For Youth Workers Post


Will Penner

“In the Habit” session for use with devozine meditations for November 16–22, 2015.


“‘I wish I hadn’t come on this trip. I like my extravagant lifestyle, and I wish I didn’t know how so many other people live,’ a high school student told me about halfway through our mission trip to central Jamaica. We had visited blind people, lepers, orphans, and widows who were incredibly poor; and we had built relationships with children who were hungry, shoeless, and homeless. The student knew that she would never be the same; but instead of embracing the experience, she resented being pulled from her upper middle class bubble to come face to face with poverty and suffering in the world. While I hurt for her and her inner turmoil, I was also grateful. The trip had begun the transformative process I had intended.” —Will


Will PennerWill Penner has been in ministry with young people for more than two decades in Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches, public and private schools, and as a popular speaker at youth retreats, camps, and conferences. He has served as the editor of both leading professional journals of youth ministry and has authored or edited numerous youth ministry curricula and books, the latest of which is It Happens: True Tales from the Trenches of Youth Ministry. Most important, he is the husband of his amazing wife, Christine, and the father of five fantastic children ranging in age from 6 to 24. Learn more about Will.



After the check-in activity, invite group members to check out the “World Wealth Calculator,” from the website The Least of These: Helping Those in Greatest Need, to get a sense of how they stack up in a global comparison of wealth.


As group members arrive, bring them together. Provide paper and pens or pencils. Ask the group to reflect on this question:
       If you won the lottery and were given five million dollars to spend any way you wanted, what would you do?

Encourage group members to be specific and to create an actual budget outlining how they would spend the money. (For the purposes of the assignment, assume that taxes were taken out ahead of time.)

When they are finished, ask people to tell the group some of their favorite ideas. Others in the group are welcome to make changes if they are inspired to do so. Let the ideas play out for a few minutes. Then ask:
       Did you list anything you currently need? (Emphasize the difference of need over want.)
       If Jesus were in the room, asking the same question, how would you change your spending plan?


Scripture: Mark 12:41–44

During the time Jesus walked the earth, widows were the most vulnerable members of society. Legally, a woman couldn’t own anything; nor could she take on employment that would earn a livable wage. Her station in life related either to her father or to her husband. Most eligible men wanted a young, beautiful wife of childbearing age, especially if her father could throw in money, land, or livestock to raise the man’s income level. A man did not often seek a woman who had been married and widowed.

Jesus made a habit of picking out those on the margins of society. He regularly healed lepers, befriended sinners, pardoned prostitutes, and spent time with people the dominant culture had cast aside. In this case, he elevates the widow by pointing out the ridiculous disparity between her poverty and the others who had money, power, and privilege. They gave only what was comfortable, convenient, and public; yet she was willing to give all she had.

The King James Version calls the coins “mites,” which may have been worth a penny. So her contribution didn’t add up in comparison to what others gave. But Jesus gives us an insight into God’s economy: She gave more than all the others. Part of the reason was that she gave sacrificially, while the rich did not. Another part of the reason was that she had nothing to gain by giving, whereas the rich likely gave so that others would see their offerings and think highly of the giver.

In the verses immediately preceding this passage (especially verses 38–40), Jesus pointed out that so many people use their power to lord it over the poor and marginalized, especially the widows, and to cover their actions with pompous religiosity. In the same way, we pray nice prayers about helping the less fortunate, yet we do not actually do anything about the injustices within our circles of influence.

Ask group members to discuss these questions, and record their responses:
       In what ways do we hoard what we have when sharing our wealth or ourselves could benefit those around us?
       How could we be more concerned about those around us who are in need?

Consider leaving a visual reminder in the room for the next few months to continually remind the group of those who need your assistance.


Invite group members to pray together:

“Gracious provider, help us to be grateful for all the blessings you have poured out onto us rather than to pine away because of what we do not have. Help us to look on those in need, not with pity or scorn, but with a perspective like Christ’s that seeks to serve the least of these. Make us joyful givers of our time, talents, energies, and money so that we may be your hands and feet in the world. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.”


The Rich Family in Church,” on the website Mikey’s Funnies, is a beautiful true story written by Eddie Ogan, who sent a copy of this story along with handwritten letters to missionaries all over the world. In addition to the original story, the related articles on Mikey’s archive are worth a read as well. They might shed some light on the times we feel poor.

—from devozine In the Habit (November/December 2015). Copyright © 2015 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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