Enhancer of Joy
Lesson Developed by
Justin Forbes with Kenda Creasy Dean
Risking In Order to Welcome
Tips to Prepare
Prayerfully Read Mark 2:1-12
For more background on Activity 2, watch this 7 min video: https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzV2No1JaOk
- Handouts: “digging holes” (1 for each participant)
- Poster board and sharpie markers (enough for each group of 3-5 to have a set)
- Pens, pencils, or colored pencils
Setting the Atmosphere
No specific set-up is prescribed for this session, but participants should be able to sit comfortably and read text from a handout. Participants can be seated in a circle or in rows. Lighting should be managed so that it is bright enough for participants to see well when necessary.
Participants will learn that hospitality is not just about welcoming close friends and family, but actually creating space in their lives to encounter even a stranger in hopes of meeting Christ. To live the Christian life is to live a life that invites others into our lives to receive acceptance, grace, and love.
In this session participants will explore what hospitality really is in light of the revelation of God and how they are currently experiencing hospitality in their own life. Participants will learn that the true basis of human hospitality, is the hospitality we receive from God in Christ.
Read: Pohl, Christine D. Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition. W.B. Eerdmans, 1999.
Watch: Kenda Creasy Dean & Justin Forbes: “Trace my Hand: Joy and Belonging in Youth Ministry” from Yale Youth Ministry Initiative: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tB0B4PI5IR0
Introduction for Leaders
It may seem odd to have a Bible study on the themes of hospitality and welcome, but this is actually what we see accomplished in the person and work of Jesus Christ. It was the welcoming hospitality of God on display in Jesus that has brought us, dead in our sin, to the side of Jesus alive as brother and sister, son and daughter. According to Paul, we were once enemies of God, but God has brought us near! This has become for us part of what it means to bear witness to the gospel. We are to be ambassadors of this sort of welcome and hospitality practicing this in every arena of life. For our young people whom we love and hope to walk with- it is important to help them imagine what this means in their own lives. The goal of this lesson is to create space for them to creatively express their imagination, especially when it comes to contextualizing the practice of hospitality in their own life, and specifically, in your youth group.
This lesson begins by exploring the lives of our young people and searching for experiences of feeling welcome and/or unwelcome. The goal here is to get their minds turning through the implicit ways in which they have experienced this themselves and then either offer or withhold welcome from others. Next they will walk through the steps of Volf’s “Drama of Embrace” which lays out concrete 1 steps towards reconciliation between two individuals. Our hope with this exercise is that you will be able to draw out the nuances of each “act” and close with an application this to your context. We will also look to the witness of scripture in Mark 2 – at the story of the healing of the paralytic in Capernaum. We see a theology of welcome expressed by the four friends and then by Jesus. We also see a distinct lack of welcome displayed by the crowd that didn’t make any room for the paralyzed man. The end goal of this lesson is that we encourage our young people to put into practice the welcome and hospitality of God. Our hope is to accomplish this through these exercises, but more importantly, through the processing of what this means in in the actual lives of your young people.
Gather (5 minutes)
- Greet participants and invite them to be seated in your discussion area.
- Tell participants they will be welcome to share 2-3 word prayers together. Pray a short prayer that opens a free space for participants to speak their prayers out loud to God and to each other. [example: “…Lord, hear our prayers…”]
- Give participants 1-3 minutes to share their words of prayer. Then close out the prayer.
Engage (30 minutes)
- The goal of this exercise is to give young people the opportunity to articulate the places in their lives where they feel welcome (or unwelcome) and why. Our hope is that young people can begin to intuitively pick up on the intentional ways in which “welcome” is expressed, or not, and how this might inform the way in which they experience the hospitality of God, and offer that hospitality to others.
- Leaders: Get folks in groups of 3-5.
- Have everyone draw a line down the middle of a poster board. Label one side “welcome” and the other “unwelcome”.
- Have them begin articulating places where they feel welcome or unwelcome.
- Invite them to list what makes them feel welcome or unwelcome in those places.
- How could this be enhanced or changed?
- Spend a few minutes discussing with the large group any common themes.
Activity 2: “The Drama of Embrace”
This exercise is taken directly from Miroslav Volf’s book “Exclusion and Embrace”. The idea is to walk our young people through the steps of embracing one another and to explore what each step looks like. The hope is that we can be more thoughtful, in all walks of life, to offer a hospitality that is rich and meaningful to others, even our enemies, because of the hospitality offered to us by God.
- Have everyone pick a partner and stand facing one another about 2 arms lengths apart. Figure out who woke up earliest this morning… that person will be the “initiator”.
- Act One: Open your arms – (to the initiator) Open your arms like you are ready to embrace the other. What does this look like? The open arms of Jesus on the Cross. You are imitating Jesus! In the cross Christ invites us to himself, and so we follow suit and invite others to ourselves.
- Act Two: Wait – (to the initiator) How does this feel? Any anxiety? Fear? What are you hopeful for?
- (to the other) How does this feel to you? What is being implied with the open arms?
- How long can we wait like this?
- Act Three: Close your arms
- Assuming the “other” moves in for the hug- the initiator can then close their arms around the other. You hold the other- safely, not possessively.
- Act Four: Release – you release the other to free
Practitioner’s Note: These two activities are good for Middle School students because they are concrete, but truly this exercise can be done with any age.
Reflect (20 minutes)
Activity 3: “Digging Holes”
- Offer the handout, “Digging Holes” to each participant and, if there is space, invite them to spread out and find a place to sit “alone” somewhere in the room.
- Tell them they will have 10 minutes with this handout to read, think and pray. The handout will prompt them to reflect on Mark 2:1-12 and write a responsive prayer.
- Once everyone is spread out, give them 10 minutes to follow the handout instructions. (Option: play contemplative music in the background).
- Regather after 10 minutes.
- Invite participants to share their experience of reflection.
Activity 4: Who?
- Say something like: “Jesus shows us what real hospitality looks like. We are to both work to make others feel welcome and then in that welcoming place receive the other in loving embrace. We see the four friends of the paralytic making room for their friend to experience the welcoming love of Jesus. And somehow- that effort brought healing. In the beginning of this session we discussed places where we felt welcome and unwelcome, then we talked about offering an embrace to others. What does this mean for us now as we leave this place tonight? Is our group welcoming to each other as well as visitors? What sort of welcoming space do we create in our schools? How do we offer embrace – or the stiff arm – to those around us each day whether at school, home, or here at the church?”
- Invite participants to share ideas about how they could practice the loving hospitality and welcome of God in their own worlds.
Send Forth (5 minutes)
- Sum-It-Up: “God has shown us love by welcoming us into the family of God as sons and daughters (Galatians 4:4-7)! Now we get to do the same for others. It is the hospitality of God, and the welcoming invitation to embrace Jesus, that make us who we are- people who can risk the vulnerability of welcoming and loving others.”
- Closing Prayer — pray that participants will learn the joy of God’s hospitality and welcome.