NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS
- Do I make New Year’s resolutions? Why or why not? If so, do I do it because everyone’s doing it, or is this a tradition I take seriously? Why has it become so important to me?
- How well do I follow through on my resolutions? Have I usually forgotten all about them within a few weeks? How does it feel to have given up on my promises to myself? to others? to God?
- When have I made a resolution and followed through on it? What was different about this resolution? What helped or inspired me to stay committed? What difference did this make in my life?
- What keeps me from following through on my resolutions? Do I get distracted, frustrated, bored? Do I try to make too many changes at once? Or do I need to be more realistic about the resolutions I make?
- How do I practice keeping resolutions—check in regularly on my progress? ask a friend or small group to hold me accountable? include the resolution as part of my regular devo time? How does my faith in God help me to be faithful to these promises?
- Who has modeled for me a way of making and keeping resolutions that works? What tips or practices has this person taught me to help me follow through with my resolutions?
- What are the changes God hopes to see in me in 2014? How will I make God’s dreams for me my own?
- How have I discovered that both local and global mission or service is important in order to care for the needs of the world? Which is my passion? How do I seek to make a difference in the world, locally or globally?
- Who is my neighbor? Who or what has helped me broaden my definition of “neighbor”? How am I involved in ministry and mission with my neighbors locally? around the world? How am I called to love my neighbors?
- In what ways have these new neighbors had a profound impact on my life? What did they do? What did I learn? How did I respond? How have they brought me closer to God?
- When have I realized that I don’t have to go halfway across the world to serve people in need, that there is important work to do in my own neighborhood? Who or what helped to change my perspective?
- Whose life is making a difference on a global scale? How does this person inspire me to live differently?
- When have I chosen to live for a while as others live or where others live—on the streets, in the inner city, in a slum, in a refugee camp, etc.? How has this helped me to identify with these people? to truly live in community with them?
- What health or justice issues—at home or in other parts of the world—have captured my heart and led me to become involved in serving others or fighting for a cause? How has my faith inspired me to take up the cause, even when it seems overwhelming?
- What’s the difference between going on a mission trip and living a life of mission? How have I experienced this difference? Whom do I know who lives a life of mission? What have I learned from this person?
- Christ calls us to love our neighbors. How do I see this commandment being fulfilled in my world? in my life? How might I answer this call as a teenager? When have I felt that by loving others I was showing my love for God?
- When have I seen the face of God in those I serve? How am I “the hands and feet of Christ” when I serve others? How has serving others transformed my life? How does my own community or the world look different after serving in mission?
- When have I turned to alcohol or drugs or engaged in other risky behavior to cope with pressures in my life? When has the pressure overwhelmed me? What happened? What did I learn? How have I learned to risk saying no to this temptation? Who or what gives me strength?
- How can something seemingly innocent—shopping, surfing the Internet, watching TV, collecting stuff—become an addiction? What are some warning signs that these habits are getting out of control? Have I ever liked something so much that I couldn’t give it up—food? technology? alcohol? drugs? gambling? pornography? cigarettes? When has my desire turned into an addiction?
- What kind of pain has addiction caused in my life? Into what situations has an addiction led me? Who or what have I neglected in order to feed my addiction?
- When have I felt “caught in the middle” by someone else’s addiction? Did I take the risk to confront them? to stand up for myself? Was it worth it?
- How did/does it feel to be dependent on a particular substance or behavior? Who has helped me to admit that I am addicted? to overcome the addiction? to fight my recurring desire for the substance or behavior?
- What can I do to help a friend who is battling addiction? Why is it important to listen to that person in confidence? When have I had to breach that confidence and seek a trusted adult for help?
- What are the consequences—relational, educational, legal, health, reputation—of addictive behaviors? When have the consequences of addiction affected my life or the life of someone I love? Did I take the risk to seek help? What role do faith, family, friends, reputation, or ego play in my decision-making?
- When have I felt that my destructive choices put distance between God and me? How did this affect my life? How am I working to rebuild my relationship with God? Where is God when I am (or someone I care about is) trapped by addiction? Do I feel that God has abandoned me, or does my faith give me strength to fight?
- What attitudes of other people really annoy me? When I am annoyed with someone, what calms me and keeps me from lashing out at that person? How am I learning to respond in love or in ways that diffuse the situation?
- How do I deal with friends who are controlling, manipulative, or deep into drama? two-faced, mean-spirited, or back-stabbers? who lie, cheat, or gossip? who are people-pleasers or exhibit risky behavior? When have I felt a need to fix them? When have they sucked me in? How am I learning to set healthy boundaries? to know when it’s time to let go of a toxic friendship?
- When have I had the chance to see what was beneath the surface of an annoying person—the need for control or attention, feelings of worthlessness or superiority, jealousy or anger, other? What difference did this make in my response?
- Has someone ever told me that I was annoying? What attitudes of mine do I think may be annoying to others? How have I tried to conquer those traits? Who has helped me to be honest with myself and to change my ways?
- When have I stuck by a friend who is difficult to love? How am I learning to be friends with someone who is really annoying or challenging? What do I have to overlook, forgive, or seek to change in them? in me? Who has loved me when I was unlovable?
- Where have I seen extreme examples of love and forgiveness? How have they shaped my understanding of love? my ability to love the unlovable? What does it mean to me that Jesus calls us to love our enemies? When have I had to forgive someone before I could offer love? How do I try to practice loving my enemies?
- How does my faith shape how I treat people? How did Jesus deal with annoying people? When have I tried to react as Jesus did?
- What friend can I talk to about my spiritual journey and discipleship? What questions do we ask each other? How do we support each other? hold each other accountable? How does this make me feel?
- When have I asked someone to read scripture and pray with me as I sought guidance on a particular issue or an important decision? How did I choose this person? What qualities does he or she possess?
- What person or group has helped me to grow in faith? to muster the courage to face my doubts? to ask the tough questions? to search for truth? to move through a time of pain, grief, or spiritual dryness that I felt I couldn’t handle on my own? to trust God? In what relationships have I experienced God’s love and forgiveness “in the flesh”? What valuable lessons have I learned in this group about myself? others? God? acceptance? love? pain? forgiveness? relationships? faith? trust? having fun? commitment? How does talking about God with others help to strengthen my faith? How do deep discussions about important things feed my soul?
- What adults have been there for me no matter what? How have they become spiritual friends? What difference have they made in my life? What have they taught me or inspired me to do?
- In what small group have I felt safe enough to practice spiritual friendship? What made it less threatening than other groups? Why did I feel comfortable “practicing”—not being perfect, willing to be held accountable, open to talking about joys and struggles of faith with others? Why do I believe that doing faith together is essential for growing in relationship with God and others?
- What biblical examples of spiritual friendship show me the kinds of relationships I would like to have with friends? How do I try to be a friend in faith to others? What kinds of friendships do I want to build now that will grow with me into the future?
- What have I learned about the importance of daily strengthening my friendship with Christ? How does my involvement in a youth group, an accountability or covenant group, or a mentoring relationship help me to live a more Christ-like life?
- What makes me angry? How do I express my anger—yell? slam doors? use the silent treatment? engage in risky behaviors or passive aggressive behavior? take it out on others? When has my behavior gotten me into trouble? How am I learning to express my anger in healthier ways?
- What family member or friend pushes all the right buttons to get my temper boiling? How am I learning to deal with this person?
- Do I have a problem controlling my temper? When have I struggled with anger management? When has my anger reached dangerous levels? Who or what helped me to get the help I needed? Whom did I hurt? How did I seek forgiveness and reconciliation?
- Is someone in my life consumed by anger? How is it affecting me? How am I coping? How can I encourage this person to get the help he or she needs? When have I been able to bring peace to an angry situation?
- What situations make me feel most out of control? How have I learned to deal with those situations? What boundaries have I set to help prevent or slow the escalation of my emotions? Whom do I trust to let me know when I am out of control? When have I felt the presence of the Spirit helping me to get control of myself?
- How have I discovered that anger is a reaction that I choose—that other people or things cannot make me angry? In what way is anger a secondary emotion? How am I learning to look beyond the anger—mine or someone else’s—to discover the root of the problem?
- What situations in the world make me angry? Is it ever OK to be mad at the world? Do I think that there are situations or events that make God mad at the world? How do I think God handles these feelings?
- Is anger ever justified? Do I believe there are times to feel “righteous anger?” How did Jesus deal with anger or strong emotion? What can I learn from him about controlling and dealing with my emotions?
THE SKIN YOU’RE IN
- What do I see when I look in the mirror? What words or phrases pop in my mind? Do these terms reflect reality or the way I’m influenced to feel? Do I believe them? Who or what—friends, movie stars, magazines, clothing stores—shapes my opinion of my appearance? What words does God use to describe me? To whom do I listen?
- Do I accept myself the way I am? How do I feel when I look good? when I don’t like my looks? How do my looks affect my mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual health? When have I felt pressured to lose weight, sculpt muscles, develop larger breasts or broader shoulders? How am I learning to embrace my curves, my spare tire, my muscles, my less-than-stellar shape—the genetics that determine my physical make-up?
- How do I feel about my body? How do I express these feelings? When has my desire to have an ideal body taken a dangerous turn (an eating disorder, harming my body)? When did I realize that I needed help? Did I seek help?
- Am I or is someone close to me blind, in a wheelchair, deaf, autistic, or disabled in some way? What prejudices did I have to overcome in order to get to know this person? How has this affected my ability to interact with others? my self-image? my sensitivity to those who are different?
- Why do I worry so much about the way I look or what others think of my appearance? Who controls the choices I make about what I eat and how I look? How have I learned to trust others to help me see that my diet and attitudes can be self-destructive?
- When have I seen my own appearance or the appearance of others as more important than inner gifts? What does it mean to me that God “looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b)? When has being concerned about looks become an obsession? How have I learned that God loves me no matter what I look like?
- How have I come to know and claim who I really am? How have I learned to like myself—zits and all? How did I learn that I was important? a person of worth? a child of God?
WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN?
- How and why did I become a Christian? Who introduced me to Christ? What events opened me to the power of God’s transforming love in my life? What did these people or events teach me about being a Christian?
- What does it mean to me to be a Christian—following a particular set of beliefs? living a certain way? loving God and others? seeking faith and understanding? going to church? being a good person? reading the Bible? being the hands and feet of Christ in the world? All of the above? Something different?
- What Bible passages shape my understanding of the Christian life? What spiritual practices keep me connected and centered? How have I discovered the importance of Christian community as I seek to live out my faith?
- What kind of person do my beliefs call me to be in the world? When have I resisted this call? In what ways am I living out the things I claim to believe? When have I struggled to live my faith? What has renewed my faith and gotten me back on track?
- How am I learning to stand up for what I believe even when it means standing alone? How am I learning to share my faith in a non-threatening, non-aggressive, or a non-offensive way? How am I learning that I don’t have to apologize for what I believe?
- What is God’s story? What role do I play in it? How am I learning to see the story of my life and faith as a part of God’s story for humankind? Where do these stories intersect? diverge? How has seeing my story as part of God’s story become a source of blessing and strength? What role does God want to play in my story? When have I taken the risk to let that happen?
- What does it mean to me to live a holy life? What persons—historical figures or ordinary folks—have modeled for me a life of holiness? What have I learned from these persons? How do their lives inspire me?
- When have I tried to live like Christ in my daily life? What changes did I have to make? What qualities did I seek to cultivate? In what ways were others able to see Christ in me? What does it mean to have the mind of Christ? to reflect the light of Christ in the world? When have I touched someone’s life with the love of Christ? How do I see God at work in my life to help me grow more and more into the likeness of Christ? How am I cooperating in this re-creation? How am I resisting?
- What is my favorite sport? What do I enjoy most about this sport? How has the game revealed my strengths? my weaknesses? When has a lesson on the field or in the locker room taught me a lesson about life or faith?
- What have I learned about winning and losing graciously? When have I learned that being a good sport, following the rules, playing fairly, and having fun are more important than winning? What does my faith teach me about good sportsmanship? What spiritual values have I learned from a coach or from teammates in a sports context?
- What have I learned about relationships and community through interacting with a sports team? about the importance of being a team player? When have I made others feel like winners? How do I congratulate, recognize, or honor their accomplishments, large or small? What makes this difficult for me? When has the encouragement of teammates helped me to improve my skills? my attitude? my game?
- Who or what pushes me to achieve? Is the pressure tolerable or too stressful? How do I react when the pressure becomes too great? What role does faith play in my need to achieve? Does it comfort me to know that God loves me for who I am rather than how I compare to someone else?
- When have I seen faith in action in a sporting event or in the life of an athlete? What sports celebrity do I admire most for his or her ability to play the game and to live the faith? What in my opinion makes an athlete a Most Valuable Player in life? What does the Bible have to say about discipline? endurance? playing fair? about “winning the race” and doing or being your best?
- What is it about sports that unites us? inspires us? challenges us to grow? How have I seen sports transform communities or bring communities, towns, nations, and the world together? In what ways have I seen the Olympics bring the world together? reflect the world as a global community? What Olympic athlete or event embodies or encourages this global love for sports?