Friday, February 08, 2008

    IDEAS FOR LENT #3: Youth Bible Study

    This is a bible study I intend to use with my group this Sunday. Lent is perhaps one of the least understood times of the Christian calendar, yet with its emphasis on introspection, spiritual journeying, and repentance, I think it is a season tailor-made for tapping into the adolescent search for identity.

    Focus: Lent is a time to look inward to seek how we might more fully accept God’s love and peace and grace in our lives.

    • Youth will take part in a game to review basic facts about the season of Lent.
    • Youth will create masks as a way to reflect on our inward sin.
    • Youth will discuss the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness.
    • Youth will participate in a worship experience to consider their own journey of Lent.
    Materials needed: Bibles, copy of questions for opening activity, undecorated paper mache masks, glue, magazines, markers, note cards, pens.
    1) Opening Activity: (10 minutes) Play “One Step Forward, One Step Back.” Line group across the middle of the room and ask the questions below. Those who get the answer right, take one step forward. Those who get the question wrong take one step back. The “winner” (and aren’t we ALL winners?) is the first one to cross the finish line where you are standing. What do they win? Hmmm? How about something purple?

    • The official (liturgical) color of Lent is red. True of False? (False. It’s purple – representing royalty and repentance.)

    • Lent lasts for 40 days, not counting Sundays. True or False? (True.)

    • The word Lent comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning “midwinter.” (False. It translates “springtime” since that is the time of year the season generally falls.)

    • The 40 days of Lent are a reminder of the Bible story in which Jesus spends 40 days alone in the wilderness and is tempted by the Devil. True or False? (True. It also recalls the 40 years the Israelites wandered in the wilderness.)

    • Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, when people often have the sign of the cross made of ashes placed on their foreheads. Most often, these ashes are made by burning palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday service. True or False? (True.)

    • The ash is supposed to represent the story in which Jesus places dirt or ash on a blind man’s eyes to make him see again. True or False? (False. The ashes represent humility and our own mortality – from dust we came and to dust we shall return.)

    • Many people give up something during Lent. The point of this practice is to show your willpower. True or False? (False. It is a practice of self-denial that allows room in your life for God to do something new.)

    • Fasting is a common practice in Lent but the one day people don’t fast during Lent is Sundays. True or False? (True. People traditionally do not fast on Sundays as Sundays are to be reminders or a foretaste of the coming resurrection.)

    • The phrase “Glory to God” is traditionally never spoken during Lent and does not make its return until Easter morning. True or False. (False. “Alleluia” is the what many churches abstain from saying in worship during Lent.)

    • The last week of Lent is known as “Holy Week.” True or False? (True.)

    • On Maundy Thursday, the last Thursday in Lent, we recall the last night and meal that Jesus shares with his disciples. True or False? (True.)
    2) Digging In: (25 minutes) People often wear masks during the Mardi Gras activities that come just before Lent. Masks symbolize the way we often try to hide our sinfulness or our true nature. Lent is a time of taking off our masks, of examining our true selves, of being real before God so that we can come to understand that God knows us fully, forgives us, loves us, and encourages us to grow and become all we were created to be. Within this context, give youth an unfinished paper mache mask (available in craft stores)(UPDATE: I couldn't find those masks so I used the smaller half masks that just cover the eyes and they worked great). Ask them to decorate the outside of the mask with words, images, and colors that represent how others see them – their “outside” self. On the inside of the mask, encourage them to display their “inside” self – their fears, their doubts, their shortcomings. When finish, invite responses from youth about the experience of creating these masks.

    3) Going Deeper: (20 minutes) Invite youth to read the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4: 1-11). Ask one or more persons to read the narration, another to read the words of Jesus, and one or more to read the words of the Tempter. Help the group to explore this story where Jesus goes off on his own to do some soul-searching and , in a sense, confront his own demons. The journey Jesus takes into the desert -- the journey to be alone with God and to seek God’s guidance about our true identity -- is the journey we are all invited to focus on during Lent.

    • What do you think Jesus might have had to give up to go out in the wilderness by himself?

    • The things the Tempter offers him are not intrinsically bad: food in a time of hunger, political power in a time of Roman oppression, a leap of faith. So why do you think Jesus resists these temptations?

    • What memories do you have of times you faced choices that at the time seemed like good ideas but were ultimately led you in an unhealthy or unfaithful direction?

    • Share what you do when you want time alone to think/pray/reflect. Where do you go? What do you do?

    • What might be the benefit of spending time in Lent examining your life, considering your sins, thinking about what God wants for you?
    4) Reaching Out: (20 minutes) For this time of worship, go to a quiet space and show a slide or video presentation of "40" which consists of 40 sequential images representing Jesus’ time in the wilderness (You can find this resource here.). Most interestingly, these wordless images portray the Tempter as a mirror image of Jesus – in a sense representing a wrestling with his inner self.

    Ask youth to reflect on how Jesus gives up much to go out in the wilderness to move closer to the heart of God. What do they make of the artist's interpretation of the Tempter? Distribute note cards and ask participants to draw a line down the center. Invite them to echo Jesus’ journey by writing on one side of the card something they will consider "giving up" during Lent (food, TV, internet, etc.) and on the other side something new they would like to take on during Lent that might help them connect more deeply with the experience of God in their daily lives (prayer, random acts of kindness, helping their parents, going to worship, reading the Bible, exercise, etc). Encourage youth to keep these note cards and place them somewhere that they will see them daily in the coming weeks of Lent.

    Finally, invite the group to gather in a circle and place their completed masks in the center as an offering to God of both their inner and outer selves. Conclude together with a prayer of confession and assurance of pardon.

    SEE ALSO: Ideas for Lent #1 and Ideas for Lent #2


    Anonymous said...

    Thank you so much for posting this! I used it tonight for a high school girls' group and it was fantastic. I really appreciate it.

    Brian said...

    I glad it was helpful and thanks for letting me know that you were able to use it!

    Jonathan said...

    Thanks for this awesome material. I used it tonight for a bible study with young adults. It was so helpful, many thanks for your post.

    Anonymous said...

    Thanks for this post and the good ideas. I put the 40 pics into a Powerpoint and recorded myself reading the scripture on the appropriate slides and added some background music. A great way to present this section of scripture.

    Brian said...

    Thanks for sharing your idea, Gare. That approach would be particuarly useful with youth who aren't that familiar with the text that is the basis for the images.

    Tonia said...

    I can't find the pic. for the power point, it says that they are no longer there....if someone has a power point done can you please send it to me? THANKS!!

    Brian said...

    You can get the images for a fee through the Proust website here:

    or see a few You Tube compilations here:

    or here:

    Joshua M Walters said...

    Thanks, Brian. Appreciate this. I will use the ideas here a few times as I was planning on making this a theme for Lent this year.

    Dios te bendiga!

    Judy said...

    The material is wonderful. I will be using it with a group of 3rd and 4th graders. They are at the age where they can understand and remember what they learn in class. It explains the season of Lent very well! T
    thank you.

    h.liptrot said...

    This was a fantastic study to use. Had 3 hours to plan a youthwork session on lent after a change of plans and it hit the nail on the head! We all agreed that during the session we coud really feel God's presence. Thank you!

    Brian Kirk said...

    Glad this has been helpful to folks!

    cora said...

    what a treasure to find! thanks for being a great help!

    chicamaria43 said...

    I love the study but I was unable to find the "40" slide resource.

    Anonymous said...

    I am so excited to use this lesson tomorrow with our confirmation class. It is a great combination of not only education but also movement and creativity. Thank you!

    Brian Kirk said...

    To anyone looking for the "40" resource, you can find versions of it on YouTube but I highly encourage you to go to the Proost site and pay the nominal fee to purchase it, either in book, pdf, or video format. It's well worth it:

    Christopher Wesley said...


    Thanks for posting this. As a Catholic we observe this season annually and it's always brought our community closer together and to Christ (which is it's purpose). I think it's awesome what you are contributing, keep it up, definitely going to use this youth Bible study.

    Oanh Kim Nguyen said...

    Great post! I found this to be very useful! Thanks a lot!:)

    Oanh Kim Nguyen said...

    Great post! I found this to be very useful! Thanks a lot!:)

    Vanessa said...

    Thank you for posting these ideas. I work full time and am a part time seminarian--there aren't enough hours in the week! But I never want to skimp on my youth group meetings. These ideas will come in so handy and save me a lot of worry. Thanks again.

    Rachel Mandane said...

    Can I use this for our Youth Ministry? Coz this is a great idea for Lenten activities. Thank you so much for sharing. God bless! :)

    Brian Kirk said...

    Rachel, Absolutely feel free to use it. That was my hope when I posted it -- that it would be helpful to others.

    runnerfaith said...

    Thank you for sharing this. I home school my middle schoolers. These are great ideas.

    Lara Stroud said...

    This was such a great idea!! I used it tonight with my youth group and I think it went pretty well; we had some good conversation about Lent and sin and discipline. I chose to do a short Eucharist around a table to end it, but made sure to include the confession and absolution. Thank you for sharing this!

    A Healthier Me! said...

    I love this!!

    A Healthier Me! said...

    I loved this!! Thank you so much!!!

    George Tality said...

    Thanks for sharing! Will be using it tomorrow in our youth meeting! God bless you more!

    Brian Kirk said...

    You are welcome George. Hope it is helpful. We'll be using it at my church again this year with a new crop of middle school youth.

    ELakisoe said...

    Thank you so much for sharing and what a brilliant set of lessons and ideas. Very grateful here.