Small Group Study (Youth)
United in Peace, for the World, We Are Called to Be Disciples Who Make Disciples
We can tell students they are invited to be disciples who make disciples. The opening options are designed to help get students talking. The Bible study portion allows students to marinate in some of the powerful names God calls us in Scripture. The discussion time is a chance to allow students to recognize some of the ways they are actually longing for something more than the typical stresses that burden them. And the prayer options at the end are designed to teach students a way to remember God regularly throughout their week.
- Share a high from your week, a low from your week, a mistake you made, and somewhere you saw God at work. [Youth Worker: Highs and lows are common ways to open small group discussions. Sharing a mistake you made can help a group go a step deeper as everyone shares ways they messed up and the group still welcomes them. The God sighting helps us remember that we are always looking for God together. Although we may not be able to share those moments at school with other friends, we definitely love talking about where God is at work when we’re with our small group. If your group has never tried the latter two sharing items, go first as the leader to model what you’re looking for.]
- Fun Icebreaker: What’s your favorite thing to do in water?
- What top stressors do you think students your age face?
- On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being totally empty) how full do you feel right now? What’s draining you?
- How do you hear Jesus’s invitation to follow him? As a “have to,” a “get to,” or somewhere in between?
- Have you ever experienced being filled up by God in some way? What happened?
- What are some ways you’d like to get to know God more? What distracts you from doing that?
- Thinking of that overflowing cup illustration, have you ever had the sense that your life has blessed someone else? How did that feel?
- Are there people in your life whom you’d like to help get to know God? What excites you about that? What makes you nervous?
- Of the three suggestions for next steps you could take to be a disciple who makes disciples in the youth sermon, which one connected with you most? Look for God everywhere. Talk to God about everything. Believe what God say about his followers.
Read Matthew 4:19-20 out loud.
Being a disciple who makes disciples can certainly be challenging, but the ways God describes his people is pretty remarkable. We saw a list during the message (have the list printed for the students to see again). Which of these names stood out to you most? Which is most appealing?
Sometimes it can be hard to believe we could really be all these things. Let’s take some time to look deeper at the some of the verses that call us these names and let’s do three things with them.
- Name what makes it difficult to believe or live out this name God gives us.
- Think about what is appealing about that name. What about that name makes being a Christian pretty cool?
- Consider how living out this verse could affect others around you.
I’m going to divide the verses up among our group and give you each time to look up two or three and answer those three questions about those verses.
Chosen (1 Peter 2:9-10)
Dearly Loved (Colossians 3:12)
Forgiven (Ephesians 1:7)
At Peace with God (Romans 5:1)
Children of God (1 John 3:1)
Temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19)
Ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20)
Lights of the World (Matthew 5:14-16)
More than Conquerors (Romans 8:37)
Overflowing Hope (Romans 15:13)
Have students report back their responses and consider asking each student to pick one of the names on the list that they want to claim as their own as God’s invitation to believe they are more than just what the world or their own negative thoughts say about them.
- How do you hear Jesus’s words, “Come follow me”? Like a command? An invitation? A guilt trip?
- What sounds inviting in these verses?
- Where have you found rest for your soul through following Christ? What are some ways that God fills you up?
Stressors in our lives sometimes pull us away from God and then make it difficult for us to bless others. To help us stay more connected with God so that we can overflow his love to others, I’d like to teach us a cool way to pray that is simple and easy to do any time.
Option 1: Welcoming Prayer (better for older teens and adults)
The stressors we all face in life can be grouped into three general categories:
- The need for affection and love from others
- The need for safety and security
- The need for power and control
When we say yes to following Jesus we turn to him to address these things.
- We recognize that no one else’s love compares to his.
- We trust him with all our fears and anxieties that freak us out.
- And we let go of trying to control our own lives and make things happen the way we want them to, because we know that he is in control and he loves us.
So when a friend or family member doesn’t love us the way we hoped they would, we can offer a simple welcoming prayer like this: “Lord, I let go of my need to be accepted and approved of. Welcome, Jesus, welcome.”
By praying this prayer, we aren’t trying to get God to fix it, or to wipe out the person who wounded us. It simply helps us remember that Jesus is here with us and whatever he has for us even in the midst of that pain, we’re following him. He invites us to come and we respond, “Welcome, Jesus! I want to follow you.”
Similarly, if you are afraid about something awful happening to you physically, financially, or relationally and that fear keeps popping into your head, you could pray a simple welcoming prayer like this: “Lord, I let go of my need for safety and security in this situation. Welcome, Jesus, welcome.”
And if life just feels out of control, even though you are desperate to make it go your way, you could pray: “Lord, I let go of my need to control this person or event. Welcome, Jesus, welcome.”
In all these situations we are simply refocusing our attention on Jesus and remembering that he is with us—even if we’re feeling stressed out. And as we turn our attention back to following him, we can begin letting go of our need to control our lives and instead trust God to lead us through whatever we might face each day.
Now let’s practice the Welcome Prayer.
I will name each of the three categories and give you some space to think about your unmet needs and desires in that category. After about 30 seconds I’ll say the first half of the prayer, and then you can join me by saying, “Welcome, Jesus, welcome.”
- Lord, we are all lacking in our need for love and affection from others in various ways today. We name those silently now. Silent prayer. Lord, we let go of our need to be accepted and approved of.
Together: “Welcome, Jesus, welcome!”
- Lord, we have many fears that arise out of a world that often doesn’t feel safe or secure. We name those silently now. Silent prayer. Lord, we let go of our need for safety and security in these situations.
Together: “Welcome, Jesus, welcome!”
- Lord, we wish we could have the power to control so many things that seem chaotic around us and make people and events line up the way we want them to. We name those silently now. Silent prayer. Lord, we let go of our need to control these people or events.
Together: “Welcome, Jesus, welcome!”
- Lord, we let go of our need to change reality and we accept it as it is. Help us to follow you, even when so many other stressors distract us. Teach us to welcome you into each moment of our lives and rest in your love, safety, and power. Amen.
Option 2: Palms Down, Palms Up (better for middle school)
You could pray this prayer between classes, or you could spend 5-10 minutes praying this in a quiet space at home or outside. It has three parts.
- Hands Clenched: Start with your hands clenched and name all the stresses you are dealing with.
- Palms Down: When you are ready or as you name the various stresses you have been holding onto, open up your hands, releasing those stresses to God.
- Palms Up: After you’ve named everything you’d like to tell God regarding your worries, turn your palms up. Begin thinking about and receiving God’s love and presence with you. You may want to think about a favorite Bible verse that encourages you and reminds you of who you are as a beloved disciple of Christ.
Let’s try it now.
- Clench your hands and name whatever is stressful in your life. Silent prayer.
- As you start to release those stresses to God, slowly open your hands, laying the stresses at the feet of Jesus. Remember that he knows what you are facing because he has walked here on earth as well. Silent prayer.
- When you are ready, turn your palms up and remember God’s good and abundant love. Be filled by knowing that you are saved, chosen, God’s special possession, his child, his ambassador. You are his. Silent prayer.
Debrief whichever prayer option you chose.
- What was your experience like as you prayed this prayer?
- Could you see this being a prayer you pray on your own?
Community Commitment Next Steps
- Try praying the prayer we learned at least once a day. Allow yourself to be filled up by following Jesus even in the midst of all the other stresses you face.
- Consider one or two people you’d love to overflow God’s love to. You don’t have do anything in particular—just identify who they are and imagine how you think they could be blessed by God through you. If a specific idea comes to mind, give it a try!
Adele Calhoun, Spiritual Disciples Handbook: Practices that Transform Us. See article on Welcoming Prayer, p. 287.
Tim Laniak, While Shepherds Watch Their Flocks: Rediscovering Biblical Leadership. See pp. 192-93. The idea of being a disciple who makes disciples as a “get to” versus a “have to” comes from an illustration about a boy at camp who wouldn’t go swimming with his cabin. The author was the camp counselor and every day they went to the pool the boy would say, “My mom says I have to put on my swimsuit, but I don’t have to swim.” After going through these lines regularly and not ever joining in the fun at the pool, Tim decided to try a new tactic. “I know you don’t have to swim—you get to swim,” he said. Reframing the concept ultimately led the boy to dive in and join the fun.
Similarly, I think students can feel as if church and our call to discipleship is just another item on their never-ending list of stresses. Shifting the focus to the privilege and invitation to be a disciple who makes disciples is what I hope this material can do for students. They certainly don’t have to, but they do get to. And so do we!