For Youth Workers Post


Steve Matthews

“In the Habit” session for devozine meditations for February 3–9, 2014.


“This is a beautiful day. The air is crisp. The sun is bright. The birds are chirping. I am sitting outside of a café, eating a breakfast burrito, and drinking my coffee: my smooth and silky, dark roast coffee—my third cup of coffee. If I don’t have my coffee, my journal entry at 2:30 this afternoon might read, ‘I am sitting outside the café, and the sun is in my eyes. Why isn’t my burrito hotter? Why is that dog still barking? My head is pounding, and I can’t seem to wake up.’

“Yes, I am addicted to coffee. Without at least two cups of coffee, I will be grumpy and have a headache by midafternoon. I don’t think I liked the taste of coffee the first time I tried it. But I persevered until the taste grew on me, and I do appreciate the lift it gives me. (It also tastes good with cookies).

“My coffee drinking seems like a minor vice; but my patterns of use are like other, more dangerous addictions. Our initial encounter with a substance, relationship, or habit may feel like freedom; but it can become an emotional or physical crutch. If we aren’t careful (and sometimes even if we are), we may find ourselves feeling enslaved, imprisoned, and threatened by what once felt benign.

“When we as a church community are motivated by grace, love, and hope, rather than judgment and rejection, we can be a great resource for young people struggling with addictions. We can also provide support for those who are in relationships with people who are addicted.” —Steve



devozine Steve Matthews IMG_0433Steve Matthews was a youth minister for more than fifteen years. At present, he is living in central Virginia, on a small farm with a cat, a dog, and sixteen chickens. He loves growing his own food as well as cooking and eating it. Steve is a leadership consultant and is presently working with “missio:Engage,” an online school for church redevelopment, sponsored by the Episcopal Church. He is also a spiritual director and was a writer for The Way of Pilgrimage: An Adventure in Spiritual Formation for the Next Generation. Learn more about Steve.



  • Bibles or copies of Galatians 5: 1, 22, 23 and Romans 12:1–3
  • pens and paper
  • markers
  • newsprint
  • copies of the closing prayer
  • copies of the websites listed in the “Other Resources” section of “Plugged In”
  • Print-Friendly Version of this session

Before the session:

  • Write on a large sheet of newsprint “Rate my Attachments.” Write below the heading these instructions: “Rate on a scale of 1–10 (1 means ‘I have no relationship or connection or need for this.’ 10 means ‘I feel that I must have this to get through the day.’), your attachment to the following:

        •  caffeine
        •  gambling
        •  chocolate
        •  food
        •  purging
        •  not eating
        •  exercise
        •  a hobby
        •  sports
        •  pornography
        •  music
        •  a cell phone
        •  social media
        •  computer games
        •  a boyfriend or girlfriend
        •  friends
        •  sugar
        •  alcohol
        •  cigarettes
        •  sex
        •  marijuana
        •  other illegal drugs

  • Write on a sheet of newsprint the heading “Fruit of the Spirit.” Then list the following words:

        •  love
        •  joy
        •  peace
        •  patience
        •  kindness
        •  generosity
        •  faithfulness
        •  gentleness
        •  self-control



Many media resources are related to the issue of addiction. Since most of these resources deal with substance abuse, be sure to emphasize the fact that we all have a tendency to develop unhealthy attachments. Pay attention to the underlying attachment more than to the particular addiction featured in these resources:

  • The clip “AA Saved my Life,” from the movie Smashed, shows a young woman being confronted about her addiction.
  • Creed’s song, “One Last Breath” portrays the despair of a person living in the grip of addiction. How does the church provide resources to people in this situation?
  • 12-Step groups are a powerful resource for people struggling with issues around addiction, but Marc Lewis, in Ted talks’ “Addiction and Trust,” believes that self-trust is an important component in recovery.

Other Resources



Begin the session with an opening ritual: a moment of silence; a short prayer that the group says together; a candle, lit to symbolize Christ’s presence. Invite group members to take a moment to claim this space and time as holy.

Then invite participants to reflect on the questions below and, as they are willing, to tell the group their responses. Encourage group members to listen to one another prayerfully and without comment.
       The word attachment comes from an old French word that means “nailed to.” When in your life have you felt stuck or nailed to something? For example, when have you felt nailed to a relationship, a habit, a job, or a commitment?
       What was the attachment like for you?
       Where or how did you find freedom from the attachment?



Scripture: Galatians 5:1, 22–23; Romans 12:1–3

Sometimes we find ourselves attracted to things, people, or activities that are not good for us or that are good for us only in small doses. We may experiment or flirt with them out of desire, curiosity, rebellion, or peer pressure. Over time, these flirtations may wrap themselves around our day-to-day lives and grow into unhealthy attractions that can lead to addictions. While we may feel in control initially, in reality, we may be giving ourselves and our freedom over to something or someone else. If we aren’t careful, we may one day realize that the thing, person, activity is ruling our lives and our passions.

Distribute pens and papers. Invite each person to complete the “Rate My Attachments” assignment alone. No one will be forced to talk about his or her responses or reflections. For this exercise, ask group members to reflect honestly on their lives. Encourage them to take the list seriously and especially to take note of the attractions they rated as a five or greater. We all have attachments to something that is potentially unhealthy. Stress the need for a supportive and non-judgmental atmosphere.

Invite group members to read Galatians 5:1 in unison two times. Encourage them to reflect on how the word freedom is used in the scripture.
       What kind of freedom does Christ want for us?
       What is the “yoke of slavery” in your life? (some people may name more than one)

Then read aloud Romans 12:1–3. Ask:
       How do we help one another “to be transformed by the renewing of [our] minds” so that we can begin to see and believe in our God-given potential?
       How can we be mirrors for one another of our God-given belovedness?

In the TED Talk, “Addiction and Trust,” Marc Lewis tells a bit of his own story of addiction. Based on his experience and research, people with addictions need to maintain faith that in the future they will be free from addiction. As a faith community, we can offer hope without any sense of shame. We can be a place of freedom and grace for anyone who is struggling with addiction, and we can offer support to those who live with people who are addicted. In both situations, the Christian vision offers freedom and promise that can nurture a transformed mind.

We have used the word attachment in this lesson many times, but not all attachments lead to addictions. Some attachments are healthy when we do not cling to them too tightly. Galatians 5:22–23 lists positive traits that occur in people who choose to be attached to the Spirit of God. These traits are the fruit of the Spirit. (Display the “Fruit of the Spirit” list you prepared earlier.)

Invite group members to write these traits on the paper they used to rate their attachments. Ask them to compare and discuss the two lists: “Rate My Attachments” and “Fruit of the Spirit.”
       What do you notice?
       Which list feels more life-giving?

Then ask each person to circle the fruit of the Spirit that feels most natural to him or her and most suited to his or her temperament.

Encourage group members to tell the group which fruit of the Spirit they circled. Then ask:
       How would our youth group be stronger if we actively encouraged these traits in one another?
       What practices or habits could we try as a group to help one another become more attached to the Spirit of Christ?
       How would the fruit of the Spirit discourage our attachment to the things, people, and activities that have the potential to enslave us?



Invite group members to pray in unison the following “Prayer for Freedom from Addiction”:

Lord Jesus, you said, “I have come to set the captives free.” We are captive and need Your healing touch. Free us, Lord, from our addictions, so that we will be:
       … free from the cares and worries that stifle our happiness;
       … free from sins that cling to us, and to which we cling;
       … free from all compulsive behavior that prevents us from becoming what You, Lord,
             have planned for us.
Bring us, loving Savior, to the experience of abundant life which You promised. Amen.

                                                                                         —From 2 Hearts Network



Preview the list of “Other Resources” so that you can summarize these resources for the group. Take extra care to note the Alateen website. Group members who are not suffering from addictions themselves may have family members and friends who are. Alateen can be a great place of support.

—from devozine In the Habit (January/February 2014). Copyright © 2014 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.
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