Archives For Session Plans

Materials for use in Youth Work and Ministry

Made In His Image

31 March 2011 — Leave a comment

 

'Creative Independence' by nattu on Flickr

 

 

The following is a group session plan for young people to explore what it might mean to be made in the image of God. I have used it with young people aged 11-15, but it can be adapted for other ages. It is intended as an introduction to the subject, so doesn’t go into a lot of detail, but it would work well with follow-up sessions around self-esteem and value.

Made in His image

Key Point:

Even though we often want to change or improve ourselves, God created each one of us in His own likeness. That means we carry the characteristics of God in us!

Illustration: The Human Body

Read out some of these strange-but-true facts out to the group to illustrate how amazing our bodies are! These are taken from Factsnfacts.com.

  • The average human brain has about 100 billion nerve cells.
  • Nerve impulses to and from the brain travel as fast as 170 miles (274 km) per hour.
  • It’s impossible to sneeze with your eyes open.
  • Your stomach needs to produce a new layer of mucus every two weeks or it would digest itself.
  • The average life of a taste bud is 10 days.
  • The average cough comes out of your mouth at 60 miles (96.5 km) per hour.
  • Relative to size, the strongest muscle in the body is the tongue.
  • When you sneeze, all your bodily functions stop even your heart.
  • Babies are born without knee caps. They don’t appear until the child reaches 2-6 years of age.
  • Right handed people live, on average, nine years longer than left-handed people do.
  • Children grow faster in the springtime.
  • Women blink nearly twice as much as men.
  • Blondes have more hair than dark-haired people do.
  • Our eyes are always the same size from birth, but our nose and ears never stop growing.
  • The length of the finger dictates how fast the fingernail grows. Therefore, the nail on your middle finger grows the fastest, and on average, your toenails grow twice as slow as your fingernails.
  • Your ears and nose continue to grow throughout your entire life.
  • The human body is comprised of 80% water.
  • The average human will shed 40 pounds of skin in a lifetime.
  • You were born with 300 bones. When you get to be an adult, you have 206.
  • Human thigh bones are stronger than concrete.

Read: Genesis 1:26-27

Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image and likeness. And let them rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the tame animals, over all the earth, and over all the small crawling animals on the earth.”

So God created human beings in his image. In the image of God he created them. He created them male and female.

Discuss:

  • What does it mean to be made “in the image of God?”
  • What characteristics does God have that we share?
  • Do you ever think that you are made like God? Why or why not?

Activity: Bargain Hunt

Show the following photos and ask the group to guess how much each of these items are worth. Add in your own if you prefer. They will get some right, but others will be worth much more than they think!

Early 20th Century Chess Set

An Antique Chess Set – on sale for £450

 

 

 

 

 

 

A used Rolex Daytona Cosmograph Watch

A used Rolex Daytona Cosmograph Watch – currently available for £30,755 (35,000)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crystal Palace Space Station in online game Planet Calypso

A virtual space station in online game ‘Planet Calypso’ – Erik Novak bought it in January 2010 as an “investment” for £218,000 (US$330,000)! It only exists in the game!

 

 

 

 

 

Explanation

Often we can see things and don’t think they are worth much – jut like in some of the photos you’ve just seen. If we are honest we might not think that WE are worth that much, but the Bible tells us that God places a high value on each of us…

Read: Psalm 139:13-16

You made my whole being; you formed me in my mother’s body. I praise you because you made me in an amazing and wonderful way. What you have done is wonderful. I know this very well. You saw my bones being formed as I took shape in my mother’s body. When I was put together there, you saw my body as it was formed. All the days planned for me were written in your book before I was one day old.

Discuss:

  • Did you know that God knows you intimately?
  • How does it make you feel? Why?
  • What would you want to say to God now you know how he created you and cares for you?

Pray:

That the group come to know how much God loves them.

'Worship1' by dtcchc on Flickr


The following is a session plan for youth groups on the importance of worship that I wrote a number of years ago. It was included as an extra on a Distinctive Spring Harvest youth worship album.

Aim
The aim of this session is to understand what it means to praise God and to explore why we should give Him praise. Often as Christians we focus on what God does for us rather than who He actually is. This song ‘Great Is The Lord’ [on the CD] is about praising God for who He is.

Ice Breaker
Split the group up into pairs facing each other. Explain that on your command, they will have 30 seconds in which to say as many positive things about each other as they can. These can include comments about their character, or more physical attributes such as hair, clothes etc. The only catch is that they must not stop or pause during that time – both must keep talking until the time is up. As soon as anyone pauses or changes the subject, they are out of the game and have to sit down. The winners will then find a new partner and be timed again. In this way, the group will slowly get eliminated until there is only one left.

Scripture Scramble
In groups, get the young people to have a race looking up and reading the following Bible verses:

  • Psalm 145:10
  • Hebrews 13:15
  • Psalm 150:3-5

Once everyone has finished, explain that when we look through the bible, particularly the Psalms, we are continually told to praise God. The word praise means to celebrate or say good things about something.

Although we can give praise to anything, we were made by God to praise and celebrate Him: [youversion]Psalm 145:10[/youversion]!

We should praise God both for who he is (the ruler of the universe, the creator of everything, the one who loves us) and for what he has done (sending Jesus to die for our sins, giving us life, keeping us safe). [youversion]Hebrews 13:15[/youversion].

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name. (NIV)

There are many ways to give praise to God. Read: [youversion]Psalm 150:3-5[/youversion].

Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre,
Praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute,
Praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord. (NIV)

Discussion questions
In small groups explore the following questions:

  • What do you think about God? Do you love to praise him?
  • What reasons can you think of to praise God?
  • In what ways do you currently give Him praise? Can you think of any new ideas?

Arty Activity
Get everyone in the group to think of a simple statement of praise to God. Ideally it should be personal to the individual (an example could be “You help me when…”). Then using pens, card and other craft materials, get them to write their statement down as big and bold as possible. Once finished, clip or glue all the cards together to create one big banner of praise.

Photo: 'The Shepherd' by a4gpa on Flickr

The following is a short drama I wrote a few years ago for a Christmas production at church. It’s obviously very brief and quite light-hearted. The intention was to explore the idea of Jesus bringing hope to people who felt hope-less.

Feel free to use and adapt this as necessary for your needs. Just link back here please!

The Shepherds Hope
The three shepherds are sitting around a fire in the centre of the stage facing the audience. A conversation arises between shepherds 1 and 2. Shepherd 3 is mostly ignored by the others for his irrelevant comments.

Shepherd 1: I hope it doesn’t get much darker! We won’t be able to see the sheep very well.
Shepherd 2: I hope it doesn’t rain! This is a new fleece and I don’t want to get it wet.
Shepherd 3: I hope it doesn’t get any colder! I won’t be able to pick my nose if my bogies freeze!
Shepherd 1: What are we doing out here anyway? I know we’re looking after the sheep – it’s our job, but why hasn’t anything changed? God promised us he would rescue his people and instead we’ve had nothing but bad kings for hundreds of years!
Shepherd 2: Yeah, and now we’ve got the Romans bossing us around too! Things are going from bad to worse. It’s all a bit hope-LESS.
Shepherd 3: [holding up an empty bag] Yeah, AND I stubbed my toe earlier and now it’s gone all black! [Other shepherds turn away in disgust]
Shepherd 1: Did you ever read all the stuff in the scriptures about the Saviour that God is sending? Micah actually wrote that he would be born here! In Bethlehem of all places!
Shepherd 2: I can’t really believe that now. There’s nothing here! No Saviour, no Royal family, NO HOPE!
Shepherd 3: [Pause] But there IS a great little restaurant round the corner that serves excellent lamb kebabs!
The shepherd is interrupted by a bright light shone from the back.
Shepherd 1: What’s that?
Shepherd 2: I can’t see!
Shepherd 3: Is it morning already?
The voice of an angel calls out over microphone:
Angel: Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
The light goes out
Shepherd 1: [excited] A saviour!
Shepherd 2: Finally!
Shepherd 3: [confused] What’s he doing lying in a feeding tray?
The shepherds start gathering up their things as they speak
Shepherd 1: We’ve got to go and find him. This is the one that God promised would save us all! I can’t believe this is happening!
Shepherd 2: THERE IS HOPE! God hasn’t forgotten about us!
Shepherd 3: But what about the sheep?
Shepherd 1: Don’t worry about that! I hope we can find him! We need to get the right stable. [walks off stage]
Shepherd 2: I hope he’s awake! I want to get a look at him. [walks off stage]
Shepherd 3: I hope we can go past the kebab shop! [walks off stage]
End

Labyrinth

10 September 2010 — 1 Comment

This is a session plan for an alternative worship experience using the concept of a labyrinth. Basically a labyrinth is a maze-like path set-up in a large space where people walk along, stopping at various points to think about a particular idea. Unlike a maze they have only one path – there are no dead ends. People walk the labyrinth slowly, as an aid to contemplative prayer and reflection, as a spiritual exercise, or as a form of pilgrimage.

Our use of the labyrinth in youth worship was inspired by the brilliant resources at Labyrinth.org.uk. On their site there is a full explanation of the ancient history behind the contemplative practice, and the way in which they have developed a contemporary version for use in cathedrals with an mp3 player.

For our young people, and we have run a number of different versions over the years but each requires a large space like a hall and a number of different stopping points or ‘stations’ with an activity at each one. It is important to set the right kind of atmosphere, so we have often used soft lighting, bean bags, cushions, drapes, candles, etc. to make the whole experience welcoming. We have also found it useful to mark out a physical path on the floor such as tape or footsteps to guide people around the labyrinth. A possible template is available here. You may also want to put up screens or barriers between the path to encourage participants to focus on the journey rather than spoil what is coming later, but it’s up to you how you choose to lay it out.

We decided to make our labyrinth as interactive as possible, while also retaining the concept of ‘journey’ and personal reflection that the larger-scale installations have. We narrowed the number of stations down to eight, as this seemed more manageable with our group, and put a practical activity at each one. Each station also has written instructions to explain what they must do.

The following are examples of stations we have used previously. They are fully adaptable and I would encourage you to develop your own ideas.

  1. Welcome
  2. Equipment: None
    Text: Welcome to the labyrinth. Please “Take off your sandals, because you are standing on holy ground.” Exodus 3:5
    Inside the hall is a pathway mapped out on the floor for you to follow. As you walk along, you will come to different sections where there is an activity for you to do. Spend as much time as you like at each one. They are designed to help you spend time with God.

  3. Noise
  4. Equipment: An iPod with static white noise on loop OR a detuned TV showing static, Pens, Paper, Notice board.
    Text: Welcome to the first station. Sit down and put on the headphones/look at the TV.
    Noise. What do you think when you hear this word? Dogs barking? People talking around you? Music?
    In technical terms, noise means ‘interference in a signal’. Noise is the fuzzy sound when you’re listening to the radio that stops you from hearing the music. Noise messes up the picture on your TV, and makes it go all blurry or jump around.
    God wants to spend time with each and every one of us. However, often we do not spend time with God because there is too much “noise” or interference in our lives. Think about what might distract you from spending time with God. Now write down what you can do to reduce these distractions and pin your ideas on the board.

  5. Letting Go
  6. Equipment: Bowl of water, Collection of stones, Washable Pens.
    Text: Before you meet with God, it’s a good idea to get rid of all the things that are bugging you. What are you upset about? Who has annoyed you today? What is making you angry?
    Write these things on the stones, then place them in the water. Watch those worries wash away. Allow God to take them from you now. You can now focus on meeting with Him!
    “Brothers and sisters, think about the things that are good and worthy of praise. Think about the things that are true and honourable and right and pure and beautiful and respected.” Philippians 4:8

  7. Self
  8. Equipment: A Large Mirror, The following verses printed on transparency and placed over the mirror OR written directly onto it: Jeremiah 29:11, Matthew 10:29-31, Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:13-16.
    Text: How does God see you? What makes you special?
    Not sure? Look into the mirror and read what God has to say about you. How does it make you feel?

  9. Holy Space
  10. Equipment: A tent, gazebo or other structure to create an “inner sanctuary”, Curtains, drapes, cloths, Bean bags, Bibles.
    Text: Imagine that this is the “Holy of Holies”, the centre of the temple in the Old Testament where God’s presence rested. Only the high priest was able to come in here and meet with God. Read 1 Kings 6:14-38 to find out what it looked like.
    Later Jesus changed all that. Everyone can now meet with God anywhere! That includes you! How do you feel being in this special place? Can you ‘feel’ God here? Take some time to just be with Him.

  11. Thanks
  12. Equipment: Pens, Paper with the word THANKS written down the left hand side.
    Text: This is your chance to say “Thank You” to God for all the things he’s done! Think about what you are thankful for today then take one of the sheets and write a poem. The word ‘Thanks’ is written down the side. Use each letter as the beginning of a line of your poem. When you’re done, leave it for others to see!
    Beautiful words fill my mind. I am speaking of royal things. My tongue is like the pen of a skilled writer. Psalms 45:1

  13. Prayer
  14. Equipment: Candles/Tea-lights, Matches, Sturdy Table (or other safe place to leave candles), Fire-cloth, Water.
    Text: This section is about praying for others. Spend some time thinking of someone you know who could use God’s help right now. Now take a candle and light it. The flame represents your prayer to God. Make sure you do spend some time in prayer asking God to help that person before you move on.

  15. Exit
  16. Equipment: Post-it notes, Pens, Bibles, Card
    Text: This is your last stop on today’s journey. What have you learnt? What questions do you have? Have you met with God in a different way? How have you changed? Is there anything that you are going to do now? Write down your answers to some of these questions on the Post-Its and stick them to the walls.
    Spend as long as you want in here. Pray, Read the bible, relax.

In the past we’ve also used paints, lego bricks, hand massages, fruit to taste, etc for different stations. The response from young people to the labyrinth has always been very positive, with people saying that it gave them an opportunity to avoid distractions and actually spend time with God. On our most recent installation, a number of non-Christians took part and commented on the amazing atmosphere and sense of peace they felt while doing it.

So has anyone else tried out a labyrinth with young people? What has been their response?

For more creative prayer and worship spaces, check out Breathe by Dare2Engage.

Watchtower and fence system
Next Wednesday is Holocaust Memorial Day. HMD is commemorated internationally on 27th January each year. This date was chosen as it is the anniversary of the day in 1945 on which the Soviet Army liberated the largest Nazi concentration camp – Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The following youth group session is designed for church groups and can be used to explore the events of the Holocaust, while also explaining the Gospel message. It is based upon a BBC News article about a British Soldier who snuck into the notorious Auschwitz during the Second World War. Unbeknown to him, his actions saved the life of another.

Caution: This session requires the young people to understand some of the atrocities committed during the Holocaust and should therefore be handled sensitively. Background information for this session was mostly taken from this Wikipedia article. I also used certain historical images to illustrate the conditions at Auschwitz. These were taken from the official memorial website.

Take My Place
Background: Auschwitz
To understand the significance of the story, we need to know a little bit about what happened at Auschwitz. You might want to briefly cover the information below with some pictures in a powerpoint presentation.

Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest of Nazi Germany’s concentration camps and extermination camps, operational during World War II. The three main camps were Auschwitz I, II, and III.
Auschwitz I, the original concentration camp, served as the administrative center for the whole complex, and was the site of the deaths of roughly 70,000 people, mostly ethnic Poles and Soviet prisoners of war.
Auschwitz II (Birkenau) was an extermination camp and was the site of the deaths of at least 960,000 Jews, 75,000 Poles, and some 19,000 Roma (Gypsies). This was the largest of all the Nazi extermination camps.
Auschwitz III served as a labour camp.

Most prisoners to Auschwitz arrived by train. Thousands of Jews were crammed into carriages with no food or water for hours on end until they arrived at the entrance to the camp nicknamed “The Gate of Death”. This is a transcript of the message that played to them when they got off the train:

“Gentlemen and Ladies,
“We know that you are very tired, that you had a very long and exhausting journey. Neither food nor water was plentiful. We are sorry, but this is not our fault. Now, that is behind you. We will put you into a Camp. Those who are able will work. All will live in normal conditions.
“We are sorry that we have to give you some bad news. To the Camp, where you would live and work, are some 3 km and so happen that just today we do not have transportation. Thus, we are asking now that:
“All females, mothers with their children no older than 14, all men sick or disabled to go to the left.
“The rest that are able to work, and thus able to walk to the Camp, to stay put on the right of the ramp.”

The was part of the Nazi’s infamous “selections”, where incoming Jews were tricked and divided up into 2 groups. Those deemed able to work were admitted to the camp, and those who couldn’t were immediately taken away and gassed. Less than an hour after stepping off the train, families were separated forever.

Everyone had their personal belongings taken away and were made to wear identical striped clothes. When the Soviet army eventually invaded the camp in 1945, they found 348,820 men’s suits and 836,255 women’s garments! Those who were able to work lived in terrible conditions. There are horrendous stories about what happened to those in the camp. Many died from the hard labour, lack of nutrition and terrible conditions. Many were also shot or experimented on. Most people however were killed in the gas chambers. The first gassings were carried out at Auschwitz in September 1941. People were stripped naked and crammed into empty chambers which were then pumped full of cyanide gas.

In early 1943, the Nazis decided to increase the gassing capacity of Birkenau. By June 1943 four crematoria were in use. Most victims were killed during the period afterwards. No one knows the exact amount of people killed in the camp, but estimates are around 2 million men, women and children. The bodies of these millions of people were never buried, but piled outside and burned.

At the end of the war when the Nazi’s knew they were losing, they evacuated Auschwitz and forced those who were fit enough to walk 35 miles through the snow. Of 60,000 prisoners, 15,000 died on the way.

Game: Sweetie Smuggling
In order to lighten the mood and to keep the group active and interested, you could play the following game.

Promote two people in the group to become ‘guards’ and station them outside of the room. Tell the rest of the group that they are ‘prisoners’. The aim of the game is for the prisoners to smuggle as many sweets (candy) past the guards as possible, and the guards to confiscate as many items as possible. The winning side is the one with the most items at the end.

One by one, the prisoners have to choose if they want to smuggle an item, then walk out of the room past the guards. If they are carrying an item, it should not be visible. This should lead to some very creative hiding items on people. The two guards are only allowed to ‘search’ half the number of people in the group. For example, if you have a group of ten prisoners, the guards can only search five of them. This way, the guards must choose carefully who they want to search.

Obviously it is not a good idea for the young people to physically search each other, so an adult should keep an eye on who has an item, and make sure they are honest when challenged by the guards. If the guards catch someone smuggling, then they confiscate the item. If a prisoner makes it through with an item, then they get to keep it. If a prisoner is accused of smuggling but is not carrying an item, then they can go free.

When the game is finished, get everyone sitting down again and tell the story of Denis Avey.

Denis
Denis Avey was a British soldier in World War II, who was captured by the Germans and imprisoned in a camp connected to Auschwitz. Even though he was a Prisoner of War, he was treated well and had relative freedom including sending and receiving letters from home.
Denis was a red head. He says: “I had red hair and a temperament to match. Nothing would stop me.”
Denis had heard rumours about what was going on inside the main camp and wanted to find out the truth about the gas chambers, so he could tell others.

After careful planning Denis built the trust of a Jewish inmate and arranged to swap places with him for one night at a time. He exchanged his uniform for the filthy, stripy garments that the inmate had to wear. For the Jewish man it meant valuable food and rest in the British camp, while for Denis it was a chance to gather facts on the inside.
Denis described the camp as “hell on earth” and says he would lie awake at night listening to the ramblings and screams of prisoners.

“It was pretty ghastly at night, you got this terrible stench,” he says.
He talked to Jewish prisoners but says they rarely spoke of their previous life. Instead they were focused on the hell they were living and the work they were forced to do in factories outside the camp.

“There were nearly three million human beings worked to death in different factories,” said Denis. “They knew at that rate they’d last about five months”.

Denis traded places twice and slept overnight in Auschwitz. He tried a third time but he was almost caught and the plan was aborted.

Discussion:
Imagine what it must have been like to sneak into somewhere like Aushwitz. Discuss in your group what you would have done in that situation.

Jesus:
The Bible tells us that Jesus did exactly what Denis did. He chose to put himself in a dangerous situation and swap places with those who were going to die. But unlike Denis, Jesus actually died on our behalf. Read the following passages:

But he took our suffering on him and felt our pain for us. We saw his suffering and thought God was punishing him.
But he was wounded for the wrong we did; he was crushed for the evil we did. The punishment, which made us well, was given to him,
and we are healed because of his wounds.
We all have wandered away like sheep; 
each of us has gone his own way. But the Lord has put on him the punishment 
for all the evil we have done. ([youversion]Isaiah 53:4-6[/youversion])

Christ had no sin, but God made him become sin so that in Christ we could become right with God. ([youversion]2 Cor. 5:21[/youversion])

Christ carried our sins in his body on the cross so we would stop living for sin and start living for what is right. And you are healed because of his wounds. ([youversion]1 Peter 2:24[/youversion])

Theologians call this trading of places ‘Substitutionary Atonement’. It’s a complicated way of saying something very simple: Jesus died in our place.

Ernst
Denis’ story is one of bravery, but that’s not the end… It was in the camp that Denis met Jewish prisoner Ernst Lobethall. Ernst told him he had a sister Susana who had escaped to England as a child. So back in his own camp, Denis contacted Susana via a coded letter home to his mother.
He arranged for cigarettes, chocolate and a letter from Susana to be sent to him and then he smuggled them to Ernst in the camp. Cigarettes were more valuable than gold and Ernst hoped he would be able to trade them for favours to make life easier. He traded two of those packs of cigarettes in return for getting his shoes resoled.

Denis never saw Ernst again, but did meet his sister Susana when he got home after the war. Both of them thought Ernst was dead. Miraculously though he had actually survived, thanks – in part – to the smuggled cigarettes. His new thick-soled shoes helped save his life on the notorious death march out of the camps during the winter in 1945. Where 15,000 people died in the snow, he survived.

Ernst moved to America after the war, where he had children and lived a long and happy life. He died never even knowing the real name of the soldier who he says helped him survive Auschwitz. But before he died Ernst recorded his survival story on video. In it he spoke of his friendship with a British soldier in Auschwitz who he simply called “Ginger”. It was Denis, now aged 91.

This is a short clip of Denis watching the video that Ernst made before he died (The clip doesn’t seem to be available to download but you can view it online here).

Discussion:

  • How did Denis’ actions save Ernst?
  • How is it similar to Jesus’ actions on the cross? How is it different?
  • What do you think Ernst would say to Denis is he were still alive?
  • What would you say to someone who had done that for you?

Prayer:
Spend some time praying for those effected by the horrors of war. Thank Jesus for what he achieved on the cross and what it means for us.


This post is part of a 5-session teaching series covering the first 5 chapters of the book of Acts in the New Testament. It is designed to be used in a small group environment for young people aged 11-14, but can be adapted for other purposes. The young people were encouraged to read the chapter in advance.
I originally planned on writing a 12-part series, but our groups fell behind and I didn’t continue the notes. For more youth group resources check out my page here.

Image credit: JustinLowery on Flickr

Acts Chapter 5: Sharing

Aim:
To learn about how the early church supported each other and explore how we can do the same today.

Activity: One For You, Two For Me
Don’t announce this activity to the group, instead just let it happen and see who figures out what’s gong on first!

Take a large bag of sweets and casually hand out one sweet to each person. Once everyone has got one, take two for yourself and eat them both. If someone points out that you had more than them, just gently dismiss it with an excuse. Next, hand out another round of sweets doing exactly the same thing. Keep this going as many times as you can making it more and more obvious what you are doing.

At some point, it will become a big deal and the group will loudly complain. Ask them why they think this was unfair and what they think you should have done with the sweets. Lead the discussion into [youversion]Acts 5[/youversion]

Background:
At the very end of [youversion]Acts 4[/youversion] (32-37) we are told that the group of believers start to share everything that they own. In verses 36-37 they meet a man from Cyprus, Barnabas, who sells a field and places a pile of money at their feet to bless them. In [youversion]Acts 5[/youversion] Ananias and Sapphira also sell a piece of land in order to bless the disciples but do not give them the full amount. They choose to hold some money back for themselves. Peter challenges both Ananias and Sapphira seperately saying that they have lied to the Holy Spirit. When they hear this they drop down dead!

Reading: [youversion]Acts 5[/youversion]
Your group should have read the chapter in advance. Take a few minutes to recap on its content for those who haven’t.

Illustration: Indiana Jones
Show the clip from Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom where Indy and his companions arrive in a remote Indian village after jumping out of a crashing plane [DVD Chapter 7, 0:19:00 to 0:21:40]. Although the villagers live in poverty, they offer a meal to the travellers.

Read the story of the widow’s offering in [youversion]Luke 21:1-4[/youversion]. What did Jesus say about her? How is it similar to the film clip? This was how the first Christians lived, sharing everything they had.

Discussion:

  • Have you ever given to any charity? Which one? Why?
  • Do you think we should give to the work of the Church around the world? Why?
  • What other ways can you share with and support the people around you?
  • Which of our 5 Values (Follow, Honour, Serve, Support, Share) apply to this passage? What can you learn from it?

Prayer:

  • Pray that we may be challenged by the issue of giving
  • For those in Churches and Charities worldwide who are look after the money so that it goes where God wants it.
  • Pray for any issues affecting the group this week.

Challenge:
This week, find an opportunity to share something worthwhile with another person. It might be food, money or simply your time. Be glad that you are able to help.


This post is part of a 5-session teaching series covering the first 5 chapters of the book of Acts in the New Testament. It is designed to be used in a small group environment for young people aged 11-14, but can be adapted for other purposes. The young people were encouraged to read the chapter in advance. Credit must be given to Dave Johnson for co-writing this session and for posting it online previously here.
I originally planned on writing a 12-part series, but our groups fell behind and I didn’t continue the notes. For more youth group resources check out my page here.

Image credit: JustinLowery on Flickr

Acts Chapter 4: Arrested

Aim:
To learn about Christians who are persecuted for their faith and understand how God encourages and inspires us in difficult situations.

Activity: Survivor
Give everyone a pen and paper, then ask them to write down (or draw) their three most important possessions. Once everyone has decided, explain that there has been an huge earthquake and their houses have been destroyed. They have a few minutes to grab ONE of their items to carry with them. Which one would they take and why?

When everyone has shared, tell the group about the underground churches in places like China and North Korea. In these places, God’s word is their most treasured possession with people risking their lives to smuggle Bibles and share the good news with others.

How does this make them feel? Did anyone think of taking their Bible with them?

Background:
Following Peter and John’s healing of the crippled man at the Temple ([youversion]Acts 3:1-10[/youversion]) they were arrested for preaching about the good news of Jesus. The Jewish leaders believed that the disciples were committing blasphemy (speaking untrue things about God) and they were thrown in prison overnight. Even though the believers were scared of what might happen to them, their numbers grew from 3,000 to around 5,000 men ([youversion]Acts 4:4[/youversion])!

Reading: [youversion]Acts 4[/youversion]
Your group should have read the chapter in advance. Take a few minutes to recap on its content for those who haven’t.

Illustration: Brother Yun
Take a few minutes to look at the life of Brother Yun (author of The Heavenly Man) whose story represents an example of the persecuted Christians in China. From Wikipedia:

Seen as a rebel among some Chinese for not joining the ‘official’ government-controlled Christian organization, Brother Yun was imprisoned and tortured by the government authorities. He was finally arrested and sentenced to many years in prison. However, Yun continued his ministry while in prison, with miraculous results. As a result, many prisoners and even some prison officials became born-again.

Apparently, while he gained increasing favor from some officials, he also became a target of increased persecutions by others. He was repeatedly beaten and became severely malnourished. After many years, he escaped from Zhengzhou Maximum Security prison. He described how he heard the voice of the Hoy Spirit, telling him to simply walk out the heavily guarded prison gate. Risking being shot to death on the spot, he wrote later that he obeyed the voice, and walked straight through several prison doors that were somehow left open in front of many prison guards, across the prison yard and finally out of the main gate. Yun stated that it was as if he had become invisible to the guards who stared straight through him. Although many expressed doubts that such a thing could happen, some prison guards had apparently lost their jobs for this ’embarrassing mishap.’ It is reported that the official investigation by the Chinese Government concluded that “Yun received no human help in his escape.” It is claimed that these reports have been also confirmed by numerous prisoners who occupied the same prison cell as Yun. Apparently, he remains the only person to have escaped from this notorious maximum security prison!

You can watch a 10 minute testimony by Brother Yun on YouTube:

Discussion:

  • How would you react to being arrested for what you believed? Would it effect your faith and beliefs?
  • What would you do if it was illegal to be a Christian? Why?
  • Do you think that you could praise God in difficult situations? How would you do it?
  • Which of our 5 Values (Follow, Honour, Serve, Support, Share) apply to this passage? What can you learn from it?

Prayer:

  • Pray for the persecuted Church around the world
  • Pray for boldness within the group that they can share the message amongst their friends (and family) without fear
  • Pray for any issues affecting the group this week.

Challenge:
This week, you should try to overcome your own fears and share the good news of Jesus with some friends! Ask God to give you boldness even when people are rude to you because of your faith. Remember, if people laugh at you because of Jesus, you are in great company!

Further Reading: [youversion]Genesis 39:20-23[/youversion]

Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did. (New Century Version)


This post is part of a 5-session teaching series covering the first 5 chapters of the book of Acts in the New Testament. It is designed to be used in a small group environment for young people aged 11-14, but can be adapted for other purposes. The young people were encouraged to read the chapter in advance.
I originally planned on writing a 12-part series, but our groups fell behind and I didn’t continue the notes. For more youth group resources check out my page here.

Image credit: JustinLowery on Flickr

Acts Chapter 3: Healing

Aim:
To learn about how God worked through the disciples and understand that He can perform miracles today.

Activity: Begging Bowl
Get the group involved in a bit of drama by asking them to act out a small scene. Choose one of them to be a beggar on the street selling the Big Issue magazine. One by one, the rest of the group should walk past and each act out a different response to the beggar. Most of the group will have seen this happen in real life so should be able to relate to it well and invent their own ideas. The response given will depend on the character of the individual. Some may be humorous or silly, while others may be more thoughtful.
Once finished, discuss the responses. How did the groups’ responses compare to Jesus’ parable of The Good Samaritan in [youversion]Luke 10:30-37[/youversion]? What did Peter and John do in the same situation in [youversion]Acts 3[/youversion]?

Background:
The Temple, where Peter and John were going to pray ([youversion]Acts 3:1[/youversion]), was really important in Jewish culture. It would have been like a busy town centre with people coming and going to offer sacrifices. The ‘Beautiful Gate’ where the crippled man was laying was one of 13 entrances and was a large, 18 metre (60 feet) wide structure said to be covered in Corinthian brass which made it shine in the sun. It was a good place to beg as people going in to worship God would feel guilty and give money. When the crippled man asked Peter and John for money, the Holy Spirit guided them to give him the gift of healing through Jesus instead.

Reading: [youversion]Acts 3[/youversion]
Your group should have read the chapter in advance. Take a few minutes to recap on its content for those who haven’t.

Illustration: Modern Miracle?
Read the BBC News story of Frances Finn. She broke her leg skiing when she was 13 years old and the accident has led to having limbs of different lengths. However, at a Christian Conference in April 2008 an audience of over 100 people witnessed her shorter leg grow. You can view a video the healing taking place and Frances’ reaction on YouTube here:

Peter commanded the man to walk in Jesus’ name even though he had never walked since he was born! Peter clearly states that the man was made well through his faith in Jesus ([youversion]Acts 3:16[/youversion]).

Discussion:

  • Have you ever met anyone who has been healed by God?
  • Do you believe miracles and healings still happen today? Why or why not?
  • If Peter and John healed a non-believer, should we as Christians be healing non-believers on the streets too?
  • Which of our 5 Values (Follow, Honour, Serve, Support, Share) apply to this passage? What can you learn from it?

Prayer:

  • Pray that we can have faith to see miracles happen
  • Pray for anyone that needs healing
  • Pray for any issues affecting the group this week.

Challenge:
This week you should pray that God will heal someone. This may sound like a difficult task, but all of us know someone who is sick or unwell and needs God’s healing. If you are confident, you should pray with that person as Peter and John did. If not, why not pray for them in your quiet time each day, asking God to make them well. Remember to be guided in your prayers by the Holy Spirit, having faith that God will answer.

Further Reading: [youversion]James 5:13-16[/youversion]

Anyone who is having troubles should pray. Anyone who is happy should sing praises. Anyone who is sick should call the church’s elders. They should pray for and pour oil on the person in the name of the Lord. And the prayer that is said with faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will heal that person. And if the person has sinned, the sins will be forgiven. Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so God can heal you. When a believing person prays, great things happen. (New Century Version)


This post is part of a 5-session teaching series covering the first 5 chapters of the book of Acts in the New Testament. It is designed to be used in a small group environment for young people aged 11-14, but can be adapted for other purposes. The young people were encouraged to read the chapter in advance.
I originally planned on writing a 12-part series, but our groups fell behind and I didn’t continue the notes. For more youth group resources check out my page here.

Image credit: JustinLowery on Flickr

Acts Chapter 2: The Holy Spirit

Aim:
To learn what happened to the disciples at Pentecost, and to understand the importance of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Background:
The disciples were waiting in Jerusalem as Jesus had told them to ([youversion]Acts 1:4[/youversion]) when the Holy Spirit came upon them. It was the day of Pentecost; a major Jewish festival celebrating the day God had given His written word to Moses, and there were Jews staying in the city from every country in the world. This gave Peter and the disciples a fantastic opportunity to spread the good news of Jesus when they were filled with God’s Spirit.

Activity: Chatterbox
Ask the group to think about a time when they were really excited about something, and just had to tell other people! It may have been recently, or maybe when they were younger, but it should be something that they weren’t able to keep quiet about. Get them to try and recall how they felt.
When they are ready, get the whole group to start talking about that one exciting thing. They should all talk for about 1 minute and try to drown each other out so that they can get their message across louder than the others! At the end of that minute, see if anyone managed to share his or her excitement with the others. Talk about who was most animated and why they could get so worked up over their experience.

Reading: [youversion]Acts 2[/youversion]
Your group should have read the chapter in advance. Take a few minutes to recap on its content for those who haven’t.

Illustration: The Trinity
There are loads of different analogies for the Holy Trinity that you could use to try and illustrate the Godhead and how the Holy Spirit works with the Father and Son in unity. A common example is in the three different states of water; liquid, solid (ice) and gas (steam). Why not get the group to come up with their own metaphor that can help them understand the different attributes and characteristics of God?
When doing this, please be aware and explain that analogies are helpful tools for our understanding but do not fully explain the awesome complexity of the Trinity. Our God cannot easily be described or categorised.

More Info:
The Holy Spirit is a person but is also part of God and has always been present in creation. He is mentioned right at the beginning of the Bible in [youversion]Genesis 1:2[/youversion]. When the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, God sent Him to permanently live in and be with His followers. As Christians we carry the Spirit of God with us!

Discussion:

  • What do you think it was like for the disciples to be filled with the Holy Spirit?
  • Have you ever had an experience of the Holy Spirit in your life? If so, when and where?
  • Which of our 5 Values (Follow, Honour, Serve, Support, Share) apply to this passage? What can you learn from it?

Prayer:

  • Pray for the Holy Spirit to be more obvious in our lives. Ask for God to reveal Himself in us through the Spirit.
  • Pray for any issues affecting the group this week.

Challenge:
Start expecting God to work in you each day as the Holy Spirit guides you. Ask Him to transform you by the renewing of your mind ([youversion]Romans 12:2[/youversion]) and be open to what he may tell you to do!

Further Reading: [youversion]Galatians 5:16-25[/youversion]

So I tell you: Live by following the Spirit. Then you will not do what your sinful selves want. Our sinful selves want what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit wants what is against our sinful selves. The two are against each other, so you cannot do just what you please. But if the Spirit is leading you, you are not under the law.
The wrong things the sinful self does are clear: being sexually unfaithful, not being pure, taking part in sexual sins, worshiping gods, doing witchcraft, hating, making trouble, being jealous, being angry, being selfish, making people angry with each other, causing divisions among people, feeling envy, being drunk, having wild and wasteful parties, and doing other things like these. I warn you now as I warned you before: Those who do these things will not inherit God’s kingdom.
But the Spirit produces the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. There is no law that says these things are wrong. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their own sinful selves. They have given up their old selfish feelings and the evil things they wanted to do. We get our new life from the Spirit, so we should follow the Spirit. We must not be proud or make trouble with each other or be jealous of each other. (New Century Version)

Acts Chapter 1: Patience

25 February 2009 — 2 Comments


This post is part of a 5-session teaching series covering the first 5 chapters of the book of Acts in the New Testament. It is designed to be used in a small group environment for young people aged 11-14, but can be adapted for other purposes. The young people were encouraged to read the chapter in advance.
I originally planned on writing a 12-part series, but our groups fell behind and I didn’t continue the notes. For more youth group resources check out my page here.

Image credit: JustinLowery on Flickr

Acts Chapter 1: Patience

Aim:
To set the scene of the book and to explore the idea of patience.

Background:
The book of Acts was written by Luke and follows on from where his gospel finished ([youversion]Acts 1:1-2[/youversion]). Jesus had died, risen, and appeared to his disciples telling them to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit from God ([youversion]Luke 24:49[/youversion], [youversion]Acts 1:4[/youversion]).

Activity: Fruit Pastille Patience
Give everyone in the group a Fruit Pastille (or other mouth watering sweet) to put in their mouth. Tell them that they are not allowed to chew or swallow the sweet until the person on their left has finished theirs. Then get the first person to start chewing. Obviously the people towards the end of the queue will have to wait the longest with the pastille in their mouth. See who manages to cope best and then try it the other way around.

Reading: [youversion]Acts 1[/youversion]
Your group should have read the chapter in advance. Take a few minutes to recap on its content for those who haven’t.

Illustration: Heinz Ketchup
Use the famous Heinz commercial where the guy rests a ketchup bottle on top of a building, then goes to the street, buys a hotdog and catches the ketchup as it falls. The strap line is “The best things come to those who wait!”

You may find other videos with similar themes. There are many commercials for Guinness that use the same strap line.

More Info: Being Prepared
One definition of waiting is to “remain in readiness for some purpose”. Waiting is not about sitting around being bored, it’s about excitedly preparing for something that’s about to happen so you’ll be ready when it does, just like in the commercial. Jesus told a parable about waiting in [youversion]Matthew 25:1-13[/youversion]. He was talking about being prepared for when He returns.

Discussion:

  • Do you find it difficult to wait for things? What have you ever had to wait for?
  • What would it have been like for the disciples waiting for the Holy Spirit? Did they know what to expect?
  • Has God ever told you to wait for something? Do you have dreams for the future that God has promised you?
  • Which of our 5 Values (Follow, Honour, Serve, Support, Share) apply to this passage? What can you learn from it?

Prayer:

  • Pray for specific dreams God has given each person, and that God will reveal plans to those who have none.
  • Pray that the group will understand what it means to be patient and that God helps them to wait in anticipation.
  • Pray for any issues affecting the group this week.

Challenge:
In your personal quiet time with God this week, make space to just ‘wait’ on God. Get rid of other distractions and ask God to speak to you while you listen. You may find this difficult at first so try to get into a habit of doing it regularly.

Further Reading: [youversion]Romans 5:3-5[/youversion]

We also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope. And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts. He gave us his love through the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to us. (New Century Version)