devozine

For Youth Workers Post

TOO GIFTED?

Lanecia Rouse

“In the Habit” session for use with devozine meditations for April 4–10, 2016.

MAKING THE CONNECTION

“The purposes of this session are to guide the youth in understanding what spiritual gifts are, to help them discern what their own gifts are, and to empower them in using their gifts in the work of building God’s kingdom.” —Lanecia

MEET THE WRITER

Lanecia-Feature-SQLanecia A. Rouse is my name. I am a creative (photographer, artist, writer, speaker) living in Houston, Texas. Before becoming a full-time creative 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. with men and women living on the streets of Houston, Texas. Prior to the move to Houston in March 2011, I served in youth ministry for 13 years, most received with the brilliant, bursting, beautiful, youth of Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Find Lanecia online at www.larartphotography.com.

STUFF YOU WILL NEED

PLUGGED IN

BOOKS and RESOURCES

The following resources are helpful in enabling and empowering the youth to discern, embrace, and use their gifts.

SPIRITUAL GIFTS TESTS FOR YOUTH

Read through these resources carefully, and select the one that best fits your group.

CHECKING IN

Once group members have arrived and been welcomed, bring them together to share joys and concerns. Then offer this prayer or one of your own:

“Creating and Re-Creating God,
We thank you for all that you are, have been, and will be.
You give us light when we struggle to see the stars.
Thank you for each person in this room. You made each of us unique
and called us to live in unique ways that point to you.
Be with us as we study and learn. We offer you all our joys and concerns
and trust that you will give us all that is necessary for us to thrive as your disciples.
     In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”

Invite group members to play “Would You Rather . . .?” This is an activity I have used in youth ministry for years. It came from a Youth Specialties activity book and is a great way to kick off conversations about similarities and differences among the group. If you were to play the game for a long time, chances are that no two people would have all the same answers. We are all uniquely wired and shaped in ways that affect our choices and make us who we are.

Ask group members to sit in a circle. Explain that you will read several questions. Each will have two possible answers, A and B. The youth who choose A must stand up; those who choose B are to stay seated. Use the statements listed below, or come up with your own. Be prepared for some playful conversation between the questions. If you have time, invite one or two people to explain their choices for each question.

  • Would you rather be (A) a giant ant or (B) a tiny elephant?
  • Would you rather be able (A) to freeze time or (B) to fly?
  • Would you rather be (A) the sand castle or (B) the wave?
  • Would you rather give up (A) your cell phone for a month or (B) your pet for a week?
  • Would you rather go to (A) the doctor or (B) the dentist?
  • Would you rather go without (A) television or (B) sweets for the rest of your life?
  • Would you rather have (A) x-ray vision or (B) bionic hearing?
  • Would you rather be unable to use (A) your cell phone or (B) any social media outlets (Instagram, Facebook, Periscope, Twitter)?
  • Would you rather be able only (A) to whisper or (B) to shout?
  • Would you rather have (A) Christmas or (B) Thanksgiving once a month?
  • Would you rather (A) publish your diary or (B) make a movie about your most embarrassing moment?
  • Would you rather own (A) a ski lodge or (B) a beach resort?
  • Would you rather be on the cover of (A) a sports magazine or (B) a fashion magazine?
  • Would you rather have (A) one wish granted today or (B) three wishes granted in ten years?
  • Would you rather hang out for a day with (A) Superman or (B) Batman?

When you have completed the “Would You Rather . . .?” activity, say something like this:
Everyone is unique in his or her likes, preferences, desires, and gifts. No two people are exactly the same. Throughout the scriptures are texts about God’s creating us, giving us different gifts, and calling us to use our gifts to build in the world God’s kingdom of love, justice, mercy, and beauty. This session will explore the gifts God has given each individual in the group and the ways we can use our gifts to affect both our lives and the world.

EXPLORING THE WORD

Scripture: Romans 12:3–8

Background
When Paul wrote the letter to the Romans, around 56–57 a.d., Rome was the most important city in the world. His letter to the Christians in Rome included practical advice about how Christians were to live with one another and with the governing powers of Rome. He also provided words about the meaning of the gospel, the truth about the Christian faith, and the unity of Gentile and Jewish Christians. Paul’s letter to the Romans is one of the longest of Paul’s letters. It is filled with words of truth, spoken in love for those who have become a new creation in Jesus Christ.

Romans 12:3–8 focuses on the unique gifts each of us has been given and on all the gifts needed to strengthen a community of faith.

Read aloud Romans 12:3–8 from The Message:

I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.

If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.

Read the passage a second time as group members read it silently. Then invite discussion with some or all of the following questions:
       What line or phrase in this passage caught your imagination? Why? (This question provides group members an opportunity to offer a reflection based on their experience of the Word.)
       Is there a difference between a gift God has given us and a skill we have? Why? Why not? (The People of The United Methodist Church website about “Spiritual Gifts” states: “Gifts are not our talents or skills. They are the grace of God at work within us, empowering us to match our deep passions with the world’s deep need. The gifts are given to individuals, but they are given to build and strengthen community and to meet the needs of those around us.”)
       What are gifts we have as individuals?
       What does it mean to honor the gifts God gives us?
       What are some ways we can honor the gifts of God that make us unique?
       When have you tried to hide your gifts or not use them? How did you feel?
       When you lived out of your strengths, your gifts, what were the results for you? for others?
       Why is honoring our gifts important, instead of hiding them and not using them?
       Who are some people who have used their individual gifts collectively and made a difference in their community, city, a neighborhood project, the church?
       How do we encourage one another to embrace God’s gifts and to use them?
       How do we help people to see the beauty of diversity, rather than forcing people to be the same or to have the same strengths?
       Why is it important for all gifts to be valued? Do we sometimes value certain gifts and not others? Why? How does valuing some gifts and not others hurt the community? What can we do to celebrate and affirm all gifts as good?
       How can you use your gifts to help in youth ministry? the church? your community? your school?

Then say something like this:

“Given to build up community, working together to do more than any one person can, as the church, we develop and learn about our gifts and we extend the healing and grace of Jesus Christ to the world. Every one of us is gifted, fearfully and wonderfully made. No one is without gifts or purpose. Circumstances, socioeconomic status, race, gender—none of these takes away from the fact that we all have gifts to contribute to the world. God’s gifts are given to build up the community. Working together, we can do more than we can alone. We acknowledge our own gifts, acknowledge the gifts of others, and listen deeply to the ways God is offering opportunities for creative life-giving collaboration within the body of Christ. We each have something special to contribute to make the world a better place. Naming your gifts and understanding them is important so that you learn how to use them in love of God, neighbor, yourself, and the world.”

SHARING IN PRAYER

Invite group members to sit in a circle. Light a candle to represent Christ’s presence. Pick up the candle and pass it around the circle, inviting each person to answer one or both of the following questions:
       When did you experience joy this week?
       What did you receive today that you plan to study more about or to tell others about this coming week?
If people choose not to answer, instruct them to pass the candle to the next person in silence.

Once the candle makes it around the circle, offer one of these prayers:

  • Invite the group to sing or speak the words of the hymn “Spirit of the Living God”:
         “Spirit of the living God,
         Fall afresh on me.
         Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
         Spirit of the living God,
         Fall afresh on me.”
  • Or offer this prayer for the gifts of the Spirit:
    “Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on us. Through the unique gifts you have given each of us, continue to melt, mold, shape, and use us in your work of restoring love to the world. Help us to embrace the gifts of others and to encourage them to be who they are, as we embrace our own gifts and prayerfully walk with you as you create and re-create us as followers of Jesus. Enable us to know and believe that everyone is fearfully and wonderfully made. Amen.”

TAKING IT FURTHER

Invite group members to take a Spiritual Gifts Assessment Test (see “Plugged In” above), and facilitate a conversation or study to help them think through what their spiritual gifts are, what the needs of the community and world are, and how the Holy Spirit can use their gifts to heal and to create a better world for all people.

Frederick Buechner wrote, “The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet” (Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC). When we live out of our gifts, though we face struggles and hardships along the way, we experience abundance of life because we our living from our core. When we open ourselves to the guidance of the Spirit through community, prayer, study, discernment, and faith, God will lead us to where our gifts can be used to meet the places of deep hunger and need in the world.

Providing opportunities for youth to further discover who they are and who God is shaping them to be will empower them to be agents of love, change, and hope in the world.

—from devozine In the Habit (March/April 2016). Copyright © 2016 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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