Jul/Aug 2018

Deadline: 10/16/2017


  • When have I or has someone I know suffered abuse in a dating relationship? How did I respond? How did the abuse end? What has this taught me about relationships? about my ability to help? about my limits? How have I been able to help? When have I had to ask others for help?
  • When have I suffered date abuse—verbal, emotional, physical, sexual? How did I feel? How did I respond? How did I decide whether to talk to someone who could help?
  • How have I learned that date abuse doesn’t have to be violent or sexual—that the use of power and of behaviors that are controlling, isolating, manipulative, or emotional are also abusive? How am I learning that this kind of abuse can also happen in friendships?
  • When have I become abusive with a date? What triggers my abusive behavior—an uncontrolled temper? anger or rage? feelings of inadequacy? need for power or control? How have I sought help? Who or what has helped me to gain control?
  • When have I found it difficult to report an abusive dating relationship (my own or someone else’s) because one person involved was a friend of my family or was well-respected in our school or in the community? Where did I turn to find someone I could trust? How did I encourage the person being abused to stand up for his or her life?
  • What are the reasons that I or others would put up with abuse in a dating relationship? Are these reasons good enough? Who has helped me to see that it was time to end an abusive dating relationship? How did this person help me to end it well?
  • How can I practice love and respect in dating relationships? What does it look like to respect another person as someone who is created in God’s own image? Who in my life has modeled this kind of respect for others?
  • What can I do to help someone in an abusive dating relationship? How can I help someone who is abusing a date to recognize attitudes or behaviors he or she has that could be abusive?
  • What boundary-setting practices, set by myself and/or by my parents, have helped me to stay out of potentially dangerous dating situations? Would I recommend these practices to other teens?
  • How do my Christian beliefs answer media messages that seem to say “anything goes” in dating relationships? What is my responsibility for setting sexual limits in dating relationships? How have I learned to get across the message to dating partners that “no means no”?
  • What are my rules for dating? my parents’ rules? my date’s rules? How are they alike? different? What do I think are God’s rules for dating? How do they differ from society’s rules? from mine?
  • What does my faith say about abuse? about standing up against abuse? When have I discovered that no matter what I’ve done, I do not deserve to be abused? How can I help to prevent abuse?
  • What does scripture have to say about the way we treat one another in any relationship? How does seeing each person as a beloved child of God help me to stand up against abuse?
  • How have I or has someone I know recovered and found healing from an incident of date rape? How did I (he/she) get the help needed to recover from that experience? Where did I see God at work in my (his/her) recovery?


  • What does honesty mean to me? to my generation? What value do I place on being honest? Can others tell by the way I live?
  • Am I always honest with other people? Why or why not? How honest am I with God?
  • Are there times when honesty may not be the best policy? When? How do I decide? Is it ever OK to keep a secret?
  • How am I encouraged to tell the truth? Since people are not always rewarded for telling the truth (think of the prophets!), what makes me willing to take the risk? to choose to be vulnerable? When have I found that being honest was painful? When has it brought healing?
  • Where do I turn to find out what is really true? Who helps me to differentiate between fact and truth? Who helps me to unpack biblical truth and to understand how it can be a guide for my life? What classical or biblical quotation really speaks to me about truth?
  • What does it mean to “tell the truth in love”? When have I been told the truth in love? What difference did that make in my ability to hear the truth being spoken to me? How am I learning to speak the truth so that people can hear it?
  • Some things are ultimately true; some are true depending on one’s point of view. How am I learning to discern what is true? What happens when my truth is different than someone else’s?
  • What does integrity mean to teens today? How do I deal with the sliding scale of morality in our society (for the walking dead it’s OK to kill people, right?)? How do I determine the difference between true and false, right and wrong? How do I live that out?
  • When has my integrity been tested? What did I do in that situation? When have I stood up for what is right and honest, even when it was difficult?
  • When have I been a liar? What prompted me to lie? Who was I trying to deceive and why? What was I trying to cover up? How did lying affect my relationships? How were my lies exposed?
  • When has someone lied to me? How did I uncover the deception? How did it affect my reputation? our relationship? my ability to trust others? Was I able to confront the lies in a loving way?
  • How does society teach us that it’s OK to lie? Who or what has taught me a different standard?
  • How have I discovered that there is more than one way to lie? How have I learned that cheating, gossip, “little white lies,” or intentionally misleading people are all forms of deception?
  • Who or what has taught me the value of honesty? When I have been caught in a lie, have I been held accountable and encouraged to “fess up”? What did I learn from that experience?
  • What does the Bible say about lying? about truth? How have I learned that my integrity is based on honesty so that what I say and what I do are the same?
  • What has my relationship with God taught me about the importance of speaking the truth, even when it’s tough to do?


  • When have I chosen to go off on my own? Was it to pursue a talent or a dream, or was it out of anger or spite? How did I handle going solo?
  • In what ways I am becoming more independent as I grow older? How do I feel about this—scared? excited? unsure? Who has taught me to think, to problem-solve, to risk, to admit my mistakes—skills I need to become successfully independent?
  • How have I realized that increased independence comes with added responsibilities? What are some of these new responsibilities I am experiencing? Am I shouldering the load?
  • Are there certain times when I would rather not be independent? How do I deal with wanting or needing to be dependent on someone else? What have I learned about the balance of being independent and being interdependent with others?
  • How am I learning that total independence is a myth, that we are always surrounded by a support structure? (Sure, Lindbergh is credited with making a famous solo flight, but he didn’t build plane or work the radio!) Who has helped me to celebrate going out and testing my wings and yet has been the support I can rely on when I need it?
  • When have I broken up with a crush and decided to go it alone for a while? What tips can I give my peers about healthy ways to say no, to take yourself out for a date, to be OK with being single?
  • When have I felt truly free? What things do I want freedom from? What would I like to be free to do or be? What does freedom require of me?
  • How have I learned that being grounded is important as I go off on my own? What are the solid truths on which I can firmly plant my feet? When I feel insecure, where do I go to find security?
  • How am I learning the value of planning ahead? Who has taught me to be organized and to have a long-term view rather than to live solely in the moment?
  • Who are my heroes, the people I respect for being bold? What is it about their courage or confidence that I would like to cultivate in my own life? What have I learned from him or her about going solo?
  • When have I ever been over-confident? How was this attitude a barrier to being truly independent? How does knowing that God loves me help me to be more confidence and less cocky?
  • When have I experienced the exhilaration of having accomplished something all by myself?
  • What have I learned from spending time alone—whether or not by choice? How have I learned that I am never really alone?
  • When have I discovered that I am not the only one with doubts and questions? When have I been vulnerable enough to admit that I don’t have all the answers and to invite others to search for answers with me? How am I learning to ask for and to accept advice even as I’m trying to make my own decisions?
  • How have I discovered my passions? Who or what has helped me to name and to focus on my passion? How are my passions different from skills and abilities? How do they inspire or encourage me to live?
  • When have I been courageous enough to be myself? When have I been bold enough to love myself and others as God does? to say yes to God and to follow God’s call wherever it may lead?


  • I am only one person; can I really make a difference? What does the Bible say about our power and responsibility to make a difference? What can I do on a regular basis to make a difference in someone else’s life?
  • How do I or could I make a difference locally and globally? Why is it important for me to try to make a difference? Who or what inspires me to do this?
  • How do I care for people in my own backyard who are in need? When has a small gesture of kindness made a huge difference to someone else?
  • When have I discovered that volunteering has made a difference in someone else’s life? in the environment? in my life? How have I grown closer to God through community service?
  • In what ways do I work to help improve the lives of the homeless, the hungry, the hurting? How have I had to break through my prejudices or fears in order to serve these people?
  • When have I taken the time to get to know someone who is homeless? to understand the many reasons why people may live in shelters or on the street? What is God calling me to do or to be for these persons?
  • When have I had to get beyond myself to focus on another? What was it like to lay down my interests, my hurt, my pride, or my feelings to help this person? Was it worth the effort?
  • What things make it difficult for me to serve—time constraints? money? attitude? confidence? How have I learned to overcome these barriers? Who has helped me to focus on what I can do to help others rather than on what holds me back?
  • What does it mean to be a servant? How has Jesus modeled a life of servanthood? How have I experienced the joy of serving others?
  • What is the difference between a mission trip and a servant lifestyle? What have I experienced on a mission trip that would make me recommend such an experience to my peers? What have I learned through serving others about myself? about God?
  • What have been the rewards of all my efforts to raise money, to make long trips, to get to know and understand persons who seem very different, to spend days sweating and working hard to build or repair something for someone else?
  • When have I served somebody who was financially poor but spiritually rich? What did I learn from him or her? When have I seen God in the faces of the persons I am serving?
  • What does Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor” mean to me? How do I live this out? What difference would it make if I made caring for others a regular part of my life?
  • How have I experienced the presence of God during times of service? How has the experience of serving God and others changed my life?
  • How has serving others become a spiritual practice for me? (Explain.) How am I learning to be “the hands and feet of Christ” by serving others?
  • Do I believe that God needs my help in this world? How available am I to be used by God?


  • What do I really mean when I say “I’m so bored”? Do I say I’m bored even when there are lots of possibilities to be engaged? when there is too much going on? when I’m not busy? When I’m not with my friends or being social? when I have to come up with ideas to do on my own?
  • How is my tendency to boredom affected by media—TV’s 10-second images? social media’s 140 characters, short posts, or visual images with few words? my ability to quickly process digital content? When have my “short attention span” habits affected my relationships? my attitude?
  • How do I react when I am bored? When have I gotten into trouble because I was bored?
  • When have I felt bored in school because I’m not being challenged? Has a teacher or coach recognized this and offered me more challenging or rigorous assignments?
  • What is it that stimulates me or catches my attention when I am bored?
  • Is my general attitude toward life one of boredom or apathy? When have I been uninterested even when I’m with friends or being entertained? Do I just go with the flow instead of being proactive about finding or creating things to do that interest or fulfill me?
  • What can I do to prevent boredom? How am I learning to get up and get engaged?
  • Do I believe that being bored always bad? a waste of time? What comes out of it that surprises me?
  • When have I been intentional about scheduling boredom into my life? Why did I do this? What benefits did I discover?
  • Research has shown that kids who allow themselves to be bored (instead of trying to fill every minute with activity) score higher on tests. How has learning to be comfortable with times of boredom made a positive difference in my life?
  • Since when have I felt that family time was boring? When do I usually check out on family time?
  • When have I been bored in church? What was boring–the routine? the sermon? the music? sitting still? prayers? lack of interaction? When have I experienced a liveliness of worship that engaged me? Where have I discovered a church or Christian fellowship that focused on relationship?
  • How am I learning that, much like life, prayer can sometimes be boring but that it is still important to keep praying, to keep practicing, to keep reaching out to God?
  • This issue will be published during Ordinary Time in the Christian calendar. How does celebrating Ordinary Time help me to understand that life is fairly normal most of the time with a few special or extraordinary things happening here and there? to be content with times that feel boring?
  • When did a moment of boredom teach me something important?
  • When have I experienced my spiritual life as boring?
  • Does God ever get bored with our relationship?


  • Our core muscles are ones we don’t see. Central to our strength and movement, they keep us upright and are part of everything we do. What “muscles” form the core of my spiritual life?
  • How am I learning to trust God to be the center of my life? to find my core identity in Christ? When have I discovered that what lies at my spiritual center is part of everything I do and can keep me upright and true, give me strength, and keep me moving in the right direction?
  • Who models for me a life that is grounded in Christ? What core qualities in this person’s life am I hoping to cultivate?
  • What is my spiritual Strength Training regimen? What “fitness routines,” exercises, and practices help me to exercise my core “muscles”?
  • When have I discovered that my spiritual muscles were not as fit as they could be? What happened? What did I do? Where did I turn? What did I learn?
  • When I hear the term “core strength” or “inner strength” what comes to mind? When have I felt that I had inner strength? What did my inner strength allow me to do?
  • When have I sensed inside me a kind of strength or power that I could not explain but that I knew must have come from God?
  • When have I trusted myself to act in the power and strength of God’s love? Where have I found the courage to stick up for myself or for a friend? to stand up for my beliefs when they were being challenged?
  • During times of crisis and doubt, where do I find my core strength? Who or what teaches me how to face these difficult times? How does my faith help me find and live out of a place of inner strength?
  • Who or what do I allow to influence me? To whom do I listen? How do these influences affect my core power in positive or negative ways?
  • When have I realized that I needed help to exercise my spiritual muscles? What enabled me to ask for coaching or guidance? How did I welcome and come to value this help? What did I learn?
  • In the midst of our busy, chaotic world, how have I experienced the strength and calm that can come from a real sense inner strength and peace? How do I share that core power with my friends, family, or community?
  • What Bible characters or stories teach me about having inner strength? About finding and exercising my core muscles? about how God is the source of true strength?


  • It’s summertime, and I’m out of my usual routine. Maybe my youth group isn’t meeting as regularly as it does during the school year. How do I continue to practice and to live out my faith without the usual crowd supporting me and practicing with me?
  • When have I taken the free time that summer offers to spend time in reflection or prayer? How did that affect my life? my faith? my relationship with God? What did I discover? How am I continuing to take time to reflect on each day and on where God was present in it?
  • How do I practice my faith during the summer? Am I more intentional about prayer, reading scripture, journaling, paying it forward? observing Sabbath? noticing the ways I see God at work in my life and in the world? Or do I continue the habits and practices I have built during the school year? Do I explore faith more on my own or with friends, a small group, or an accountability partner? When has trying new summer practices rejuvenated my faith?
  • Jesus says we are “the salt of the earth.” I’ve heard adults say this of people they consider to be remarkable Christians. If salt is used not only for flavor but also as a preservative, how might thinking of myself as “salt of the earth” encourage me to not only to jump start or jazz up my faith over the summer but also seek to deepen my faith throughout my life?
  • When have I felt close to losing my faith or to giving up on my beliefs? Who or what helped me to reconnect with God? with my faith friends? with the church? How has having the courage to doubt and question helped to strengthen my faith?
  • When have I struggled to remain faithful in the midst of a difficult situation? When have I turned my back on God, only to discover that God was still with me? When I have felt lost or unworthy of God’s love, who has come along beside me and helped me to hold on to or to recover my faith? How have I helped others keep the faith?
  • How has participating in mission and service projects strengthened my faith? What did I learn by serving others that has energized my spirit and challenged me to keep my faith alive?
  • When have I committed to partner with my church or a service organization to serve others or my community? How has living out that commitment helped me to keep the faith?
  • How does my faith call me to be accountable to and for others? When has this led me into new or deeper relationships with people of different cultures or generations? What have these people taught me about the importance of practicing and living out my faith?
  • How and when have I experienced God’s love in a powerful, life-changing way? How does my faith prompt me to be intentional about loving and serving others, even in the everyday things I do in everyday ways? When has my faith been a source of strength and hope for others?
  • In what ways has my commitment to keep the faith prompted me to be more loyal and consistently present in my relationships with others? with God?


  • When have I felt a need to pause to refresh my spirit? to re-set my priorities? Did I stop and make time for this or continue with my busy life?
  • How do I or does my youth group take time to refocus before heading back to school or gearing up for youth group in the fall? What difference would it make if we intentionally took time to pause, reflect, evaluate, and reset our direction for the months ahead?
  • How can I refocus my daily devo time practices this summer so that I get into a rhythm that will carry through into the school year? What will have to change for me to stay in the habit?
  • Do I have habits that I need to break or rethink? What if I take time before school starts to rethink which afterschool activities I will participate in this year and how I will make time for friends, family, homework, a job? Could I find a way to balance it all without getting overloaded?
  • How do I find quiet time—to be alone or to be with God—in the midst of the noise and busyness of my daily life? When have I experienced being refreshed and renewed through these times?
  • What refreshes my whole being—body, mind, and soul? When do I feel lifeless? What situations drain my emotional and spiritual energy? Who or what helps restore my soul?
  • How do I reconnect with God? When have I discovered a new way to experience God? What is my favorite way to refresh my spirit? Is there a particular prayer practice that refreshes me?
  • While gearing up and getting ready for what is coming next, have I ever given myself a pep talk about setting my priorities and sticking to them? about making time for me to rest, to enjoy alone time, to be creative, to be as well as to do?
  • When have I stopped to make a list of the things I’ve always wanted to do and created a plan for enjoying some of those things? How do I decide what things to let go of in order to accomplish what is most important to me?
  • How am I learning to make different choices about how to spend my time so that later I don’t regret not doing something important? Where have I found the freedom to say, “This is not me!” and to stop doing things that don’t give me life or purpose? Who has encouraged me to learn this lesson now so that it will be easier later on when life gets even busier?
  • How have I learned that some things take up as much time as I let them? Who has helped me to rethink the time I spend on these things? to set boundaries for the amount of time I will allot to them? How has this helped to open up my calendar and refresh my energy and outlook?
  • When have I discovered that pausing to refocus is like a camera lens, which by changing the focus can bring clarity even though the scene I am viewing is the same? When has pausing to try a new filter or to see things from a different perspective helped me to see more clearly a way forward that I hadn’t seen before?
  • We tend to see what we’re looking for, so we have a better chance of seeing it if we are looking for something specific. How can I focus more clearly on what it is I am looking for in life? in my relationships? in my journey of faith?
  • When I begin to feel restless, how do I attempt to understand or deal with the gnawing feeling that something important is missing from my life? When have I stopped and paid attention long enough to discover what it is that my heart is restless for?
  • How am I learning to be open to God? to the nudges of the Spirit in my life? Who encourages me to be open, to listen, and to follow?


  • Why do I play sports? What are the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of playing a sport?
  • Who taught me how to play a particular sport and to develop the skills and techniques required to play well? Who taught me the importance of discipline, practice, and fair play? Who inspired my passion for sports and taught me the love of the game?
  • How do I act when I’m a winner? a loser? When have I been a good sport? a poor sport? What difference did it make? What have I learned about winning and losing graciously?
  • Am I a team player, or do I prefer individual sports? Why? When have I tried to be the star? How have I learned that a team becomes stronger only when everyone works together?
  • When have I experienced the real spirit of a game? How have I learned that a positive attitude and team spirit can contribute just as much to a team sport as skills and endurance can?
  • When has an injury or illness prevented me from playing my favorite sport anymore? How did I feel? How did I react? Who or what helped me to cope with this loss?
  • When have I seen sports moments that took the love of the game to a different level, such as when Germany built a soccer stadium in Brazil so that the German team could practice for the World Cup and then gave it to Brazil as a gift?
  • How have I learned that playing the game requires sacrifice? How do I feel about teammates who want to play but are not willing to put in the work? How do I support members of the marching band and the cheer squads who face the same kinds of discipline but may not always get the recognition they deserve?
  • When have I taken sports too seriously? What happened? When has a parent or coach pushed me (or someone I know) to become hyper-specialized in a particular sport? What did I (he/she) gain? What did I (he/she) give up to do that one thing? How did this affect the love of the game?
  • When have I seen parents holding a child back a year in school so he or she has a size advantage over other kids playing sports? How has this affected his or her self-esteem or ability to learn?
  • We have long celebrated amateur athletes who play because they love the game. How do I feel about professional athletes who seem to be motivated more by money and fame than passion?
  • Like peer pressure, fan culture can influence a crowd. When have I witnessed or been part of a group of fans who got out of control? How did this behavior overshadow the spirit of the game?
  • What has playing sports taught me about conflict resolution? How have I applied this lesson to my life? When have I used in other parts of my life the discipline I learned in athletics? What difference did it make?
  • When have I witnessed or heard about the impact sports have made on a community in need—refugee camps, countries ravaged by war, the inner city, impoverished rural towns or villages? How did sports transform these communities? How do I see God at work in teamwork and play?
  • The World Cup (which will be going on the week this theme is published) is the most widely-watched sporting event in the world. In what ways does this sporting event reflect the love of the game? How does it reflect the world as a global community?
  • What does faith have to do with sports?  What does the Bible say about athletics? discipline? endurance? playing fair? running the race? How has God called me to play in this game of life?
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