It’s important to create a welcoming environment for your small group. Ideally, chairs are arranged around a table, or there are chairs in a circle. However, this depends on where you meet. You may decide to have some kind of devotional help (a reminder that your time together is set apart, such as a candle, cross or icon) or you may not. You may wish to have a written agenda for the evening, although that is also optional.
The most important thing is that your teens feel welcome and safe, and that you’ve made time to be together.
- An extra copy of Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John prayer journal in case a participant forgets his or hers. (You can also reference the prayer journal online if necessary.)
- Books of Common Prayer for each participant, or access to bcponline.org. Hymnals optional.
- A bible (or smartphone; you can access a free New Revised Standard Version at bible.oremus.org) for each participant.
- Technology: Smartphones.
- Craft: A big multi-color craft-pack of chenille stems (pipe cleaners), at least 5-7 per participant.
- Game: No materials, but free roam of at least part of the church.
- Writing utensils for participants.
- Participants will be able to articulate what it means to abide in God, and the implications of abiding with God in their own life.
Have the teen facilitator open in prayer, or invite one of the other teens to do so. You can invite them to spontaneously pray, or you can use this prayer:
Gracious God, the Giver and Sustainer of Life, help us to abide in you, and to let you abide in us, so that your life becomes our lives, and your will our will, to the glory of your Name. Amen.
Using the process of mutual invitation as outlined in “Getting Started: Meeting Jesus” begin the check-in process with your group.
- Did you notice the presence of God this week? What was it like?
- How was the process of journaling? What surprised you? (N.B. this is a question about process “How did journaling/praying go for you?” not content “What did you journal about?”)
Small Group Activity:
Technology: At Home with God
This activity encourages participants to use their imagination about where they could abide with God.
Being at home with God can mean different things for different people. Have participants turn on their smartphones and try to find the perfect room/place that where they would like to hang out with God. (They will probably have the best luck with interior designer/home design magazine websites, although Instagram may also work well.) Have them show the picture to the group and talk about what makes their room special and why they chose it to “abide” with God. If they can’t find it online, invite them to describe it to others.
Craft: He’s the Vine and We’re the Branches
In this small group activity, participants will create vines that remind them of how they are intertwined with God.
Needed: A big multi-color craft-pack of chenille stems (pipe cleaners), at least 5-7 per participant.
Place multi-color packs of pipe cleaners in the middle of the table and invite participants to create vines, branches, and fruit. Encourage participants to use multiple pipe cleaners to create their vines. When the group is finished, invite them to talk about how they connected the pipe cleaners to one another. How do we bind ourselves to Jesus? How do we make these connections strong?
Invite participants to take their “vines” home and put them somewhere their creations will remind them to be connected to God.
Game: Abide with Me
In this small group game, teens “abide” with one another until the entire group has been found and is “abiding” together.
This game is also known as “Sardines.” It is an inverse game of hide-and-go seek and will work best if you can allow the teens to roam in a part of the church. One participant goes and hides. After one minute, send the rest of the teens out looking for the hidden participant. If someone finds the hider, they join the hider in the hiding spot until the next person finds them, and the next, and the next… the game is over after everyone has found the hider. The last person to find the group has to be the next person to hide first.
Play this a few times and then bring the group back for discussion. What did they notice about the game? What was it like to be someone who was hiding? What was it like to be joined by each person? Was it more fun together, or by yourself?
Small Group Conversation:
Directed conversation is the heart of a small group, and can be especially helpful for teens as they figure out who they are and process their new life experiences. Some groups will be very good at these conversations, others will not initially be good at these conversations and will get better, and other groups will need a lot of help, or different approaches, like starting your conversations around group activities. It depends on your teens.
Here are some questions to get your conversation started. It may be that you move through all of them, or have a deep conversation with the first question you ask. You may choose to ask your own question that speaks to the needs of your group. What matters is that participants are engaged with each other. These questions are based on the experience of the God in individual lives, and responses will be unique to each person. There is no right or wrong answers, there is only further discussion and exploration of our relationship with God and one another.
Sharing our personal stories and accounts of faith is only possible in an atmosphere of trust and mutuality. Tips for a fruitful conversation can be found here.
Abiding is a weird word. The brothers write about it in their introduction to the journal this week: “A key word in the text is ‘abide,’ and this abiding is, for John, the secret to living in intimate union with God and God’s Son. In Greek, the word here translated as ‘abide’ is also translated as ‘remain,’ but that is not a static word. It does not refer to some lethargic state in which one simply bides one’s time. Rather, there is a slight edge to the word that implies ‘sticking it out’ or ‘hanging in there’ when things get tough.” What do you think about this? What does abiding look like in your own life? Can you give an example of a time you had to stick it out with someone? What happened?
What qualities sustain a long-term relationship with a friend? Which of these qualities are necessary for a long-term relationship with God?
What are the ways our culture pushes us away from abiding with God? How do you counteract these influences in your own life?
Jesus says, “I am the vine, and you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). What is the connection between bearing good fruit and abiding in Jesus? Why do you think Jesus says this?
How would your life change if you were able to truly know that God lived, abided, dwelled, in you? What would you do more of? What would you do less of?
Digging Deeper into Scripture with John:
Sometimes it helps to have a text to work with as the group talks about a topic. This piece of Scripture is found in Jesus farewell discourse at John 15:9-11. Invite teens to get out their bibles and invite someone to read:
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
- What surprises you about this reading?
- What changes in you when you keep God’s commandments? How does keeping God’s commandments help you abide in God’s love?
- What is the relationship between abiding in God, and joy?
- What is joy? How is joy different from happiness?
- What does it mean for joy to be complete?
Invite group members to share feedback with each other by using one of these prompts:
- Where did the group have a lot of energy? Where was the energy lacking?
- Where did you feel close to God? Where did you feel far away from God?
- Where did you meet Jesus in your session today?
- Where did you see light from the Holy Spirit?
- What did you notice about our time together?
- [If short on time!] Please describe our time together in one word.
- Remind group members that they will start with Week Six Day One in their journal tomorrow. The theme of the upcoming week is We Declare to You.
- Remind participants that videos are available online, and that the social media campaign will be starting if they would like to participate online.
- Ask for a volunteer to lead worship next week, if this hasn’t already been decided.
- If there is a meal or refreshments, remind the group of their decisions regarding food and clean-up, or ask for volunteers.
Worship is the time we give thanks to God for all the gifts of our life and for our time together. Because Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John is a gift of the Society for Saint John the Evangelist, a monastic order in the Episcopal church, we recommend using the Daily Office, which is a cornerstone of monastic life.
We recommend that group leaders (teen and adult) take time to plan the worship before the session but that teen participants do the reading, supplication, music leading, etc. Worship with teens can be low-maintenance as you like, the instructions are straightforward and in the BCP, or it can be quite elaborate. This will depend on your group and your available resources. However, making time for worship is actually crucial for creating a group that bonds together. Always be sure to end your sessions with enough time to pray together at the end.
Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families, found on pages 136-140 of the Book of Common Prayer, offers a wonderful and simple framework for your prayer time together. You may choose to use the recommended psalms and readings found in the BCP; supplement with our recommended readings; prayers and songs; or choose your own. Hymns may be sung a capella, or read as poetry. Be sure to make time for prayer intercessions, and encourage the group to pray for one another and loved ones.
For the week of Abide in Me, we recommend:
- Scripture: John 15:1-11
- Hymn: Abide in me, fast falls the eventide (Hymnal 1982 #662)
- Collect: Gracious God, the Giver and Sustainer of Life, help us to abide in you, and to let you abide in us, so that your life becomes our lives, and your will our will, to the glory of your Name. Amen.
If your group is meeting in the evening, you may also wish to use the service of Compline, found on page 127. This is a brief, beautiful, and very popular service.
Your worship leader may wish to do something more creative or context-specific, like use another liturgy, lead a meditation, invite participants into silence, lead participants in song, or use prayer beads together. There are many other ways to worship God. Taking into consideration the theme for the week, we invite you to explore what that might look like together.