Note: This lesson is a sample from Hollow Faith: How Andy Griffith, Facebook, and the American Dream neutered the Gospel
To remind the students the depth and breadth of God’s love for each of them individually
To teach the students that God’s love was never intended for individuals alone, but for all of creation
To challenge the students to live lives that not only show that God loves them, but that God loves the whole world!
Get to Know Your Small Group
Rock, Paper, Scissors
Sometimes a good Rock, Paper, Scissors (RPS) Tournament is a great way to get to know one another. Everyone pairs up and plays the best two out of three rounds of RPS. Whoever wins finds another winning partner, whoever loses finds a losing partner to play. Continue playing until there are two losses, when each person has two then they are out of the tournament. Play continues until you have an ultimate RPS champion!
Activity: Going the Distance
Give each student a sheet of paper and give them five to seven minutes to each build a paper airplane – built for distance not for looks. When you call time, line the students up evenly against one wall and on the count of three, let them throw their planes. Record which went the farthest, remove the winner from this heat and repeat the plane tosses two more times, removing the winner of each heat. When you have three winners, have one final flight to determine the Paper Airplane Challenge Winner!
Scripture: John 3:16 NRSV
Have the students read from several different translations of the verses provided below.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
Do you remember the songs you used to sing in Sunday school as a kid? One of the most popular goes like this, “Jesus loves me this I know/for the Bible tells me so/little ones to him belong/they are weak and he is strong/Yes, Jesus Loves Me/Yes, Jesus Loves Me/Yes, Jesus Loves Me/the Bible tells me so.” This is a great song with an awesome message of God’s love for me! Sometimes songs only give one part of God’s message and need to be balanced out with other songs to give a more complete picture of God’s love. One of the songs I really like to put together with “Jesus Loves Me” is the song “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” Do you remember it? It goes, “Jesus loves the little children/all the children of the world./Red and yellow, black and white/they are precious in his sight./Jesus loves the little children of the world.” Both are great songs and both help us understand a different part of God’s love.
Ask the students to talk about the meanings of each of the two songs. What do they say about God and God’s love for the world?
Can you think of any other songs that help us see even more clearly the love of God? What are they and why?
In our world it is easy to become very concerned with ourselves. There are so many advertisements, celebrities and songs that tell us to always look out for number one, for ourselves. While social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook are very fun and connect us with others, they can also be all about us! They are essentially little websites that are “all about me!” In everything from Facebook to reality television we are told that our number one concern should be our happiness – our successes and desires. When we look at the Bible we see a God who calls us to something else altogether.
Arguably, the most famous verse in the entire Bible is John 3:16. We see it on bracelets, at football games and even on pieces of candy. This is a verse that comes from a conversation Jesus had with a Pharisee named Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a man who chose to meet Jesus at night. Nicodemus began the conversation by telling Jesus that he believes that Jesus was sent from God and was a great prophet and teacher. Jesus and Nicodemus then have a very interesting conversation about how a person can “see the Kingdom of God.” Then after several verses Jesus cuts to the heart of the realization of the Kingdom of God. He begins to talk about God’s great love for the world, such a love that he sent his one and only son as a gift to the entire world. Nicodemus continued to have such a difficult time understanding what Jesus was trying to get across. Jesus, in verse 16, finally forgoes Nicodemus’ questions about the individual and clues him into God’s bigger plan, a plan about the salvation of all of creation. Sometimes in our understanding of God’s plan we find ourselves at the center. In this understanding, our personal salvation is the primary goal and focus of the reason why Jesus came to Earth. Jesus’ primary goal, however, was to show the entire world the love and life of God. As followers of this plan we are called to have the same goal.
If the gospel was primarily about our individual salvation then all we would have to worry about would be ourselves. There would not be passages about “go to Judea and Samaria and the ends of the earth” or “loving God and loving neighbor.” God’s goodness and love is far too important and far too big to just be understood as something that keeps me from going to a place called hell. God’s plan is far bigger than me, or you. Because God loves the World so much, not just me.
This is a great time for the leader to talk about how she understands the gospel as something beyond herself. Some of the talking points are helping the poor, taking care of the earth, making peace, standing alongside the oppressed, and bring comfort to the hurting.
Ask the youth why they think Jesus came to the earth, why did God send Him, and how does that affect the way they live every day?
What is the focus of our faith? Is our focus ourselves, our needs and individual spirituality, or is it focused on Jesus’ message to be a part of something bigger than ourselves? There is a hurting and dying world that is in desperate need of God’s love, way of life and peace. When we focus on attaining these things for ourselves and ourselves only, we miss out on the amazing opportunity and call to give the world the gifts that God wants for everyone. We have the opportunity to stop saying “me, me, me” and understand our lives as a part of God’s bigger plan for all of creation.
Closing Meditation Activity
Distribute one sheet of white (8.5×11) sheet of paper per person, as well as scissors and pencils. Below are instructions on how to make cut-out paper dolls that hold hands. When the youth have cut out the dolls then have them write names, kinds of people or places who they need to be reminded are our brothers and sisters, ranging from people they do not like to homeless people to the people of Afghanistan. When the cut-out dolls are complete tell the youth to take the dolls home and hang them in a place they will see every day that will be a reminder that their faith should be about something greater than themselves.
Fold a length of paper like a fan or accordion, then draw in the doll, making sure the hands touch the sides. Then cut out the doll but remember not to cut out the sides so they are joined together, making them look like they are holding hands. You can make as many dolls as you like by the number of folds you make on the paper.
Have the youth take some time in silent prayer and ask them to confess in the silence times when they may have made the gospel only about themselves. After a few moments of this prayer, close with:
God hear our prayers, as we confess when we have hoarded your good gifts, help us to always be generous with the lives you have called each of us to, giving your gifts to a world that needs them as much as we do. Let our lives be lived as gifts. Amen.
Sample Chapter from Hollow Faith for this Lesson
Sample Parents Guide from Hollow Faith for this Chapter