Life Choices Small Group Leaders Guide

Page 1

Which pat h will you r teen s cho ose?

Find help and Godly wisdom for handling divorce, family conflicts and abuse

Friend Issues: Sex and Dating: Resist peer pressure and have a life-changing influence on others

God Issues:

God invented sex, Develop a close, but there are real personal relationship consequences with God and then when it is practiced multiple your life outside marriage by pouring it and God’s design into others

“…appealing, poignant, and inspiring.”

L E A D E R ’ S

Life Choices features themes from To Save A Life, the teen-oriented movie The Los Angeles Times called


Family Issues:

In the face of life’s trials will you give up…or grow up?


Life is Tough:


LIFE CAN BE TOUGH—ESPECIALLY FOR TEENAGERS. Critical issues like peer pressure, sexual temptation, family conflicts, and lukewarm faith can detour even those with the best intentions. Help teens make good decisions with Life Choices:


To Save A Life © 2010 New Song Pictures. All rights reserved.


The Life Choices Small Group Leader’s Guide features step-by-step instructions, notes, and discussion questions for each weekly meeting, plus thought-provoking daily Bible Studies.

Life Choices Small Group 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 ISBN: 978-1-9355-4116-5

table of

contents A Note From the Author..................................................... 6 How to Use Your small group leader’s Guide..................... 12 The real authors............................................................ 18 Week 1: Life is Tough....................................................... 22 Week 2: Family Issues...................................................... 44 Week 3: Friend Issues...................................................... 64 Week 4: Sex AND Dating Issues............................................ 82 Week 5: God Issues........................................................ 100 Speak up—join the to save a life community..................... 122 Handling the tough stuff.............................................. 126

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. Below are some suggestions that should help your small group benefit from this powerful series. Some of these suggestions might seem obvious to you, but I want to make sure every Life Choices small group leader is equipped, regardless of whether you are a veteran youth worker or a what-did-I-get-myself-into “newbie.”

1) Be a shepherd, not a small group leader. Although the cover of this book reads, “Small Group Leader’s Guide,” the word the Bible uses for what you’re doing is “shepherd.” Here are some ways I think the two roles differ.

a note from the author

Life Choices SMALL GROUP Leader’s Guide

••Small group leaders make a commitment to lead a discussion. Shepherds make a commitment to help students grow and become more like Jesus. ••Small group leaders think it’s their responsibility to teach the group. Shepherds know that a good leader does more listening than talking. ••Small group leaders hope everyone in their group will show up. Shepherds are in close communication with their students and are not surprised by their attendance. ••Small group leaders are content with their group just showing up. Shepherds constantly encourage, challenge, and pray for their students. ••Small group leaders believe the group had a good session when there was a good discussion. Shepherds have a good night when their students are each taking steps in spiritual growth. ••Small group leaders pray for their students occasionally. Shepherds pray a ton, because they know the Holy Spirit is the only One who can truly help their students grow spiritually.

2) Come prepared each week. Before your group meeting, spend at least 30 minutes reviewing the videos and questions. I’ve intentionally included too many questions so that you can easily fill one-to-two hours. Also, pray for your group and your meeting; ask God to give you wisdom and discernment as you lead.

3) Do the daily lessons. If the students in your group don’t know how to feed themselves spiritually by having a daily quiet time and reading their Bible, they will most likely drop their faith once they graduate from high school. One of the most important things students should learn is how to “hear” God’s voice by reading their Bible. Guess who MUST set an example by having a daily quiet time and reading the Bible? YOU!

4) Get to know your students’ parents. The truth is that you only get a small amount of time each week with your students, but their parents see them throughout the week. Real life change will happen when you are working with your students’


parents, not competing against them. Consider inviting parents to come to your group one night so they know what you’re doing.

5) Get rid of all distractions. The Bible says, “Be still and know that I am God.” This verse is harder than ever to apply, thanks to cell phones, texting, mp3 players, and the Internet. When your group starts, ask your students to take all their electronic devices (and anything else that might distract them) and place them in a basket in another room.

6) Stay connected to the whole youth ministry. If you are not the head youth leader at your church, then make sure you frequently share with that person regarding your group and the progress of your students. Before sharing, remember that maintaining your group’s confidentiality is crucial, and be careful not to share anything a student would consider confidential or sensitive (although suspected abuse, selfinjury, or suicidal thoughts are exceptions*). As a youth pastor, I think it’s incredibly honoring when small group leaders give me updates. *If you have questions about handling particularly difficult issues, see Handling the Tough Stuff in the back of this guide.

7) Have your students get a Life Choices Student Guide. I highly recommend that each of your teens get a Student Guide. Because some of the issues included in Life Choices 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 book. Having a Student Guide will also allow them to go back and review what they’ve learned. In addition, the Student Guide will help them learn how to read the Bible and find answers for their day-to-day decisions and challenges.

8) See the movie—together! Even though there are five weeks in this study, it’s really designed to take six weeks to complete. For the first week, I strongly encourage you to watch To Save A Life as a group, and encourage your students to bring their friends. After the movie, remember to invite any visitors to come back for the Life Choices study, so they can truly live out the movie’s themes for the following five weeks.

a note from the author

Life Choices SMALL GROUP Leader’s Guide

Note: Retail DVDS are for in-home use only. To show To Save A Life in a public venue, including a church or a school assembly, you’ll need a license from The license includes a DVD with both the theatrical and church-friendly version of the film.

Oh, and one last thing…thank you so much for pouring your life into a group of teenagers. Hopefully you already know this, but WHAT YOU’RE DOING REALLY MATTERS. You will experience some powerful times together and learn some compelling truths through this small group, but more than anything your students just need…you! Love them, listen to them, encourage the heck out of them, and every chance you get, show them Jesus through your words and actions.

(screenwriter of To Save A Life)


how  to  use  your

small   group leader's   guide

How to Use Your small group leader's Guide This Small Group Leader’s Guide will provide the framework for your group meetings. The guide includes step-by-step instructions for each meeting, a full list of discussion questions and short teachings, plus a weekly challenge for your students. There might be more discussion questions than most groups can handle in the time you have available, 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. Your Life Choices Resource DVD includes one To Save A Life movie clip and one short video teaching from me for each week. The instructions in the weekly section of this guide will tell you when to play each video. Between meetings, the guide offers six daily devotionals, designed to get you reading the Bible and spending time with God every day. The devotionals in your guide are identical to the devotionals in the Student Guide. As I mentioned before, one of the best ways to lead is to lead by example. Faithfully completing the daily Bible studies will put you in a position to discuss the lessons with your students. Plus, the daily routine will help you set aside time to be alone with God and receive His encouragement and wisdom. Each of the daily Bible studies will practice the five “Rs” that will allow God to feed you (and your students) through His Word:

relax We live in a really noisy world. There are so many voices running through our brains (friends, teenagers, significant others, senior pastors) that it’s easy to miss what God’s trying to tell us. So before you open your Bible to begin your study, close your eyes and just relax. Take a couple deep breaths and ask God to remove all of the other voices in your head, so you can hear what He has to say. Don’t rush through this time; take at least a minute or two to relax and focus on the study.

how to use your guide

Life Choices SMALL GROUP Leader’s Guide

read In this section of the study, you will be instructed to look up and read the Bible text for the day. Have a pen with you so that you can underline whatever stands out to you and make a note of anything you don’t understand.

react When you have a talk with a friend, you want them to react to what you say; it shows they’re listening and that they care about you and what you’re telling them. God is the same way. He loves to speak to us personally, and then He looks forward to hearing what we think about what we’re learning from Him. Failing to somehow respond to what you read is a sure-fire way to numb your heart to God’s voice. So, in this section of the study, you will have a chance to record your thoughts about the day’s devotional.

relate The goal is not really for you to go through the Bible—it’s more important for the Bible to go through you. James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourself. Do what it says.” So this section of the study gives you the opportunity to apply what you’ve learned in a practical way.

respond The primary way God speaks to us is through the Bible; the primary way we talk back to Him is through prayer. This section is your chance to thank God for what He’s taught you that day and to ask for strength to live it out. Some people find it very helpful to write their prayers out, and there’s space provided in this section for this.


glow Matthew 5:16 reads, “Let your light shine before men that they might see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven.” When we read the Bible every day and spend time with God, He can be a light through us. This section will help you think about how you can “glow” with God’s light and live out the week’s lesson in your world.

Starting the Life Choices Study ••Meet with your youth ministry or small group on a weekly basis to listen to (or watch) the teaching, answer the discussion questions, and pray with your group members. ••After your group meeting, complete one devotional each day. These devotionals will help you practice Relaxing in God’s presence, Reading a Bible passage, Reacting to what you read, Relating to God’s Word by applying it to your life, and Responding to God in prayer. ••On the day of your group meeting, complete the weekly Glow section to record your experience with the past week’s devotionals. This section will also prepare you to offer a challenge or inspiring story to your group.

how to use your guide

Life Choices SMALL GROUP Leader’s Guide


the  real


The   R eal   Authors As we study the very relevant issues in Life Choices, we’re going to look in the Bible at stories of people who were just like us. They laughed like us, went through pain like us, and even had doubts and questions about spiritual things…like us. Here is a little background on some of them:

King David:

own heart.” an after God’s m “a as n ow are time. David was kn giants in his sp d an s, ar be , could play He killed lions t brothers and gh ei of st ge un Psalms, He was the yo of the book of lf ha t os m al rote the harp. He w r from perfect. but was also fa

King Solomon:

He was the son of King David and the richest and wisest man ever to live. He wrote Proverb s, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. He had a very intim ate relationship with God but definitely knew wha t it was like to live with regret. He made a lot of mistakes but is living proof that God can redeem our worst decisio ns in life.

the r e a l  authors

Life Choices SMALL GROUP Leader’s Guide

Apostle Paul:

Paul was prob ably the most passionate Chr born. He wen istian ever t from being a persecutor of someone willin C hr istians to g to die for Je sus. He wrote half of the book more than s in the New T estament (man prison cell), pl y from a anted tons of churches, and that among al w ou ld say l sinners, he w as the worst. a lot of pain bu He carried t helped a lot of people.

Jesus: The Son of God and Creator of the Universe who came down to the earth to die for your sins. He saved mankind and desperately wants a relationship with you. (He doesn’t really need much more of an introduction than that.)


W e e k




G r o u p M e e t i n g

Purpose To shatter the myth that a person’s life has to appear perfect before they walk through the doors of a church.. In fact, church is the perfect place to be. when life is falling apart.

Key Scriptures James 1:2–4; John 16:33

Open your group meeting with pr ayer.

Weekly Scenario Explain to your group, “Each week, I’m going to give you a hypothetical scenario, and then I’m going to ask you 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, then ask your students to give advice to the person described in the 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?”

Week 1: Life is Tough

L i f e C h o i c e s Small G r o up L e a d e r ’ s G u i d e

Week 1 Day 1



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.


or a “Jake, God’s not some genie, vending machine, and He’s not worth it because He better.” makes your life all Save A Life




– Chris to Jake in To

Ask the group to respond to the movie clip by answering the questions below. ••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? Before starting the discussion questions, have all your group members complete “My Life” in the Week 1 section of their Student Guide. At the same time, you fill out “My Life” on the following page in this guide. If one or more of your group members does not have a Student Guide, you can read “My Life” out loud from your own guide and have your group members write their answers on a separate sheet of paper.


My Life The truth is that all of us have tough issues that affect our lives. Look at the issues listed below; are there any that currently apply to your life? Choose one or two issues, and then fill in the rest of the sentence.

1)  Family Issues: Living in my family is tough right

now because …

2)  Friend Issues: Life is tough with my friends

right  now because …

3)  G uy/ Girl Issues: Life is tough with my  boyfriend / girlfriend because …


L i f e C h o i c e s s mall gr o up l e a d e r ’ s G u i d e

4)  Identity Issues: I'm struggling with who I

am because …

5)  Addiction Issues: Life is tough because I just

can't seem to stop …

6)  Forgiveness Issues: I'm having a hard time

forgiving someone because …

7)  Stress Issues: Life feels so overwhelming

because …

8)  Life Issues: Life is just plain tough right

now because …


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?

Leader, share the following with your group: “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’ page 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…”

Leader, 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?

Blame Game: Read Luke 10:38–42.

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 Martha finally react? How do people today blame others when

Week 1: Life is Tough

L i f e C h o i c e s Small G r o up L e a d e r ’ s G u i d e

Week 1

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?

Day 1 2

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?



Trust God and Keep Going: Read Genesis 39:1–23.

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.

Leader, 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.”

Video Teaching Watch the Week 1 video teaching on your Life Choices Resource DVD.

Message Notes Below are the message notes included in the Student Guide. The fillin answers are underlined and highlighted. The answers will also be displayed in text during the video teaching.




Message Notes Answers 1) To whom was James writing this letter? The Israelite people who had fled their homes.

2) In this passage, “consider” means to give this serious thought. 3) Joy is a choice while happiness is a feeling. 4) It’s not if you will face trials, it’s when you will face trials. 5) God tells us to be joyful when we’re in the middle of trials, not when the trials are over.

6) When we choose joy in our trials, we come out of them looking more like Jesus.

7) When we don’t have the strength to make the right choice, that’s when we need each other.

Week 1: Life is Tough

L i f e C h o i c e s Small G r o up L e a d e r ’ s G u i d e

Week 1

Additional Questions:

Day 1

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” page. 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.



Life Choices CHALLENGE Read this challenge to your students and encourage them to complete the challenge sometime this week. 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. Ask your group members for prayer requests, then close your group meeting with prayer.