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Life Choices

L e a d e r ' s

G U i d e

J i m

B r i t t s

Life Choices Leader’s Guide Copyright © 2010 by Jim Britts Published by Outreach, Inc., in partnership with New Song Pictures. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be used or reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems without permission from the author, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review. The Life Choices curriculum is based on the movie To Save A Life © 2009 New Song Pictures. All Rights Reserved. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Scripture quotations marked msg are from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group. Outreach, Inc., Vista, CA Cover Design: Tim Downs Interior Design: Alexia Wuerdeman Editing: Toni Ridgaway and Jennifer Dion Printed in the United States of America

table of

contents A Note From the Author..................................................... 6 Using This Curriculum.................................................... 10 Week 0: Hosting A To Save A Life Movie Event....................... 20 Week 1: Life is Tough....................................................... 24 Week 2: Family Issues...................................................... 36 Week 3: Friend Issues...................................................... 48 Week 4: Sex AND Dating Issues............................................ 60 Week 5: God Issues.......................................................... 74

Check out this bonus information! Addendum: Handling the Tough Stuff.......................................................... 86 Getting Started.......................................................................... 92 Volunteer Descriptions............................................................. 94 Five Keys to Great Family Groups.............................................. 96

a  note  from

the   author

A  Note from  the Author Hey! My name is Jim, and I’m the screenwriter of the film To Save A Life. Like you, I work with teenagers. I was really blown away by the response to the first To Save A Life curriculum— in my own ministry and from the thousands of groups around the world that joined us in it. If you did the study, my guess is your students are a lot more willing to regularly share what is really going on in their lives, and they love to be empowered to help others. Based on that response, we decided to introduce a second curriculum, which you’re holding in your hands right now. The heart behind the film and both curriculums is simply this: “You’re never more like Jesus than when you are reaching out to the hurting and lonely.” You really can’t go a page in the Gospels without Jesus either reaching out to those who most people ignore, or challenging his disciples to do the same. In Life Choices, we go more in depth with several of the difficult issues and choices your students face on a regular basis. The intent is to help teens deal with these issues biblically, then to empower them to help others who are struggling in the same way. The first To Save A Life curriculum probably looked quite a bit different than your usual program; Life Choices has a more traditional format. While you might recognize some of the aspects from the last curriculum, Life Choices goes deeper with some difficult issues and provides more time for group discussion. For this study, your adult leaders should study their Small Group Leader’s Guide (or the handouts from you) before each group meeting, so they can be prepared for a good lesson. Also, there might be more discussion questions than most groups can handle in 40 minutes, but I know seventh-grade boys can whip through material a lot faster than sophomore girls. So, if you find yourself pressed for time, feel free to use only the questions that are most relevant to your group.

a note from the author

Life Choices Leader’s Guide

Your Life Choices Resource DVD includes a short video teaching from me for each week. This Leader’s Guide includes the script for these teachings, and we strongly encourage someone in your ministry to teach the lesson live. If this is too difficult, you can use all or some of the video to enhance your study. This curriculum is also tailored to work great in small groups that meet in homes. (The video teachings may work perfectly in that context.) I highly recommend that you get each of your teens a Student Guide. Because some of the issues covered are delicate and complicated, students will get the most out of the study if they can record their most personal thoughts and feelings in their own booklet. Having a Student Guide will also allow them to go back and review what they’ve learned. In addition, I firmly believe that if students don’t know how to feed themselves from Scripture on a daily basis by the time they graduate high school, they probably won’t continue in their faith much longer. In addition to enabling teens to record their thoughts and feelings, the Student Guide will help them as they learn how to read the Bible and find answers for their day-to-day decisions and challenges. And remember, if you ask students to do a devotional, then the adults need to lead by example—that means YOU, youth leader, more than anybody. Finally, even though there are five weeks in the curriculum, it’s really designed to take six weeks to complete. For the first week, I strongly encourage you to get a To Save A Life Movie Event Kit and show the movie as an outreach event. After the showing, jump up and invite people to the Life Choices study, so they can truly live out the movie’s themes for the following five weeks. The movie and this curriculum were designed in part for students who would never normally set foot in a church, so it’s a perfect chance to get your students to invite their friends to your youth group. Know that I’m praying for you and would love to hear stories about how the movie and this curriculum are challenging your students to save a life. You can e-mail me at

(screenwriter of To Save A Life)


using  this


Using This Curriculum What's All This Stuff? The Life Choices Youth Curriculum Kit is all-inclusive; it has everything you need to plan and teach the series. When you open the box, your reaction might be, “Whoa—what IS all this stuff?” So, here’s the scoop: ••Some of the stuff is for you to use to teach the series. ••Some of the stuff is for you to give to your students or their parents. ••Some of the stuff is for you to give to your adult leaders. The chart below will help you figure out who gets what.

For You

For Others

Leader’s Guide

Student Guide Your students will use this guide to keep notes during the weekly sessions and as a daily Bible study

Resource CD (also includes resources and handouts for parents and leaders) Resource DVD (movie clips, music videos, and video teaching from Jim Britts)

Small Group Leader’s Guide Your adult leaders will use this guide to help run their small groups and to follow along with the students’ Bible studies

Resource Guide Read Me First

ImpactMailer invitations To help students invite their friends to the series

To Save A Life pewter bracelet The section below has detailed descriptions of the components in your Life Choices kit.

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Materials to Help You Teach the Series Read Me First You know that “Read Me First” piece you get when you buy cool new electronics? Yep—this is basically the same thing. Read it first, and it will help you sort through how to use the movie, the curriculum kit, and other Life Choices and To Save A Life resources.

Leader’s Guide (It’s what you’re reading right now.) This youth leader's guide will walk you through the details of organizing and leading the Life Choices series. You’ll notice that the curriculum will require some preparation, and if you just pull the book out five minutes before youth group starts (which we all do from time to time), you will find yourself in trouble. We really encourage you to spend some time reading through the whole manual before you start leading the series. There is a separate section for each week with a list of what you’ll need, the activities we recommend, and a message for you to share. The Life Choices Resource CD contains handouts and messages/sermons that go with each session. The Handling the Tough Stuff section in the addendum will help you and other adult leaders respond to serious issues, such as when students share that they are abused, they are a cutter, or they have been thinking about suicide. We want your team to be ready to deal with the real-life concerns that the movie and the series can stir up.

Resource CD The Resource CD offers a smorgasbord of reproducible (and customizable) materials for you to use during the series. A few of these materials are for you to share with parents and the adult leaders in your ministry. On the Resource CD, you’ll find: ••Leader Handout The Leader Handout helps prepare your adult leaders and includes an overview of the Life Choices curriculum, a summary of each week’s teaching, and an excerpt from Handling the Tough Stuff.


••Parent Newsletter The Parent Newsletter helps prepare parents for what their son or daughter will be experiencing during the series. It also explains the Life Choices and To Save A Life student materials. ••Attendance Sheet ••Weekly Agendas These are customizable agendas for each weekly session to help keep all leaders on the same track during the session. They’re in Word format, so you can edit them by rearranging the order of the activities, deleting or adding sections, adding times, and/or inserting the name of the person responsible for each activity or message. ••Sunday Message Notes Although this curriculum is primarily designed for your mid-week program, we’ve included message notes for you to use during your weekend service or Sunday school class, as well. These Sunday messages are each approximately 25 minutes in length. ••Weekly Lessons The weekly lessons are each approximately five to eight minutes in length. The messages are printed in this Leader’s Guide and are also included on the Resource CD in Word format. You’re welcome to customize the lessons to fit the needs of your group and your personal style. ••PowerPoint slides to support each session in the curriculum ••Mail Cards These are described in Week 1. ••Challenge Cards These are described in Week 1.

Resource DVD The Resource DVD includes the following resources: ••To Save A Life movie clips for each session Movies are not just a good way to keep students interested; they are powerful communicators. We have chosen clips from the film To Save A Life that will inspire students to honesty and challenge them to action. There is one clip for each week of the curriculum.

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••Video lessons for each session In each of these videos, Life Choices author Jim Britts teaches the weekly lesson using humor, Scriptures and personal stories. The videos were filmed in a youth ministry facility and at several locations featured in the movie To Save A Life. Use as much of the videos as you feel will complement your teaching. ••To Save A Life Theatrical Trailer ••To Save A Life Music Videos ––“Sunset Cliffs” by Paul Wright ––“Bounce” by J-Rus ••The Making of To Save A Life A behind-the-scenes presentation that explains why and how we made the movie. ••“Heather’s Story” A STORY TIME example to help explain the “If You Really Knew Me, You Would Know…” activity. Use this video clip with the Week 2 lesson.

Resource Guide A guide to all of the To Save A Life resources available to you and your students. All of the “stuff” in this brochure is available at, so check it out!

Materials for Other Adult Leaders

Small group discussion is a key part of the Life Choices series. In order to optimize your group experience and to help your adult small group leaders succeed, we encourage you to provide them these handouts and directions from the Life Choices Resource CD: ••Leader Handout Give this to your leaders before you start the series to assist them in preparing for each session. ••Agendas Each week, give your leaders a copy of the session’s agenda to make sure they know what to expect. Customize the agenda by filling in details regarding starting and ending times and who will lead each activity or session.


••Small Group Leader’s Guide We strongly encourage you to purchase a Life Choices Small Group Leader’s Guide for each of your small group leaders. Doing so will help them lead by example as they, like the students, complete the daily Bible studies and write a weekly “Glow” challenge for their group. The best way to help your students develop a habit of daily Bible study and prayer is to have adult leaders demonstrate that same habit.

ImpactMailers These 3” x 5” postcards come four to a sheet. There are two ways to use the ImpactMailers:

1. Print the back-side on your copier or printer with information on your youth group and the series, then mail them as invitations to teens in your community. You might also use them to invite students to a showing of the To Save A Life movie.

2. Give them to your students to help them invite their friends. You can print the date and time of your youth group (or the details of a movie event) on the back, or you could ask students to hand-write an invitation.

Materials for Students The Life Choices Resource Guide will provide detailed information about the To Save A Life materials available for your students. For this study, we encourage you to provide each teen with a Life Choices Student Guide. Use the Parent Newsletter to communicate with parents and request that they purchase a guide for their son/daughter. The Student Guide is a tremendous resource, because it helps teens develop a daily quiet time. After you teach each week’s lesson, the guide leads students to read Scripture focused on that same topic and challenges them with a number of thought-provoking questions. The Student Guide also provides space for them to take notes during the lesson, record their thoughts, and write down prayer requests from the other members of their group.

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Purchase the Life Choices Student Guides at a discount and consider asking parents to pay the full retail price. This will enable you to use the excess money to purchase guides for visiting teens.

Preparing for the Series Here’s the stuff we really encourage a youth leader to do at least a month before starting the series:

1) Pray! Pray! Pray! Pray! 2) Read through the Leader’s Guide to gain a good grasp

of where you will lead the ministry during the series. This curriculum is not your traditional game/message/small group questions material—this will most likely be different than anything you’ve ever done before. Take the time to read it all first to make the most of it!

3) Talk to the senior pastor (or whomever you report to)

in order to get their counsel and buy-in on the series. There might be families who will become concerned if their son or daughter shares intense parts of their past. You don’t want your pastor to be surprised about what’s going on in the youth ministry, or worse, appear to know less about it than the parents of the teens. The pastor probably has years of counseling experience with troubled families and can be one of the biggest advocates and supporters of the series, if he or she stays well-informed.

4) Organize a meeting with adult leaders, influential student

leaders, and a few key parents. Walk through the curriculum with them and share your heart for why the topic is important. (If the group has seen the film, you probably won’t have to do any vision-casting.) It’s vital to get support from those in ministry leadership before presenting the plans to everybody else. Remember, the Life Choices Resource CD includes a Leader Handout to prepare leaders for the series.

5) Ask for volunteers at the leadership meeting to fill the

following program roles. More detailed descriptions of each position are provided in the Volunteer Descriptions section of the Addendum. ••Testimony Coordinator: Arranges for students and leaders to give their testimonies during the series. ••Icebreaker Coordinator: Collects materials for, sets up, and coordinates the Breaking the Ice activities provided in this curriculum.


••Master of Ceremonies: Someone with lots of energy who can kick-off the meetings. ••Tech Coordinator: Coordinates and operates the audio/ video aspects of the curriculum. (This could be a highlyskilled student.) ••Enough adult Family Group leaders for every four to five students ••Prayer Coordinator: If we really believe that the God of the Universe is all-powerful and loves to answer our prayers, then it’s natural to want committed parents and other spiritually mature people in the church praying for the success of the series.

6) Get the word out to parents. Parents can be a youth

leader’s biggest and most important allies. It is honoring to parents to let them know what’s coming before their students do. This enables them to help their student make plans and help him/her through the difficult parts of the curriculum. Parents are potentially the best accountability partners to ensure the student really does their Life Choices daily Bible studies during the series. Giving the parents a heads-up really helps students more than you can imagine. In addition, encourage parents to purchase a Student Guide (see the Resource Guide and sample Student Guide) for their son or daughter. Explain to parents the value of the study and the materials to help them understand why they should provide their student with one or more of the teen resources. We’ve included a Parent Newsletter you can give out or e-mail.

7) Get the word out to students in creative ways: ••Pray! Pray! Pray! While we can get students to come to an event, only God can prepare their hearts to be open to His invitation. We must remain totally dependent on Him and continually in prayer. ••Friendship Evangelism. Have students pray for friends weeks in advance. ••Provide ImpactMailers for students to give to their friends.

using this curriculum L i f e C h o i c e s L e a d e r ’ s G u i d e

••Call every student on your roster, even those who have not been around for a long time, and invite them to attend the series. ••Announce the series in the adult bulletin/program. Teen suicide, bullying, and social acceptance are topics that adults care deeply about, and often they either have or know someone who has a child struggling with these issues. ••Plan a Movie Night when everyone sees To Save A Life. ••Provide incentives to students who bring the most friends (cash, iPod, a signed photo of the youth pastor).

8) Decide where the group(s) will meet.

Your meeting place might be your youth room but, based on the space requirements needed for this series, consider whether it will be the best place for you to meet. The program could easily be done in one room, but you might also choose to have two main areas if you have the space. The extra room can be really helpful. ••Main Room: Consider placing chairs so students can see and talk with one another instead of all facing the speaker. ••The Arena: In this area, we led the high-energy Breaking the Ice activity. If you struggle with keeping students focused (like we do!), when the ice-breaker/game is in another room, it gives you the option to transition by saying something like this: “This has been so much fun out here, but when we return to the youth room, we need total silence. God has got huge plans—let’s not miss out on what He is going to do next.”

Important Things to Do Throughout the Series 1) Briefly run through the different parts of the program before you start. I know we often think that students don’t care if youth group is a little unorganized, but I don’t think MTV ever got that message. Watch MTV for 20 minutes—you won’t find one glitch, and the transitions are seamless. (True, we are not putting on a show, but there is something to be said about being prepared and giving our very best.)


2) Call the students the night before each meeting. This is a necessity.

••Introduce yourself and get to know parents. ••Remind students to bring a Bible. If a student says they don't have one, make sure you have a Bible available for them when they arrive at their first meeting. ••Each week, there’s a “Challenge.” Remind the students to come prepared for it. ••If you delegate the job of calling the students, make sure male leaders call the guy students, and the female leaders call the girls.

3) Meet with your leaders for five minutes after each session for a quick post-session evaluation. This probably isn’t a new concept, but don’t forget to ask tough questions and constantly improve your experience. Below are some good review questions: ••What went better than expected? ••What really bombed? Are there ways we could improve? ••Are there any students who need a follow-up contact? ••Are there any students not receiving “Mail”? Which staff member will write a note to one of these students for next week? ••Were there any students or staff who really excelled and should get a thank-you card or an encouraging phone call? ••Were there any great stories we can share next week?

4) Don’t stop praying! This curriculum—and your youth

ministry for that matter—won’t truly help students with their Life Choices without the workings of the Holy Spirit. The more we get this, the more desperate we get for God, and then the more we find ourselves on our hands and knees. Where can you and your key leaders come together for a time of prayer before each youth group meeting?

using this curriculum L i f e C h o i c e s L e a d e r ’ s G u i d e

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The best way to kick off the Life Choices series is to first host a showing of the film To Save A Life. Youth leaders all over the U.S. have already reported that their To Save A Life movie event drew a larger crowd than any other outreach event they’ve tried, and students were excited to invite their friends to see the film. A movie event will also provide a great opportunity for parents and other church members to see the film and, as a result, support and volunteer for your Life Choices series and other youth events. During your movie event, make sure you invite new teens to come back the following week for the start of the Life Choices teaching series. Showing the movie and following with the fiveweek series is a natural opportunity for outreach.

GET READY The Movie License includes a Movie Event Planning Guide with all the information you need to plan, promote, and host your event, including ideas and checklists! Here’s some information to get you started. Advertise. Place posters in local businesses and provide invitations that students and church members can give out to their friends, relatives, and neighbors. Ask the local high schools if you can display posters on their campus or distribute invitations to students. Don’t forget to send invitations home with students so their parents can attend. Place an invitation in your church’s bulletin and/or newsletter, add a page to your church’s Web site, and show the movie’s trailer (available on the DVD) during the Sunday service. (See your Resource Guide for a selection of To Save A Life promotional tools and invitations.) Verify that you have received proper permissions to show the film to your group. (See information above about needing a movie license.) Find a location. You’ll need a large, light-colored wall or large screen, a projector, a DVD player, a room for seating and refreshments, and access to electricity. If you select a public location, check with the city to make sure you obtain the necessary permits. Or look into renting a local theater for an even bigger outreach event! Consider offering door prizes. Feature a prize drawing to generate extra interest. Ask local businesses to donate door prizes, or give away To Save A Life branded items (such as slap bracelets, jewelry, T-shirts, copies of the novel, the soundtrack CD, etc.) available at Feed them. Create a movie theater-like environment by offering typical refreshments, such as popcorn, sodas, and candy. You might even serve a simple meal, such as pizza or hot dogs. Decide if you’ll charge for refreshments or give them away. (The License does not allow you to charge admission fees, but you could recoup some of the costs of the series through food sales!) Plan for younger children. To Save A Life is rated PG-13 and contains some difficult but authentic presentations of teen life and culture. Many parents who will want to attend the movie event have other younger children who will need care during the showing. Make sure to


offer childcare during your event; you might ask for volunteers from some of your teens who have already seen the film in theaters. You could even hold a simultaneous “Kids’ Movie Night” for children, showing an age-appropriate film, so everyone feels included in the event. Gather your adult staff to pray. Ask your adult staff to pray for the event and for those who will attend.

 GET STARTED  Just before you show the film, briefly welcome everyone and introduce yourself, other pastors and staff, and your youth ministry. Invite viewers to your Life Choices series in the weeks following your showing. Have your adult staff and church members wear name tags or shirts with your church logo, so that visitors with questions about the church or its ministries can easily get answers.

 MOVIE TIME  Enjoy the movie!

 EXPERIENCE IT  Remind the audience of Life Choices. During the end credits, remind viewers of the dates, times, and locations of your youth group and the upcoming Life Choices series. Explain that the series is fun and relational and will help teens address some of the toughest issues in their lives. They’ll also learn how to help others who are struggling. Ask questions for discussion. If you have time after the showing, consider breaking viewers up into smaller groups for a short discussion time. Discussion Questions are provided with the Movie License and can help viewers process the themes from the movie. Hand out reminders. As people leave, give them invitations describing your upcoming Life Choices series. Make sure to include the dates, times, and locations of your group meetings.

Week 0: to save a life movie event L i f e C h o i c e s L e a d e r ’ s G u i d e

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Gather adult staff to pray.

5  GET STARTED min utes Gather students and let them know the session is starting. See the Addendum for suggestions on how to build excitement and make new students feel welcome.

10 WELCOME min utes Use the Week 1 PowerPoint slides, available on your Life Choices Resource CD. Open this week’s session by welcoming everyone, and then:

1. Walk them through the four crucial rules for the series. ••Be real. ••Take risks. ••Confidentiality is crucial. ••Show the love.

2. Give a short overview of this week’s agenda.

5 ROVING MIC min utes Explain to your group, “Each week, I’m going to give you a hypothetical scenario, and then I’m going to ask for volunteers to give advice in response to it. Each scenario will be based on something that happens in real life,

and I want you to think about the advice you’d give the person in the situation. The topic for tonight is Life is Tough.” Read the Week 1 scenario aloud, using either this Leader’s Guide or your Week 1 PowerPoint slides. Then, have one or more volunteers run around the room with a microphone (or fake microphone) asking students to give advice to the person described in the scenario.

Week 1 Scenario: “My life is pretty tough right now. My only two real friends both transferred to another school this past fall, leaving me totally alone during lunch. I wish I could approach some people and ask if I can sit with them, but I’m as introverted as you can get. Even the thought of doing that feels like decapitation with a plastic knife. On top of all this, my parents are fighting more than ever, and I don’t think they are going to make it. What should I do?” After several students respond, end the segment with something like, “Tonight, we’re going to talk through issues like this one and discuss how we can keep going when life is tough.”

20  BREAKING THE ICE  min utes Improv Cheerleading

Note: If you have a cheerleader in your group, have them explain this game. They can say something like this: “One of the hardest parts of cheerleading is being prepared with the right cheer for every occasion. You never know what will happen in the game, so you have to be ready for anything. Tonight we’re going to practice being ready.” Divide the students into teams of six to eight people. You can organize teams based on schools, grades or gender, or they can be randomly defined. Once you’ve set up the teams, call them to the front of the room, one at a time, and read them one of the following sports scenarios. Each team must prepare a choreographed and energetic cheer for their scenario. (The scenarios have corresponding PowerPoint slides on the Life Choices Resource CD.)


Scenario 1) A professional bowler needs to knock down at least one pin in order to win the championship. Get him to throw a gutter ball.

Scenario 2) A football player gets mixed up about which is his team’s end zone, and he starts running in the wrong direction. Get him to turn back around.

Scenario 3) A baseball pitcher throws the ball at the batter’s head. Somehow inspire the opposing team to rush the mound. Scenario 4) A figure skater loses one of her skates during a performance. The skate flies into the stands and cuts off someone’s ear. Keep the skater’s focus on landing her final triple Lutz.

Scenario 5) A basketball player stands at the free-throw

line, knowing that if he makes the shot, his team will win the championship. Inspire him to miss.

Scenario 6) In the last 100 yards of the Olympic marathon, all the lead runner has to do is stay on his feet to win the gold medal. Distract him and make him fall.

Scenario 7) At a swimming competition, all of the male

swimmers line up for the start of the race. Make fun of their itty bitty Speedos.

Scenario 8) You’re at the national hot dog eating

championships. Get someone to stuff five more hot dogs in their face at the last minute to win the championship.

When the teams are ready, call them up to the front of the room, one at a time, to perform their cheer. Use the PowerPoint slides to show each team’s scenario. Remind your students to show the love when each team finishes their cheer.

10  MOVIE TIME  min utes Watch the Week 1 movie clip on your Life Choices Resource DVD.

my whole life is falling apart In this scene, Jake shares his frustration with Chris, saying that this “whole God thing” doesn’t seem to be working.

Week 1: Life is Tough

Life Choices Leader’s Guide

vending “Jake, God’s not some genie,rthorita bec machine, and He’s not wo better.” ause He makes your life all Life – Chris to Jake in To Save A

Ask the group to respond to the movie clip by answering the questions below. Have students raise their hand to volunteer an answer. If you have a large group, use a microphone during this section. ••What stood out to you in this movie clip? Was there anything you learned? ••Is there anything in this clip that applies to your life as well?

5 STORY TIME  min utes “If You Really Knew Me, You Would Know…”

Have student (or adult) leaders share very honest and powerful stories. Talk with some of your student (or adult) leaders as you prepare for this session, and choose poignant and transparent stories that will inspire the rest of the students. Intentionally choose people who are willing to share tough things they’ve experienced. See the Life Choices Resource DVD for “Heather’s Story,” an example of a “If You Really Knew Me, You Would Know…” story.

45  FAMILY TIME  min utes Break students into Family Groups. These should be groups of no more than five people—ideally with one adult leader each. (See Five Keys to Leading a Great Family Group in the Addendum for more information on groups and leaders.) If you normally organize small groups based on schools or grade level, keep that same format. Have these groups do the following: ••Fill out an attendance sheet. ••Fill out the “My Life” sheets (located on your Life Choices Resource CD and in the Life Choices Student Guide)


••Answer this week’s discussion questions, as follows. (The questions can also be found in the Life Choices Small Group Leader’s Guide.)

Discussion Questions

1. Share one of the happiest moments you have ever had. What made it so great?

2. Share one of the toughest moments you have ever had. What made it so difficult?

Family Group leaders should now share the following: “The truth is that everybody will go through difficult times in life. In John 16:33, Jesus says, ‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ When we choose to follow God, He never promises us a problem-free life. What He does promise is peace if we choose to deal with our problems in the right way.”

3. Complete this sentence: “One of the issues I marked down on the ‘My Life’ sheet was…”

4. Complete this sentence: “I normally deal with this issue by…” 5. Complete this sentence: “My current way of dealing with this issue has been successful/unsuccessful because…”

Family Group leaders should now share the following: “There are different ways to deal with the difficult stuff in our lives. Tonight, we’re going to spend time in the Bible looking at some of those ways.” Denial: Read 2 Samuel 11:1–5 and 12:1–6.

6. How does David respond to the problems he’s facing? How have

you seen people today try to brush difficult things under the rug and pretend like they don’t exist? What do you think are some of the consequences of using denial to deal with difficult issues?

B l a m e G a m e : R e a d L u k e 1 0 : 3 8 – 4 2 .

7. In this story, Martha began to grow bitter because she was doing all the work while her sister seemed to be relaxing. How does

Week 1: Life is Tough

Life Choices Leader’s Guide

Martha finally react? How do people today blame others when life doesn’t go as planned? What do you think are some of the consequences of dealing with life’s tough times in this manner? G i v e U p : R e a d M at t h e w 2 7 : 1 – 5 .

8. How does Judas respond to the tough things he is facing in

his life? What are some other ways in which people today give up when stuff gets hard? What do you think are some of the consequences of giving up during tough times?

T r u s t G o d a n d K e e p G o i n g : R e a d G e n e s i s 3 9 : 1 – 2 3 .

9. Sometimes bad stuff happens in our lives, but it’s not always

our fault. In this story, Joseph really did nothing wrong but still had to go through some tough stuff. Share examples of how people can turn to God during tough times. What are some consequences or benefits of trusting God during tough times?

10. Which of these four methods do you usually use when going through tough stuff? Can you share an example?

11. What do you think is the best method for dealing with pain in your life?

Read Psalm 107:13–44.

Family Group leaders should now share the following: “God hears your cries when you are troubled. He is the God of the hurting, lonely, left out and lost. God doesn’t waste pain; He wants us to grow through it.”

7  LARGE GROUP TEACHING min utes After the Family Groups are finished, instruct students to turn their chairs toward the speaker but stay in their groups.

Week 1 Message

There is a pretty crazy passage found in James 1:2–4. Let me read it to you. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”


This passage is one of the craziest in the Bible because it goes against everything our culture tells us. I mean, who’s joyful when a trial comes their way? It’s usually our time to complain and throw a pity party! What’s even crazier is the audience for James’ letter. In verse 1, it says the readers were the 12 tribes scattered among the nations. These were the Israelite people who had to flee their homes because of the persecution they were experiencing for following Jesus Christ. At that time, ninety percent of Israelites were already living below the poverty line, and here was a group of people who had to leave what meager belongings they had to fight for their lives. Most likely, many of these people were homeless in a foreign land. You’d expect James to say something like, “Don’t worry, it’s going to be okay,” or at least, “I’m praying for you.” Instead, he actually tells them to be joyful about their present situation. How messed up is that? Before we write James some hate mail, let’s unpack what he said. The word “consider” in the Greek language James was using meant to give this serious thought. He’s saying that this is heavy stuff we’re talking about. What’s the difference between joy and happiness? Joy is a choice, while happiness is a feeling. You may not always feel happy, but you can always choose joy. Now, notice the word when. We’re not to consider it joy IF we face trials but WHEN we face them. James knew it doesn’t matter who we are; we all will face tough times in our lives. Check out the word “face.” Normally we think the time to rejoice is after we get through a difficult situation, but James says to be joyful RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF IT. In the next verse, James uses the word “testing,” which was a silversmith’s term at the time. When a silversmith wanted to improve the quality of his silver, he boiled it until it was in liquid form. At that point, the impurities in the silver rose to the top, and the silversmith removed them. A piece of silver would often need to go through this process multiple times. A silversmith knew the silver was ready when he could look at it and see his own reflection. Do you get what this means for us? God will sometimes allow the temperature in our lives to heat up (through trials). If, in those moments, we choose to trust God, the junk in our lives rises to the top,

Week 1: Life is Tough

Life Choices Leader’s Guide

and God makes us more mature by removing it. God’s not punishing us or abandoning us by allowing us to struggle; He wants us to grow to full maturity, so that when He looks at us, He sees a reflection of Himself. When we choose to find joy in our trials, we come out of them looking more like Jesus. I heard a quote from a pastor named Perry Noble. He said, “The amount of ministry God is able to do through you is directly connected to how much pain you are able to endure.” Anytime your life has “issues,” there is actually a huge opportunity for you to grow in your relationship with God. One last thing: If you don’t choose joy, what are the other options? When life is tough, you could choose to complain, blame others, stress out or get depressed, but have you ever seen any of those approaches actually work? I’m not asking you to just pretend that your issues are not a big deal, but I am going to ask you to trust God with them. Maybe God tells us to CHOOSE joy because He knows that all the other choices will make the problem worse. When life is tough, you can choose to GROW or choose to GIVE UP. Sometimes, though, we just don’t have the strength to choose the right option; that’s when we need each other. In Mark 2, there is a story about a paralyzed man who has four friends carry him to Jesus to be healed. Unfortunately, the house where Jesus is teaching is so packed that there is no room to bring the guy in. Maybe the dude wanted to give up, but his friends picked him up, carried him onto the roof, dug a hole through the mud ceiling and lowered him right to the feet of Jesus. Jesus healed the guy not because of his faith, but because of the faith of the friends who were willing to carry him. Maybe some of your friends or Family Groups need to apply this passage tonight and say, “You may not be able to choose joy yourself right now, but we are going to help you choose it.” In fact, that’s just what churches are designed to do—help people choose God’s way of living and dealing with problems, no matter what those problems are. A church isn’t a clubhouse or a rec center for perfect people; it’s a refuge for people just like you, who need God and loving people to walk beside them and help them choose joy throughout their struggles and trials.


Additional Questions for Small Groups: If you have more time available for small group discussion, use these Bible verses and questions. R e a d Ja m e s 1 : 2 – 4 .

12. In the lesson, you heard that God sometimes uses

trials to mature us and make us stronger. Have you found this to be true in your life? Share an example with your group.

13. Look at the issues you marked on the “My Life” sheet. Choose one of them and think about what might be different if you deliberately chose to view the issue with joy. Share your thoughts with the group.

5  EXPERIENCE IT  min utes Have everyone stand on one side of the room. On the other side of the room, display the word “GROW” in big letters (i.e., have a volunteer hold a sign with the word on it). Read the issues from the “My Life” sheet, one at a time. After you read each issue, ask students to walk to the “GROW” side of the room if they are experiencing that issue. As they walk, encourage their friends to walk beside them (or even carry them) to demonstrate their commitment to helping their friend “choose joy” in regard to this issue. Once you have a group on the “GROW” side, encourage them to read this line together: “I’ve got issues with _________, but I’m joyful about what God is going to do in and through my life through this trial.” (Note: This line is on a slide in your Week 1 PowerPoint file.) Then, ask students to walk back to the other side of the room together. The more people who join each student, the better. A large supporting group helps communicate that if one person has the issue, then it’s the whole group’s issue.


Week 1: Life is Tough


Life Choices Leader’s Guide

2 CHALLENGE CARD  min utes Place Week 1 Challenge Cards at the front of the room. This week's challenge: Think of one person you know who is going through tough stuff in their life and encourage them. Encourage them in the way you would want someone to encourage you. Announce that you’re leaving Challenge Cards in the front of the room— students can take the cards and apply this week’s lesson by following the challenge. They don’t have to take a card, but if they do, they must commit to doing what’s on the card. Don’t share the challenge on the card out loud—have students take them as a step of faith.

2-5  Mail Time  min utes As students are excused, give them Life Choices Mail Cards as a tool to encourage them to write notes to others they met or interacted with that night. Students should fill out Mail Cards and give them back to adult leaders before leaving. Leaders will “deliver” the Mail Cards at the beginning of next week’s session.




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Life Choices Leaders Guide - Sneak Peek  

Part of the Life Choices Youth Curriculum Kit. Combines powerful movie clips and relevant scripture to help teens deal with issues like peer...

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Part of the Life Choices Youth Curriculum Kit. Combines powerful movie clips and relevant scripture to help teens deal with issues like peer...


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