For Youth Workers Post


Will Penner

“In the Habit” session for use with devozine meditations for September 15–21, 2014.


“I often tell kids I work with that if they remember only two things, they should remember these:
       1.  God loves you no matter what; you cannot earn God’s love, nor do you have to try.
       2.  You have far more power than you think you do.

“As a teenager and young adult, I was especially haunted by my lack of power. I was convinced that I needed to act, dress, and even think differently in order to fit in. That self-deception caused me and others pain that could have been avoided.

“Most teenagers are so concerned about what other people think that they are afraid to rock too many boats. All of us have felt rejection by one or more groups of people; we know that nothing hurts so much. As a result, we often find ourselves willing to compromise our principles, morals, and identities. The truth is that most of us could alter the culture of our peer groups if we simply recognized how much power we have to be agents of change instead of passively accepting the lie that we must conform to others’ expectations.” —Will


Will PennerWill Penner has been in ministry with young people for more than two decades in Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches, in 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 five to twenty-two.



  • Linkin Park’s song “Powerless” taps into how it feels to watch a friend self-destruct. Play the song to begin a discussion about the balance between taking steps to exert power when we can but also letting go of choices over which we have no power.


Before students come into the room, post newsprint in two different areas of the room. Label one “Power to have an impact on . . .” and label the other “Powerless over . . .”

Invite group members to think about an average day at school. Much of what they encounter in any given day is beyond their control, but they also have a great deal of power to influence what they encounter. Suggest that they take a few minutes going back and forth across the room to write down brief descriptions of what falls into each of the two categories. If they see an item on the list that they heartily agree with, suggest that they put a little check mark by it. If they disagree or feel neutrally toward an item on the list, they should not do anything to indicate their response.


Scripture: 1 Samuel 3:1–11

A few years ago, Kenda Creasy Dean, youth ministry professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, delivered an interesting presentation at the National Youth Workers Convention. She began by asking everyone in the convention center to stand up, after which she began playing a series of tones. As people could no longer hear the tones, they were to sit down; only those who could still hear the tones would remain standing.

At a few points in the exercise, she simply asked us to look around and to notice who was standing and who was sitting. The older people sat down first, and the younger ones were still standing at the end of the process. Those tones were of increasingly higher frequencies, demonstrating that the older population could not hear some tones. The exercise came before most of us learned that ring tones were being marketed to young people as being at a frequency their teachers wouldn’t be likely to hear.

Her point was that something about youthfulness sometimes allows young people to be more attuned to a God-frequency. Those who have been alive awhile have developed all sorts of habits, as well as expectations about how faith works, how God interacts with humanity, and so on. Sometimes their habits and expectations help older people to get through rough patches in life, but they may also make them less open to new ideas.

Eli was in a bit of a rut. He had been serving God a long time, and he had done so with a great deal of fidelity. He helped Samuel learn the ropes by demonstrating how to be a faithful servant of God, and Samuel followed his lead and grew in wisdom and stature. But Samuel also had an openness to hearing God’s voice in new ways. Eli recognized that he didn’t have to be the arbiter of God’s communication to Samuel. Even though Eli was Samuel’s spiritual guide, he had the humility to notice that God might be speaking directly to Samuel, so Eli encouraged Samuel to listen and to be willing to follow.

David was incredibly young when God used him to defeat Goliath. Jesus was merely an infant when shepherds and magi journeyed to see the newborn king. Timothy was a young disciple whom Paul reminded of the power he had, despite his youthfulness.

God isn’t just preparing youth to be useful for the Kingdom in the future. God uses youth for divine glory here and now. How they act and react in times of confusion, how they speak to people they like and dislike, and the attitude they bear as they handle life’s stress speak volumes to others about their faith. Youth have an incredible amount of power—over not only the choices they make but also the Christian witness they bear.

Invite group members to look back at the lists they have made. As they look at the list of items over which they have no power, ask:
       What are some of the most difficult concerns for you let go of?
       How much will worrying change outcomes?

As they consider the list of items over which they have power, ask:
       What are some of the hardest for you to exert your power over?
       Fear is what usually prevents people from taking action when they can and should. What fears keep you from stepping up in those situations?
       What other roadblocks keep you from exerting appropriate power?
       How do you think God feels about your ways of using your power?


Write out the Serenity Prayer, and invite group members to talk about it for a bit before they pray the prayer together.

       “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
       courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. Amen.”


Invite group members to carry around a journal (or a folded piece of paper) throughout the next week and to continue to write down things over which they have some power and things over which they have no power. Encourage them to notice which tend to make them more anxious, afraid, or angry; and suggest that they discuss them with a teacher, youth leader, or spiritual friend.

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

Back To Home

To Order Devozine Magazine, call 1.800.972.0433.