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: Smart phones for each participant or small group
- Craft: Card-making material (can be found in the “paper arts” section of your craft store), envelopes, glue, scissors, pens
- Game: Pre-made category cards, slips of paper, pens
- Participants will be able to articulate what it means to be a friend of Jesus.
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:
Jesus, loving Shepherd of my soul, grant that, as we observe and reflect on the friendships your disciples enjoyed with you, we may, like them, be drawn closer to you in love. Amen.
Using the process of mutual invitation as outlined in “Getting Started: Meeting Jesus” begin the check-in process with your group.
- How has someone been a friend to you this week? How have you been a friend to someone else this week?
- 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: Jesus on Social Media
This activity will help participants think about Jesus as someone who could be their friend.
Invite participants to plan a social media account for Jesus. (Don’t really set up an account, but make a mock-up account, or at least discuss each piece. This is about the discussion, not really the outcome.)
- Decide on platform. (What would Jesus like to use? Why?)
- Pick a profile picture from online. (Serious? Funny? Something else?)
- Fill out the rest of the information (will vary from platform to platform, but will probably include a brief description of Jesus.)
- Have each participant come up with a social media post that Jesus would create and share it with the group. (You could do this in groups of two or three as well.) Either find images online that seem to fit what Jesus had to say about things, or make original content.
Craft: Thank You for Being a Friend
In this craft, participants will be reminded of the importance of friendship as they create thank-you cards for friends.
Needed: Card-making material (can be found in the “paper arts” section of your craft store), envelopes, pens
Invite participants to take time to make a card for a friend, and to write a thank-you note on the inside. Encourage participants to actually send the card to a friend. Although the participants need not read the contents of the letter to the group, invite participants to talk about the particular things they are thankful for in their friendships.
Game: What a friend we have in Jesus!
In this game, participants will be invited to use their imagination to think about what it would be like to hang out with Jesus, who was probably pretty fun to hang out with, all things considered.
Needed: Home-made “Category Cards” (see instructions below), many slips of paper, pens for each player
Remind the players that it’s fun to imagine what Jesus might have been like to hang out with, even if we can’t know for sure. One person is asked to go first and be the judge. This person reads a category card outloud to the group. Each member of the group is asked to come up with an answer for the category. For instance, if the category is, “Jesus’ favorite snack,” then answers might be, “Hummus” or “deep fried Oreos,” etc. Players should not include their names on their answers. After the answers are submitted to judge, the judge picks the winner, and the player who had the best answer receives the category card. There are no rules about why the judge should pick a card; it is entirely up to the judge. Continue until each player has had an opportunity to be the judge. The player with the most category cards wins.
Instructions for Category Cards: Fold 3×5 index cards in half and cut down the middle (or use another convenient size). You only need as many category cards as there are players. Print categories like the following on the cards:
- Jesus’ favorite TV show
- Jesus’ favorite topic of conversation
- Jesus’ favorite miracle
- Jesus’ favorite place to visit
- Jesus’ favorite flavor of ice cream
- Jesus’ favorite fictional character
- Jesus’ favorite song
- Jesus’ favorite book (other than the Bible)
- Jesus’ favorite sport to play
- Jesus’ favorite movie
- Jesus’ favorite crafting activity
- Jesus’ favorite color
- Jesus’ favorite [fill in your favorite category here!]
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.
Describe an ideal friendship. How do friends treat each other? What are some traits that all friendships seem to have in common?
Talk about a meaningful friendship in your life. How did that friendship come into being? How did it help you grow as a person?
How do you imagine Jesus interacting with the disciples? It may help to imagine them walking down the road together. What are they talking about? What are the expressions like on their faces?
Jesus came to regard his disciples as his friends (John 15:14). Does this change how you see your role as a follower of Jesus? How would you act differently toward Jesus if you really believed that Jesus was first and foremost your friend?
Remaining in friendship requires the giving and receiving of forgiveness. After betraying Jesus, Peter had to receive Jesus’ forgiveness for his action (John 21). What is it like to receive forgiveness from a friend? Is it easier to grant forgiveness, or accept forgiveness?
Digging Deeper into Scripture with John:
Sometimes it helps to have a text to work with as the group talks about a topic. In this piece of scripture, John 15:12-17, Jesus is saying goodbye to his disciples at the Last Supper, and Jesus calls his disciples friends. Invite teens to get out their bibles and invite someone to read:
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
- In chapters 13-17 of John’s Gospel, Jesus has something called a “Farewell Discourse.” Jesus is giving his final teachings to his disciples before his arrest and death on the cross. Why do you think Jesus wants to say what he says now?
- Is there anything in this reading that surprised you? Why?
- What does it mean to be a friend to Jesus?
- What does loving one another look like, according to Jesus?
- How can a person “lay down one’s life for one’s friends”? Is there more than one way to lay a life down for another person?
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 Five Day One in their journal tomorrow. The theme of the upcoming week is Abide in Me.
- 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 I Have Called You Friends, we recommend:
- Scripture: John 15:12-17
- Hymn: What a friend we have in Jesus! or My Shepherd will supply my need (Hymnal 1982 #664)
- Collect: Jesus, loving Shepherd of my soul, grant that, as we observe and reflect on the friendships that your disciples enjoyed with you, we may, like them, be drawn closer to you in love. 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.