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Jeremy Steele

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When we discern a call from God, we must respond.  This lesson from the Explore Calling church-wide resource guides students through a response to the call of God on their lives.

And Then…

You are going to create a story as a group. First, you need to select the most random person in the group. This is the person who says random things when it comes to discussions that may or may not always relate to the question. Their job is to come up with a very weird beginning to the story. After they say two or three sentences, the person to their right will pick up where they left of by saying, “and then…” Go around until the first person gets to finish the story.

Doing Nothing is Not an Option

We are ending back where we started because where we started will help us know what needs to happen next.

Read 1 Peter 2:9 again

Simply put, you have been called. You have been called into ministry, and whether or not someone ends up referring to you as “Reverend” some day, God has called you to minister wherever you are. In fact, those who are called to become “Reverends” are really called to a type of the ministry God asks every Christian to be involved in (more on that in a second).

Before we talk about “what you want to be when you grow up,” we need to explore one more Scripture.

Read Matthew 4:18-22

There is something very surprising about this passage. Jesus walks up to grown men working at their job and says, “Follow me,” and they straight leave everything right then. They don’t sell of their boats, they don’t take a couple weeks to pack up their stuff. They drop everything and follow Jesus.

That is huge because students often think of their “call” to be something that will happen in the future after they finish schooling or do an apprenticeship or something. But, this scripture is very clear. When God calls you, the call is for now not later.

So, it’s time for you to drop out of school and move to Africa, right? Not really. Right now part of your calling is likely related to school. Before we talk about what it is, let’s ask the opposite, what is it not? What in your life are things you cannot drop now?

That is helpful. Now let’s talk about right now. What is your “and then…” at this point in your life? What is the next step for you to minister right where you are? How can you minister at school?

How can you minister at home?

How can you minister at church?

The reality is that God may be calling you into ministry as a career or as part of your career. A lot of people assume that means becoming the senior pastor of a church, but there are many forms of ministry in addition to being a senior pastor that god may be calling you to. Let’s look at some of those.

There is a lot more information at www.explorecalling.org.

An Ordained Elder

What the job usually looks like: Most Ordained elders are the senior pastor of a church or an associate pastor. They preach, teach, offer serve communion, celebrate baptisms, perform marriages and burials, visit people in the hospital, and do pastoral counseling.

What is required: In general, ordained elders have completed an advanced theological degree (masters or above) usually a Master of Divinity. In addition, they have submitted to an intentional discernment process with Church committees that help them clarify their call, and been through a residency period.

An Ordained Deacon

What the job usually looks like: Deacons are ordained to serve all people, particularly the poor, the sick, and the oppressed, and to equip and lead the laity (not ordained Christians) in ministries of compassion, justice, and service in the world. They can do this in a church, but also may choose to work in another setting like hospitals, social-service agencies, mission agencies, schools, etc.

What is required: In general, ordained deacons have completed the educations required for their particular field (like a degree in counseling, etc) as well as specific graduate courses in theology. In addition, they have submitted to an intentional discernment process with Church committees that help them clarify their call.

Licensed Local Pastors

What the Job Usually Looks Like: Local pastors are not ordained but are licensed to preach and conduct divine worship and perform the duties of a pastor. They will usually serve a local church (often in a part-time status) as the primary pastor.

What is required: In general, local pastors have gone to licensing school (a several-day training in the basics of being a pastor) and completed the course of study (a five-year process that involves attending some day-long or weekend-long courses and implementing what you learn in the local church setting).

Lay Minster

What the Job Usually Looks Like: These individuals are not ordained, but serve in a leadership role (often on staff) in a particular area of ministry. Many youth pastor, children’s ministers, and music ministers are engaged in this form of ministry.

What is required: The requirements vary widely and are determined by the leadership of each individual church that hire lay people as ministers. The United Methodist Church offers certifications in many areas (like youth, children, camps, etc) in recognition that an individual has been called, made a commitment to serve, and has fulfilled the required standards for academic training, experience, and continuing study to serve with excellence in an area of specialized ministry.

Commissioned Missionary

What the job usually looks like: Missionaries witness and serve in dramatically different locales and cultures and engage in a range of professions and activities. These commissioned persons are usually (not always) called to serve outside their country of origin, as pastors, teachers, doctors, nurses (or in other healing ministries), social workers, church planters, evangelists, and in a variety of other ways through various forms of denominational or ecumenical ministries.

What is required: Because of the many varieties of particular roles missionaries fill, the requirements vary widely depending on the particular type of mission work. However, those commissioned submit to a discernment and training process as a part of their commissioning work in addition to the particular requirements in their fields. There are several ways particularly designed for young adults to engage in this role. That information is available at http://www.umcmission.org/Get-Involved/Generation-Transformation

After looking at all those ways people serve in ministry as a career, are there any of those that you think you may be called to? Which ones?

What about the others? Who in your group do you see fitting in those areas?

The first step in all of these roles is talking to a pastor and beginning to pray together about the future, but as we discovered before. God’s call is about now.

My Discernment

What is your next step in responding to God’s call? If you are feeling a calling into ordained ministry, one good next step would be to talk to a pastor.

When will you take it and who will you allow to remind you about it?

Take a moment to write a couple sentences that describe what you learned during this study… write it in a story form:

Now, write the next part:

And then…

The good news about learning how to hear and discern God’s voice is that Christians have been learning to do this for thousands of years.  This lesson from the Explore Calling church-wide resource  guides students through that discernment using a tool called the Quadrilateral.

Follow my voice

We are going to have some fun guiding people through an obstacle course. First thing first, decide who will be the obstacle course adventurer and send them out of the room equipped with a blindfold. One they are gone, rearrange the room. One of the remaining people will be giving the correct directions to the opposite side of the room while everyone else will be trying to misdirect your blindfolded member.

After you choose who will be the person giving correct directions, ask the blindfolded member to re-enter and have the person giving correct directions say “I am going to be the one giving you correct directions. Are you ready?” Once they say yes, everyone can start giving directions. After they complete the obstacle course, choose another person, rearrange the room and repeat!

Four Great Tools to Help Discern God’s Voice 

The good news about learning how to hear and discern God’s voice is that Christians have been learning to do this for thousands of years. One of the most brilliant methods for learning to discern God’s voice was practiced by John Wesley. He used four tools to help him to tell whether or not what he was feeling/hearing/sensing was God’s voice or not.

John Wesley began with Scripture. In fact, he often said that though he read widely, he was a man of one book: the Bible. The Bible is clear about how it is to be seen and used.

Read Hebrews 4:12 and 2 Timothy 3:16

How do these verses tell us we should use the Bible?

What do you think the writer o Hebrews means when they say that the Bible is “living and active?”

That’s it, and it’s the key. For Wesley, God’s word was the thing that held everything else together. We should go to the Bible first and last. As we continue talking about the other tools for discerning God’s voice, we have to remember that they are only valid as they echo, explain or help us apply what we find in the Bible.

The next tool Wesley used was what people call tradition. By that we mean all of the people who have gone before us in the faith and what they learned about God. What we are doing right now (learning from Wesley) is using the tool of tradition. However, it doesn’t have to be people who are not currently living. Let’s look at a person in the Bible who used tradition to discern God’s voice.

Before you read, it’s important for you to know that this story is from the beginning of Samuel’s life when he was a boy serving in the temple with a wise priest named Eli.

Read 1Samuel 3:2-10

How did Samuel use tradition to discern God’s voice?

When have you done something similar to help you understand what God was saying?

The next tool, reason, is exactly what it sounds like it is. God gave you a brain and wants you to use it! The Bible is full of beautiful arguments, brilliant philosophy and the writing of some of the most beautiful minds to have ever lived. When we are considering whether or not God is speaking, we don’t need to check our brains at the door.

Take a look at this incredible story of Paul’s brilliant use of reason in discerning how God was speaking to the pagan philosophers in Athens:

Read Acts 17:19-23

If Paul had used something like “God told me so” as his argument, how do you think the Greek philosophers would have reacted?

Do you think Christians are more or less comfortable with using reason to discern God’s voice today than in Paul’s time?

Finally, we come to experience. The idea is here is that when we consider what the Bible says in light of how others explain it, making sure to use our ability to reason, we should ask, “Does this fit with my experience of God? Does this match what I know about God?”

Depending on how long you have been walking with Jesus, your experience tool might come up with a blank on a lot of subjects. That’s ok, but as your experiences with God grow, you can draw on them more and more. This is part of what Jesus was talking about in the passage we read last session in John 10. You know his voice better and better the more you listen to it. You can figure out whether or not something is the voice of God the more you experience it.

We are going see if we can use these tools to follow God’s voice through a real obstacle course. We are going to imagine that a friend has asked us to help them decide whether or not what they think God has said to them is really God or not. For each of these statements, allow one person to play the part of the person who believes they heard the statement. If any details are needed, they can make them up. The group should then use Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience to answer whether or not God was the one who said the statement.

Statement 1: God wants me to beat up my brother for hacking into my instagram.

Statement 2: God wants me to break up with my girl/boyfriend.

Statement 3: God wants me to be a youth pastor as a career.

My Discernment

Take a look back at what you were thinking about over the past couple sessions. Choose one of them and use Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience to make them clearer:

Scripture: What does the Bible say about it:

Tradition: What do other people say about it that agrees with the Bible:

Reason: What makes logical sense in light of Scripture and tradition:

Experience: How does my past help me understand all of this:

Hearing God’s call can only happen when we know what God’s voice sounds like.  This lesson does just that as students explore the call of Moses.

Whisper Icebreaker

Begin this icebreaker by giving everyone in the group a piece of paper and asking them to write their first name on it. Then, select a person to be the “listener” and ask them to turn around so that their back faces the group. The goal is for the listener to be able to recognize the whispers of the others in the group.

Begin by going around the group having each member say their first name.

Then, ask the group members to either swap names with another person (by trading papers) or keep their own name. It’s up to each member what they want to do.

After the name swapping is finished, take turns having each person walk up behind the listener and whisper the name on their piece of paper.

After each person, the whisperer will say real or fake depending on whether or not they think the whisperer is saying the whisperer’s name or the name of someone else.

If you want to make it harder, have each person whisper a random facts about themselves, and have the listener try to guess to whom the attribute belongs.

Hearing God’s voice…

Hearing God’s call on your life in regards to your faith and career is based on a fundamental, confusing part of being a Christian: hearing God’s voice. So, what does it sound like? How do we hear it?

We are going to look at a couple of stories to help us plunge into these big, important questions

We are going to start by looking at Moses before he was the big spiritual leader of the people of Israel. At this point he is just a criminal who is trying to make a new life for himself in a place where people don’t know about his past. When we read this, its important to remember that even though this is Moses, this is Moses before he has spent hours communing with God, before he received the Ten Commandments, and before he told Pharaoh to “Let God’s people go.” This is the “average guy” version of Moses:

Read Exodus 3:1-4

Moses is going about his day, doing his everyday work as a shepherd. He has been in this area before. He has seen these bushes. This is just another day. Then, he sees something. There is a bush burning. Again, nothing special, but he looks closer. After he takes the time to stare at this pretty average sight, he notices something different. He notices that there is something supernatural going on. Then, he hears God speaking his name, and he responds. Every single piece of that is instructive to us when we think about listening to the voice of God.

First, Moses was present and open to the fact that something supernatural might happen. Put another way, he was open to the idea that God may speak to him at any point.

What would that look like in your life? What would it mean to be open to the fact that God could talk to you at any moment?

His staring at the bush helps us see how fully-engaged he was with what was happening right then. He didn’t dismiss the bush, he considered it.

What are some of the things in your life/world that make it difficult for you to be fully-engaged with the present? What distracts you from living in the now?

After he considers the bush, he sees that God is at work in it. He gets the inclination that there is something more going on and opens himself up to whatever that might be. Some of the Christian mystics talk about things “sparkling” spiritually. Like a shiny object on the pavement catches your physical eye, sometimes something will catch your spiritual eye in the same way.

Have you ever had that experience? Have you ever sensed the presence of God in your everyday life? Share that story. What did you notice?

Once Moses had fully turned his attention to the bush, once he had begun to try and figure out what could be going on, he noticed God speaking his name. God was trying to get his attention. When he heard this, he responded letting God know he was listening.

What kinds of things could the Bible mean by “Moses heard?”

Have you ever heard God’s voice in one of those ways? How did you know it was God’s voice?

Moses’ response shows us the importance of being open to God speaking to us at any time. it shows us how being fully engaged with what is going on around us plays a huge role in whether or not we will notice where God is trying to get our attention. But what should we expect? What will God’s voice sound like?

Let’s look at another Old Testament passage to help us find that answer. In this passage, Elijah has just had a major high-point in his life that was immediately followed by a major low-point. After hiding for a while, God tells Elijah to go to a mountain and wait for God.

Read 1 Kings 19:11-13

What surprised you about this passage?

Take a moment to think about this passage and try to boil the meaning down to a single sentence, like a “moral of the story.” Then share the meanings with everyone else.

Have you ever been confused about God’s voice like Elijah? Tell that story.

How do you think Elijah knew which of those things was God’s voice?

That last question is a tough one. We can get some help from Jesus in John 10.

Read John 10:1-5

Jesus is using the metaphor of a Shepherd and sheep to talk about a whole host of things. It says the sheep (us) follow the shepherd (Jesus) because they know his voice. To understand this, you need to understand two things. First, sheep are pretty dumb. They have tiny brains, and cannot learn or understand much. Second, sheep and shepherds spent all day every day with each other, and it is only by spending all this time together that sheep learn the shepherd’s voice. Since it is so hard for sheep to learn something, it is not easy for a stranger to trick them because it would take the same amount of time with the stranger to trick them.

Knowing all of that, what things does this teach us about hearing and understanding Jesus’ voice?

However, all of this depends on us being able to discern Jesus’ voice in the first place, and it is sometimes as difficult as recognizing one whisper among many. That can be hard, but that’s where we are going in the next session.

My Discernment

What kinds of things do you think you may have heard God say. Or, What are the things you would really like to know whether they are your ideas or God’s?

Take a moment now and pray about these. Say each of them and ask God to help you know whether the particular statement/idea has come from you, God, or both. Try doing this a couple more times before the next session.

Far too often people assume that “calling” is something just for people who want to be called “Reverend” one day.  This lesson from the Explore Calling Church-Wide Resource will help students discover the ministry of all believers!

Introductions

Take a moment to go around the group and share your name, grade and at least two of these:

  • The name of your favorite movie
  • The biggest talent of your best friend
  • Something you have done with someone else that you couldn’t have done by yourself
  • Your best subject in school

Group Crest

We are going to get creative! A long time ago families would have shields designed for them that had symbols on them that described their family attributes or history. We are going to do that as a group. Your first act will be to divide the work according to who is best at these different tasks.

  1. The Supervisor: This person make sure you stay on task and move through the project and complete it on time. They are organized and good at paying attention.
  2. The Sketch Artist: This person (or people) will draw the basic outline of the symbols. They are creative and good at drawing.
  3. The Calligrapher: This person will be responsible for adding your team name to the crest. They have good handwriting.
  4. The Colorist: This person (or people) will fill the drawing with color. They are good at spotting colors that go well together.
  5. The Idea Person: This person will continue to give ideas and input along the way. They are good at coming up with ways to improve things.

From this point forward, you have ten minutes. The Supervisor can keep you on task. Once you have assigned the duties, you need to come up with answers to the following questions:

  • Decide on one drawable attribute about each person’s personality, interests or abilities.
  • Decide on a team name that seems to describe you.

Then, its time for the sketch artist(s) to start on the outline. They will need to work fast so that the calligrapher and colorist can complete their jobs!

The Job of All Christians

A lot of Christians have a BIG misunderstanding when it comes to the idea of calling. A bunch of people think that God only calls people who are going to spend their lives as professional ministers. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Jesus lives his entire life, dies, is raised from the dead and is just about return to heaven when he does something powerful. He takes the eleven disciples up to the top of a mountain and gives them a big job.

Read Matthew 28:19-20

If we aren’t careful we will read that and think that Jesus is hiring the first set of full-time pastors. That is not what is going on. In fact, we have examples of these early disciples not leaving their day jobs. Jesus is doing something much bigger.

Read 1 Peter 2:9

Re-read that passage as if it was written to you specifically. Substitute your name wherever you see “you.” This is the big idea: God calls every Christian to ministry. That’s right. Every Christian. You are a minister!

What emotions do you sense when you hear or read that?

Saying that someone is “called to ministry” has a bunch of implications. What comes to your mind when you hear that someone is “called to ministry?”

What part of your idea of being called to ministry makes sense when we say every Christian is called to ministry?

Let’s take a look at another scripture in hopes of clarifying the calling of everyone.

Read Romans 12:3-8

This passage gives us a lot to discuss.

When have you seen someone “thinking too highly of themselves” backfire and mess things up?

What does “sober judgment” mean?

What makes it hard to look at yourself with “sober judgment?”

What kinds of things can you do (or what kind of people can you get to help) to make it easier to look at yourself with “sober judgment?”

The sober judgment in this passage has a very useful outcome. By the end of the passage the writer makes a list. It begins with a gift and then offers an action based on that gift. Look back on the passage and name one of those gift/action pairs.

This is one of the most incredible parts of being a Christian. It’s almost like God gives us a crest of who God wants us to be. God gives us passions and gifts that on one hand will allow us to have many, interesting careers, AND God calls us to use those gifts in accordance with our faith.

What Kinds of gifts do you see in the others in your group?

That means that not only does God call and empower every person, God takes every career and transforms it into ministry.

My Discernment

Now, take a moment and (with sober judgment) come up with two of your gifts. When you have them, fill out this instruction based on Romans 12:

EXAMPLE:

Gift #1:

____Jeremy_____ (your name), if you have the gift of ______Teaching___________  (your gift) then __________Teach_________ (Action version of your gift) according with your faith.

Gift #1:

____________________ (your name), if you have the gift of ___________________________ (your gift) then _________________________ (Action version of your gift) according with your faith.

Gift #2:

____________________ (your name), if you have the gift of ___________________________ (your gift) then _________________________ (Action version of your gift) according with your faith.

Putting it this way it becomes quite clear that not every gift you may have is the same thing as a career. However some of them could be tied to a career. Take time this week to think about your gifts and how God may be speaking through them to call you into a particular career.

If you have a career in mind, begin to ask God to show you how you could minster through that career.

You know what?  You don’t have to do it alone.  You don’t have to sit on your couch or at your favorite coffee shop and figure out what in the world you are going to do this week or how you are going to help your kids discuss the latest crazy thing that has happened in their world.  And, to be honest, you really shouldn’t.

Youth ministry is only hazardous to your health if you do it alone (or play chubby bunny but that’s another discussion altogether).  Doing youth ministry alone it simply not an option.  It will burn you out, make you not like the church, and give you way more stress than anyone should have on their plate.

Not only that, if you think you have to come up with every lesson yourself AND go to all the games and recitals AND know what to say when a teen tells you about the intense bullying they are dealing with at their school, you will probably fail.  Like, fail big.  You’ll teach something way out of left field, tell a student something really unhealthy about bullying or totally bail on every important event in your student’s lives.

That is why we are here.  We’ve been there.  We’ve burned out a time or two and we want to help be your coaches and lesson writers and first level processing of major events.  That is why we are putting all of this content together for free. We can’t replace a real, flesh-and-blood mentor, but we want you to not have to sweat all the games and lessons and coaching so that you can spend time doing ministry with youth.

And here’s the best part.  This is all stuff that worked in our own groups.! That’s right.  Actual teenagers and youth volunteers responded to this.  It’s our best stuff, and we think that rather than trying to make a buck or two selling it to you, we want to leverage these resources for the Kingdom work you are doing.

So, that’s it.  We want to be the first place you turn for games, ideas, lessons, and coaching.  We can’t wait to hear how you’re using all of this!

Long live Chubby Bunny!  Alas, one of the staples of your ministry succumbed to the insurance agencies.  Stuffing your mouth with enough marshmallows to seal your trachea may not have been the best idea.  However, with a couple of modifications and the careful application of the newest food fad, you can take the old standard to a new level.  Here’s how to play:

  1. Choose who will first.
  2. Start with five pieces of smart pop.  Have them put the pieces into their mouth without chewing or swallowing and answer one of the questions at the end of this post.  If you can understand their answer, go to step 3.
  3. Add a piece of smart pop and ask another question.  If you can understand the answer, add another piece and continue until you can’t understand them,
  4. The person who is able to be understandable with the most pieces of smart pop wins!

Here’s a list of questions:

  • What is your favorite food?
  • What is your favorite song?
  • What is your favorite color?
  • What is your favorite time of day?
  • What is your favorite movie?
  • What is your favorite book?
  • What is your favorite subject in  school?
  • What is your favorite sport?
  • What is your favorite television show?

Aaaaaand, you’re welcome.

Smaller Church Youth Ministry by Brad Fiscus with Stephanie Caro is a must-read for every youth worker.  When a close friend first recommended I read this book I had two thoughts simultaneously:

  1. I am so glad that someone wrote this book.  Small churches are a specific context, and we needed this addressed specifically.
  2. I’ll read it later because I don’t work at a small church.

When I got around to reading it I immediately regretted that second thought.  This book is one of those rare pieces of writing where a veteran in a field distills all their best discoveries into a single, brilliant volume full of things that work in the real world.

Though it is specifically designed to help people in a small(er) church (you’ll find out that the -er is important), the big ideas are things that apply everywhere regardless of the membership numbers reported on your year end report.

So, what do you get in the 160 pages? You get a simple structure for youth leadership teams, how to deal with your senior pastor, how to develop leaders, dealing with abuse and safe sanctuaries, designing for discipleship, and tons more!  And, its only 160 pages.  It’s not filled with fluff.  It’s just what works!

For those of you who haven’t stopped reading and ordered it yet, you’re probably asking what’s the negative?  My only negative is that its title makes friends of mine feel like they shouldn’t read it, but they should.  So what are you waiting for?  Go order it now.

Sometimes you just need the beginning of a story to get you started.  This fun game takes an online trend and uses it to help students open up and get to know each other.  Here’s the instructions for the game.  We’ll have a list of statements at the bottom of this article:

You know the sentence fragments we like to post on facebook and twitter.  “That moment when my girlfriend find out I love one direction…” “That moment when a text makes you laugh in the middle of class” “That moment when someone calls your best friend their best friend.”  We are going to use these kinds of statements to tell funny stories about our lives.

  1. Take the “that moment when” envelope and pull out a piece of paper.
  2. Read it to the group
  3. Tell a story from your life that matches the statement on the paper.
  4. Pass the envelope to the person on your right.

Here’s a list of statements to get you started:

  • That moment when you trip in front of a bunch of people
  • That moment when you laugh at something that was supposed to be serious
  • That moment when you overslept
  • That moment when you have a crazy dream
  • That moment when your phone goes off when you thought it was silent
  • That moment when you eat the grossest thing ever
  • That moment when your relative does something hilarious
  • That moment when you go to a movie you thought you were going to love and hate it
  • That moment when you are surpassed at how cool someone younger than you is
  • That moment when one of your posts on facebook, instagram, etc blows up
  • That moment when you get a WAY better grade than you were expecting
  • That moment when you find out something cool about your parents
  • That moment when you go to your first concert
  • That moment when you watch a youtube video 5 times in a row (and keep going)

Best friends are so many fun stories, and getting students talking about their best friends is a great way to break the ice.  Ask each person to answer two of these.  If you’re in a larger group, pair up and have them answer all of them to each other.

  1. What is the funniest thing your best friend has ever said?
  2. What is the funniest thing your best friend and you have ever done together?
  3. What is the best advice your best friend has ever given you? Did you take it?  What happened?
  4. What is the worst advice your best friend has ever given you? Did you take it?  What happened?
  5. What is the most food you and your best friend has ever eaten together?

This simple game helps get students physically active while engaging the creative side of their mind.

Stand in a circle and choose a person to begin. Instruct each person to think of anything to do that does not involve moving more than a couple of feet away (jump, high-five, pretend to sleep, stand still, etc). The first person will do their action. The second person will do the action of the first and add their action. The third will do the first action, the second action, and conclude with their own. On and on until someone messes up. When they mess up, they are out (they sit down) and the series of actions go to the next person until only one remains.