The #SelfiesWithSimon. The #SimonSightings. The book reviews and random Facebook tags. I am so very thankful for my brothers and sisters in Christ for sharing how Simon has impacted their lives this summer. Teens and adults alike are sharing The Messengers with others, and the youth group is one setting in which this is taking place.
This is my third blog post on how to share the Message worth dying for with others; this time, I’ll focus on ways to use it at church with youth. That said, I think ideas from my first and second posts can be borrowed, adapted, and applied here as well. Further, I’m starting to hear back from youth leaders about ideas they have for the book. Keep sharing, friends! I’m thankful to learn from you. (Warning! Spoiler Alert: This post has a few more spoilers than usual. Proceed with caution.)
Getting started . . . at the end. I’ll risk repeating myself by mentioning that there are questions at the end of the novel (two questions per chapter). If your youth group is only going to work with the book over one study, you’ll want to choose wisely. Feel free to let your students pick which questions to discuss. Of course, you can plan ahead and pick your favorites. Need some ideas? Here’s a brief list of questions I would probably ask if I were leading a youth group discussion:
- Chapter 4, Question 1 could become a great discussion on planting the seed of God’s Word. Maybe some of your students can relate to Simon if they had a time in their lives they didn’t listen to others about Jesus. Maybe some of your students feel like Jonathan as they witness to friends or family members. You can explore Jesus’ parable of the sower to bring clarity to the blessings and challenges of proclaiming God’s love to others.
- Chapter 7, Question 1 explores the “dual citizenship” Christians have of being in the world but not of it. Ask teens about their experiences of being believers in a world that doesn’t understand them.
- Chapter 8, Question 2 has rich imagery of light and darkness, of life and death. This question might develop into an entire Bible study, if time permits.
- Chapter 15, Question 2 sheds light on the importance of the Word. Ask youth ways in which we “hide” the Bible today.
- Chapter 30, Question 1 points to Simon’s recent vows as a Messenger. After asking teens how they’d feel about making such promises, bring in the reality that most of them already have! The questions Zeke asks are straight out of Lutheran Service Book for Confirmation. Turn to pages 272–274, and read through the questions together. Weigh in on the gravity of what it means to be a confirmed “Messenger.”
Setting the stage. Help teens get into the world of New Morgan and recognize the reality of this environment for many believers.
- Find the youth group. To mix things up, don’t meet in your usual room. Perhaps your room could look ransacked or sterile with propaganda posters. Somewhere in the room, post a clue to where teens should go to find your meeting place. For added drama, give a few clues along the way in this scavenger hunt. If you have young adult volunteers, ask them to dress like the Messengers and wait for teens to arrive, guiding them in the darkness to your designated spot for the day.
- Bible review challenge. How well do your teens know the Bible? Give them a Bible passage to memorize before entering the room for the day. (The freebie below can help with that.) Offer a list of Bible passages and see which group can find the Bible references fastest. Work together by assigning verses of a longer passage. (Mark 4:1–9; John 3:1–21; and Romans 10:14–17 are all fitting.) Recite it together, perhaps in front of a group of young kids in Sunday School.
- Be a carrier. Create a scavenger hunt game where groups try to find the truth. A volunteer could enter the room and announce that verified messages need to be brought in. Teams can follow leaders or receive a preliminary message to find a handful of stations—and Bible passages. For added fun, buy plastic lab vials online and fill them with slips containing Bible passages and the next clue. (I learned from some colleagues that you can find red wax that can be loaded in a hot glue gun to create a seal.)
Spreading the Word. Equip the teens in your church to spread the Gospel.
- A list of hope. This is one of my favorite activities in a group anyway. Hand out sheets of paper and have students open their Bibles and to some of their favorite passages. Suggest confirmation verses or any Bible readings that give them comfort. If students seem stuck, have a list of choices nearby (the freebie below may help). Then, ask each teen to read one of their verses and to explain why this passage is special to them. Write the references down, and encourage all youth to create a list of these Bible verses and to keep them in their personal Bibles for times when they need encouragement from the Word. As a powerful bonus, your youth are confessing their faith and building up one another as they share.
- Chalk in the neighborhood. Spoiler alert: I just want to make a point that this spoiler doesn’t have to be a spoiler. In other words, if your youth have already read the book, play up the fact that you’re helping Simon by making the Word visible to others. However, if this day is actually a precursor to your youth reading the book, you don’t have to say much of anything about this activity other than it’s an opportunity to share God’s truth with others. When they *do* read the book, it can be a fun “aha!” moment for them to realize how they’ve played a part in the plot already. Give groups some chalk and the list you compiled above (or use the freebie below). Encourage them to choose from the passages and share a few on public sidewalks and other approved areas. Gauge the maturity of your teens and discern whether chaperones can give added guidance on appropriate locations.
- Passage plants. Cut (or purchase) blank cards—business cards are a nice size for this. The freebie below can also help. If you make your own, use some of the Bible passages from the “list of hope” activity or simply ask students to copy Bible passages onto the small cards. Stickers, markers, and the like can make these look nice. Encourage students to slip these Bible verses where others can find them—when paying a restaurant bill, when donating clothes, when sitting in a waiting room. They may also want to keep the cards in their wallets or purses to hand out when a friend needs encouragement.
Serving the World. Encourage your teens to proclaim the Gospel in their actions.
- Pray for missionaries. The LCMS has missionaries throughout the world. Do some research to learn about a few of them. Pray for these messengers by name, and consider raising funds to assist in their service.
- Donate the λόγος. Raise funds or collect gently used Bibles. Research online for ways to deliver the message of salvation to those who desperately want to hear it. Sites such as cph.org/cgo can help give ideas.
Another idea is to have an author visit you, online or in person. (That’s right; I’m brazenly inviting myself to your party.) Or just send photos and other ideas my way so I can share the fun with others! For example, Heather McCoy created a booklet for her readers to use as they read along. (Look her up for more info!) A few teachers, including Katie Eyster, read chapter one of Discovered to their classes before summer break; you may want to do the same for your youth group.
FREEBIE: A few of you have seen me use these little cards on Instagram. Here is a downloadable version for you! For best results, print in color on cardstock, but improvise as needed. Don’t have time to cut the cards? Ask your teens to help out.
Hoping for more ideas? More posts for different settings will be coming soon!