emotionally, especially through encouragement and compassion. We all need emotional support at one time or another. Occasionally, that support will be needed in the midst of tragedy; but that is not the only kind of support a church can provide. Think about those celebratory moments in a life that the church rallies around, moments such as graduations, weddings, and the birth of babies. You may be a long way off from some of those events. However, when or if you have one of those moments, having your church community celebrating right alongside you is comforting and builds you up.
"Hebrews 10:24-25 reads, 'And let us consider each other carefully for the purpose of sparking love and good deeds. Don't stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing. Instead, encourage each other, especially as you see the day drawing near.' The phrase 'the day,' here, refers to the future coming of Christ. What better state for believers to be found than together in love and worship? That is exactly the kind of place the church can be and is meant to be: one that directly honors those two greatest and equal commandments."
Think back on the Warm Up question: "Do you think that attending church is absolutely necessary for Christians?" Would you revise your answer at all now? If so, how so?
What might you do to prepare to meet with God before communal or individual worship?
What are some benefits afforded by communal worship as opposed to worship experienced individually?
How has this church been a supportive community for you personally?
How can you, even as a teenager, contribute to the supportive community of this church?
Say: "The Church is the house of the perfect God, but it is hardly a perfect place. In fact, most of the letters we have in the New Testament were written to instruct churches on how to better live in to God's intent for them. I hope that this understanding of the Church enables you to be the Church God desires and God's people need most."
Circle up and hold hands.
Pray: "Jesus, thank you for making us a part of the Church, a community that helps us focus on you. Help us love and serve others through it and with the others that are a part of it. Amen."
Say: "Another important aspect of the life of a Christian is prayer. How, exactly, can one profess to have any kind of relationship with someone else without communication? God has given us the means to communicate directly with God and be heard. Whether or not we use it to its fullest potential — or at all — is up to us."CHAPTER 2
Prayer is our greatest advantage and most powerful means of affecting change in the world around us.
Scripture References: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; Isaiah 38:1-8; Matthew 6:7-13
Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in every situation because this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Your youth are in a constant state of communication. Your cell phone bill is proof of that, right? Thousands of minutes and tens of thousands of texts — teens know that communication is key to their most valued and well-maintained relationships. It is no different with God. With the gift of prayer, we have a direct, two-way line of communication with God. The question is whether we're communicating with God. Perhaps your teen doesn't fully believe in the power of prayer or the necessity of prayer; or maybe he or she just doesn't quite know how to pray. We'll explore these three elements in this week's lesson.
Pray for our group as we explore prayer!
Poll your teens about their own prayer lives. See where they are both in understanding and in practice. Do you do all of the praying when in the group setting? How can you go about encouraging the youth to lead prayer time? Invite them to participate in prayer, not just be an audience to it. And when they pray, no matter how short it is, how many awkward silences arise, how much they stutter or repeat themselves, or how elementary the prayer may seem, celebrate it. Thank the youth and tell him or her that he or she did a great job. Encouragement will enforce positive feelings with prayer and have teens more likely to pray aloud in the group setting and behind closed doors.
Theology and the Topic
Prayer is our greatest resource.
Prayer can be taken for granted or reduced to a simple ritual.
Prayer is unlike any other conversations we have, so we neglect it.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
How do we stick with this practice in a world of instant gratification?
God hears and responds to prayers.
Has God changed since Hezekiah's prayer?
For some teens, not praying is a matter of not knowing how to pray.
Prayer does not have to be elaborate.
Use the Lord's Prayer as an outline.
Prayer is our most effective means of affecting change in the world around us.
Leader Reflection What is your own experience with prayer? Be honest with your youth if it is something you struggle with; because more likely than not, prayer is their least-developed spiritual discipline. And prayer is so much more than the word discipline makes it sound. Prayer has power, but it often goes neglected or underutilized for lack of instantaneous proof that our prayers have gone heard — let alone answered. So many of the other spiritual disciplines are tangible: worship, tithing, service, and so forth. Prayer hinges on faith — faith that God hears and faith that God responds. Believing in those two things will help the youth believe in God's caring nature as well.
Two medium-sized, foam dodgeballs (High and Low Energy Options)
Barrier (Low Energy Option)
Excerpted from Groove: The Life by Michael Adkins, Jason Sansbury. Copyright © 2015 Youth Ministry Partners and Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Youth Ministry Partners and Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
About This Groove Study 5
How to Use Groove 7
About The Groove Student Journal 9
Week 1 Church Life 11
Week 2 Prayer Life 21
Week 3 The Generous Life 31
Week 4 Life of Witness 41