devozine

For Youth Workers Post

PEER PRESSURE

Steven Lefebvre

“In the Habit” session for use with devozine meditations for April 20–26, 2015.

MAKING THE CONNECTION

“I grew up believing that peer pressure was about the cool kids offering me cigarettes or weed and my saying, “no.” When I got to college, I realized that peer pressure wasn’t about wanting to hang out with the cool kids; it was about wanting to belong. I remember the first time I got drunk in college. I was living in the dorm, but most of my friends had moved off campus and started making new friends at house parties. At the time, I wanted to focus on my studies and practice my faith. I didn’t want to party. Besides I was too young to drink, and I didn’t want to do anything illegal. Over the course of the semester, I started to feel lonely and insecure and I deeply wanted to belong. I didn’t binge drink the first time. People told me they wouldn’t hang out with me if I didn’t drink. I was so lonely that I was willing to do anything to belong.” —Steven

MEET THE WRITER

devozine Steven LefebvreMy name is Steven Lefebvre. I work with the youth and young adults at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Before my life of working at a church, I was the lead vocalist in a heavy metal band. These days I spend my free time being an armchair film critic, reading comic books, and playing much quieter music (well, sort of). I’m also an amateur champion of darts and dodge ball. I’m a huge fan of going to baseball games in the summer and to college basketball games in the winter. I have a wife, three dogs, and a baby on the way. Check out my blog.

STUFF YOU WILL NEED

PLUGGED IN

CHECKING IN

Have everyone sit in a circle to play a game. Explain that the game is simple: the last person to open his or her eyes wins. This is the only rule. If the players ask questions, keep emphasizing that the only rule is to keep their eyes closed. Offer a prize to the winner.

Discuss:
       Why did you open your eyes?
       How did the other players influence your skill level in the game?
       How did peer pressure help or hurt your performance in the game?

EXPLORING THE WORD

Scripture: Mark 12:28–34; 1 Corinthians 13

What’s at the heart of peer pressure? Why do we do what we don’t want to do? Why do other people’s opinions matter so much to us?

At the heart of peer pressure is one of our deepest longings: to be loved and to belong. The reason we are so willing to sacrifice our happiness, health, safety, and freedom to do something because “everyone is doing it” is that our longing to be loved is our strongest desire as human beings. God made us to be communal, loving people; and that is why wanting to belong is such a powerful motivator. Because we live in a broken world, people are able to manipulate that powerful part of ourselves. The desire to belong to a group or to a friend is good; but when other people use our longing against us, that is evil.

The Greatest Commandment is to love God, our neighbor, and ourselves. But we forget to love ourselves. We doubt we are loveable, and we do what we regret. Perhaps, if we can truly believe we are loveable, we will be less likely to hurt others and ourselves. Invite group members to reflect on these questions:
       When was the last time someone convinced you to do something you knew was wrong?
       Why did you do it? Did you want to be accepted? Were you feeling insecure or left out? Did you worry that someone would feel negatively about you?

At the heart of all these reasons is a distortion of love.

Read aloud 1 Corinthians 13.

Paul writes this beautiful poem about love to his church in Corinth. The people of Corinth also struggled with peer pressure. In Greek culture, following the right leader and being part of the right group was everything. Furthermore, people were coming up with ridiculous qualifications—such as economic status, wearing certain clothes, and praying in certain languages—for taking communion.

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul is clear. Following Jesus is a way of love. Love doesn’t bully. Love doesn’t corrupt. Love doesn’t make people feel bad about themselves. Love is supposed to build up, protect, and preserve.

When it comes to standing up to peer pressure, remember what love is. Remember to love yourself and to stick with people who truly love you!

Discuss:
       What gets in the way of loving yourself? Why do we let other people affect our self-esteem?
       Who are the people who love you? How do they treat you? Do you feel comfortable around them?
       Reread 1 Corinthians 13. What surprises you? Which verse speaks to you?

SHARING IN PRAYER

Bring the group together. Ask each person to offer a one-word prayer, naming one of his or her characteristics that is totally loveable. When everyone has spoken, conclude the prayer, saying, “God, teach us to love you, one another, and ourselves. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.”

TAKING IT FURTHER

Ask everyone to write or draw an honest description of himself or herself. Collect the descriptions and redistribute them. Read them aloud, and ask the group to identify who is being described. Show “Real Beauty Sketches.” Invite group members to talk about ways they can offer positive peer pressure.

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

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