Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on rethinkingyouthministry.com and is reprinted here with permission.
by Brian Kirk
Like it or not, the “Christmas Buying Season” is upon us. Apparently, the secular culture never heard of Advent and started playing Christmas carols before Halloween had even come and gone. So now might be the best time to get a little ahead of the game and try to steer your youth away from the cultural obsession this time of year with accumulating “stuff.” The following Bible study is focused on the spiritual practice we might call “simplifying your life”—something Jesus, the Desert Fathers, the monastics, and others in our rich tradition understood as a way to make more room for God in our lives.
Count off students into groups of three. Tell them they have two minutes to try to make as long a list as possible of the things that they own. After the two minutes, have them reflect on the following questions with their small group:
Invite the group to participate in a quick quiz, perhaps standing or sitting as a way to vote “yes” or “no” on each item:
Share that this Bible study is going to focus some time on talking about “things” that clutter up our lives. We all have stuff in our lives. We buy lots of it. Lots of it is given to us. Even right here in the church. Look around at all the stuff in your youth room/the church. These things are a big part of our lives, and it’s worth it to spend some time thinking about how they affect our spiritual lives.
Separate into three groups. In this activity, each group will explore a Biblical text that speaks to how much importance we should place on our material possessions. Invite participants to listen to a Scripture passage and think about what it might have to say about the things in our lives:
Invite the group to prepare a skit or pantomime based on the parable, with one or more persons reading the text as the others act it out.
Bring the whole group back together. Share that, in the Gospels, Jesus talks about our fixation on money and material goods more than anything else. He is remembered as someone who clearly felt that how we view the importance of possessions in our lives has a real impact on our relationship with God.
Have the small groups stage their parables for the whole group. Invite the participants to think about what the stories have to say about how we live in the world today.
After each group performs, pose the questions below to the group. Invite them first to respond by sharing with those next to them. As time permits, invite one or two students to share their thoughts with the total group:
Jesus, a poor man living in a world where most people were so poor that they only had the food they needed to live day-to-day, is remembered as teaching people to be careful about thinking that “things” would make them happy. He invited people to see that true life was about something better than just having lots of stuff. But he also knew that in order to see that better way of life, sometimes we have to let go of some of the clutter that keeps us from seeing God’s love more clearly.
Read Matthew 6:19-21, and invite the group to meditate on the passage in silence or perhaps by using the ancient prayer practice of Lectio Divina.
Brainstorms some ideas as a group for simplifying your lives, including giving up some unneeded possessions. Try some of these ideas for starting this practice today. Perhaps take on a challenge as a group to adopt some some of these practices during the holiday season.
Close in prayer.
Note: Some of this Bible study was inspired by the resources from the Way to Live text and companion site.
We are hearing from numerous youth ministers that during this season their plate is just too full. Caring for others is a ministry staple, but often it comes at the expense of caring for oneself. Self care for the Youth MInister is so important. If you don’t take time for yourself and your own relationship with God, not only will you suffer, but eventually your students will too.
We’ve created a Pandemic Youth Week curriculum bundle that combines elements of both a summer camp and a youth week. Many youth are missing out on both of these due to cancelled camps and trips among other cancelled important events your youth would usually attend. We’ve written this curriculum such that it can be used in person while socially distancing, online, or some combination of both.
Despite all the challenges the pandemic has presented to youth ministries, it has also created an opportunity to allow youth more involvement in worship. Although youth sunday will look very different this year, it is a great opportunity to empower our youth to be leaders. Youth’s comfort and familiarity with technology make them a great resource for churches who are seeking to move their worship services online for the first time.