devozine

For Youth Workers Post

BEST FRIENDS

Lanecia A. Rouse

“In the Habit” session for use with devozine meditations for July 13–19, 2015.

MAKING THE CONNECTION

“Just as lotions and fragrance give sensual delight, a sweet friendship refreshes the soul.”
Proverbs 27:9 (The Message)

The other day I was hanging out with my twelve-year-old niece-in-love, catching up on all things middle school. She was excited to tell me about all the new friends she had made this year, especially her best friend. They met the first week of school and made an instant connection. When I asked what put her friend in the ‘best friend’ category, she said, ‘We are nothing alike on the surface, Lanecia; but deep, deep, deep, deep down we are the same. We even wrote a poem about it that was published in a poetry book for school.’

“Of course, I asked her to read me the poem, which led to a great conversation about the importance of having a best friend. When I asked her why she thinks it is important for people her age to have a best friend, she answered, ‘You need a mom, right? Well, I think we all need a best friend, someone who gets you and can comfort you when you are having a hard day. It is nice to have someone who is always beside you. Wherever you go, no matter what, you know they are there for you. Deep inside, you are the same.’

“Best friends are treasures. We all want a best friend—someone who will be with us through all the seasons of life. Proverbs 27:9 was right in suggesting that a close friend refreshes the soul with a relationship that is life-giving and empowers us to be our best selves. We all need at least one friend who knows us well and loves us for who we are, with whom we are totally comfortable being ourselves. To know and be known by another through friendship is a gift. We are created for community and relationships grounded in love. We crave opportunities to connect with others in ways that enrich, support, and enable us to believe the best about the people God created us to be.

“We live in a time when connecting with people is too easy. We connect through technology and call a person ‘friend’ without intimacy or vulnerability. The ‘friendship’ leaves us with haunting feelings of loneliness, which sometimes lead to addiction, poor choices, depression, and suicide. Sometimes the only way to navigate through our teenage years is to have one or two people who see us, encourage us, believe in us, listen to us, love us, and have our back no matter what. We are not created to be alone; we are created us for communion with God and with one another. The church needs to celebrate the gift of friendship, to create safe places for authentic community, and to cultivate friendships that are deep in grace and overflowing in unconditional love. The church has the language and resources to teach practices that can build healthy friendships that produce the fruit of the Spirit. To have one or two close friends in our lives who see us for who we are and love us through sunshine and rain is one of the greatest gifts God has given us.” —Lanecia

MEET THE WRITER

Lanecia A. Rouse is my name. I am an artist and minister based in Houston, Texas. 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 neighbors living on the streets of Houston, Texas. Prior to the move to Houston, I served in youth ministry for thirteen years, most received with the brilliant, bursting, beautiful youth of Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Find Lanecia online.

STUFF YOU WILL NEED

  • Bibles
  • index cards
  • pens or pencils
  • white board or large sheet of paper
  • markers
  • a candle
  • matches or lighter
  • Print-Friendly Version of this session

PLUGGED IN

Below are some resources that you may find helpful as you guide conversations about life-giving friendships that reflect the love of Christ. 

Books and Online Articles and Resources

Movies and Videos

CHECKING IN

Before diving into this with your group, receive time to think through the questions below. Invite the volunteers or youth workers to do the same. Bring the group leaders together for conversation about the session.
       Who are the people in your life that you consider your closest friends? Why are they your best friends?
       What practices keep your friendship healthy and life-giving for both you and your friend?
       Why is important to have a best friend?

Read aloud this quotation by Jamie Tworkowski, the founder of To Write Love on Her Arms: “You’ll need coffee shops and sunsets and road trips. Airplanes, passports, new songs, and old songs, but people more than anything else. You will need other people and you will need to be that other person to someone else, a living, breathing screaming invitation to believe better things.”

Then ask:
       Do you agree with what Tworkowski says? Why? Why not?

Conclude the time with prayer for one another and the youth program. A great daily practice is to pray for those you lead and the ministry in which you share. Before the youth arrive, pray for your time together, those who will participate, those who will not be present, your church community, and the city in which you live.

[NOTE: As you enter into this experience with your group, be sensitive to the fact that some of the youth may be suffering from isolation and loneliness. They may be struggling with the thought and the possible reality that they do not have the friendships they so badly desire. Sometimes even within our church community we feel as though we do not belong and do not have the support we need from our friends.]

When your community arrives, welcome everyone, extending a special welcome to those joining you for the first time. Invite everyone to take a seat and to reflect on one or all of the questions the leadership team discussed as well as the quotation from Jamie Tworkowski.

Then say something like this: “Every day we meet and interact with a number of different people. A few love us unconditionally, share our hopes, encourage us in our faith, support and comfort us when we need them, and help us be our best selves; and we do the same for them.”

EXPLORING THE WORD

Scripture: Colossians 3:12–15

Colossians provides a theological foundation for the church as well as guidelines for living a Christian life molded and shaped by the Holy Spirit. In Colossians 3:12–15, the epistle writers offer the Colossian church a list of virtues that are important for cultivating healthy community and that reflect the teachings and love of Jesus Christ. According to Scripture, these virtues are essential for followers of Christ to maintain not only in relationships with others in their church community, but in all their relationships. Our relationships matter. They have the power to build up or to tear down. Colossians provides helpful suggestions for relating to one another in ways that build up and help life to flourish.

Read aloud Colossians 3:12–15; then ask group members to discuss the following questions:
       Why are the virtues listed in Colossians 3:12–15 important to the church community? What is their importance for friendship?
       What do the epistle writers mean when they say “clothe yourself” in the listed virtues?
       What are some practices that help you reflect Jesus’ teachings and love in your relationships?
       Of the virtues listed, which one do you believe is the most important for building strong friendships? Why is that virtue the most important?
       Which virtue is the most difficult to cultivate? Why is it difficult?

Distribute index cards and pencils or pens. As you do, ask group members to reflect on this question:
       What virtues or attributes that are not listed in the text are important to building a healthy and strong friendship?

If the group is larger than twelve people, ask group members to form smaller groups of six. Invite the group(s) to play Paper Telephone. Friends need to play and have fun together. This activity will get your group thinking about the attributes of a best friend, while having a good time in the process. Follow these instructions:

Ask group members to sit in a circle. Give each person a stack of index cards so that the number of cards in the stack equals the number of people playing the game (or the number of people in their small group). For instance, if six people are playing (or are in the small group), give each person six cards.

Instruct players to write in the bottom left hand corner of each card a small number, starting with 1 on the first, card, 2 on the second, 3 on the third, and so on until there is a number on each card. Then ask the players to stack their cards so that card number one is on top and the card with the highest number is on the bottom.

When you say, “Go,” each player is to write on the first card one attribute of a best friend. After one minute, say, “Switch.” All the players are to leave on the top of their stack the card with the attribute written on it and pass their entire stack of cards to the person on their right. Each receiving player is to take the stack, read the word or words on the top card, and move that card to the bottom of the stack. Then he or she is to draw on the second card a picture representing the attribute named on the first card.

After one minute, instruct the players to switch again, to pass their entire stack of cards to the right, leaving the drawing on top. Each receiving player is to look at the drawing, to move the second card to the bottom of the stack, and to write on the third card a message about the drawing.

Continue saying, “Switch,” every minute as the players alternate from writing to drawing to writing until the cards come full circle to the person who named an attribute on the first card.

Invite the players to read their cards, observing the ways the message changed from player to player. After everyone has had a chance to look through the cards, invite each person to tell the group his or her original attribute. Write the attributes on a white board or large sheet of paper.

Then give everyone two new index cards. Ask group members to write on one card five qualities they believe are the most important attributes of a best friend. Invite volunteers to read aloud their lists. Then ask all or some these questions:
       Why do you believe the attributes you listed are the most important?
       Was it easy for you to come up with your list? Why? Why not?
       Is finding friends with all five attributes difficult? Why? Why not?

Invite group members to write on the second card the attributes or virtues they bring to a friendship. Ask people to identify one of these attributes that they would like to develop. Then encourage them to write it down, to take it with them, and to put it a place they will see as a daily reminder to be a good friend.

SHARING IN PRAYER

Invite group members to sit in a circle around a Christ candle. Light the candle, and pass it around the circle from one person to the next. As each person holds the candle, invite him or her to respond to one or more of these questions about the session:
       Where did you experience or see God?
       What gave you life or joy?
       What are you thankful for?
Explain that group members may or may not choose to respond out loud. If they choose not to speak, ask them to answer one of the questions silently and to pass the candle to the next person.

Close with this prayer or another of your choosing:

“Creating and Re-Creating God, thank you for the gift of friendship. Shape us to be good friends who love our friends well. Give us grace to encourage, see, listen, and help them to be their best selves. Guide us to be intentional in building friendships. Let our friendships be a reflection of the love and grace we experience in you. Amen.”

TAKING IT FURTHER

  • Host a movie night in which you show a film about friendship. Invite discussion about the movie:
         What attributes of friendship were life-giving? Which were harmful?
         What in the film would you apply to your friendships?
         Where were you aware of God’s presence in the friendship?
  • Does your group enjoy making people aware of the challenges facing teens due to feelings of loneliness or a sense of not having friends (for example, feelings of being all alone may lead to cutting, teen suicide, bullying)? Encourage the group to plan and host an awareness or fundraising event to support organizations that work to eradicate those challenges. This is a positive way for teens to use their creativity and resources to make a difference in the world and to love their neighbor.

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

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