For Youth Workers Post


Craig Mitchell

“In the Habit” session for devozine meditations for April 8–14, 2013.



“A few years ago, our family faced some challenges. At the time, our local church seemed to be the last place we could be honest and open about what we were going through. So we kept it to ourselves, and shared our load with people outside the congregation. Some of this was to protect family members from possible intolerance or rejection. In reality, most people in our church would have been supportive, but we were afraid of taking the risk; and as a result, we felt alone and unsupported at a time when we needed a caring community. I have since wondered how often other parents and young people feel this way. How much more difficult is it for teenagers?” —Craig



devozine Craig Mitchell2


Craig Mitchell is an educator, youth minister, researcher, blogger, and multimedia author from South Australia. He hosts a Facebook group called “Multimedia in Ministry” and another called “Forming Faith, Growing Disciples.” Also, check out his blog.




  • For the “Truth or Dare” game in the “Checking In” section: index cards, a pen, a selection of different foods (or choose to create “Dare” cards), a blindfold
  •  several pieces of poster board
  • a marker
  • slips of paper
  • pens
  • Bibles or copies of Ephesians 4:1–16
  • a votive candle for each person
  • a Christ candle
  • matches
  • Print-Friendly Version of this Session



Here are some good, simple tools for starting discussions:


> Apps

“Faith Talk” from “Vibrant Faith Ministries” — available for iOS:


> Cards

Deep Speak” published by Innovative Resources


> Images

Pictures are often good discussion starters. Compfight is a photo search tool that helps you find images to use freely with acknowledgement. Go to the site and search on a key word. Choose “Creative Commons” from the menu on the left. (Note that the search usually brings back some commercial images at the top of the page.) When you click on a thumbnail, check the copyright details of the Creative Commons license (right hand column under “License”). To download the image, click the little magnifying glass above the top right edge of the image. This will take you to a new window. Then click “View all sizes” above the top right of the image. Click the link to the size that you want to download. (Size is measured in pixels—for example, a PowerPoint image needs to be at least 800 pixels for full screen. “Original” will be the largest size.) When the image appears in the window, right-click (PC) or control-click (MAC) and choose “Save image as . . .” to download to your computer.



Before the session, create or gather the necessary items for a game of “Truth or Dare.”

  • Prepare “Truth” cards for the game by writing on separate index cards each of the questions listed below. (Feel free to amend or add questions.) For a large group, prepare several sets of cards.
  • For the “Dares,” provide a selection of foods—from pleasant to disgusting—that people can taste. Be aware of food allergies. [NOTE: As an alternative, make a list of silly things to do. For example: “Run down the street, yelling, ‘My pants are on fire!’” “Mime a monkey eating spaghetti with its hands.” or “Smell the socks of the person on your right.” Write them on separate index cards to create “Dare” cards.]


Questions for Truth Cards

  • What was the most embarrassing thing that happened to you this week?
  • Did you get annoyed about politics this week?
  • Did you tidy your room this week?
  • Did you spend too much time on the Internet this week?
  • Did you miss someone this week?
  • Did you change your underwear this week?
  • Did you kiss anyone this week?
  • Did you use deodorant this week?
  • Have you kept a secret this week?
  • Did you speak badly of someone from another race or culture this week?
  • Did you read devozine every day this week?
  • Did you surprise someone with kindness this week?
  • Were you rude to someone this week?
  • Did you compliment someone this week?
  • Were you lonely at any time this week?
  • Did someone smile at you this week?
  • Did you have fun this week?
  • Did you eat too much chocolate this week?
  • Did you ignore a parent this week?
  • Were you late for a class this week?
  • Did you give any money to charity this week?
  • Did you secretly admire someone this week?
  • Did you hurt someone this week?


When everyone arrives, explain the rules of the game:

  • Ask people to form a circle. Place the “Truth” cards in the center of the circle.
  • The youngest person in the group begins the game by taking a Truth card from the top of the pile. Player #1 has two choices: to answer the question or to give the card to another person. If Player #1 gives away the card, he or she must answer the question on the next Truth card in the pile or choose a “Dare.” If Player #1 chooses a “Dare,” he or she will be blindfolded and given a food to eat (or must draw a “Dare” card and follow the directions, if you decided to skip the food option).
  • If Player #1 gave away a Truth card, the receiver (Player #2) then takes a turn, choosing (a) to answer the question on the card received or (b) to give the card to someone else and to take a new Truth card from the deck. If Player #2 draws another Truth card, he or she must answer the question or choose a “Dare.”
  • In any turn, a player may answer the question on the first Truth card he or she draws, in which case play continues clockwise around the circle, with the next person taking a new Truth card from the deck.


If everyone understands the rules, proceed with the game. [NOTE: This is a warm-up activity, so try to keep it reasonably light-hearted. Don’t let the questions be taken too seriously. If someone seems too uncomfortable, let him or her pass.]


After the game, ask people to form small groups of three and to discuss these questions:

          Did you receive a question that you didn’t want to answer?
          How did you feel about answering the questions?
          How did you feel when someone else received a difficult question?
          On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = totally closed, 10 = totally open), how open are you with other people?
          On a scale of 1 to 10, how open are the members of this group with one another?



Scripture: Ephesians 4:1–16


Every group has taboos: subjects the members of the group are not supposed to talk about, rules they’re not allowed to question, or behaviors that are unacceptable.

In the New Testament, Jesus regularly says and does the unacceptable. He behaves in ways that suddenly start conversations about laws, interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures, or acceptable behavior. What Jesus says and does raises questions: Can Gentiles believe in God? Why are people born blind or crippled? Would God forgive an adulterer? Should the Roman authorities always be obeyed? Is it OK to help someone on the Sabbath? Does eating with a sinner make a person unclean?

The early church also had its share of controversies: Should Gentile Christians obey Jewish rules about food? Should women speak and teach in church? If Christ sets us free, can we do what we like? Who decides what is and is not acceptable teaching? Can people be Christian leaders if they have done something wrong? Do Christians have to do the right thing to be in favor with God?

These weren’t abstract questions. They were about people. They asked who and what was acceptable in the faith and who and what was acceptable to God.

Sometimes we want to talk, but we feel we can’t. Maybe we feel uncomfortable talking about the death of a friend or family member, our questions about faith, or our views about politics and social issues. Sometimes we need to talk, but we’d rather avoid the subject. Some things, we’d rather keep secret. Some we feel guilty or ashamed about. Some confuse us.

Sometimes we have good reasons to keep silent; but often, as individuals and as a group, we are healthier when we are open about our doubts, fears, mistakes, struggles, hopes, and desires. In the Covenant Discipleship Groups that John Wesley started, people were encouraged to be open about their questions, doubts, and failings.


Write on separate sheets of poster board the following words: “Relationships,” “Sex,” “Politics,” “Faith,” “Race,” “Grief and Loss,” “Who am I?” “Church,” “Family,” “Other Taboo Topics.” Display the posters around the room.

Give each person a pen and several slips of paper. Invite people to visit any or all of the posters and, at each one, to write on the slips of paper questions or issues about the particular topic that are rarely or never discussed at church, at home, in youth group, or anywhere else. Ask them to leave their slips of paper face-down beside each poster they visit.

Bring the group together. Ask people to work together in pairs. Ask each pair to sit near one of posters and to choose a slip of paper from beside the poster. Invite partners to discuss these questions:
          With whom would you be willing to discuss this issue?
          If you are willing, talk with your partner about this issue for one minute.
          What are your thoughts and feelings about the question or issue?

If partners are unwilling to discuss the question or issue, they should return the piece of paper to the pile and select another.

After three to five minutes, ask each pair to move to a different poster and to discuss one of the questions or issues related to the new topic.


[NOTE: During the following discussion, ask someone to collect all the slips of paper without reading them.]

Bring the group together for discussion:
          How did you feel doing the exercise?
          Were there questions or issues you felt able to discuss? Were there some you chose not to discuss? What were your reasons?
          How difficult was having an open conversation?
          What are positive reasons for avoiding some issues? What are negative reasons for avoiding an issue?


Many of the letters in the New Testament were written to new Christian communities that were dealing with difficult teachings. Often the letters urged believers to beware of false teachings and of the people who teach them. At the same time, they frequently encourage the believers to treat one another with love, humility, patience, and respect.

Distribute Bibles or copies of Ephesians 4:1–16. Invite group members to read the passage aloud, with each person reading one verse. Then ask group members to read the passage silently.

Discuss this question:
          What attitudes or behaviors in the passage would help us, as a group or a church, to discuss difficult issues?



Ask group members to sit in a circle. Place the Christ candle in the center of the group and a votive candle in front of each person. Then offer this prayer:

“God of grace and truth:
Sometimes we wonder
Can I?
Should I?
What if?
Why not?
How come?
How long?
When? Why?
Is it wrong?
Is it right?
What if I don’t?
What if I might?
We seek answers
and the freedom to doubt.
We seek companions
and the freedom to question.
May we boldly live together
as a company of sinners,
a collective of questioners,
a tribe of doubters,
a gathering of the lost,
clinging to your presence
despite all our pretensions;
following your revolution
rather than our revelations;
listening for your whispers,
deeper than our wisdom;
trusting in your hospitality
to disarm our hostility.
Bind us as a community
of humility and grace,
of faith, hope, and love.

Light the Christ candle.

Say: “I invite each of you to name aloud one attitude or behavior that would help you to be more open in talking with others and in accepting others. As you do this, light the candle in front of you as an act of prayer.”

When everyone has had a turn, read aloud Romans 8:31–39.  Then conclude the session with a brief prayer.



1. Ask group members which of the issues they would like to discuss as a group and which they would like to discuss with other people whom they invite to be part of a wider discussion. Make plans to discuss these issues, and invite the additional guests and/or some resource people to help the group explore the issues they have chosen.

2. If you want to explore issues of self-awareness, self-disclosure, and acceptance of others, the Johari window is a helpful tool. Find information at these websites:

If the Johari Window is new to you, talk about it with another adult who has experience in education, psychology, or social services.

—from devozine In the Habit (March/April 2013). Copyright © 2013 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.
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