For Youth Workers Post


Lanecia A. Rouse

“In the Habit” session for use with devozine meditations for September 8–14, 2014.


“Every day young people are shaping relationships that have an impact on their lives. Many teenagers are in the process of forming their first significant relationships outside of their family. Having safe spaces to figure out how to love well is important as they live into relationships of all kinds.

“When I was involved in professional youth ministry, most of my conversations with young people had to do with forming right and healthy relationships with parents, siblings, friends, dates, boyfriends or girlfriends, the church, God, and themselves. They were daily negotiating relationships and came to me to help them figure out how to live within relationships with grace, freedom, integrity, and love.

“Often, I found myself in conversations about dating. In our Bachelor and Bachelorette culture, we put so much stress on dating and on jumping into intimate relationships. I often quoted the words of Song of Solomon 2:7b: “Do not stir up or awaken love until it is ready!” and Proverbs 4:23a: “Keep your heart with all vigilance.” In relationships, our hearts need to be wise and discerning. Love takes time, and it takes work. We too often pursue relationships for which we are not ready.

“Sometimes, we forget that God desires and delights in playing a role in the loving relationships. Inviting God to be a part of our relationships is important. God and the faith community in which we live can help us navigate through friendships and dating relationships in ways that do not bring harm and let us learn to love well.

“As we dare to be vulnerable with our thoughts, feelings, and bodies, God can provide wisdom and guidance that help us create relationships that are healthy, good, and freeing. We need God in all our relationships, especially as we become more intimate and vulnerable with one another.

“Young people need life-giving relationships that build them up. Intentional conversations about how to express thoughts and feelings within dating and other relationships are essential to guiding young people into virtuous lives.” —Lanecia


Lanecia-Feature-SQLanecia A. Rouse is my name. I am beloved, and I receive my days trying to discover the implications of this reality as I live in the tension of “the already but not yet” with people living on and off the downtown streets of Houston, Texas, on the campus of St. John’s Downtown. I am a photographer, painter, musician, writer, mother, friend, and lover of life who is daily learning how to play and to live in freedom. Currently, I am serving as the project manager of The Art Project, Houston, a therapeutic art and self-empowerment project of the Bread of Life, Inc. Prior to moving to Houston, I served in youth ministry for thirteen years, most of which I received with the brilliant, bursting, beautiful youth of Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Check out my blog.


  • a Bible
  • magazines
  • canvas boards or mixed media sheets (8 x 10” or 16 x 20”)
  • acrylic paints (You will definitely want to have red, yellow, blue, white, and black; other colors can be mixed.)
  • paint brushes
  • cups of water
  • paper plates for the paint
  • plastic or butcher paper to cover tables
  • a candle and matches
  • pencils
  • paper
  • Print-Friendly Version of this session


Below are some resources that you may find helpful as you guide conversations about shame, guilt, love, forgiveness, and grace.

Books and Online Articles or Resources

Movies and Videos

  • The Fault in Our Stars — The main characters in this film exemplify what it looks like to negotiate the space between friendship and dating with integrity, thoughtfulness, honesty, freedom, and love. A scene and words that allude to their having sex also provides an opportunity to talk about urges, desires, choices, and realities that teens are dealing with today.


Before diving into the topic, receive time to think through the questions the group will discuss at the beginning of the session (see below). Invite volunteers and youth workers to join you in discussing the topic. Conclude with prayer for one another and the program.

A great daily practice is to receive time to be in prayer for the people you lead and the ministry in which you share. Before the youth arrive, pray for the time you will spend with them, for those who will participate, for those who will not be present, and for the life of your church community.

When the youth arrive, bring them together for discussion. Welcome everyone, extending a special welcome to those joining you for the first time.

Invite group members to wrestle through some or all of these questions:
       When have you found yourself in a situation in which you had to define the boundaries of the relationship?
       Was it easy to define the relationship? Was it difficult? What made it so?


Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:4–8a, Song of Solomon 2:7b, Proverbs 4:23a

Dating is a contemporary reality that was not part of the cultural fabric or imagination of the biblical writers. We cannot look to scripture to answer directly provocative questions such as these:

  • How far is too far?
  • How do I know if we are dating?
  • How do I know it is time to get out of a relationship?
  • How do I know when to say, “I love you”?

Though the scriptures do not directly address dating, wisdom within our faith narrative helps discern life-giving answers to all of these questions. The scriptures are filled with truths that point us toward the best ways to love our neighbors and ourselves with kindness, honesty, patience, and good will. Because our friends, boyfriends or girlfriends, and other people we relate to are our neighbors, whom we are called to love well, we can explore the meaning of love and begin to discern answers that will help us nurture healthy friendships and dating relationships. To be ready for love, we first need to know what love is.

Love is essential to the lives of those who follow Christ. It is a core principle of the Christian life as well as to any healthy relationship we form. The more we understand about love, the more life-giving our relationships will be.

Invite the group to read 1 Corinthians 13:4–8a. Then discuss these questions:
       What does this passage say about friendships and dating relationships?
       What wisdom does 1 Corinthians 13 offer regarding conversations with persons we may be interested in?
       What wisdom does the passage offer about how to receive the truth of the person we are interested in—whether or not they have the same feelings for us?
       What is most difficult about the vulnerability of asking the question, “Are we dating?”
       How would seeking to practice agape in our relationships help us to navigate through conversations that are risky and difficult?
       What helps you form healthy relationships with people you care about and love? (trust, respect, honesty, kindness, encouragement, boundaries)
       What are some ways to invite God into relationships so that they are healthy and life-giving? (prayer, holy listening, conversations with people who love us and know us best, listening to scripture)

Read Song of Solomon 2:7b and Psalm 4:23. Then discuss:
       What does the scripture mean when it says, “Do not stir up or awaken love until it is ready”?
       What does it mean to “guard your heart” (NIV) or to “keep your heart with all vigilance” (NRSV)?
       How do you care for the heart of your friend or a person you are interested in dating or someone who is interested in dating you?

After the discussion, invite the group to make visual reminders of agape. Distribute pencils and canvas boards or mixed media sheets. Have each participant draw a heart on the canvas board. The heart should cover most of the board and may be the symbol (like a valentine heart) or a picture of an anatomical heart.

Then ask each person to create a collage inside the heart, using images or phrases that exemplify the love described in 1 Corinthians 13:4–8a.

Provide paint and brushes. Invite group members to paint on the canvas or across the collage the words of 1 Corinthians 13:4–8a as a reminder of the love modeled by Jesus in his relationships and the love we are to create in our relationships as well.


Light a candle, representing the light of Christ’s presence. Invite group members to sit in a circle around the candle.

Give everyone a pencil and a sheet of paper. Invite people to reflect on the following questions:
       When in our time together today did I experience God’s presence?
       What gave me life? joy?

After a few minutes, invite volunteers to talk about their answers.

Close the session with prayer.


Find a movie appropriate for your group that will foster conversation about negotiating friendships and dating relationships. Invite the group to watch the film. Ask questions that will encourage the youth to speak honestly about vulnerability, respect, loving themselves and others.


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

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