Every day, youth are called to navigate a world full of challenging decisions—from the simple choices about everyday life to the much more serious ethical dilemmas that can make being a teenager a complicated experience. Some of those dilemmas include: What does it mean to be a person with established morals and ethics? How does the commandment to love others affect our lives in a tangible way? What happens when we make choices that have consequences that greatly affect our lives and the lives of those around us?
Dilemmas isn’t designed to provide simple answers to complicated questions, but rather help teens understand how to make inspired, smart choices that reflect both who they are and who they are striving to be.
The Groove: Dilemmas Student Journal will challenge youth to be deliberate, thoughtful, and faithful as they attempt to make choices that are consistent with their character and their faith.
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
Tony has a Master’s degree in Christian Education/Youth Ministryfrom Asbury Theological Seminary and has entered his third decade of serving inyouth ministry. He currently serves as the Minister to Youth and theirFamilies at Trinity United Methodist Church in Huntsville, Alabama. He isprivileged to be married to Debbi and dad to Madison, Samuel, and Hannah Grace.When not dreaming how to do youth ministry better, Tony can be found at asoccer game, kayaking on the river, or reading.
Read an Excerpt
Groove: Dilemmas Leader Guide
By Tony Akers
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2015 Youth Ministry Partners and Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
Morals and Ethics
Scripture provides guidelines for knowing right and wrong.
Scripture References: Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 119:9; Matthew 7:12
Therefore, you should treat people in the same way that you want people to treat you. (Matthew 7:12)
The psalmist in Psalm 119:9 asks an important question: "How can young people keep their path pure?" As adults, we can easily find ourselves thankful that we didn't grow up with the same pressures that our children face. Granted, we had our own moral dilemmas, but most of our mistakes took place in public. We were being watched by teachers, neighbors, and relatives; and despite our best efforts to keep our mistakes hidden from our parents, they likely found out about those mistakes through those sources.
Our teens live privately in public — group texts, secret online searches, and daily communication with people through their phones and social media that their parents will likely never meet or even discover. How can our teens deal with the stream of darkness and negativity that comes to them every day through their online life alone? "How can young people keep their path pure?"
This week begins a series that addresses how Scripture can inform moral and ethical dilemmas. We hope your teen can join us. Please pray for us as we gather this week.
Psalm 119:9 asks the question: "How can young people keep their path pure?" As adults working with teens, we ask: How can our teens keep themselves pure in a world where pornography downloads create more revenue than all professional sports combined? How can young people keep themselves pure when texts from "friends" include inappropriate pictures or statements? Most decisions — moral and otherwise — that our young people make are influenced by family, peer group, school, society, and organizations to which they belong (one reason our youth ministry is so important). Despite what some people think, most teens, especially younger teens, do wish to please those around them. We all long to be accepted and affirmed by those we respect. Learning to make positive moral and ethical decisions requires a village of caring and loving adults willing to share life with young people. Your affirmation and love literally is leading them to make great decisions. The psalmist answers his own question: "By guarding them according to what you've said [God's Word]."
What influences — positive or negative — do you see operating in the lives of the teens who will attend this study? Are these influences allowing God's Word to shape their moral and ethical decisions?
Finally, think about each teen in your group and pray for him or her as you prepare to lead this week.
Theology and the Topic
Theology simply means the "study of God." We study God through our personal experiences with God, through the experiences of others, and through our study of the Bible. God's love for us, our love for God, and the study of God call us to be the kind of people God originally intended. One of life's great lessons is learning that we are not alone. When we open our eyes, we encounter God's presence in a variety of ways — especially as we experience love, compassion, guidance, and inspiration from those around us. Their love reflects God's love.
A community of faith shares our burdens, supports us, and creates opportunities for us to learn more about God. When we walk through Scripture with our teens, we help them make connections and provide anchor points for their faith. Not every modern moral dilemma can be directly addressed in Scripture, but we can help our teens make connections that allow them to respond faithfully as Christians in the midst of these dilemmas.
How often can we hear the Ten Commandments without our eyes glazing over from familiarity? Your challenge this week is to pray for God to help you see the commandments with new eyes. Consider the following questions:
How do the commandments illuminate how we are to interact with God? with others?
Do you take the moral guidelines of the commandments seriously?
How has grace shaped your resolve to keep the commandments?
The challenge this week as a leader will be to walk the line of law and grace with your teens. We cannot keep the commandments apart from the grace of God. In that way, the commandments actually show us how dependent we are on grace. Teens will likely wish to focus on the dos and don'ts and seek formulaic answers to difficult issues. Push them to think deeper and to seek grace as a guide to keep the commandments and not make God's grace an excuse to ignore them.
Handouts for each participant (See page 20.)
Pen and sheet of paper for each teen
Sheet of paper with a large question mark on it
A bag of candy
High Energy Option: Find Ten
This is a super-fast scavenger hunt that can be noisy. So check on the presence of other people or groups and set boundaries accordingly.
Each team's goal is to be first to "find ten" of the same items in the church and return them to your meeting space. Divide participants into groups of three or four. The first team back with ten items that are the same wins. Give candy to the winner.
Creativity is encouraged. Teams may bring back different items if they can make logical connections between each item.
Play a round just in the meeting area.
Play with just the items in their wallets or purses.
What was difficult about this game?
Would it have been easier if there had been fewer than ten items? Why or why not?
Low Energy Option: Can You Follow Instructions?
Before group time, create handouts for your group of the "Instructions," on page 20. Give each teen a pen, a sheet of paper, and the instruction sheet. Explain that it's a race, and the winner receives candy. Set a timer for three minutes and say, "Go!"
If the teens read all of the directions, they will write only their names on their Instructions sheet. If they skip the instructions, it will become painfully obvious that they did not follow instructions.
Copy this exactly as it appears for your handouts:
What was difficult about this game?
What kept you from reading all the way through the guidelines?
Were you more concerned with winning or following the directions?
Give candy to those who wrote only their name.
A Rule of Life
Say: "We all have rules or guidelines that we follow in our daily lives. Some of those rules are shaped by laws, some by our parents, and some by our own quirkiness. Most of the time, the guidelines we commit to are set by us because we have had a negative or positive experience related to them. Let's list some of the rules we commit to that make life better not only for us but also for others."
I throw away litter, and I recycle.
I return the shopping cart to the store when I'm finished with it.
I always fill the gas tank when it's half full.
I always say please and thank you.
I don't ask anyone to do anything I wouldn't do.
When you have a moral dilemma or an ethical decision, where in Scripture do you seek guidance?
Say: "Most Christians turn to the Ten Commandments when they think about moral decision-making. Let's explore the challenges of the Ten Commandments."
The Big Ten: Version 2.0
As a group, read Exodus 20:1-17, the Ten Commandments. As you read, address terms teens may not understand in each commandment. Say something for each, such as, "What is sabbath?"
Don't assume that your teens know what adultery or covet mean. When addressing the concept of adultery, simply say that a married man or woman is acting or living as if someone else is his or her spouse. Be aware that many of your teens may be affected by divorce. Because we are discussing "commandments," younger teens, especially, may equate divorce with an unforgivable act. Here you'll have the opportunity to talk about how the The Commandments make us aware of our dependence on God and God's grace. Assure teens that God's forgiveness is available to all.
Divide the group into five teams of two or more people. Assign each team two of the Ten Commandments. Allow ten minutes to rewrite them in terms that someone their age would understand, without losing the original meaning.
When the assignment is completed, call on each team to share its results. Then ask:
Why did God give these instructions?
How does obeying the Ten Commandments give us freedom?
Are there certain commandments that are taken more seriously than the others?
Which commandment is easiest to ignore? Why?
When they are broken, do some commandments have more serious consequences than others?
Were the commandments written for Jews or Christians? Does it matter?
What, do you think, would happen if everyone were to obey the Ten Commandments?
Scratch and Sniff: What Lies Beneath?
Each commandment is ripe with spiritual and practical guidance. If we aren't careful, we can miss the depth of each commandment by taking it at face value. Each commandment speaks specifically to relationships. The first four commandments speak to one's relationship with God. The final six commandments speak to one's relationship with others. Each commandment is built upon the foundation of relationships and how to function in community. How do we value others?
Say: "Is it possible to follow the letter of the law and not the spirit of the law? For instance, Jesus says in Matthew 5:28 that 'every man who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart.' How can we obey the rule of the law and miss the spirit of the law?
"For example: Exodus 20:12 says, 'Honor your father and your mother.' Saturday is cleaning day, and your family has multiple chores to do. Your parents ask you to clean your room. You clean your room slowly all day so that you don't have to help with other chores. Technically, your room has been cleaned, but did you honor your father and mother?"
Ask the teens to return to their teams to create for both of their commandments a scenario that highlights the rule of the law and the spirit of the law. Teams will share their scenarios with the group.
How does honoring the spirit of the law bring value to our relationship to God and others?
Go for the Gold
Read aloud Matthew 7:12.
This verse is considered the "Golden Rule." Have you heard of it? Why is this rule golden?
If we were to keep the Golden Rule, would we not also keep the commandments? Why, or why not?
Are the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule significant in today's society? If so, how? If not, why?
Point out that most decisions in life need more than a flip of the coin for positive outcomes.
Challenge participants to pay attention to any dilemmas they encounter during the week and to practice using the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule as they deal with the problems.
A Firm Foundation
Ask youth to stand in a circle. Draw a large question mark on a sheet of paper and put it on the floor (or table or altar) in the center of the group.
Say: "Life is full of questions. We may want to do what is right, good, and just, but we may not always be certain of what that is and how to decide."
Now lay a Bible on top of the question mark.
Say: "We are not without help when we face moral or ethical dilemmas. In the coming week, remember that God's Word provides a firm foundation." Circle up and say a closing prayer.
Give the teens candy as they leave, reminding them that God's grace is available when we break a commandment and that "do-overs" are available through God's amazing grace.
Read all of the instructions before doing anything. You are allowed three minutes to complete this task, but the person to finish first is the winner.
1. Write your name at the top of the sheet of paper.
2. Number the sheet of paper from 1 to 5.
3. Draw five small circles beside #1.
4. Be creative and make the five small circles into flowers.
5. Write the word burrito beside #2.
6. On the back of the paper, multiply 10 by 17.
7. Put an X in the lower right-hand corner of the front of the paper.
8. Draw a circle around the X you just made.
9. Underline your whole name.
10. Say your name out loud.
11. Draw a circle around #3.
12. Quickly count to 50 out loud.
13. Draw a square around #1 and #5.
14. Put your paper on the floor and stand on it.
15. Write your first name beside #4.
16. Write today's date beside #5.
17. Fold your paper in half four times and put in one of your armpits.
18. Stand up, strike a pose, and declare: "I am the winner!"
19. Write your name on this instruction paper. Ignore the other instructions.CHAPTER 2
The Love Commandment
In the love commandment, Jesus provided an anchor point for us in our moral decision-making.
Scripture References: Matthew 22:36-40; Luke 6:27-36; 1 John 4:7-8
Dear friends, let's love each other, because love is from God. (1 John 4:7a)
How do teens deal with gray areas in their moral decision-making? In the wisdom of God and through Jesus, we were given what has been called the "Love Commandment" as the foundation for the Christian life and moral decision-making: "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands" (Matthew 22:37-40).
Our teens are constantly thinking about and seeking love and affirmation. Many question how God could love them, how peers could love them, and may even wonder whether parents love them.
This week we will challenge our teens to think of love as both a noun and a verb and to use it as a foundation for all they are, for all they do, and for all they decide. Please pray for us as we gather this week.
How do teens handle gray areas in their moral decision-making? Some want to swim in the shallow water of an unreflected faith. "God said ______" becomes an easy out that shortcuts moral and spiritual development. Others have cut the moorings of Scripture as a guide and are looking everywhere but faith to form and inform their decision-making. As leaders, we are in a position to speak to both extremes. How can we challenge those who do not reflect deeply and reel in those who have jettisoned scriptural truth for the current of culture?
In the wisdom of God and through Jesus, we were given the "Love Commandment." Read Matthew 22:36-40. Helping teens embrace the truth that everyone deserves love can be a huge challenge. We must help teens recognize that loving acts done in sincerity literally can become reflections of God's love to others.
How do we address moral decision-making with our teens? A loving response to a struggling teen can open the door to the love of God and a relationship with Jesus. Teens want to be loved and to know they are lovable. Help them look beyond themselves and at others, and to embrace Jesus' teachings as the ultimate model of love.
Theology and the Topic
The Scriptures reveal the intention of God and the will of God. God's love fills us; and in turn, we are called to reflect that love — a love that is all-consuming, encompassing, and leads us in a couple of different directions:
To God — we are commanded to love God with all we are, body and soul. We are told that this is the greatest commandment. From this commandment the second commandment flows.
To Others — God's love leads us to love others as we love ourselves. We are challenged to "see" others with the same value as ourselves. The two commands express the essence of the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).
We must think of love as both a noun and a verb, to use it as a foundation for all that we are and all that we do. God calls us to think and act out of love. God calls us to be love. Love is not a single act but ongoing obedience, compassion, effort, and responsibility.
Matthew 22:37: "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind." Is love the foundation for why you serve in this teen ministry? the cornerstone upon which you build? your North Star that guides your life and ministry? How does this command to love shape your life as you seek to shape the lives of others?
Excerpted from Groove: Dilemmas Leader Guide by Tony Akers. Copyright © 2015 Youth Ministry Partners and Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of 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
ContentsAbout This Groove Study,
How to Use Groove,
About The Groove Student Journal,
Week 1: Morals and Ethics,
Week 2: The Love Commandment,
Week 3: Valuing Values,
Week 4: Choices and Consequences,