What do Christian teenagers believe today about Jesus Christ? And what difference does that belief make in their life? Research shows that most teenagers do not understand the basic core beliefs of Christianity and often express misgivings of their own faith. How do we help teens connect with the significance and importance of Jesus Christ?
Jesus is a four-week study designed to help teens encounter the basic truths about who Jesus is and why that matters in their lives. Through group study and daily devotions, found in the Groove: Jesus Student Journal, teenagers will begin to understand the significance of Christ and how that relates to their daily walk.
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.
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By Tony Akers, Jason Sansbury
Youth Ministry Partners and Abingdon PressCopyright © 2015 Youth Ministry Partners and Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
A Life Worth Imitating
Forgive because you have been forgiven.
Scripture References: Ephesians 4:31–5:2; Luke 23:34
"Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other, in the same way God forgave you in Christ." (Ephesians 4:32)
Although our youth seek their own individual identity, something to make them special, set apart, they simultaneously examine others they can imitate. Sound confusing? It's a confusing time for our youth and for those who love them as well. Think back to your heroes as a teenager. Did you have a poster of your hero on your bedroom wall? Who was on it? Why did that sports hero, actor or actress, musician, or other hero appeal to you? What about him or her did you want to emulate? Rest assured that if our teenagers don't have the walls of their rooms decorated with these heroes, they do have the walls of their minds plastered with people they want to be like.
Our session this week encourages teens to begin to see the life of Jesus as something worth imitating — particularly the way he loved and forgave others.
Please pray for us as we gather and talk about this very important subject!
Although teens are seeking their own individual identities, which would make them special and "set apart," they simultaneously examining others they can imitate. Sound confusing? It is a confusing time for our youth and for those who love them as well. Think back to your heroes as a teenager. Did you have a poster of your hero on your bedroom wall? Who was it? Why did he or she appeal to you? What about him or her did you want to emulate? Rest assured that our teenagers have the walls of their rooms and the walls of their minds plastered with people they want to be like.
This session encourages our youth to begin to see the life of Jesus as something worth imitating. He does what others despise doing: He showed kindness and offered forgiveness to others even in the most difficult of circumstances. Jesus was a radical nonconformist who challenged authorities who oppressed others. Jesus was a "friend of sinners" yet walked with personal integrity and lived a life without sin. If anyone would appeal to the youth of our day it is Jesus.
Theology and the Topic
How do our lives reveal to others what we believe about Jesus? It is no accident that we begin this session by looking into how we express love and extend forgiveness to others. Jesus' life and commitment to forgive others is crystal clear: "Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy-seven times" (Matthew 18:22); and as he was about to die, "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they're doing" (Luke 23:34).
Our culture tends to avoid true reconciliation and forgiveness. To forgive makes us vulnerable and opens the door to becoming someone else's doormat. This is not a valued trait in a world that values rising above and being set apart — even if you must do so by stepping over or, in some cases, on the backs of others. Too many people have not experienced true forgiveness. Most of our youth have been hurt, judged, or condemned by peers, parents, teachers when instead they should have received forgiveness. The notion of genuine forgiveness is difficult to embrace when one has not experienced or seen it.
The way to forgiveness begins in the realization that we have been forgiven in Christ. When we embrace our own forgiven-ness, we find ourselves better able to extend forgiveness to others. In this session, our youth will examine both sides of forgiveness.
How have you experienced forgiveness in your life? Has God brought you to a place where you have recognized the cost of forgiveness through the life and death of Jesus? Are you pursuing reconciliation in your life? Are there people you need to forgive? Are you walking in the freedom of confession and forgiveness? Do you find yourself trying to earn God's favor and forgiveness through some other means? Consider our key verse as you prepare your heart and mind to lead this session:
Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to one another, in the same way God forgave you in Christ.
Music and a way to play it (phone, MP3 player, or CD player) (High Energy Option)
White board or large sheet of paper and a marker
An inexpensive case of large toy building blocks that you can write on
High Energy Option: Birdie on a Perch
Ask the youth to find a partner. Designate one partner the "birdie" and the other the "perch." Then have perches form a circle, facing outward. Have the birdies stand behind their perches, facing the perches. Provide some form of music (Phone or CD player). When the music starts, the circles walk in opposite directions from each other so that partners are no longer together the whole time.
When the music stops, the each birdie needs to find its corresponding perch as fast as possible. The perch should get down on one knee and the birdie should sit on the perch's raised knee.
The last pair to find each other and assume the "birdie on a perch" position are eliminated from the game. Play until you have only one birdie/perch pair — the winners.
What was difficult about this game?
Was it easy to find your partner in the crowd?
Did you develop any strategies to quickly get back together? If so, what were they?
Low Energy Option: Wink
Divide the group into two teams. Team 1 should have one more player than Team 2. Have Team 2 sit in a circle of chairs that includes an extra chair. Have each player of Team 1 stand behind a chair. The player behind the empty chair is the "Winker." The game begins when the Winker winks at one of the seated players. That player must try to quickly stand up and go sit in the empty chair.
At the same time, the player behind the winked-at player tries to tap him or her on a shoulder before he or she can stand up.
If the player stands up without being tagged, he or she moves to the empty chair, Team 2 gets a point, and the person behind the newly empty chair becomes the new Winker. If the player is tagged before being able to stand up, he or she must sit back down, Team 1 gets a point, and the Winker continues trying to fill the chair.
After a designated period of time, the teams swap places. The last person to sit must get up, stand behind his or her chair, and become the new Winker.
Some people cannot wink. Change things up by sticking out your tongue.
Make standing team keep their hands down and against their legs until the person in the chair starts to move.
Debrief Questions What was difficult about this game?
Explain that you are going to do a quick assessment of what people in the room think about Jesus. Proceed with a "go around" statement for the youth to complete: "Jesus is...."
Say: "Jesus is a lot of things to us, but today we are going to talk about one of the traits of Jesus that most challenged and confused his followers — forgiveness. As a group, let's define forgiveness. We will use this definition to continue our discussion the remainder of our time."
Write the group's definitions of forgiveness on a white board or large sheet of paper.
As a guide, be sure to include that forgiveness is "granting a pardon for an offense or a debt."
Blocks to Forgiveness
It can be difficult to be a forgiving people. What are some reasons that it is hard to forgive others? (Spend some time brainstorming.)
Hand out building blocks and permanent markers.
Say: "Let's write on these blocks some of those reasons that forgiveness is difficult. When you have written the reason on one side of the block, pass it forward to me.
Build a wall with the words on the same side and facing toward the teens.
As you build the wall, ask:
Look at what is written on these blocks. What are the things you see in common in the attitudes or traits that keep us from being a forgiving people?
Set aside the wall for later, and continue.
When you find yourself in a situation where it is difficult to be kind, how do you know what the right thing to do is?
Is it easy to be kind to people who are not kind to you? Why, or why not?
Read aloud Ephesians 4:31–5:2.
Who is our model for how to live as Christians?
What does this passage say are some of the characteristics of a person who imitates Christ?
Have the youth form groups of three or four, and have each group respond to the following questions:
Tell about a time when you think it was difficult for Jesus to forgive someone. How did he respond?
Tell about a time when it was difficult for you to forgive someone. How do you think Jesus would have responded to your situation?
Read aloud Luke 23:32-34.
Did circumstances dictate the forgiveness that Christ extended?
What do we see in Jesus here that we can imitate?
If we were to choose to imitate the forgiveness Jesus extends, what would it cost us? What would we receive?
Say: "In the face of extreme injustice and emotional pain, we often turn inward to protect ourselves. This is not the model of Jesus. Instead, he speaks to God and pleads on behalf of those who would crucify him."
What strategies should we employ in your pursuit of forgiveness because of the model of Jesus?
Fill in the Blank
Ask the teens to look at their Student Journal and to complete the sentences in the Sum Up section.
When I am forgiven, I feel __________________.
When I withhold forgiveness, I feel __________.
It is difficult to forgive when ________________.
I feel vulnerable extending forgiveness to others because ___________________.
Jesus' forgiveness frees me to _______________.
When I extend forgiveness, I think __________.
Ask for volunteers to tell the group some of their responses. Go through the statements one at a time. Discuss commonalities among your responses. Clarify any questions regarding forgiveness.
It is important that we clarify with our youth the difference between something they need to forgive and a "hurt." Many times when we have experienced a hurt in our lives, there is no single person to forgive. In those moments, we find ourselves stuck with the emotional and spiritual burden of carrying that. In these cases, we rely on Jesus, who heals our hurts like the "great physician" he is. Encourage any youth who may have experienced a hurt to turn to Jesus and to ask him to help him or her heal.
Doors of Forgiveness
Spend some time encouraging the youth to be more intentional about their forgiveness and to use Christ as a model. When finished, hand out the permanent markers and the blocks that the youth wrote on earlier.
Say: "Earlier, we discussed the things that block our ability to forgive. Now we are going to write on our blocks the attitudes or actions that invite forgiveness."
Give the youth time to think and complete their task. Then have them move back into the groups from earlier. Use the blocks to build a "doorway" to forgiveness. (Make sure that the encouraging words are facing toward the group.)
When the doorway is completed, spend some time allowing the groups to describe the important aspects of their "doorways."
Finish with this quotation from C.S. Lewis:
To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.
Say: "Earlier, we played a game (or a couple of games) that made connections between others difficult. (Remind them about Birdie on a Perch and Wink). As you go throughout this week, keep in mind that un-forgiveness can keep your most important relationships from being what they should be. As Christians, our connections with others should be healthy and Christ-honoring. Let's pray as we close this session for Christ's example to guide us."
Circle up and hold hands. Close in prayer, asking God to make us a forgiving people who represent Christ well.
Say: "Next week, we will continue our conversation about Jesus by talking about how he loved all people. I hope that you can join us for this very important discussion!"CHAPTER 2
Beyond our Fears
Christians show their love for God by loving others that God created.
Scripture References: 1 John 4:17-21
"There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love." (1 John 4:18)
We choose whom to love. It is a sad fact. Youth know from experience in school and all too often in church that people do not always act as though there is enough love to go around for everyone. Daily, youth live with the reality that there are groups which they are either in or out of. At some point in their lives, most youth have been on both the inside and the outside. In spite of their experiences (good or bad), Christian youth still need to be challenged to expand their circles to lovingly include others who may not look or be like them.
So much of Jesus' life involved invitation and inclusion, not separation. This week, we'll discuss Jesus' model for loving others well.
Please pray for us as we gather!
We choose whom to love. It is a sad fact. Youth know from experience in school and all too often in church that people do not always act as though there is enough love to go around for everyone. Daily, youth live with the reality that there are groups and cliques with which they are either in or out. At some point in their lives, most youth have been on both the inside and the outside. These experiences can give them sensitivity to the topic of this session.
However sensitive your teens may be, though, loving everyone will not immediately make sense to a bunch of adolescents. Most of them have no frame of reference for love other than romantic or parental love. Loving people who are not a part of their crowd might push them to the unexplored boundaries or that area known as "uncool."
An important task you may need to fulfill in this session is to de-romanticize the word love. Help your youth understand that, particularly when it comes to loving those who are not close to you, love has much more to do with actions than it does with feelings. Even if they do not have "feelings" of love for some other person, they can follow in Jesus' footsteps when deciding to act lovingly toward that person.
Theology and the Topic
Then God said, "Let us make humanity in our image to resemble us" (Genesis 1:26).
From the very beginning, human beings have been stamped with the imago dei, the image of God. For the Church, these roots to our existence have led us to affirm that every person is of sacred worth because he or she is a part of God's good creation. In our fallen state, we have too often distanced ourselves from one another, created barriers from other persons who are not like us, and broken God's heart as we have broken or ignored relationships with others. One of the outer expressions of the Christian life is our work toward the restoration of the human family. We are called to be ambassadors for Christ in a world that desperately needs peace and justice.
The prophets often spoke of the consequences of living "religiously" while failing to do the will of God through acts of justice and mercy (see Amos 6:21-24 and Micah 6:1-8). In Jesus' ministry, he called people to a righteousness that was revealed through love toward God and neighbor, even when the neighbor was an enemy (Luke 10). Jesus consistently pushed the boundaries of race, and roles whenever it oppressed those who longed to be free to experience the love of God.
When we look at our world today, we see brokenness, dissension, war, hatred, bigotry, and a whole host of "-isms" that threaten true human community. The challenge to the Church is daunting. Without the belief that God's kingdom will ultimately be realized, our work would seem pointless. Our faith leads us to "live in love," as the Ephesians passage from Session 1 put it, working to draw the world closer to "thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
Excerpted from Groove: Jesus by Tony Akers, 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 A Life Worth Imitating 11
Week 2 Beyond Our Fears 21
Week 3 Offering Gifts 31
Week 4 Magnetic Attraction 41