Thursday, October 24, 2013

    Scary Youth Bible Study: Fear!

    Halloween is the season when we seem to enjoy being afraid. But what does fear mean when applied to the life of faith? This Bible study takes at look at the theme of fear in the gospel of Mark.

    Jesus Walks on Water

    Goal: To help the youth continue to develop their ability to read biblical texts critically and creatively.

    Text: Mark 6:47-52 (see also Matthew 14:22-33, John 6:16-21)

    1) Youth will explore the story of Jesus walking on water as found in the gospel of Mark.
    2) Youth will consider what the story might be saying when seen at face value.
    3) Youth will discuss other interpretive approaches to the text.
    4) Youth will share how this story might be meaningful for us today.


    This section in Mark opens with Jesus encountering the people in “a deserted place.” Through what appears to be a miracle, food is provided for all those present, and Jesus teaches them. Then Jesus goes up on the mountain to pray.  Sound familiar? To a first century audience, the echoes of the Exodus story in this passage from Mark would have been loud and clear. Like Moses, Jesus gathers the people in a deserted place, provides them food, and then goes to the mountain to pray. The metaphorical message is clear: Just as God was present in the life and ministry of Moses, so the power of God is present in this man Jesus.

    But the parallels don’t end there. Next, Mark tells us that Jesus sends the Disciples out in a boat to sail to the other side of the sea. The Disciples find themselves battling high winds and it is Jesus who appears and calms the wind and the waters – not unlike Moses commanding the waters of the Red Sea to part for the Israelites.

    Again, these literary parallels would not have been missed by a first century audience. Just as God commanded the waters and winds of chaos in creation, and just as God worked through Moses to part the waters of the sea, in the same way God’s power is now at work in Jesus. It is worth noting that for first century people, water was a common symbol of Chaos, destruction, of the powers and principalities that threatened to rule the world. And so God’s presence is often depicted in a calming of those waters of chaos – Job speaks of God as “the one who trampled the waves of the sea.” (Job 9:8)

    So here we have the disciples, out on the water (for the second time, actually, in Mark’s gospel), straining against the winds and the waves. In fact, Mark suggests that they are so preoccupied with their struggle that Jesus intends to “pass them by.” In the midst of the chaos of the waters, they see Jesus coming toward them – not skating on the ice, not stepping on stones, not wading at the shore – for to describe the story that way would be to miss the whole point. Jesus, walking on water, is right there in the midst of the storm, in the thick of their struggle and troubles. He doesn’t call out to the disciples to meet him on shore where everything is nice and calm! He goes to meet them – in the very midst of their fear.

    The Lesson:

    1) Opening: Invite the youth to think about to when they were little children. Ask: What sorts of things were you afraid of when you were little? Are you still afraid of any of those things? What are you afraid of now? Share that today we are looking at another strange Bible story, this time from the gospel of Mark. Mark’s gospel has a lot to do with fear. In fact, the book ends with Jesus’ death, the male disciples running away in fear, and the women who discover the empty tomb also running off in fear, telling no one of what they saw. It might be interesting to see what Mark’s theme of “fear” and “Are you afraid to follow & trust Jesus?” plays out in today’s story.

    Wednesday, October 23, 2013

    6 Simple Halloween Ideas for Youth Ministry

    Whether or not you actually observe Halloween as part of your youth group program, you can still engage in some fellowship around seasonal activities connected to fall. Here are a few suggestions to get your creative thinking started: 

    1) Chalkboard Pumpkins - Here's a great alternative to the mess of carving pumpkins that you'll just have to throw away in a few days. Working outdoors, cover pumpkins with two coats of chalkboard spray paint. Allow 24 hours for them to fully dry. Next, divide your youth into small groups, provide them with some chalk, and challenge them 1) to answer pumpkin-related trivia, requiring them to write their answers on the pumpkins, 2) to draw on their pumpkin the best likeness they can of the face of one of your youth leaders, or 3) Have a pumpkin design contest. 

    2) Pumpkin Brooming - Provide participants with sturdy brooms and one pumpkin each. Enjoy the fun as they use the brooms to race the pumpkins from one end of the room to the other. For added challenge, set up an obstacle course for them to manuever through with their pumpkins.

    3) Mummy Wrap - Divide into groups, have them each select an "it," and provide each group with several rolls of toilet tissue. Shout "Go!" and see which group can be first to completely wrap their "it" person in the toilet tissue. If you don't like the mummy reference, pretend you are reenacting the Lazarus story. 

    4) Night Bowling - Just drop some glow sticks into 12 water bottles (with the water still in them), screw the caps back on, set them up like bowling pins, grab a ball, wait until dark, and see who can be first to get a strike!

    5) Hell House - Though I don't suggest you actually take your youth to one of those Christian hell houses, you can spark an interesting discussion by watching together the documentary "Hell House" and talking about the particular approach to evangelism it depicts. (Note: I happen to think the kind of hell houses displayed in the film are a terrible idea but it is a great documentary). 

    6) All Saints Prayer Stations - Halloween is really just a precursor to All Saints Day when we remember those of the faith who have gone before us.  Consider inviting your youth to participate in an All Saints worship experience by adapting some of the prayer stations found here