Christian Youth Group Activities: Finding Truth
FINDING TRUTH [This event was held on the third day of a retreat weekend. This web site does not allow for a detailed account of all of the retreat events. Thus, a summary of the first two days' events is given with details on the third day event: a meeting that lasted about an hour and a half. Reference is also made to material found in the book, "Not the Same Old, Done-it-before Youth Meetings. For those, who have purchased the book, the study to be described demonstrates a different usage of activities found in the book.]
Summary of Days One and Two: On these days of the retreat we completed a detailed study of the skit entitled "The Traveler" found on pages 255-258 of the book, "Not the Same Old, Done-it-before Youth Meetings". During our discussions the group identified the roadblocks created by four road signs encountered by the "Traveler" in the skit. The following is a brief summary of this study. [See picture of map outlining the "Traveler's" journey.]
The first stumbling block on the traveler's journey was a Stop Sign at which the traveler’s self doubts had to be overcome. We pointed out that it is all right to stop cautiously and check out if there are dangers around. If not, we must move forward on our journey. The Road Narrows Sign encountered led to the temptation to be insensitive to people as things became closer and closer to the traveler. When the road narrows, we become more aware of the surroundings and, in a sense, become a part of the road and its surroundings, not simply a person passing through. The Parable of the Good Samaritan helped us understand that as the road narrows and we become more aware of it, we also become responsible for those we encounter along the way.
The third sign the traveler approaches is a One Way Sign and it tests his/her ability to overcome the temptations of conformity. We read the story "The Lemming Connection" by Alan Arkin which, in an entertaining way, introduces us to the dangers of simply "going along with the crowd".
The last sign is a Dead End Sign, the most difficult of all for any traveler. When encountering such a sign, the traveler must have great will power to overcome the finality of that part of the journey. This is not a temporary stop, only to start up again like the Stop Sign. Rather the Dead End Sign demands a reassessment of the journey and a change along the way while still pursuing one's goals.
Day Three: “Finding Truth” We began by recognizing things already learned about truth. Much of this was learned the previous day via stories read and a movie watched, entitled "Amazing Grace". Since most youth groups have had discussions about the nature of or definition of truth at one time or another, begin by linking things learned in the past to the upcoming activity. During our discussions of the "signs", we found truth to include wisdom and justice but did not include pride, which tends to distort truth. During subsequent discussions we added the following to our description of truth: the need to be passionate about our faith, a peaceful disposition, courage to move forward on ones beliefs, a belief that we are all equal in God's sight and a commitment to act upon our beliefs. A faith which is cerebral without displaying actions of reaching out to others is not the faith of a committed Christian.
We then read read John 14:1-6 and noted that Jesus states that he is "the way, the truth, the life". Ask youth what they think Jesus means by stating that he is "the truth". This was a difficult question to truly answer without resorting to clichés. Have someone read John 8:31-32. Here Jesus states, "If you obey my teachings, you are really my disciples; you will know the truth and the truth will set you free."
Now we asked a most significant question. Youth want to know how a man who lived 2,000 years ago sets us free and provides us with wisdom, a true sense of justice, peace and passion or any other description of truth your group has previously established. It is a fair question to ask.
The answer needs to be more than intellectual rhetoric. It requires experiencing the presence of God's Spirit. It is only in this experience that youth will truly comprehend how a man, who lived 2,000 years ago, can be "the truth", who makes a difference in people’s lives today.
For those who own the book, read "Walking on Water" found on pages 29 to 31. If you don't have the book, read the activity "Trust and Prayer", described on this activity page, for suggestions of ways to bring an awareness of the presence of God's Spirit to your group.
After we read "Walking on Water" at the retreat, many young people expressed a sense that they had actually walked on water both to the boat with Jesus in it and back to shore when he rowed away. Point out that this was not simply an exercise of their mind. They did not simply imagine it. Rather God’s spirit placed the confidence that this could happen upon their hearts. This is a most important point to make and use whatever skills you have to make sure the youth understand this.
Once the presence of the Holy Spirit in the room has been established (because the power has been experienced), make the point that, just like we never thought we could walk on water, there are other things in life that challenge our faith. These challenges may seem overwhelming but... we just "walked on water"!! The Spirit that placed this sensation on our hearts will give us wisdom, courage and passion to accomplish these other seemingly impossible tasks.
Nine of our young people went on a mission trip to El Salvador in August 2007. (See Mission Moments page of this website to learn more about this trip.) We asked how many of them, three years previous to the trip, could have imagined doing such a thing. No one responded positively. We pointed out that, when we have faith and let God's Spirit lead, we accomplish things we would never expect to start much less complete.
The movie we watched, "Amazing Grace", was another example of where commitment to an action led to change almost no one thought was possible. Think of something your young people have done (like our trip to El Salvador) that was an unexpected accomplishment and use that as an example to help them recognize how God has worked in the life of the group. We concluded this segment by pointing out to our youth that, as long as we walk with God, more "El Salvador experiences" are going to appear.
Then ask the question... while listening to the story, "Walking on Water", did the young people find God or did God find them. The answer is clear - when we open our hearts to the Spirit of God, He finds us. (Revelation 3: 20 reads "I stand at the door and knock; if anyone opens the door I will come in and sup with him and he with me"). Yes, we need to open the door but note: Jesus comes in to our hearts; we do not go to Him.
Reiterate that this is not simply an intellectual exercise that is occurring. If it was, we could claim to have discovered or "found" God. But the experience of "Walking on Water" is one of opening ones mind and heart and letting the story take the listener to the moment of letting God's Spirit into our hearts. When we do so, God finds us!
We also pointed out that we, as Christians, were not made to do this alone (See Genesis chapter one) and that we, as a group of young people, would leave our retreat walking out on a new journey of faith together.
We concluded with a candle ceremony during which eight of our young people volunteered to come forward and pray that our group would discover and be filled with the eight elements of truth discovered during the retreat: passion, peace, courage, equality, justice, wisdom, loss of pride and commitment to action. Each person prayed that the group would be filled with one of these. We concluded with the group saying The Lord's Prayer and singing "Lean on Me", affirming our commitment to support each other in our walk of faith.
[ I am aware that for those, who did not purchase the book, "Not the Same old, Done-it-before Youth Meetings", that the description of this activity will demand additional creative planning. Nevertheless, I do hope these ideas are helpful. We had a successful retreat and pictures of some of the activities are on this page as well as the C.U.T.S. page of this web site. Please write to me at email@example.com and let me know if this event spurred some thoughts of your own that blessed your young people as much as it has blessed ours in Deer Park, NY.]
If you are interested in reviewing the above referenced book...
take a moment by clicking the below link.
Not the Same Old, Done-it-before Youth Meeting (the book)