devozine

For Youth Workers Post

Xpress Your Beliefs

Will Penner

“In the Habit” session for devozine meditations for August 12–18, 2013.

MAKING THE CONNECTION

“For the past seven years, I’ve been the keynote speaker for a local church’s confirmation retreat. The entire focus of the experience is that each person writes a statement of faith and then all the participants pool their thoughts and develop a corporate statement of faith. The retreat is similar to what the church has done throughout the years to develop creeds and confessions. And it’s one of the most powerful experiences I’ve witnessed. This lesson is an adaptation of the confirmation retreat.” —Will

MEET THE WRITER

Will PennerWill Penner has been in ministry with young people for more than two decades in Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches, 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 books and youth ministry curricula. Most important, he is the husband of Christine Penner, Children’s Minister at First United Methodist Church in Dickson, Tennessee, and the father of five children ranging in age from four to twenty-one.

STUFF YOU WILL NEED

PLUGGED IN

+    My favorite way to lead in to writing a creed is by playing Rich Mullins’ “Creed” as group members arrive. A nice music video shows some of his skills playing the hammered dulcimer too.

CHECKING IN

Ideally, assign homework before today’s lesson and remind group members via email, Facebook, and/or text message to bring to the session a copy of their favorite scripture passage and a one- or two-sentence summary of the passage or an explanation of why it is meaningful in their lives.

Begin the session by bringing group members together to tell about their favorite scripture. If the group is larger than fifteen, ask people to form small groups of eight to twelve people. The point is to whet their appetite with Bible verses and to hear how scripture has affected them. Feel free to choose verses of your own and to have explanations or summaries ready to read or to give to visitors or people who forgot the assignment.

EXPLORING THE WORD

Scripture: Hebrew 10:19–25

The point of reading this passage is simply to set the tone for what the group is about to do. Read the scripture aloud. Then introduce the group to writing a statement of faith:

“In context, the word confession simply means an articulated set of beliefs. When all we do is attend church and listen to other people talk about what they believe or what we should believe, we are not always transformed. When we take the time to clearly state what we believe, however, we are far more likely to “hold fast” to it “without wavering.”

“For millennia, Christians have taken the time and energy to articulate what they believe about God, the Bible, the church, the role of Christians in the lives of others, and so forth. Sometimes they have stated their faith verbally, and sometimes they have done it in writing. Today we are going to do it in writing.

“You have been instructed by others for a long time, and we will continue doing so because we believe part of our role as disciples of Christ is to help others grow in their faith. But today is not a day for us as leaders to answer questions that you ask. Today is a day for you to provide the answers.

“The only ground rules are that no one gets to make fun of anyone else’s work. As you show us what you have written, we will not try to correct anyone’s theology or change what you’ve written. We may ask guiding questions to help you go a little deeper in your thinking, but the purpose of this activity is for you to crystallize what you believe at this point in time. We also recognize that what you believe may change tomorrow. We are all works in progress, and God isn’t finished with us yet (Philippians 1:6).”

Explain that each person will receive a list of questions (the “Creed Writing 101: A Personal Confession of Faith” handout). This is not a worksheet that needs to be filled in. Group members are not required to answer every question on it—or any of them, for that matter. But if they are not sure where to begin, the questions will give them a starting point. Some of them may write a little; others may write a lot. Everyone should prayerfully consider what he or she believes and then write enough to fill a sheet of paper.

Distribute pens, pads of paper, and copies of the “Creed Writing 101: A Personal Confession of Faith” handout. At this point, the leaders’ role is to circulate among the students to make sure they stay on task (for those who tend to daydream), remain calm (for those who get anxious about doing it perfectly), or simply remain quiet so as not to distract others (for those who will try to throw together their statement of faith too quickly and then start throwing spitballs).

Try to avoid cutting anyone’s writing time short. Most people will not take this home and finish it; neither would they have done it as thoroughly on their own if you hadn’t carved out a time for them to do it together. However, if possible, bring the group together and spend the last five minutes or so wrapping up the activity. Ask each person to read only one sentence each from their statement of faith.

SHARING IN PRAYER

Close the session with this prayer:

“God, thank you for providing us with ‘so great a cloud of witnesses’ (Hebrews 12:1), who have shaped our lives and instructed us in the faith. Thank you for all of your blessings. Help us to use our gifts for your glory. Help us also to hold fast to the beliefs we have written today, so that we will honor you through our lives and in service to others. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.”

TAKING IT FURTHER

  • If the class period allows, or if you can extend the study to a second class period, help the group develop a corporate statement of faith. Ask each person to read his or her statement of faith. Ask one or two people to record all the statements on large sheets of paper, grouping similar big ideas and avoiding too much repetition of similar ideas. (If the group is larger than fifteen, have people form smaller groups, After each small group has put together a creed, have the groups send a representative to help compile the corporate statement of faith.)
  • Consider having a volunteer type out the faith statements, publish them, and make them available to the youth, parents, youth leaders, pastor, and so on. Edit for spelling, punctuation, and flagrant grammar errors, but leave the ideas intact and try to keep as much as possible of each person’s voice.
  • This could also be the basis of a retreat or a confirmation process. If so, consider using the corporate statement of faith in place of the Apostles’ Creed or another confession, as part of a youth-led or commissioning worship service.
  • Consider mailing the originals back to participants a year from now—either for sentimental purposes or as a tool they can use to see how they have grown and/or how their beliefs have changed.
—from devozine In the Habit (July/August 2013). Copyright © 2013 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved
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