For Youth Workers Post
“In the Habit” session for devozine meditations for June 8–14, 2015.
MAKING THE CONNECTION
“Some of the most formative moments of my life involved going out into the neighborhood with my family to share in the story of redeeming love that God has been writing in this world for generations. I learned early that God is always at work in the world and invites us to participate. We live in a story that is larger than our individual stories. When we offer ourselves in love of God and neighbor to serve and volunteer, we see the kingdom of God breaking in and we discover transformation and healing not only for the world, but also for ourselves.
“Over the past fifteen years, I have had a number of opportunities to volunteer in the United States, Europe, and Africa. In organized mission and service opportunities, I’ve learned so much more about God’s love and I have been transformed by God, who meets me in each person and place. One of the most transformative experiences was working with children and youth from all over the world who were seeking refuge in Nashville. The experience let me taste and see that the Lord is good as the children and I laughed together, surprised each other with handcrafted gifts and drawings, talked about our struggles, and celebrated life. I was challenged to think outside myself to be a good neighbor.
“I love the places Christ has invited me. Jesus daily extends the invitation to follow him and to meet him in the neighborhood. When we meet Jesus there, we learn in ways we never imagined what being a good neighbor means—one who seeks justice, loves kindness, and walks humbly with God. During this session, we will explore what it means to be a good neighbor as we volunteer our time in mission and service.” —Lanecia
MEET THE WRITER
Lanecia A. Rouse is my name. I am an artist, photographer, painter, musician, writer, wife, mother, friend, and lover of life, who is daily learning how to play and live in freedom. Before becoming a full-time artist in September 2014, I served as the Project Director of the Art Project, Houston, a therapeutic art and self-empowerment project of the Bread of Life, Inc. for my neighbors living on the streets of Houston, Texas. Prior to the move to Houston in March 2011, I served in youth ministry for thirteen years, most received with the brilliant, bursting, beautiful, youth of Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee.
STUFF YOU WILL NEED
- Before the session, contact people who are serving in missions, and ask them to come speak to the group.
- a candle
- a lighter
- Print-Friendly Version of this session
Below are resources you may find helpful as you guide conversations about living lives of love that restore and transform the world through practices of hospitality, prayer, justice, and authentic friendship.
Books and Online Articles/Resources
- Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical, by Shane Claiborne, is an inspiring and compelling story of authentic faith rooted in love and action that invites readers to acknowledge the Spirit of God at work within and around them, inviting them daily to join in God’s revolutionary love story in the world.
- A Mile in My Shoes: Cultivating Compassion, by Trevor Hudson, a Methodist pastor in South Africa, who invites readers into a study of the commandment to “love your neighbor.”
- When Helping Hurts: Alleviating the Poverty Without Hurting The Poor . . . And Ourselves, by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, is an honest look at the practices we do in mission that may harm our neighbors as well as practices in which we love God in our neighbors in ways that empower and restore.
- New Neighbor: An Invitation to Join Beloved Community, by Leroy Barber, is a collection of inspiring stories from young people who have chosen to serve in missions for a year or more in an urban neighborhood in the United States.
- Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption, by Katie J. Davis, is an inspirational story of a woman in her early twenties who has wholeheartedly answered God’s call to serve.
- Destination Unknown Missions: 30 Excursions to Transform Your Community, by Sam Halverson, suggests thirty places in your city or county where your group will be able to make a difference.
Videos to Spark the Missional Imagination
- “Missional Imagination,” from the website The Work of the People
- “Mending Furniture and Saving Lives,” with N.T. Wright, from The Work of the People
Bring the group together. Welcome everyone, extending a special welcome to those joining you for the first time. Then begin the session by asking these questions:
What is “volun-tour-ism”?
Have you been on a trip with family or friends to volunteer your time?
If so, where did you go? What was your experience? How was it different from other trips you have taken?
Say something like this: “Volun-tour-ism is traveling that includes volunteering for a charitable cause and is becoming a way many people choose to travel. Throughout the world, even here in the United States, organizations help people volunteer in ways that positively affect local communities. Helping others through mission and service has been a part of a life of discipleship, which Jesus lived and taught. Throughout the biblical narrative, God invites, sends, calls, and empowers humans to join God in transforming, restoring, and healing the world through love. Today we will explore a familiar parable in the Gospel of Luke and grow in our understanding of what it means to join God’s story of redemption of the world.”
Invite group members to pray with you:
“God, thank you for opportunities to be together and to grow in love and understanding. We pray your Spirit will keep us open to the new words of life you have for us as we study together. Amen.”
EXPLORING THE WORD
Scripture: Luke 10:25–36
Read aloud Luke 10:25–36.
Say: “On the surface, Jesus seems to be a masterful ‘Captain Obvious.’ The lawyer, a master at wordplay himself, wants an answer that will keep him safely in community with people he is comfortable having as neighbors. Jesus refuses to answer the question in the way the lawyer expects. Instead he tells a story that leads to a question that changes everything.”
Invite group members to read the scripture again. Then ask some or all of these questions:
How does Jesus define neighbor?
In what ways is the story about who the neighbor is?
In what ways is it about what being a neighbor means?
Look at the characters in the story: the priest, the Levite, the Samaritan, and the man who was beaten and left in the ditch. Who would these people be today?
What are some of the boundaries that exist locally, nationally, and internationally that would need to break down for us to be neighbors to those who are beaten and left to die, people who are marginalized, suffering, and faced with injustice?
What light does this text shine on mission and service? What does it mean to volunteer and to join the healing work God is doing in the world?
Why is it important to be willing to help others?
When and in what ways does our helping hurt others? (For example: Acts of service that do not recognize the capabilities of others, their dignity and worth, and/or that enable them to stay in the ditch instead of providing a helping hand out of the ditch so that they can receive what they need to stand and walk on their own again can be hurtful. When we serve in ways that take jobs away from people in local communities, we may hurt the community by trying the change or improve the community.)
What lessons can we learn from the Parable of the Good Samaritan about the meaning of service and mission?
What does being a good neighbor have to do with missions? (As we follow Christ who is in the world—John 1:14 and Matthew 25:31–40—it is imperative that we think through the meaning of loving others well, being a good neighbor, and doing no harm.)
Invite one to three people who are local, national, or international missionaries to talk about their life and work. Ask them to tell the group, as much as they are comfortable doing, the lessons they have learned, the joys they have encountered, the challenges of their lives, the choices they have made in life and work, and the meaning of the parable of the Good Samaritan for their work.
Leave time for the group to ask questions. Conclude with a time for the group to pray with their guests and for their work and communities.
SHARING IN PRAYER
Ask group members to sit in a circle. Light a candle and invite people to pass it around the circle. As each person holds the candle, invite him or her to answer this question:
Where did you experience God this week?
If people do not want to talk about their experience, they may silently pass the candle to the next person.
Close with prayer:
“Creating and re-creating God, thank you for your story of love, redemption, and healing. Thank you for inviting us to participate in your work in the world. Melt us, mold us, fill us with love and grace so that we may grow in your likeness as we practice being good neighbors to all people and being good caretakers of your creation. We want to be the pencils in your hands, with which you write words of life, hope, possibility, justice, and love in the world. Continue to teach us how to be good neighbors. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.”
TAKING IT FURTHER
- Host a book study. Invite group members to read New Neighbor: An Invitation to Join Beloved Community, by Leroy Barber and/or Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption, by Katie Davis. Each time you get together, ask some or all of these questions:
What surprised you in your reading this week?
What resonated with you?
What made you feel uncomfortable or challenged you?
Where did you hear or see God in your reading?
What questions did the reading raise for you?
Did the reading change your perspective?
How did the reading spark your imagination or inspire new ways of loving?
- Plan a series of local excursions, introducing your group to the needs in your community, learning the ways needs are being met, and discerning together ways group members may be called to use their various resources to join in the work that is being done. You may want to consider visiting one of the missions that your guests are serving.
Remain open to the movement and imagination of the Spirit at work through your group. Help guide the youth in bringing to life the stirrings God places on their hearts. Allow yourself to be surprised by God. Individuals may discern a call to get involved in a particular story God is writing in your city. Be prepared to empower and support individuals in their calls.
—from devozine In the Habit (May/June 2015). Copyright © 2015 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.