Happy New Year!

Remembrances and resolutions

For the blog and for your Sunday Schools too

It’s nearly 2018 – in case you hadn’t noticed. And everybody is in that ‘fresh start’ mode whether it’s buying gym memberships, taking up veganuary or resolving to read their Bible more often. We’re also looking back at 2017 and evaluating the good and bad in ourselves and in the world. If you’re keen to do some of that with your young people and children here are three options:

This brand new session plan for children to get them counting their blessings.

This Bible study for teens on what it means to be a new creation

This easy to adapt weekend away plan, inspired by Joshua, focusing on looking back in thanksgiving and looking forward in dependence.

For this blog: I’m thankful that I get to reuse and rethink children’s work I’ve created in the past and that it can be useful for others out there. And I’m resolving to plan what I’m going to post in advance: It’s definitely not my strength but his grace is sufficient for me, for his power is made perfect in weakness.

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Get ready for

Thanksgiving

The non-turkey variety

It’s about to be my first thanksgiving and we’ve been invited round to some friends to experience this very American tradition in all it’s glory. What I’ve written is not at all related to the history of America – I’m not remotely qualified to do justice to that – but is all about giving thanks to God for his gifts.  There are a few activities on the internet related to gratitude rather than a seasonal holiday but a lot of these focus on what you’re thankful for without really considering who you’re giving thanks to – there is a lot of good in simply counting our blessings (which is why I’ve included a few links to games of this kind); it’s far to easy to take things for granted, but it’s important to know who to thank – what we have, our very lives, are given to us by God and he deserves the credit.

There’s also Looking Back in Thanksgiving which I wrote for children’s work at a church weekend a while back. It focus first on Joshua about to enter the Promised Land and all that he has to thank God for before moving on to consider what we can thank God for on top of that. Designed to be paired with Looking Forward in Dependence; you could pic-n-mix the best of each to end up with a session that best suits your group.

Daylight robbery

Is the subject of this session

but fortunately using the ideas definitely isn’t stealing

I’ve never found it so easy to think of games/songs/activities etc and so hard to write a talk! I know tonnes of burglary related games (as well as heaps of synonyms for theft – what does this say about me?!) and as easy as that made it to plan the session for the eighth commandment I struggled to apply this in a way that didn’t use all my material for do not covet before I’d got to that one. Sneak preview for commandment number 10 though: God cares about our actions and our attitudes.

Seven

is not a lucky number

but it is where we’re up to in the ten commandments

Check out the session for commandment number seven here. Those of you who are much more clued up than I am will have realised that the seventh commandment is ‘Do not commit adultery’ which is not the most straightforward to apply to children who are way too young to get married.

We talk about it as a picture of Christ and the Church; and you could do just that section at the same time as you do ‘Honour your mother and your father’ (fifth commandment) since they share similar ‘it’s important because it’s a picture of God’s relationship with us’ applications. In which case just check out the talk and the activity – that’s the joy of a pic’n’mix system. I’ve taken the faithfulness aspect of that command and drawn a parallel with keeping our promises, which is very relevant when you’re 5-11.

More than halfway through

The ten commandments

even if you don’t count the bonus session

Yep, that’s right: commandments 5 and 6 are now up! You can find the whole selection here. Including that bonus intro session I keep talking about. I’ve also added a very thoughtful set of truths  about the ten commandments which Steve P wrote for our Sunday School teachers when we were about to commence this series.

Just going to leave you with this poster from the 1956 Cecile B. DeMille’s film version. It’s where a whole heap of imagery we associate with this even comes from including I believe the tombstone shape of the stone tablets (which would be more historically accurate if square) that I have cunningly used for a memory verse craft in session 6.

New Series!

As promised

The 10 commandments are here

Find an introduction to the ten commandments,  plus commandments one and two right here. Obviously there’s more to come.

I really enjoyed both planning and teaching these: it is hard to get that balance between obeying God yet not being legalistic about it and our personalities probably draw us to one side of the line or the other – at times I swing wildly between ‘meh, God will forgive me so it doesn’t matter’ and ‘I must try harder to be more obedient’. It’s not about finding the acceptable middle ground either but about the work of the Holy Spirit in me.

By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.

How fantastic is that! The same power that raised Jesus from the grave is changing my sinful self. And that same Spirit is the one who teaches with us and helps us communicate these powerful difficult truths to the children in our churches.

Distinctives

Living a life that’s different

because that’s what following Jesus looks like

Here’s another short youth work series: Distinctive Living. I adapted Vaughn Roberts book Distinctives into five short studies for teens. The idea being; it’s hard as a teenager to stand out from the crowd and they need all the encouragement they can get that it’s a) not just them and b) the right thing to do.

It’s worth checking out the book, not only for the two chapters I didn’t adapt, but also for the in-depth thinking, explaining and examples that I couldn’t remotely do justice to in half an hour. I may adapt Purity in a World Obsessed with Sex and Certainty in a World in which Everything is Relative at some future date: the only reason I haven’t already is that I had a five week term and those two were harder. I myself occasionally use the book for my morning devotionals as it’s nicely divided up with thoughtful questions on each chapter. And it’s not just teenagers who need to be reminded that living distinctively is plausible, possible and profitable.

Edit:

I found Narnia!

Not at the back of my wardrobe unfortunately.

Instead I updated the Narnia page on this blog with the talks and powerpoint from that series. I’m not entirely sure how or why they disappeared in the first place. Nevermind, they’re back now!

Take a journey

With Paul

from the comfort of your own youth group

First in a new series of Bible Studies for teenagers. This series takes us through the first two of Paul’s Missionary Journeys.
Check out the menu above for more studies written for a youth group setting. (It’s under Youth Work).

PS I’ve just spotted that the Narnia page is very broken (just the word Narnia – nothing useful)! Sorry about that; I’ll fix it soon and let you know when everything’s back in place.

Another parable

The Power of Stories

to change people’s lives

I was a visitor in a small village church this Sunday and something said in the sermon struck me: about the terrorist attack in Manchester last week the vicar asked, ‘What was this young man’s story that lead him to this point?’ That was not something I had considered before, but how did he become radicalised? At what point had he decided that this was to be his path?

What difference does the gospel make to people’s stories? We never know the ‘what ifs’ but what if someone had shared the gospel with him? What if he had met the risen Lord Jesus? What if I hadn’t become a Christian – what might my life look like?

We make massive changes in people’s lives when we share God’s good news with them. Whether it is our friends and family, the children and youth that we teach, or a stranger who we took the opportunity to talk to. Jesus had among his twelve closest disciples Simon the Zealot who fought against the Roman government: his chosen messenger to the gentiles was Saul, a man whose religious beliefs led him to persecute others. We know Jesus changed their stories and the stories of countless others. Let’s pray for him to continue to do so.

I’ve added another parable: The Rich Fool. Someone who did not let God change his story and never even considered the possibility. I don’t want that to be anyone I know so hard as it is, Lord, would I be courageous enough to give everyone I know the chance to hear of you and to make their decision. Amen