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By: Steve Case & Hubert Cisneros



As a youth director I trained youth leaders only once. My lack of satisfaction probably stemmed from the reality that I didn’t know what I was doing. Besides, I was too busy doing summer camp, Pathfinders, and Adventurers. In 2012 a pastor in Omaha, Nebraska asked me to train youth leaders in his city. I immediately agreed because, as a youth director of a union, I was supposed to know those things—right? Wrong! That one training event many years earlier didn’t go into my “success” file, so what should I do now? I searched my library for anything that I could use. I remembered an old syllabus from a seminary class I had taken from Steve Case. I called Steve and asked him about any manuals produced by the church to train local youth leaders in the years since I had taken his class. He didn’t know of any. So I took the highlights from that manual and used it for the youth leadership training in Omaha. This one could be rated a success! We found the principles to be useful, pertinent, and helpful for youth leaders to this day. I called Steve again and we decided to create a series of youth ministry training sessions and materials. You are holding the first in the series. If you’re a youth director, here’s a resource you can use to train youth leaders in your conference. If you’re a youth leader in a church, you can use this yourself. And if you’re a young person, you can be a youth leader right now. Use this resource and put it into practice. Our prayer is that God will use A Place To Belong to raise up and equip many youth leaders who will know what they are doing and why they are doing it. And may God be glorified. HDC & SC 3

Available from: AdventSource 5120 Prescott Avenue Lincoln, NE 68506 402.486.8800 Author: Steve Case & Hubert Cisneros Cover design, Page Layout, and Illustrations: Raschelle Casebier Copyright Š 2014 by Steve Case and Hubert Cisneros. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise for sale or distribution in any way outside of the local church leadership without the prior written permission of the copyright holder.

DEDICATION I wish to dedicate A Place To Belong to my parents, Ralph and Eleen Cisneros, and to my elementary school teachers at Boulder Junior Academy, now Vista Ridge Academy especially Connie Nowlan. They created a safe place to belong where I was loved and introduced to Jesus Christ. HDC

To Bill Smith, my hero and mentor in youth ministry. Thank you for immersing me in so many NNEs! SC

The purpose of this manual is to give you the tools to make your youth group the place to come each week.




Chapter 1 A Place To Belong: Best Friends Forever

Chapter 2 A Priceless Gift: What Anyone Can Give... But Most Don’t

Chapter 3 The Bridge From Why? to How?: Programs that Really Matter





Chapter 4 The Secret of Breathing Life into Youth Group: Non-Neutral Environments

Chapter 5 Group Dynamics: What’s Really Going on in the Youth Group

Chapter 6 Now We’re Talking: Creating Your Own Discussions

Relational Bible Studies

CHAPTER 1 Before long youth will want to get involved and bring their friends. Why? Because they will really love youth group. As a youth leader, you can form the foundation for your youth group. It is important to invest time and effort to acquire these tools for yourself. Remember youth group is based on friendships. Youth need to feel safe and accepted. Plus your youth group is special. Your youth will come to know their Best Friend – Jesus Christ.



“We guarantee that you can have more friends than you know what to do with.” Does that sound impossible? Start by learning the skills outlined in this manual.


It’s like a baseball diamond.



First base represents History. Second base represents High Five. Third base represents Help. Home Plate represents Home – A PLACE TO BELONG.

When you get a “Hit” you must travel to all the bases in order to get Home. Getting Home is what “A Place To Belong” is all about! So let’s get started with first base.

The baseball diamond analogy is adapted from Lyman Coleman’s Youth Ministry Encyclopedia


Q: How many bases does a baseball diamond have? A: There are three bases in a baseball diamond. The fourth is called, “home plate.� Q: How do you score a run in baseball? A: You start at home plate, but you don’t score a run until you go around all the bases. In this lesson the bases represent something very important. 11

1st BASE History

History is getting the individual young people to share something about themselves. History includes a person’s name, members of their family, their interests, opinions and feelings. It could include what they did last week, last year, or when they were a child. The youth leader must learn creative ways to bring out information in a disarming way.

Here are seven creative ways for people to do “History”



Something in Common Start out with calling for people to get into two groups—those who are wearing shoes with laces and those who are not. This is a low risk exercise. Right away people have something in common with another person—their shoes.


Go around the circle and have each person use a positive adjective that begins with the same sound as their name, such as Happy Holly or Jubilant Jeremy or Friendly Fernando.”

Play a game and then talk about it some. For example, play “Thumb War” and then talk about what happened with you and your partner. You can extend this to include, “Describe another time when you were in a duel of some type with another person.”

How many in your group? If your group is small (up to 10 people) you can share things in common within your group, such as clothing colors, birth order, favorite foods, pets in the family, etc. If your group has more than 10 people, you can break into smaller groups by clustering in a bunch of different smaller groups, such as which toothpaste brand you use, color of eyes, month of birth, last digit of cell phone, number of siblings, etc. If you want to end or transition with a specific number of people in the small groups, say something like, “Get in groups of three” or “Get with two other people whose hair is a different length than yours” or “sit back-to-back with someone about the same size as you.” For more ice breaker ideas, just Google “ice breaker games” 12

Continue around the circle, adding the next person to the recited list, until everyone is introduced. Continue around the circle twice to seal the names in memory.



Go around the circle responding to a statement like, “Describe one of your happiest moments.” Or “Describe a favorite vacation you remember.” The individual has a choice among several potential positive experiences.

Look around your town or city. Take an excursion to a park, a shelter, a cemetery, an intersection, a monument, a different church, or someplace else. Plan in advance to go to a place that could relate to a future Bible study.

Can you think of other creative positive questions?



Ask questions that lead people to share some of their history, such as “What do you share in common with this Bible character?” Or “Describe a time you faced a challenging situation.”

Community service activities put you in touch with others as well as the people in your group. You can also combine your youth group with others from your church, or have your church youth group join others who are already doing a community service project.

1st BASE History

Here are five ways NOT to do “History” #1 Give lectures or “talks.” Youth get enough of that at school. #2 Don’t learn people’s names. #3 Focus on information. #4 Sit in rows; face the front. #5 Read aloud from printed stuff.


2nd BASE High 5

High 5 describes giving some affirmation based on the history given at first base. Most people don’t do that. If you can’t genuinely give a “High 5” on certain history, discover more history so you can give a “High 5.”

Here are five ways to do “High 5” #1 S MILE AT INDIVIDU A LS Take a moment and hold a pen or pencil between your teeth. Now look at one another! Go ahead try it right now! There is something about smiling that changes your outlook.

#2 VERBA LIZE SO MET HING PO SIT IVE Encourage young people in the group to say positive things to one another. Try it yourself. Turn to your neighbor and say, “You look nice today.” They respond by saying, “Thank you.”

#3 SHARE WHAT YOU HAVE IN COMMON WITH SOMEONE Try out comments like, “We attend the same church”, “We are wearing the same color” or “We both know what it’s like to have a brother.”

#4 LITERALLY GIVE A “HIGH 5” TO SOMEONE RIGHT NOW Go ahead and slap the hand of another person or two near you, up nice and high.

#5 LIST EN T O WHAT SO MEO NE SAYS This one is so important that we’ll spend all of Chapter 2 on it!



2nd BASE High 5

Here are five ways NOT to do “High 5” #1 Only be with people you know. #2 Be stoic (or sneer). #3 Laugh and point at someone. #4 Talk only about yourself. #5 Use “put downs.” Youth group should have few rules. One rule is: “No put downs.” This ensures youth group is a safe place. Ask the youth to enforce this rule.


3rd BASE Help

Only after you have received lots of “High 5s” from second base will you go to third base. That’s because thrid base makes a person vulnerable. Third base asks another person for help. It’s risky, but it can bond people together and make others more willing to ask for help, too.“

Here are five ways to do “Help” # 1 ADMIT YO U NEED HELP When you ask the youth to help you, you open the door for them to take ownership of the youth group. Don’t try to do everything yourself.

# 2 TA KE A RISK WIT H SO MEO NE YO U T RU ST Try doing a “trust fall” right now. Ask for a volunteer and have them fall backward while others in the group lock arms and catch them.

# 3 MA KE IT A NO NYMO U S Instead of taking the credit, announce that certain people helped you with the program and ask for applause to show appreciation. Conduct “random acts of kindness” for the community anonymously.

# 4 HU MBLY HELP O T HERS Help others without having to get recognition or a pat on the back from others.

# 5 BE C O NF IDENT IA L Keep secrets as a secret or you will lose complete trust. Also be willing to share something confidential about yourself with others, too!



3rd BASE Help

Here are five ways NOT to do “Help” #1 Brag about yourself. #2 Don’t take others too seriously. #3 Gossip: A good rule: “Be Respectful of the Absent.” Don’t say anything about someone you wouldn’t say in front of them. When people hear you putting others down behind their back, they assume you will say bad things about them too. This creates an unsafe place to be. This is similar to when Lucifer bad mouthed Jesus in Heaven. Not a good thing to do. Talk about this point openly. Establish understanding. The best thing to do if you hear someone talking badly about others, is to talk privately to that person. It’s hard to confront (carefront) someone about bad behavior but it’s the price you pay to become a leader. #4 Keep things too light and superficial. #5 Be a person who never admits you need help.



When people trust each other to share their vulnerabilities in addition to giving “High 5s” your youth group will begin to experience something that most people desire but don’t ever get— Home: A place to belong. When new people join the group or when trust has been broken, or sometimes just starting one of your sessions as a group, you may need to go back to first base and start to go around the bases again. But it’s definitely worth it to experience “Home.”

Here are five ways to do “Home” #1 Continue to go around the bases. You never know where a young person may be in their experience. #2 Accept people. #3 Admit mistakes. #4 Ask forgiveness. #5 Celebrate God and others.

Here are five ways NOT to do “Home”


#1 Look down on others.


#2 Be overly private. #3 Point out other’s mistakes. #4 Be demanding and critical. #5 Be a person who never admits anything.


In John 4 we find the story of Jesus, the disciples, and the woman at the well. The disciples had gone into town to buy some food. It was noon time and Jesus was sitting next to the well where Jacob had sat many years before. A woman came to draw water. See John 4:1-42.



LEARNING FROM JESUS In the story who started the conversation? It was Jesus, wasn’t it? Do you remember what He asked the woman? Jesus asked the woman for a drink of water, didn’t He? Jesus started the conversation. Now think about what you have learned so far. Which base on the baseball diamond did Jesus start out with? Don’t answer too quickly. This may surprise you but He began with third base—Help. And what was the woman’s response? She identified herself as a Samaritan and Jesus as a Jew. It was like she was saying, “We need to start with some History!” The Bible doesn’t tell us what was going on in Jesus’ mind, but we can imagine Jesus thinking: “History?” Do we have to spend the time doing history and then go all around the bases before we can be home? Yes. “Okay, let’s do history.” So Jesus said, “Go get your husband.” And the woman replied, “I don’t have a husband.” And that’s a correct statement of her history, isn’t it? Jesus continued, “You’ve had five husbands and the man you’re currently living with isn’t even your husband.” It’s as if Jesus was going overboard on her history: “If you want to do history, I’ll do history with you. What else would you like to know about yourself?!” Now what did the woman say? “I perceive that you are a prophet.” Which base is that? That’s right,

she’s moved to second base. And it’s a big “High Five” at that. There hasn’t been a prophet for more than 400 years! And Jesus responded (and I’m paraphrasing now): “Close. Actually, I’m the Messiah!” Wait, the Messiah of the world is asking the unknown woman at the well to help him? Does the Messiah need our help? Think about this before you just answer superficially. Does God need our help? The theological answer is that God doesn’t really need our help. But, get this, he chooses to need our help! That’s right, the God of the universe comes to you and asks, “Will you help me?” God wants to experience “Home” or “Fellowship” with us. But it doesn’t happen just because we want it or because we vote it or because we put it in our church’s mission statement. We have to go around the bases. And that takes time and multiple experiences. That’s why it’s important to spend time at first base with your youth. That’s why you’ll want to be known as a person who always gives “high fives.” That’s why you will need to ask for help. I’m convinced that some people do not have a relationship with Jesus because they have bad history with church people. They have no experience in which they have sensed a “high five.” So why would they ask for help?


H O W IS YOUR RELATIO NS HIP WITH THE YO UTH G R O UP? You might have some bad history with some of the youth. Your relationship will go nowhere until you (or they) get some more history that you can affirm. So, you may need to get to know some of the youth in other settings besides church, and they may need to get to know other history about you, too. TA K E T IME TO S HARE YO UR EXPERIE NC E S 1. Draw a picture of your house when you were 6 years old and share with your small group. 2. Draw a picture of your kitchen table when you were 6 years old and where everyone sat around the table and share with your small group.




So many young people wish they could be part of a youth group, where they are accepted—a safe place where their thoughts will be taken seriously; a place where they can make friends that will last a lifetime. Help my church to be that place. In Jesus Name,







Have you ever had someone in your life that really listened to you? If you did, you were very fortunate. The need to be listened to is one of the greatest needs of humans. In this lesson we will focus on active listening skills. Do you remember the baseball diamond analogy from the last session? Active listening forms the heart of 2nd Base: High Five / Affirmation.




SHARING EXERCISE 1. Take time right now and get into groups of two or at the most three. 2. Take one minute each sharing about someone in your life who really listened to you, and how you could tell they were a good listener. 3. Ready go.


Reasons to be a good listener: 1. When you listen to someone it communicates that they matter. It is another way of saying, “You’re important” and “I love you.” 2. When someone feels listened to, they want to return over and over again. 3. It costs nothing but most people DON’T do it. 4. You’ll be like a rock star! Why? Everyone wants someone to listen to them. And few people really practice active listening.

5. It doesn’t happen very often, even with people who are your “friends.” 6. Determine now that you will be a good listener. It is a big blessing to your own life. You will become happier and filled with joy. Ask yourself: “Can I stop talking?” “Can I be attentive?” “Can I get on another person’s agenda?”



Avoid the 5 barriers to being a good listener # 1 UNF O C U SED LIST ENING Looking away, checking the time, texting another person while someone is talking to you, etc. Because our brain operates faster than the other person can talk, it’s easy to busy one’s self with other things instead of being focused in your listening. It communicates that you aren’t listening, even if you really are listening. The person talking doesn’t feel listened to. To be a good listener takes real effort and focus.

#2 COU NT ER ST O RIES When another person tells you a story, have you ever found that it triggers a similar story in your memory? The difference is that your story is better, so you interrupt by saying something like, “That’s nothing, wait until you hear my story!” In other words, your stories are boring and my stories are better. So quit talking. Hmmm. Can you stay on a person’s story to understand the meaning of what they are saying instead of just telling your own story?

#3 CHA NGING T HE T O PIC Changing the topic tells others that what you care about is more important than what they care about.

# 4 R EBU T TA LS Listening to someone doesn’t mean they are asking for a debate. It doesn’t mean you have correct information. You may feel that you are helping them out but what most people really need is someone to listen to them. When they want advice, they will ask you for it. That is the right time to share your opinion because that is when they are really listening to you and are the most likely to use the information you are giving to them. “Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.” 7 Habits of Highly Effect People, Steven R Covey

# 5 P UT DO WNS Nothing creates more defensiveness and a lack of openness than “put downs.” Some people are so good at doing this that nobody will say a word when they are around! That’s hardly a good environment for listening. Who wants to talk when everything you say can and will be used against you? Most people simply shut down when people use put downs. Or, they enter into a put down war, which can be playful at first, but usually leads to verbal battles and ruined relationships.


Active Listening

Memorize these six skills using the acronym L.I.S.T.E.N

Look – look the person in the eye. Stay focused on what the other

person is saying and don’t let other things or people distract you. Don’t go off on your own topics, but stay on the topic of the person to whom you’re listening.

Interpret – put into your own words what you heard the other person

say. This could be a one-sentence paraphrase of what a person said in a paragraph. “Are you saying you really want to go to college?” OR “It sounds like you want to go to college.” If you get this wrong, the other person will simply correct you. You should then try paraphrasing the correction to make sure you’re getting the message.

Say more – a creative question based on the topic the other person is

talking about, without steering the conversation your way. “So are you saying you’re thinking of starting your own group?”

Tell your own feelings – identify and name your own feelings as you

listen to the other person. “What you are saying makes me feel excited.” If you listen well enough to enter the speaker’s story, the feelings you feel might be the same as the one talking.

Empathize – a clarification or perception check at what the other per-

son feels, based on being on that person’s agenda and identifying the feelings you sense. This is stated tentatively: “I’m sensing you might be feeling worried, is that right?” Even if you get it wrong, it might clarify it when the other person responds: “No, I’m actually excited.”

Non Verbal Communication – observe the body language, facial ex-

pression, tone of voice, etc. And ask yourself, “What are they saying.”


LET ’S P R A C T I CE 1. Divide into groups of three. 2. Identify person A, person B, and person C. You can choose this from shortest hair (A) to longest hair (C). 3. Person A will do the talking, person B uses the listening skills, and person C will be the observer and give feedback later. 4. Spend the next three minutes telling about a memorable vacation or some other experience. Person A talks, person B uses the listening skills, and person C observes to give feedback later. 5. After three minutes, the observer will give feedback for one minute. 6. Rotate so person B does the talking, person C does the listening, and person A is the observer. 7. Continue the cycle until everyone has had a chance to practice the listening skills. 8. End the exercise by having each person repeat the six skills by memory. 9. Use the worksheets on the next page to make notes on each speaker. 10. Ready go.









Comments/Notes/Feedback: 1. Look 2. Interpret 3. Say More 4. Tell Your Own Feelings 5. Empathize 6. Non-Verbal Communication

Comments/Notes/Feedback: 1. Look 2. Interpret 3. Say More 4. Tell Your Own Feelings 5. Empathize 6. Non-Verbal Communication

Comments/Notes/Feedback: 1. Look 2. Interpret 3. Say More 4. Tell Your Own Feelings 5. Empathize 6. Non-Verbal Communication



2nd Base: High Five/Affirmation Active Listening

Try to improve your listening skills. Don’t become discouraged. Practice every chance you get. You will notice that most people go through the Four Stages of Competence: Stage One: Unconsciously Incompetent Stage Two: Consciously Incompetent Stage Three: Consciously Competent Stage Four: Subconsciously Competent


Get into groups of three, then read and discuss the following quote for three minutes. “The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God’s love for us that He not only gives us His Word but also lends us His ear. So it is His work that we do for our brother when we learn to listen to him. Christians…so often think they must always contribute something when they are in the company of others, that this is the one service they have to render. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking. Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But he who 32

THE “ PRIC ELES S GIFT ” Listening, really listening, is “Priceless.” It’s a gift that you can give. It requires an unselfish heart.

can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and in the end there is nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words. One who cannot listen long and patiently will presently be talking beside the point and be never really speaking to others, albeit he be not conscious of it. Anyone who thinks that his time is too valuable to spend keeping quiet will eventually have no time for God and his brother, but only for himself and for his own follies. “There is a kind of listening with half an ear that presumes already to know what the other person has to say. It is an impatient, inattentive listening, that despises the brother and is only waiting for a chance to speak and thus get rid of the other person. This is no fulfillment of our obligation, and it is certain that here too our attitude

toward our brother only reflects our relationship to God. It is little wonder that we are no longer capable of the greatest service of listening that God has committed to us, that of hearing our brother's confession, if we refuse to give ear to our brother on lesser subjects. Secular education today is aware that often a person can be helped merely by having someone who will listen to him seriously, and upon this insight it has constructed its own soul therapy, which has attracted great numbers of people, including Christians. But Christians have forgotten that the ministry of listening has been committed to them by Him who is Himself the great listener and whose work they should share. We should listen with the ears of God that we may speak the Word of God.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community


How many times have You spoken to us and we were not listening? There are so many things You want to say to us but sometimes we are distracted. Listening to You each day is a priceless gift. Help me to listen. In Jesus name,





Do you know why the programs you do in youth group are so important? When a program has a clear purpose, it becomes a tool or galvanizing experience for spiritual growth. Therefore, the kind of programs you conduct are critical. It is crucial that you know what you are doing and why you are doing it.



In order for you to know what you are doing – you need a plan. You need a plan to get you from Point A to Point B.

This session will help you develop that plan so your programs have a purpose instead of being pointless.


G RO U P E X E R CIS E 1. Take three minutes in a group of two or three and share the best program ideas you can remember. 2. At the end of three minutes small group representatives can share the best program idea from their group. Write them down:

1 0 COMMO N REA SO NS Y OUTH LEA DERS DO P R OGRA MS 1. Something – just fill the time that was given.

• Sabbath School

2. Nothing – we don’t do any thing; we do nothing.

• Sabbath Afternoon Outreach

3. Anything – better than nothing; do anything.

• Saturday Night Social / Recreation

4. Everything – super busy, hyper active, lots of activity.

• Service / Outreach Activities

5. One Thing – focus on just one thing.

• Camp Outs / Youth Retreats

6. Best Thing – we only do high quality. 7. Same Thing – we’re in a rut, highly predictable. 8. New Thing – we only do the latest; we love fads. 9. Old Thing – stick with what the previous generation did. 10. My Thing – whatever I want, I don’t need a reason.



• Friday Night Bible Study

• Prayer Experiences

• (Other)



N E ED F OR A GOAL Having a goal is essential to provide direction for our programs. It must be a goal that motivates the youth group.


MOTIVATIONAL PROMISES AND PROGRAMS FROM THE BIBLE The Bible contains illustrations of programs that resulted from promises that God made to people.





1. Adam and Eve

1. “seed of the woman”

1. Have families / Messiah in future


(Gen 3:15) 2. Abraham

2. “count the stars / father a nation” (Gen 22:17)

2. Leave Ur / Be a Sojourner in Canaan

3. Moses

3. “land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex 3:8)

3. Leave Egypt / Enter Canaan

4. Jesus

4. “the kingdom of God is here/now” (Mark 1:14, 15)

4. Accept and Follow Jesus as Savior and Lord


Notice that the promises are big and very appealing. Notice that the programs require action.

If you were to ask youth leaders why they minister with and for young people, what are some of the answers you might get? Some have said: Salvation/Heaven: “Our goal is to get our kids to heaven.” “Save our youth.” Church attendance: “We need our young people in the pews each week.” Relationship: “Having a relationship with Jesus is the only thing that matters.” Spreading the Gospel: “We are called to preach the Adventist message to the world.” Serving the Community: “In the end it’s about the sheep and the goats.” Entertainment: “Liven things up now, and maybe they’ll stick around later.” What would you say is the purpose for the youth ministry in your church?


A S U G G E S T I ON MAY WE SUGGEST ANOTHER OPTION? Consider the one overall goal of: “Christlikeness”

WHY CHRISTLIKENESS? Take a closer look at what Christlikeness means: • Accepting Christ as Savior • Accepting Christ as Lord • Relationship with God • Character development with the Fruits of the Spirit • Service through the gifts of the Spirit • Living the kingdom of God now • Spreading the kingdom of God • Joy and suffering Christlikeness is broad enough to incorporate all of the goals just mentioned. But, in order for Christlikeness to be useful as a goal it needs to lead to action—it needs to be more specific, doesn’t it? How do you do that? Programs provide a place and time to put this into action. First, you need to understand the relationship between programs and your goal of Christlikeness. We will use a graph to help illustrate the relationship between programs and the goal.




• Sabbath School

• Christlikeness

• Friday evening Vespers • Saturday night social • Service activities • Prayer experiences


Notice the arrow in the graph that goes between your programs and the goal: Christlikeness Going from left to right: As you go from programs to goal, following the arrow, you must ask the question – Why? Why are you doing that program? Answer: To be like Jesus. Take for example the Sabbath School program. Question: WHY are we doing the Sabbath School program? Answer: In order to reach your goal: In order to be Christlike.

We could start with the goal and then follow the arrow back to the program. Moving from right to left we ask the question – How? Question: HOW do we foster Christlikeness? Answer: By doing the Sabbath School program.

You need something additional that relates to the goal and the program—something that links them together in a way useful for our purposes, plans, implementation, and evaluation. You need a bridge between your programs and your goal. You need a philosophy.

But, the goal, Christlikeness, is still too broad. 41

T HE B R I D G E : A S tate me n t o f P h i l o s o p h y A philosophy statement creates a bridge that helps you get from your programs to your overall goal of Christlikeness. Here’s a statement of philosophy that many have used for their youth ministry: “Fostering Relationships that Build Responsible Servant Leaders” Notice that this philosophy statement has more components than the goal of Christlikeness. Each word provides an avenue toward Christlikeness. When they work together, they provide breadth and depth for the lofty goal.






• Sabbath School

• “Fostering Relationships

• Christlikeness

• Friday evening Vespers

• That Build

• Saturday night social

• Responsible

• Service activities

• Servant

• Prayer experiences

• Leaders”



Notice the graph now! The philosophy statement provides support and a link between the programs and the goal. It also provides a link between the goal and the programs. 42

P UT T I NG I T ALL TOGE THE R Going from left to right, ask yourself the question: WHY am I doing this program? Instead of answering with your goal, answer with your philosophy: In order to “Foster Relationships that Build Responsible Servant Leaders.” It might be only one or two parts of the philosophy, such as “Relationships” or “Service.” Keep asking the question WHY and it takes you to your overall goal of Christlikeness.Now your goal should answer the question “Why build relationships?” Or “Why Service?” The goal should provide the answer. Otherwise you need to change your goal or change your philosophy or change what you do in your programs so they relate to one another. Turn around now and go from right to left and ask yourself the question: HOW?

HOW can our goal of Christlikeness be realized? We can start with our overall goal on the right, Christlikeness, and move to the left. As we move that direction our question is “How?” How can we experience the goal of Christlikeness? Instead of the program answering that, we now answer it with our philosophy—by fostering relationships that build responsible servant leaders. It might be only one or two of those components in our philosophy, or it might include everything in the philosophy. We continue to ask the question “How?” as we move from the philosophy to our programs. “How do we foster relationships that build responsible servant leaders?” When we look at our programs, we need to be able to answer that question, or else we need to do something in Sabbath School or our service projects that will do so.

Keep a record of what you do each week and why you did it. As you make your plans each year, you can look back and ask the question: “Did our youth ministry foster relationships that built responsible servant leaders?” As you look forward you can ask the question: “How can we plan programs to foster relationships that build responsible servant leaders?” The words in our philosophy are themes that guide the way we do ministry. Why? Because it takes us to the goal of Christlikeness. How? By shaping everything we do in youth ministry to implement these approaches—whether that’s Sabbath School or outreach or socials or evangelism. Let’s take a closer look at our philosophy statement.


You t h M i n i s t r y P hi l o so p h y T h e m e s /B re a k d o wn “F o s tering”: Fostering means to influence things a certain direction and it includes planning ahead. It is a proactive word. Instead of just hoping God will intervene in some way, you open the door and give the invitation for God to act and for others to join. “Re l ationships” : This foundational word sets the tone for your youth group. It’s about people and about God and about bringing the two together. Both are broken because of sin. They continue to get broken on a daily basis. Your youth group can join God in the redemption of broken relationships. We can be connected back to God again because of what Jesus did and what the Holy Spirit continues to do. We can be connected to other people for the same reasons. And we experience the power of God and the gift of community in the process. “T h a t B uild”: This is the dynamic part of your philosophy statement and it is very special. It is so special that we are dedicating the next session to it alone. This is the part that brings freshness and life to your youth group. Be sure and study the next session entitled: The Secret of Breathing Life into Youth Group. In that session you will learn about non-neutral environments (NNE’s).


“Re spo n si b l e ” : Youth group is the place to take on responsibilities. Adults want young people to be responsible. Young people want freedom to choose for themselves. Actually, they go together. Responsible people are free to choose; people free to choose are responsible for their choices. By the time people are old enough to be in the youth group, they should take responsibility for their choices. They should also start to take responsibility for their youth group and church, too. And that means they need to be given choices and the power to implement and be responsible for those choices. “Serva n t ” : Christ lived to serve others. As he told his disciples, “Freely you have received, freely give.” Just as we have received life from God, we are empowered to pass along that life to others. It’s called service. But the naturally sinful nature bends us to take what God has given us and hoard it to ourselves rather than freely sharing it with others. List the typical youth programs for the year then ask yourself the questions, “How many of these programs are for ourselves? How many of these programs are designed to help someone from outside our church? Are we being a servant of God to others?” Chances are that you will probably see that very little is done in churches that benefit anyone outside of the church. In Track Three of the Youth Group Manual, The Young Disciples, you will learn how to develop, organize, and execute great outreach activities.

“ L e a d e r s” : Christ was the greatest leader who ever lived. A leader is someone whom somebody else follows. Who do you follow? Who follows you? And why? We often think of “leaders” as people who direct a large number of people, but you only need one person to follow you in order to be a “leader.” What are you good at doing? What talents are you developing? By all means, experiment to find where you can best lead, whether that’s a large group or just one person. And be sure you follow those who lead well, because that empowers them to be a leader! You, by yourself, can actually make another person a leader—if you just follow that person. A “youth leader” can make one of the youth a leader by following that youth for a time. In Track Two of the Youth Group Manual, Build A Great Team, you will learn how to be a leader of a great youth group. Jesus promised that we would do greater works than he did. What a promise!

And be s u re you fo l l o w t h o se w h o l e a d w e l l , b e ca u se t h a t e m p o we rs t h e m t o b e a l e a d e r!


G RO U P E X E R CIS E Take time to think about what kind of themes (fostering/planning, relationships, responsibility, service, leadership) you could plan for a three month period then write them down in the right hand columns. Your themes could be steps towards your overall goal of Christlikeness. Your philosophy is what you do to implement your themes, your sub-goals, and your overall goal.




Month 1

Week 1:



Week 2:



Week 3:



Week 4:






Week 1:



Week 2:



Week 3:



Week 4:






Week 1:



Week 2:



Week 3:



Week 4:



What a great feeling to know that you are reaching your goals and creating an atmosphere that helps your youth be more Christlike. You can plan ahead and know if you are reaching your goal. You can begin to build a team and let them know where the youth group is going. You can recruit people to help you match the themes/sub-goals to your overall goal. You are on your way! 46


We want to be like Your Son, Jesus Christ. Help us know how to develop great programs for your glory. In Jesus name,








Non-Neutral Environment – What is it? It might be easiest to understand what a “non-neutral environment” is by starting with its opposite—a neutral environment.

What is a neutral environment? A neutral environment is a setting in which “no change” is needed. The opposite of “no change” would be “change.”


So a non-neutral environment is a setting in which “change” is needed.


We can illustrate this with something as basic as the temperature of a room. A neutral temperature for most of us is probably something around 72 degrees. It’s a good temperature to go to sleep. When your youth group meets, you want to “keep people awake” and, therefore, you want to “turn up the temperature” figuratively speaking. If we turn up the temperature to 73 degrees, would that make it non-neutral? For a few people who are hyper-sensitive, it would be non-neutral to make such a small change. But most people wouldn’t even notice that change, would they? What if we turned it up to 80 degrees? Would that make things non-neutral for more people? What would happen if we


made our room temperature 95 degrees? The most common response is to turn on the leader and demand that things become neutral again: “Hey, what’s wrong with you, leader? Why don’t you cool things off in here?” Other possible responses to a room at 95 degrees include looking for the thermostat, opening some windows, fanning one’s self or leaving. An extreme response would be if people took off their clothes! That would create another non-neutral environment, wouldn’t it?! The reality is, when you create a non-neutral environment, you don’t know for sure what the participants might do, even though you might have a pretty good

idea. But then again, you could be surprised! Because of this, leaders usually do their best to make things as neutral as they can. This means that leaders often work to keep everything so that “no change” is needed. And then they wonder why their youth group is so boring and young people don’t want to be there. All living organisms naturally seek a neutral environment. It’s called “equilibrium” or “homeostasis.” You might have learned that in high school biology class. That’s just our normal tendency. Can you think of what the ultimate neutral environment is—the condition in which nothing ever changes? That’s right – death. And

you don’t want to “kill” the people slowly as they come to your youth group each week. Perhaps you’ve visited a church that seems to be completely dead—a totally neutral environment. Is that the way the young people in your church would describe it? Although all living organisms naturally seek a neutral environment, in order to be healthy and to stay alive all living organisms need non-neutral environments. People need a little stress in their lives too in order to stay healthy. We wouldn’t know what hot and cold are if we we’re at 72 degrees all the time. We need to get up and move around instead of lying in bed all day, every day. And the same thing is true in our spiritual life.

When you do the same thing at church or in your youth group, you are maintaining a neutral environment. We naturally do that. So some people, especially young people, like to mix it up. Maybe they change the order of the program, just to wake up the sleeping people! But what happens if you keep doing the new order of service the same way each week? After a while the “new order of service” will become “neutral” and you’ll have to think of something else in order to make it non-neutral again. On the other hand, what if each week you make everything completely unpredictable—you aren’t even sure if there will be a church service, or who will preach, or what time the program begins? You’ve

gone too far—over the top—and people will become incapable of dealing with all of the change. It’s like making the room 120 degrees! Please understand that you can go too far with non-neutral environments. It is possible to energize young people by creating non-neutral environments, and yet some in the rest of the church might freak out. Consider all who are involved. You might reserve some activities that are very non-neutral for those ready to grow from it. You might tone it down some (and still make it partly non-neutral) when the whole church is present.


NON-NEUTRAL ENVIRONMENTS (NNE’s) CAN GO THE OTHER DIRECTION, TOO! But turning up the temperature is only one way to create a non-neutral environment. You can also make things non-neutral by turning down the temperature. What if you dropped the temperature to 71 degrees? Once again, only the super-sensitive would notice. What if we lowered the temperature to 60 degrees? A few people might actually think that’s finally neutral, but most would want things to change. If we dropped it all the way to 32 degrees in here, what might happen? The most common response is to turn on the leader to make things neutral again: “Get it back to 72 degrees, you lousy leader!” Or people might do group hugs or turn on the heater or just leave! A neutral environment can become non-neutral by turning up the temperature OR by turning down the temperature. You can freeze people to death with too many NNE’s. Therefore, you need to strike a balance. In general, children and adults avoid NNE’s. That’s why the church service follows a predictable order and people get all bent out of shape if the prayer happens before the hymn instead of after the hymn.


That’s why the Beginners Sabbath School does the exact same program each Sabbath for an entire quarter. And then, when a new quarter begins, there can be total mayhem until everyone gets used to the “new” program. Here’s the key: In general, young people thrive on NNE’s. That’s why youth ministry always seems to be different from the adult ministry. That’s why young people come alive when there’s a change from what is predictable. In fact, if you don’t create NNE’s for young people, they will create non-neutral environments for you! Otherwise they will probably stop coming once they can opt out— they don’t want to die! Those who stay do so either because of habit/ tradition or because things became non-neutral and they came alive­—they keep coming back for more. If they stay, most likely it will be out of habit and tradition.


Elements to consider when creating NNE’s 1. Identify what is neutral. 2. Go gradually to create a NNE (start by going to 75 degrees instead of 95; then move it to 80; then 90, etc.) 3. NNE’s vary by: age, individual, groups, settings. 4. Over the top is too far! 5. List the potential responses. 6. Need to debrief afterward. 7. It is risky – By definition, risk-taking assumes there may be unpredictable outcomes. Do not let an unpredictable outcome keep you from taking risks. If you don’t take risks, it will lead to death. That’s why you can find many examples in the Bible of God creating non-neutral environments to bring people to him.


8. Foundation of relationships – Build up trust (like a bank account) in the youth group and the church before attempting NNE’s that push people out of their comfort zones.


HOW TO CREATE A NNE : What are some things you could do to create a NNE in your programs?




• Sabbath School

• Relationships

• Homeless Jeff

• Responsible • Servant • Leaders

Take a look at the program in the chart in the left hand column. If your youth group has its own Sabbath School program, what could you do to make one of the programs non-neutral? Our philosophy of “fostering relationships that build responsible servant leads” has several components, as show in the box above. The phrase “that build” is that powerful motivator we’ve called “non-neutral environments.” That leaves us with “relationships” and “responsible” and “servant” and “leaders” for the components of our philosophy. We’ll want to use

one or more of those elements as our reason to create a non-neutral in our program. Let’s imagine that the subject matter for the program or lesson is from Matthew chapter 25 (the sheep and the goats). This is the story about helping people. “For I was hungry, and you fed me, I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink, I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home, I was naked, and you gave me clothing, I was sick, and you cared for me, I was in prison, and you visited me.’”

How can a youth group leader make this lesson for the Sabbath School non-neutral? Here’s an idea. What if you brought a homeless person into the room and introduced him to the group?! “Everybody, I want you to meet Jeff.” Jeff has been sleeping under the bridge. He has been nice enough to come with me today and talk about what it is like to live under a bridge. What do you think our group could do for Jeff and his friends?


Let’s evaluate this idea: • How would your youth group react to this situation? • What are the risk factors? • What would the parents of the youth do or say?

Did Jesus create non-neutral environments? Can you think of any? Examples could include healing, confronting religious leaders, not rescuing John the Baptist from jail, crucifixion, walking on water, washing the disciples’ feet, etc.

• What would be the reaction to the rest of the church?

It seems that non-neutral environments are the way God operates!

• How would the pastor relate to this situation?

Complete the check list below:

• Would this be over the top or would it be only 80 degrees? • Would it be more non-neutral or less non-neutral if this happened during the church service instead of during Sabbath School?

In developing a solution to the non-neutral environment of Homeless Jeff, which of the items on our youth ministry list of purposes would you be addressing? Which component of the philosophy (relationships, responsible, service, leadership) would you make your purpose with your non-neutral environment?

☐☐ Would you, the youth leader, be expected to have all the answers?

• Relationships

☐☐ Could members of the youth group be responsible to find out the answers and follow through?

• Leadership

☐☐ Would it be a meaningful experience? ☐☐ Would this lead to your overall goal of Christlikeness? ☐☐ How often could you do something like this?

• Responsibility • Service

So many think that the obvious answer is: Service. But that would depend on how you developed your theme. Perhaps the theme, Responsibility, could be developed if you programmed it! Or what about Relationships?

☐☐ Are you prepared for some youth or their parents to pull their youth out of your group because they were offended? ☐☐ What would happen if every week you brought a homeless person to Sabbath School? ☐☐ Would this experience lead the group to discover what their city is doing for homeless people? ☐☐ Would the youth group be motivated to help out at a homeless shelter? ☐☐ Have you already developed a foundation of trust in your youth group so everyone knows that whatever non-neutral environments you face, you’ll do it together and you’ll rely on God throughout the process?




Take the next two minutes to share ideas of how one of the programs on the list could be made non-neutral:

As you evaluate your three columns try to have yes’s all the way across the columns.

1. Make a list with three columns in it. The first column would have your programs or activities, the second column would have the non-neutral environment idea, the third column would have the purpose from your philosophy statement that you want to emphasize or grow.

AVOID GOING OVER THE TOP Let’s say your program is Sabbath School. That would be the first Yes. Next, your non-neutral idea is to burn down the tree in front of the church because the subject matter is about hell fire. Is that non-neutral? The answer is Yes.

But you have no purpose for your program. It does not address the purpose in your philosophy statement of Relationships, Responsibility, Service, or Leadership. In fact it is very irresponsible! The result would be either games or harassment. This describes what often happens with youth groups who come up with a crazy idea that seems like fun because it’s non-neutral, but there is no purpose. Don’t be afraid to stop some programs or change other programs.



N N E ’s



• Sabbath School - yes we used one of our programs

• Yes

• Homeless Jeff - yes Homeless Jeff was non-neutral

• Yes

• Service - yes the pur- • Yes pose of the service was met because we are going to help at the homeless shelter as a youth group

• Yes, we used Sabbath School time

• Yes

• Yes, burning down the • Yes tree in the front of the church

• No • No, the activity demonstrated irresponsibility more than it did teaching about Hell Fire!

Friday evening Bible study

Saturday night social

Service activities

Prayer experiences




EVALUATE YOUR PURPOSE If you have a program and a non-neutral environment, but no purpose (or the purpose isn’t clear to people), the result is games or harassment. People either have fun but no growth, or they think you’re just harassing them. EVALUATE YOUR NNE If you have a program and a purpose, but you don’t have a non-neutral environment, the result is BOREDOM. EVALUATE YOUR PROGRAM If you have a non-neutral environment with a purpose, but you don’t have a program where you can actually do it, the result is THEORY. If you have a program with a non-neutral environment and a purpose, the result is MINISTRY.


DE BR I E F Get into groups of tow or three people. Take two minutes to share what you think about what you’ve heard in this session.



As we look at creation we see that You are not a boring God. You are the Creator and you created us in your image. Help us to use the gift of creativity you have given to us. In Jesus name,







Working with a youth group can be fun and rewarding, if you know what you are doing. On the other hand, it can be a nightmare for you and discouraging (and worst of all) boring and awkward to the group when you do not have the skills.

The purpose of this session is to help you know how to lead a group of young people and recognize the group dynamics and flow.


GETTING DOWN TO BASICS The atmosphere for youth group is important. That is why you want to employ the 4 F’s of youth ministry: 1. Food 2. Friends 3. Fun 4. Faith When youth group happens at a church it creates a certain dynamic. Meeting in a person’s home feels different. Meeting in a park ,yet again, has a different feel to it. Usually a home setting creates a deeper sense of trust, which can make participants more open to share. If people feel awkward or uncomfortable in a setting, you will need to do some ice breakers and get acquainted activities if you want to get beyond superficial conversations and spirituality. Don’t fail to provide a spiritual focus whenever you meet, even if it’s primarily a “social” gathering. For example, when you’re just playing volleyball with the church youth group, call for prayer and prayer requests at the beginning and/or end of the game. Young people want the fourth “F” of Faith even if they don’t say they do. If you’re an adult, don’t try to be too much like the kids. They will respect your leadership much more if you are who you are. And if you’re the youth leader, they should expect you to provide a spiritual focus. 62

GROUP DYNAMICS SKILLS Memorize the following list and look for these dynamics. By memorizing the list you will have it for immediate recall when you need it the most—while leading your group. We have made it easier by utilizing the acronym: D.Y.N.A.M.I.C. D: Data vs. Feelings ” Y: Years of Age and Gender N: Norms and Decision–Making A: Action vs. Talk M: Maintenance-Type People vs. Task-Type People I: Influence and Leadership Style C: Core Group vs. Individual Dynamics Defined


D Data vs. Feelings

Some people lean more toward facts (data) and others more toward feelings. Often we associate “facts” with males and “feelings” with females. Those are generalizations that are not always true. Both should be considered. Frequently our feelings prompt us to do things, but we explain our actions with facts instead of with feelings. We might not even be aware of our own feelings. And they change! They start inside of us, but feelings find ways to express themselves and are often misunderstood or misinterpreted. With group dynamics, you need to consider feelings!



Years of Age & Gender

What impact does age have on the people and the activity? Are there age differences that show in the group? What matters to people based on their age? Also, what difference does gender make? Is there an equal amount of males and females? How would it be different if only one gender was present? How do the dynamics change because of the males and females in your group?

Norms & Decision-Making

Norms are just what people expect to be normal. Often they aren’t spoken, but everyone seems to understand them. For example, is humor allowed in the group? Is it expected? Does the group spend time talking or go straight to action? Do you have to get a certain person’s approval—is that the “norm”—before proceeding? Are put-downs not tolerated as a norm? When it comes to making decisions, does one person do that for the group or does the whole group have a part in the process? Do those with more influence carry greater weight when it comes to making a decision? Are some people left out of the decision-making process? Can decisions be changed?


Maintenance-Type People vs. Task-Type People

A Action vs. Talk

Which individuals in a group fit into the category of a “doer?” Which individuals in a group would be considered the “talkers?” How do these individuals affect the dynamics of the group as a whole? Is the group more of a “doing” group or is the group more of a “talking” group. You may discover that the scales tilt more to the personality of the youth leader. It’s probably best to strike a balance between doing and talking. What words are spoken? What actions are taken from the talking? Ask the question: Does our “talk” match our “walk”?

Maintenance-type people give priority to relationships and keeping everyone happy or “maintained.” Task-type people feel an internal drive to accomplish a “task” and don’t worry about whether or not that hurts people or relationships in the process. Task-type people feel a surge of motivation when the clock is ticking down, while maintenance-type people keep their focus on the people rather than achieving some task, or they simply check out and decide the task isn’t worth the sacrifice.


Core Group vs. Individual

What happens within the group? Is there peer pressure? Does the group have greater importance than the individuals within the group? Can people opt out of the group when they want? Is your group a “group” or just a collection of “individuals”? Are individual rights reserved or surrendered or demanded for the benefit of the group? To what extent are individuals willing to commit to the group? How similar and how different are the individuals within the group?

Influence and Leadership Style

Who in the group has influence? How do they get it? Who follows whom? How do people lose influence? Somewhat related to this is leadership style. Do leaders emerge because of their authority, service, power, title or something else? Are the leaders autocratic or laissez faire or democratic? 65



Divide into groups of two or three people and take one minute each to repeat the

It’s time to put our Group Dynamics List to work for us. Try not to look at the list as you look for them taking place in front of you in this next activity.

D.Y.N.A.M.I.C. skills by memory.

Let’s begin with the Observation Game. This game can help you practice and develop the skill of identifying group dynamics:

Observation Game Instructions:

Switch Observers:

1. Get into groups of two (person A and person B).

1. Ask B people to sit and A people to come to the front. B people observe.

2. All the A people will stay in their seats and be observers. 3. All the B people will gather in the front of the room. 4. Next, all the B people will close their eyes and mouths and keep them closed. That’s right, no talking and no looking. Now, line up in order of height.

2. Ask A people to line up in order of importance – they can talk to one another. 3. They have 60 seconds – now go.

5. You have 60 seconds - now go. (There should be a period of chaos as the B people struggle to line up by height).




• Ask the observers, Group A, what they observed.

1. Ask B people what they observed.

• Write down observations on a board.

2. Write down observations on a board.

• Use the following bullet point list to help you with your evaluation:

3. Use the following bullet point list to help you with your evaluation:

• D:

• D:

• Y:

• Y:

• N:

• N:

• A:

• A:

• M:

• M:

• I:

• I:

• C:

• C:



DEBRIEFING It’s time for the leader to begin debriefing the activity. Debriefing brings into the open the dynamics and growth of a group. It enables participants to discover the purpose the leader had for the non-neutral environment for the youth group. If you do have a purpose, but the participants don’t know what it is and they don’t discover it, the result for them will be games or harassment. You don’t want that. Therefore, it is important that you go the extra step and help them to recognize the non-neutral aspect of what they are doing and the value of it.

DRAWING THE PURPOSE OUT OF THE GROUP Rather than just telling the group, “My purpose for this non-neutral environment was service,” draw them out so they discover it for themselves. Ask questions rather than giving answers. Let the participants discover this for themselves instead of having the leader lecture it to them. Sometimes God will lead them to discover even more than you had intended.

Sometimes a younger member catches on or grows more than an older member; sometimes it’s vice versa. As individuals in your group show the aptitude for leading these types of discussions, let them lead in the debriefing. This develops their leadership skills and adds additional interest in “their group.” Dont’ look now, but you are doing discipleship.

This is where you are doing your best work. This skill will improve with practice. Don’t be afraid to tell the group what you are doing while you are doing it. They can begin to ask questions of each other, too.


THREE BASIC QUESTIONS TO HELP YOU DEBRIEF What? | So what? | Now what? Instead of memorizing 1,000 questions, these three basic questions provide a simplified way to approach debriefing. You can modify and individualize these three questions for your specific activity with your unique group: Three Basic Questions Defined




Have the group describe what happened, focusing on the actual, physical elements and what people observed. Get as many details as possible, getting input from multiple people, not just one spokesperson for the group. For example, “Jeremy started touching people on their heads” or “Amy just stood there giggling” or “Marty kept opening his eyes even though that was cheating.” Hold off on their potential meanings until the second type of question.

This is the deeper level of what might have been happening under the surface, or what developed with the group during the process. This is what you’re really after, but you need to wait until the observable details are out and the group is participating.

Here’s the payoff. How will the participants apply this to their lives? What will they do differently because of this? How will they be changed? What has been experienced in this activity that can be transferred to other situations, many of which are far more significant than the simple little activities just done in the youth group. For example, “Where do you need to take more initiative this week?” Or “When is it okay to break what social norms?” Or “How do you relate to people who push you around?” OR “How does this lead to Christlikeness? This is where the purpose of the non-neutral environment finally makes a difference.




1. For one minute practice the “What?” question in a discussion of the B people.

1. For one minute practice the “So what?” question in a discussion of the B people.

1. For one minute practice the “Now what?” question in a discussion of the B people.

2. For one minute practice the “What?” question in a discussion of the A people.

2. For one minute practice the “So what?” question in a discussion of the A people.

2. For one minute practice the “Now what?” question in a discussion of the A people.

Use questions to draw out people rather than dictating what you saw or what you guess is the meaning. Take the observations made from the “What” questions already posed and now ask, “What do you think was going on with that?” Or “What’s behind that?” Or “Why might you have done that?” By drawing out the participants, they are gaining the meaning and significance of the overall purpose instead of listening to you lecture them.


What? So what? Now what?



Therefore, it is important that you go the extra step and help them to recognize the non-neutral aspect of what they are doing and the value of it.


The skills for leading a group increase as you practice. These are the youth group skills that most youth leaders lack. You don’t want to be a dictator in making the group do what you want them to do. Instead you want to facilitate the group in helping them determine together the direction and discovery of the group. As you practice these skills with an honest heart, the group will learn to trust your leadership. Now that you’re aware of these skills, list what is different about you or what you might do differently. 1. ______________________________________________________________ 2. ______________________________________________________________ 3. ______________________________________________________________



Take us deeper into understanding You. May we learn things about you as a group that we could never discover if we were alone. In Jesus name,




In this session you will learn how to create great questions that contribute to meaningful discussions. Knowing where you are going enables you to ask the right kinds of questions along the way.


There are scores of books and other resources that have hundreds of group games, activities, and Bible studies with questions. Check out resources of ideas before you meet with your youth and adapt them to your group since no one knows your youth group better than you do. Then

you can focus on your group when they gather instead of putting your nose in a book. Here are some basic techniques for asking good questions, which is more of an art than a science.



Why have a discussion? Is it just to talk? Is it so the youth leader gets adored for being a good discussion leader? You want the discussion to lead somewhere other than yourself. You want the youth group to grow spiritually.

Growing spiritually means that the youth group knows Jesus as their friend, which leads to faith, which leads to good behavior, which leads to serving others. Sometimes you have to strategically approach your goal of knowing Jesus as one’s friend by starting at the end and working back the opposite direction. You might choose to start with a service project, which leads to good behavior, which leads a youth group to faith, which leads to knowing Jesus as one’s friend. Good behavior is another way of saying, “Fostering Relationships that Build Responsible Servant Leaders.” This is what it means to be Christlike.


THE ART OF ASKING QUESTIONS Master the following points:

KE Y QU EST IO NS Some people think they must have hundreds of questions memorized in order to lead a good discussion. Actually, it’s more important to have a few key questions. To think of the key questions takes a great deal of time, thought, and effort. You might jot down 10-20 different questions and then step back and ask yourself, “What is this really all about?” Get a focus and then frame a key question around that. Whether you are leading a Bible study or leading a discussion on where to go on a mission trip, you must take time to develop key questions. From key questions other questions will come naturally.

ADVANC E Use the questions and answers to move forward in your discussion plan and with the flow of the group you are leading. The question and answer may begin on a shallow level but be prepared to take it deeper. Advancing may mean beginning with something specific and going to something general, and then becoming specific again. If you don’t advance, the discussion will get bogged down because it’s going nowhere. As the leader, move the discussion rather than just treading water by repeating the same things.




THE ART OF ASKING QUESTIONS Master the following points:

TIME Give your listeners time to respond. After you ask a key question do not be afraid of silence. You might actually say, “Let’s take 30 seconds just to think about this, and then I’ll ask for some responses.” That takes the pressure off of the silence by giving permission to be silent. Then, repeat the question and ask for responses. If you answer your own question, those in the group will view this as a monologue rather than a discussion. Some discussion leaders have people write out responses individually and then the group can discuss things as a whole. One approach is to have the youth group write their response on postit notes which they can stick on a poster. Using this method makes the responses anonymous and the youth group may feel safer in responding. The resulting discussion can be more open because the discussion is directed at the idea rather than the individual.

CLE AR Be sure the listener(s) is clear on what you ask. It might be clear to you, but that doesn’t guarantee that it’s clear to everyone else. A person might answer a key question quite differently than what you expected, but their answer still might be an acceptable answer. If you don’t want to go down that trail, simply acknowledge their response and move on. Sometimes key questions are too vague to be clear. You might need to refine it to be clear. Try out the question on some people before you lead the discussion to see whether or not it’s clear to others.

ADAPT The dynamics of a discussion change. Be prepared to adapt to the direction of the discussion. Be sensitive to promptings from the Holy Spirit that you might need to follow the discussion a different way than you originally planned. Sometimes you’ve prepared for a group of four and you end up with 20 people (or vice versa). You might have expected a 30-minute discussion and you only get 10 minutes. You’ve got to adapt! Are you flexible? Can you go with the flow?

TR AIL Capitalize on the situation and the responses. You can’t guarantee what the responses will be. You might want to follow up on what one person said; with another person you might simply acknowledge what that person said but not go in that direction. This is why it is important you have a clear philosophy and goal. Your philosophy (“Fostering relationships that build responsible servant leaders”) and your goal (“Christlikeness”) is your compass that leads you in your discussions.



GREAT DISCUSSIONS Often the thing that prevents great discussions from happening is that it’s hard to get them started. Simply saying, “I have some key questions” just doesn’t make it happen. Many people want to join a great discussion, but they will wait until it’s going before they join. How can you start a great discussion?




You need at least a small commitment from the participants that they will participate.

You need a variety of responses. If everyone answers the same, there’s no need for a discussion. Asking a group of Christians, “Do you love Jesus?” will probably result in general agreement. But if you ask, “What are some of the ways Christians can show their love for Jesus?” you’re apt to get a variety of responses. The questions need to be worded in a way that engenders more than one answer. Knowing your group helps, or you might need to tweak your question a bit. The way to get a variety of responses is affected by the format of your small group and the styles of questions you use.

Don’t present this “commitment” as a life or death matter. You aren’t asking, “Will you marry me?” Or “Will you die for me right now?” It just needs to be a small commitment—a “yes” or “no” or “maybe” to some small item at this time.


SMALL GROUPS The larger the group, the less likely that you will have significant involvement. The “Bystander Effect” sets in and only a few people become involved in the discussion. If the group is large (10+ people), you might want to break into groups of 3-4 to discuss a question and then report back to the larger group.

A Proven Method A proven method is for the leader to give a short introduction to a Scripture or a list of Bible texts. A facilitator in each group can guide the discussion after reading the text or as the group reads from one text to the next. At the end of a set time period, the small groups can report to the leader what they learned. The leader then writes their points on the board for all to see. Everyone hears the reports. It is amazing how many different thoughts come out of this process. Many small groups will feel like they exhausted the text or list of texts and suddenly there is this great idea from another group – wow!

This method accomplishes several things: 1. The leader can direct the overall program and ask key questions to look for in the small group. The leader can skip from one group to the next and listen in. 2. Facilitators get experience in leading a small group. In time they can lead up front. Be sure to give others an opportunity to lead (3rd Base). 3. Most importantly, participants get involved! Someone is listening to them! Their opinions matter. 4. Everyone belongs – you are reaching your goal. The Temptation to Do It Yourself

Many “discussion leaders” or “teachers” find it easier to stand up (or sit down) and lecture. This method is especially useful to the leader who hasn’t prepared or the leader who thinks he’s very smart or wants all the attention directed to him. Whatever the reason, this method is a youth group killer. Yes, you may have completed the study but you haven’t accomplished your goal of belonging – you’ve missed the whole point. “But,” some leaders say, “What if I can’t get any adults to help me?” If you can’t get adults to help you then use the young people themselves. Model how it works and then team up with them as co-discussion leaders. When they’re ready, have them lead the discussion on their own. So many young people complain that Sabbath School is boring. We guarantee that if they are leading out, it won’t be boring for them. Just make sure that the other youth do not make fun – their turn is coming soon enough. Start with those who you sense might have talents they can develop in this area. Begin with those who are ready to be used by God and are teachable themselves.


CREATIVE QUESTION STYLES We have already learned the importance of non-neutral environments, therefore, even a proven format like the small group method outlined above needs to change from time to time in order for learning to stay fresh. When you start the discussion, there is more than one way to ask a key question. Following are eight different ways of starting a discussion. Experiment to discover which ones work best with you. Put in your own topics with these examples. The eight types of discussion starters form the following acronym: VCR GLIDE.

V o t i ng C o n t inuum R a n k ing G o a l Set t ing L i s tening / Watchi ng I n te r view D i l emma E i t her- Or



Participants vote in response to a statement by voting either “Strongly Agree” or “Agree” or “Uncertain” or Disagree” or “Strongly Disagree.” Here is an example: “At their core, teenagers haven’t changed much in the last 20 years.”

Vote by checking one of the following: ___ Strongly Agree ___ Agree ___ Uncertain ___ Disagree ___ Strongly Disagree

You can do this on a piece of paper or with hand motions. ___ Strongly Agree (both thumbs up and pumping) ___ Agree (just thumbs up) ___ Uncertain (arms crossed) ___ Disagree (thumbs down) ___ Strongly Disagree (thumbs down pumping)

Using this method everyone can participate! Remember the importance of a safe way of reaching 1st Base: History Giving? Another question can be strategically asked to target 2nd base, and then 3rd base if the youth are ready to move there. Another form of voting is to ask a question and have the group vote Yes or No. Next have the “yes’s” move to one side of the room and the “no’s” to the other side of the room. They have three minutes to to come up with the top three reasons for their vote. They choose a spokesperson to speak for their side. Some questions might be: “Is it alright to go swimming on a Sabbath afternoon?” “Is it alright to use drums for worship?” “Does God accept homosexuals?” “Is being obese as bad as smoking?”


CREATIVE QUESTION STYLES The 8 types of discussion starters form the following acronym: VCR GLIDE.


A continuum is a line that separates two opposites. A key question could be: “God’s will for my life is:” One opposite answer is “Clear” and the other opposite answer is “Fuzzy.” Somewhere on the line is where people are asked to mark with an “X.” After everyone has placed their X on the line where they feel at the moment, individuals could all show their sheet to the rest of the group by holding it in front of them. Again, everyone participates. Everyone does 1st Base. Another option is to have just one sheet of paper and each person in the group puts their own mark on the continuum. The dynamic changes a little when they do this in reference to the others in the group The same principal regarding how to achieve 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Base explained earlier continues to apply.

Cle ar



“God’s will for my life is:”



R AN K I NG After hearing a statement, participants respond to three or more options by numbering them in order of preference.

Sometimes the options seem to be equally good. That’s what makes it difficult and creates the variance in the responses.

In time you will gain the skill in preparing options that are close to one another. This will stimulate discussion.

Here’s an example for ranking: “God communicates to us primarily through:” Rank the following options 1, 2, 3, and 4:

If everyone has the same ranking, there isn’t going to be much discussion. You need to have the options be equally good (or equally bad).

Do you begin to see how it works?

___ Words

___ The witness of the Church

Another ranking question could be, “Who would you go to if you had a problem?”

___ The Holy Spirit.

___ Dishonest Politician

___ Loving actions

___ Self-righteous Person

The leader needs to take time in advance to think of a great question and possible answers so they can be discussed. Instead of questions with simple “Right” and “Wrong” answers, the leader looks for more than one possible answer and some variety among the answers, all of which could be right.

___ Prostitute


CREATIVE QUESTION STYLES The 8 types of discussion starters form the following acronym: VCR GLIDE.

G O AL S E TTI N G Goal setting is usually given at the end of a discussion. You can use it to start a discussion by opening up the goal for adjustment through participant discussion. Here is an example: “We are about to begin a 1-month emphasis on reading the Bible for our personal devotions. Our goal is for 100% of the people in our youth group to read the Bible for 30 minutes a day, 7 days a week, for a month. Is this a good goal for our group, or should we adjust it?� A statement like this can be given at the beginning of a discussion and adjusted during the interaction.



After hearing a paragraph of information (listening), participants respond based on the information received. This can be done with a skit or a You Tube clip, or you can create your own. Here’s an example: “Hector has just discovered Jesus for himself, and he’s VERY excited about this incredible discovery! He wants to share this good news with everyone—NOW! So Hector walks up to other students at school, pins them to the wall, and asks, “Are you saved?” What do you think of Hector? Comment:______________________________________________________ What do you think of Hector’s method? Comment: ______________________________________________________ What are some other ways to share the Gospel? Comment: ______________________________________________________



CREATIVE QUESTION STYLES The 8 types of discussion starters form the following acronym: VCR GLIDE.


This method of discussion starters can be done 1-to-1 in front of the group, or the facilitator can jump from person-to-person with a question or a flow of questions on a given topic. For example: Ask several people the first question, then several other people the second question, and so on. You’ll notice that the third question plunges people into something much deeper than the first two. Handle the responses in the same way as you do the first two rather than making a big deal about them. 1. What do you do when you have some free time? 2. On most days, do you spend more time with friends or with family? 3. Do you spend more time each day getting physical food or spiritual food?




A situation gets presented in which there is no easy next step. The listeners make suggestions on what can be done and their reasons for their ideas. Example:

FIRST DAY “Heather reluctantly accepts Jason’s invitation to the banquet, figuring it’s better than going alone.”

TWO DAYS LATER “Marcus catches Heather in the school hallway and asks her if she’ll go with him to the banquet. Heather can’t believe it! She’s been waiting for two years for Marcus to notice her. She quickly says, “Yes,” to Marcus and walks on air the rest of the day.”

THE DILEMMA “That evening, Heather gets jolted back to reality when Jason phones and asks her the color of her dress for the banquet, since he wants to buy a corsage that matches her dress.” Is this a dilemma? What could Heather do? What should Heather do? What would you do if you were Heather? What would you do if you were Jason? Is there anything from the Bible that could help Heather know what to do?


CREATIVE QUESTION STYLES The 8 types of discussion starters form the following acronym: VCR GLIDE.


Participants are given an “either-or” statement and are asked to choose one or the other, then give reasons for their choice. Example:

“Would you rather:

Hear God’s voice once, clearly and out loud


Hear God frequently in a still, small voice?”

“Which is more important to God:

The beliefs we hold


The life we live?”

These are eight different ways you can create key questions for discussions with your youth group. Take time to learn them and be skillful in using them with your youth group. The rewards are tremendous.



Do you have a question for me?

I’m listening...



Relational Bible Studies The Bible provides a word from God for individuals and for groups. It continues to be a ital source of inspiration, information, invitation, and interaction. INSPIRATION - God’s influence that moved people to write the Bible is necessary for you when you read and discuss the Bible. Without God, you’re just sharing limited human ideas that lack the supernatural only God can provide. INFORMATION - We have much to learn from God. Discovering God through Scripture can be thrilling and life-changing. But sometimes Bible study seems to be only information and little else. Information is great, but it’s not enough by itself. Those who killed Jesus had lots of Bible information. INVITATION - The Word of God calls for involvement and personal response and application. You might need to put yourself into the story or spend some time in prayer asking, “God, what do you want me to do (or stop doing) now?” This moves the Bible study from the mind to the heart and to action. INTERACTION - Reading the Bible on your own is great, and you will benefit greatly by doing that. But there is also tremendous value in studying the Bible in a small group so that the understanding of God broadens as He fulfills His promise, “If two or three people come together in my name, I am there with them (Matthew 18:20 NIV).” We call these studies “Relational Bible Studies” because our focus is primarily on how our relationship can grow with God and with each other through the reading of Scripture; through discerning feedback form God; from interacting with others who also desire God to communicate in this gathering God sanctifies. You will be more dependent on God than a wise teacher or a specific piece of information. This type of Bible study isn’t looking for specific answers that everyone will answer the same. Instead, it seeks to discern God’s personal message and then to respond to God accordingly.


The basic format for each study includes: 1. The opening question­­—this seeks to put everyone on the same level instead of heaving experts versus beginners. 2 Prayer—individually or as a group for God to be present and to guide the group in this relational Bible study. 3. Scripture Passage—read the passage, preferably out loud. 4. Questions—these can be answered individually and then discussed as a group or the group can go through them together without answering them individually. The questions are intended to spark discussion and lead people to discern God’s personal message to each person, which may happen individually or in groups. The questions tend to move deeper as the study progresses. Feel free to add your own. 5. Personal application—conclude with personal responses to what god revealed and impressed upon each person. Expect this to vary from person to person as the Holy Spirit moves upon people’s hearts. When your group has built a sense of trust with one another, individuals will be more open to God’s impressions because they sense security and love by being with the people of God as the study His Word.


3. What has God done to “save” you?

6. What does it mean when the Bible says God will “rejoice over you with singing”?


A. God has given me eternal life.

you the focus of attention (like a birth-

B. God hasn’t saved me from anyone or anything.

A. God literally sings over me.

C. God got me out of a bad situation.

C. I can’t picture this.

D. I’m not sure.

E. God celebrates me big time!

E. Other.

F. Other.

He will take great delight in you,

4. Why would God “take great delight in you”?

He will quiet you with his love,

A. I can’t imagine God doing that.

He will rejoice over you with singing.”

B. Because I obey God the best I can.

7. In God’s house, where does he hang your picture (refrigerator? hallway? living room, bedroom, etc.)? In your life, where do you hang a picture of God?

day or graduation party) & loved it?! PRAYER FOR GOD’S PRESENCE AND GUIDANCE

Zephaniah 3:17 NIV reads this way: “The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save.

1. How do you know that God is with you?

D. I take time to spend with God. E. I’m open to God and willing to do whatever God wants me to do.

B. You can just sense God’s presence.

F. Other.

C. You can’t know; but you need to have faith and believe he’s there.

5. How does God “quiet you with His love”?

E. God is present, regardless of whether or not you ask or sense his presence. F. Other. 2. When the Bible uses all caps for the word “LORD,” it means God’s name: Yahweh. It’s more personal: “Yahweh your God is with you.” When is God personal and not just some invisible power? A. When I feel God inside of me.

D. God will take me to a concert.

C. God made me, and “God don’t make junk.”

A. Everything happens the way you want.

D. You’ve invited him to be present.

B. God sings me a love song.

A. He gives me a peace that I can’t get any other way. B. He has to slow me down so I pay attention to Him. C. I’m too active to be quieted with someone’s love. D. I feel complete acceptance from God. E. He removes my anger, bitterness, and fear. F. I connect with God through music. G. Other.

B. When I’m by myself. C. When God answers one of my prayers. D. When I’m not just living off of someone else’s religion. E. When I see God in other people. F. Other. 93

Love God; Love Others

OPENING QUESTION How does a pet know when its owner loves it? Read 1 John 4:7-8; 20-21.

1. What does the phrase “God is love” mean? A. God’s nature is love. B. God cares about us a lot! C. I’m not really sure. D. God wants to kiss us. E. Other. 2. You can tell people are loving because: A. They talk about God a lot.

4. What do you think of people who say they love God, but they don’t love other people? A. They’re hypocrites at worst and liars at best. B. I can relate. C. Nobody can love everybody. D. Talk is cheap; show me some actions. E. Maybe I won’t say, “I love God” because it creates such a high standard.

B. They take care of people you don’t care about (at all).

F. Other.

C. They are Christians.

5. Is it possible to love God without loving others?

D. They are just like you. E. They talk about love all the time.

A. No.

F. Other.

C. It depends.

3. What does it mean to be “born of God”? A. Have a completely new perspective on life. B. Take the life you’ve been given and dedicate it 100% to God.

B. Yes. D. Some people just aren’t loveable. E. It’s easier to love God than to love some people. F. Other.

C. Demonstrate love for other people.

6. God commands us to love him AND others. How does that happen?

D. Make some personal sacrifices for God, people, and this planet.

A. If we love God, we will love others.

E. Make a new start.

B. If we love others, we will love God.

F. Other.

C. I have no idea. D. It would take a miracle. E. Humbly ask for this gift from God, again and again. F. Other. 94

7. How do others know you love them? How do they know you love God?

Refuge and Strength Describe a time in which you felt completely safe. OR: Describe a time in which you felt incredibly powerful. Read Psalm 46:1-11. 1. This Psalm identifies God as our refuge. When has God been a safe place for you to hide or to find comfort? A. When somebody was out to get me. B. When I messed up and had nobody to turn to at the time.

4. This Psalm describes a river in the City of God (Jerusalem). Since literal Jerusalem had no river, this promise anticipates God’s future provisions (Ezekiel 47:1-12 and Revelation 221-2). What do you anticipate God to provide for you in the future?

C. When I hate myself.

A. A huge swimming pool or my own riverfront mansion.

D. When nothing seems to be going my way.

B. Happiness and good times.

E. Other.

C. Marriage and family.

E. Nothing until heaven.

A. When I had to do something that seemed impossible.

G. Other.

B. When I had to stand up to somebody.

5. Martin Luther wrote the famous hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” based on this Psalm. When have you found God to be a mighty fortress?

D. When I remember what God has done in the past. E. When I pray. F. Other. 3. What elements in nature remind you that you aren’t that powerful?

A. Shout, “Glory, glory, hallelujah!” B. Bow in silence before God. C. Crank up the music. D. Stand tall, knowing God is with me. E. Other. 7. What does it mean to “be still and know that I am God”? When have you experienced this?

D. A good education and a good job.

2. This same Psalm also identifies God as our strength. When has God been a source of strength for you?

C. When I wanted to change something about me.

6. The word “Selah” appears three times in this Psalm. People aren’t sure what the word means, but some think it’s a pause for silence or a musical interlude. How would you fill that space after reading this Psalm?

F. A taste of heaven here on earth, such as . . .

A. When I was a small child. B. When I survived a near death experience. C. When I hear awesome Bible stories.

8. In this Psalm, God gets labeled as “The God of Jacob.” When has God been “The God of (your name)”?

D. When miracles happen today.

A. An earthquake.

E. I haven’t found God to be a mighty fortress.

B. A powerful storm.

F. Other.

C. All the plants, flowers, and leaves that come back to life in the Spring. D. Sunrise, sunset—day after day after day. E. Grass that grows through a cement sidewalk. F. Other. 95

Train Up a Child

C. Training can continue for a long time.

OPENING QUESTION What’s one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received from one of your parents? OR: In what ways are you like your parents? How are you different from them?

D. Don’t just impose whatever you want on a kid.

Read Proverbs 22:6. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” KJV 1. What does this proverb mean to 4. How does this proverb get used? you?

F. Other.

E. Mentoring really matters.

A. If you start young people in the right way, they will stay that way.

A. To alert parents to their incredible influence and responsibility.

B. As long as you have a good start, you have it made.

B. To give hope to parents whose child has gone over the edge.

7. The word translated “train” is the Hebrew word chanak, which can mean to initiate, dedicate, discipline, or consecrate. Based on that, what meaning do you now give this verse?

C. It doesn’t work most of the time.

C. To predict the future of young people.

A. Baby dedications are more important than I had thought.

D. A child’s future is primarily determined by one’s parents.

D. To get people who have dropped out of church to come back.

B. If you spare the rod, you’ll only spoil the child.

E. Other.

E. Other. 2. Do you think Proverbs 22:6 is a promise or a proverb? A. It’s a promise—meet the conditions and the result is guaranteed!

5. What advice would you give a parent whose child has gone astray.

B. It’s a proverb—it’s generally the way things are, but not 100%.

A. Don’t sweat it; just give ‘em some time.

C. I don’t know.

B. You must not have done your job very well.

D. It’s found in the book of Proverbs, so get a clue. E. It’s both a promise and a proverb. F. Other. 3. To “train up in the way he should go” means:

C. Only God can reach your child now. D. Go after your child. E. High school. F. Anyone who has a parent who is still alive. G. Other.

A. Give a child spiritual direction. B. Take into consideration the child’s skills for a vocation. C. Parents are responsible for instilling a moral compass. D. Find out the child’s personal interests. E. Encourage the child to live up to the child’s potential. F. Other.


6. The word usually translated “child” is the Hebrew word na’ar, which can mean someone from infancy through adolescence, or a servant, or a person in training for a high position. Based on that, what meaning do you now give this verse? A. Give little kids the right foundation, and everything will be good. B. Discipline teens or they will go wild.

C. Have regular ceremonies of dedication to give kids some rites of passage. D. Parents need to be intentional about passing on their values. E. Other. 8. How have you been “trained up in the way you should go”? How have you “trained” (or how will you train) others?

Gifts and More Gifts

7. What role do our “good works” play in salvation?

OPENING QUESTION What is one of the best gifts you’ve ever been given? Read Ephesians 2:8-10.

A. Good works have nothing to do with our salvation. B. Good works are the proof of our salvation.

1. How would you explain “Grace”?

4. Why do people take credit or partial credit for their salvation?

A. A gift.

A. People are just messed up.

C. Good works are another example of grace.

B. A gift that is undeserved.

B. We DO have a part to play in our salvation.

D. God has a blueprint of good works for us to follow.

C. That’s the way life is and we can’t imagine it any other way.

E. Other.

D. Ego doesn’t want to release everything to God.

8. Have you received God’s grace? Will you receive it now? What is your response to God’s grace at this time?

C. Like an acronym: GRACE = God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. D. I have no idea. E. Other. 2. When have you experienced grace? A. When I didn’t get punished even though I deserved it. B. A surprise gift. C. When someone forgave me after I did something really bad. D. I haven’t experienced grace. E. When I worked really hard to get it. F. Other. 3. When does a person receive salvation, according to the verb tense in verse eight? A. In the past.

E. Grace comes from God, but faith is up to us. F. Other. 5. What are some ways people boast about their salvation? A. They talk more about themselves than about God. B. They emphasize how bad they were before Jesus saved them. C. They showcase all of their rewards. D. They keep repeating the same story. E. They always want to be the center of attention. F. Other.

B. In the present. C. In the future. D. I’m not sure. E. Other.

6. Verse 10 says we are God’s “workmanship/handiwork/masterpiece.” The Greek word is poiema, from which we get the English word poem. Describe what God’s masterpiece of you would be like if it were: A. A sculpture. B. A song. C. A painting. D. A two-line or four-line poem. E. A photo after Photoshop. F. A dance. G. Other. 97

Good Dirt OPENING QUESTION What happened when you tried to grow something in dirt? Read Matthew 13:3-9.

1. When have you heard this story in the past? A. I first heard it as a little child. B. I’ve never heard it until now. C. I heard it sometime, but I don’t remember exactly when. D. I read it on my own. E. Other. 2. What does this parable mean to you?

4. Why did Jesus use parables? A. So people would remember his lessons longer. B. To hold the attention of children. C. To keep people in the dark. D. To give people something to think about over time. E. To take things from everyday life to explain spiritual things. F. Other.

A. Seeds fall all over the place. B. The different kinds of soil make all the difference. C. Even good soil produces different amounts at the harvest.

5. Farmers were common in Jesus’ day. With fewer farmers today, how might Jesus tell the story using: A. Types of food.

D. There seem to be more bad types of soil than good soil.

B. Friendships.

E. Those who plant the seed aren’t very careful with the seed.

D. Media.

F. Other.

F. Other.

3. Which type of soil describes your spiritual condition right now? A. The pathway where birds come and eat it. B. The rocky soil that leads to shallow roots. C. The soil where thorns choke it out. D. Good soil that produces a harvest. E. Other.


C. Finances. E. Different jobs.

6. How can you become good soil? What would a harvest look like in you?

When God is a Problem OPENING QUESTION Describe a time when God was more of a problem than a solution? Read 1 Samuel 5:1-12. 1. The Philistines figured: the more resources you have, the richer you are; the more gods you have, the more supernatural power you have. How do we follow the same reasoning today? A. If you have enough money, you can get whatever you want. B. Intelligence + good looks + athletic ability + luck = success. C. Add God to whatever you have, just to make sure your bases are covered. D. If your religion doesn’t work for you, quit or trade for one you like better. E. Other. 2. The Philistines already had Dagon as their god. They added Yahweh simply because they were able to capture the ark of the covenant (1 Samuel 4). What gods have you grown up with as part of your heritage? A. Family is #1.

7. 1 Samuel 6 describes some miraculous ways in which Yahweh demonstrated his on-going power. How could God make it plain to you that he’s in control?

4. Where have you seen the powers of this world seem silly compared to Jesus Christ? A. The theory of evolution. B. Whoever dies with the most toys wins. C. You can’t change things. D. Might makes right. E. Life is easier when you follow God. F. Your past determines who you are. G. Other. 5. Where are ungodly people most likely to find God? A. A “wake up call” in which they lose what’s important to them. B. Something in God’s created works, like nature. C. A loving Christian. D. In the Bible. E. Religious television.

B. Church is important.

F. Some form of art (like music, drama, painting, etc.).

C. Get good grades.

G. Other.

D. Be polite and socially skillful. E. It’s up to you to get whatever you can.

6. When do you not want God to be near you?

F. Other.

A. When you’re doing something you know is wrong.

3. Describe a time in which Jesus seemed to be against you.

B. When you’re sick and tired of God.

A. A family calamity.

C. When you’re with friends.

B. A personal setback.

D. When you’re busy.

C. Financial pressure.

E. Other.

D. Overwhelming temptation. E. Never achieving success. F. Other. 99

Superpower OPENING QUESTION As a small child, what did you consider to be the biggest power in the world? Read Hebrews 4:12-16.

1. What have you found to be significantly more powerful than you?

4. When you stand before God, what will you say?

A. The forces of nature.

A. Have mercy on me!

B. Military forces.

B. I’m good.

C. Tradition. D. The government.

C. I had no idea. Why didn’t you tell me this stuff before?

E. Other.

D. I did the best I could.

2. How have you found the Word of God to be powerful? A. I haven’t.

7. When and how will you “come boldly to the throne of grace”?

E. I did some things right, didn’t I?! F. I could/should have done better. G. Other.

B. Only when I read it consistently. C. When I meditate on a short passage and really take it to heart.

5. What does it mean to have Jesus as your High Priest in heaven?

D. When somebody explains it in a way so I “get it.”

A. I have no clue.

E. God’s Spirit touches my heart and not just my head. F. Other. 3. When God’s Word cuts deep and exposes you, what happens? A. I get defensive. B. It leads me to repent and to confess. C. I find out things I’ve been oblivious to or I didn’t know they really mattered to God. D. The same power that exposes me also changes me. I change! E. Other.

B. There is a sanctuary in heaven and Jesus works there. C. Heaven makes sacrifices just like God’s people did in the Old Testament. D. Jesus is like my attorney in heaven. E. Jesus is human (like me) and divine (like God)—the complete package. F. Other. 6. How important is it to you to have Jesus as your High Priest in heaven? A. Sure, why not? B. That would be awesome (if it’s true). C. I really don’t know. D. Absolutely critical! E. He would be the best high priest a human could have! F. Other.


8. What does “mercy and help from God in time of need” look like to you?

Well Done

6. What did Jesus mean when he said it was time to harvest now?

OPENING QUESTION Where do you go to get away from people and just be by yourself? How often do you go there? Read John 4:1-42.

A. Everyone should be a farmer. B. Everyone should tell others about Jesus and his kingdom. C. Don’t put off sharing your faith until later.

1. Why did Jesus ask the woman for a drink of water?

4. What do you say about your religion when talking with others?

D. You’re missing opportunities all around you.

A. He was thirsty.

A. I don’t talk about religion.

B. He wanted to engage her in conversation.

B. I’m spiritual, not religious (what does that mean?).

E. Follow through on what others have already prepared for you.

C. The disciples were taking too long to return with anything.

C. You need to join my religion.

D. It would empower her because he needed her help. E. He was bored and wanted to mess with her mind. 2. What do you think was going on in the woman’s mind when she first talked with Jesus? A. What is he doing here? I thought I’d be by myself. B. I hate people who aren’t like me. C. I hate those who think they’re better than me. D. I know what men always want.

D. You’d like what happens at my church. E. It’s all about salvation. F. It’s all about serving others. G. I’m not sure what I believe right now. 5. How did the woman convince the people from town to follow her to Jesus? A. This guy is so cute! B. There’s a great magician at the well—check it out! C. She guaranteed that it would be worth the walk.

7. How does the example of Jesus with the woman at the well challenge you to relate to others? 1. Start by asking for help. 2. Do more listening. 3. See others differently than most people do. 4. Share what I believe is the truth. 5. Put your own needs aside so you can serve others first. 6. Place a connection with God as the highest priority in life. 8. The people in the town eventually called Jesus “the Savior of the world.” Why do you believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world today?

E. This guy is freaky.

D. She told them, “There’s a guy at the well needs your help.”

F. This guy is amazing.

E. Come see God!

2. That’s what others believe.

3. What did Jesus and the woman cover when talking about religion?

F. She was so pumped up that the people wanted to check it out for themselves.

3. I’m not sure that Jesus really is the Savior of the world.

A. My religion is better than yours. B. No, my religion is better than yours. C. My religion is older.

G. She promised that all their religious questions would be answered.

1. That’s what I’ve been taught.

4. The testimony of other people has convinced me. 5. Jesus is my Savior. 6. Jesus has saved me from __________.

D. My religion has God. E. Where should a person worship? F. How should a person worship?


Talk About a Beauty! OPENING QUESTION What’s an example of a time you threw a temper tantrum as a child? Would you do the same thing now? Read Esther 1:1-2:20. 1. What counsel would you give to King Xerxes after Queen Vashti refused to come parade herself at his command? A. Punish her! You should always have everything you want! B. Maybe you shouldn’t drink so much. C. Would you rather have a beautiful wife or an obedient wife? D. Let me give you a few clues about equality.

3. What was the key to Esther’s beauty? A. She wasn’t that pretty, but she had a great personality. B. She was just born with it and she blossomed at the right time. C. The 12 months of beauty treatments did the job. D. Her spirit and demeanor were enticing. E. She had incredible people skills.

5. What is Esther’s testimony? A. I’ve got nothing to say. B. Let me first be accepted by others before I share anything about God. C. I’ll do whatever those in authority tell me to do. D. I don’t have a testimony. E. I’ll let my actions speak louder than my words. F. Other. 6. If you have just one shot to make a huge impression, what would you do? A. Look as good as possible, dressing to the hilt, great hair—the works!

E. Other.

F. Other.

2. King Xerxes got lonely after he banished the queen. What counsel would you give him now?

4. Why did King Xerxes choose Esther to be his new queen? A. Esther’s beauty blew him away.

C. Talk about your accomplishments and dreams for the future.

A. Go find a new queen, however you want to find her.

B. Esther was absolutely incredible in bed.

D. Be a great listener, giving loads of affirmation.

B. Apologize to the queen you banished when you got mad.

C. The king was tired of all of the other candidates.

E. Share your testimony and why you have faith in God.

C. Try being celibate for a change.

D. God touched his heart to choose Esther.

F. Do whatever you think the other person wants you to do.

E. Esther was a name he could remember.

G. Just be yourself and let the chips fall where they may.

F. Other.

H. Other.

D. Find a woman who will submit to you and respect you. E. Other.

7. What do you like about the story of Esther? What do you not like about this story? 8. What do you like about your own story? What do you not like about your story?


B. Be full of energy, enthusiasm, and maybe even humor.

Our Background in Youth Ministry If it wasn’t for my own youth leader in junior high, Lloyd Summers, I (Hubert) wouldn’t be writing this. Lloyd came to me one day and pulled me out of class. In a calm and caring manner he confronted me about bad choices I was making. Lloyd was a very busy attorney, but he took time out of his schedule to visit a wayward boy. At the end of our conversation Lloyd prayed for this fifteen year old kid going fast in the wrong direction. That was the beginning of new direction in my life—all because my youth leader cared enough to talk and pray with me. Lloyd never had a youth leader’s manual that said he needed to visit me, but that’s what he did. As a college theology student, I became a local youth leader for the Colton Spanish Church for six months. We started by visiting all the kids who no longer showed up, and we quickly grew from five to 30. But I really had no idea what to do next. I changed colleges and moved out of the area. Many considered me a successful youth leader because of the quick growth, but I couldn’t tell you what makes a youth group work. In fact, I had struggled and I didn’t seem to have a clue regarding the basic or essential elements for a youth group. When I became a conference youth director, I worked hard, but I still didn’t know how to train youth leaders. I was super busy leading summer camp, Pathfinders, and Adventurers. Now I feel like I have some tools that are being useful for youth leaders. And now you have it, too! While Hubert went through those experiences, I (Steve) grew up as a goody-goody in the church, with lots of positive feedback and golden opportunities. As a teen myself, Ray Underhill, my youth leader, took great risks by mentoring me as a youth leader. I remember that he did the work and I received most of the credit. As a college student I got to assist the local youth pastor, Bill Smith, in

the youth ministry for high school students. Bill challenged everything and put in one situation after another that called for everything I had (and then some). That’s when God’s call for me to be involved in youth ministry became obvious. Phil Follett and Larry Caviness invited me to join the youth ministry team in the Northern California Conference. We tried all kinds of new and crazy things, often with divine interventions. As a seminary student, Des Cummings overflowed with creativity and deeper thinking. He hired me and gave me far more encouragement than I ever deserved. Later, Garth Thompson and Gerhard Hasel took great risk in hiring me to teach youth ministry at the SDA Seminary at Andrews University. Les Pitton empowered me to do more for the North American Division, even though he hardly knew me. I have felt God’s hand on me frequently because of the many opportunities given to me. I consider that to be grace, over and over again. We benefitted from Lyman Coleman, a youth ministry guru who found his principles for youth ministry worked for all ages. He started Serendipity House and provided resources and training for small group and bible studies. In fact, we adapted his baseball diagram for this manual. We consider this to be foundational, as have many other youth leaders.

enced? Are you a young person who is ready to be a leader right now? Use the principles, ideas, examples, and plans as tools for what you create with the inspiration that only God can give you. Use all six chapters to cover many areas as a youth ministry “intensive” over one day or over a weekend. Or pick one session to share with others. Try it out, adapt it, try it again. Many youth leaders have found these elements to be vital for their youth ministry. Young people often are not taken seriously. You don’t need to fight that attitude; just move forward, like Jesus did when he chose young people to be his disciples. Spiritual revivals and new movements usually begin with young people. That passion, possibility, and discovery leads to risk-taking that depends on God more than our experience or knowledge or position. Are you willing to be a youth leader who senses God’s calling to provide a place where young people belong? The call is great. The power and presence of God are even greater! HDC and SC

We worked together to develop the materials in this booklet. We received feedback from the youth directors within the Mid-America Union: Loren Nelson, Dakota Conference; Travis Sager, Kansas-Nebraska Conference; Denison Sager, Iowa-Missouri Conference, and Jeff Wines, Minnesota Conference. Later, Florida Conference youth director Pedro Perez chose to equip Teen Coordinators Yolanda Acevedo and Francisco Capellan with A Place To Belong for youth ministry training. Are you an area youth director, or maybe a youth leader in a church? Are you just beginning or highly experi-


Are you an area youth director, or maybe a youth leader in a church? Are you just beginning or highly experienced? Are you a young person who is ready to be a leader right now? Use the principles, ideas, examples, and plans as tools for what you create with the inspiration that only God can give you. Use all six chapters to cover many areas as a youth ministry “intensive� over one day or over a weekend. Or pick one session to share with others. Try it out, adapt it, try it again. Many youth leaders have found these elements to be vital for their youth ministry. HDC and SC

Book 1 A Place To Belong Book 2: Young Disciples Book 3: Building A Great Team Book 4: Healthy Relationships Book 5: Saving Your Friends

A Place to Belong: Youth Group Essentials  

A manual for youth directors.