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.
Jesus calls his disciples “friends” and no longer “servants”
Participants will learn that friendship is not about being bound to other people like a slave or using people to reach an outcome. True friendship is about the freedom of self-sacrificial love—being liberated and opening free spaces for other people.
In this session participants will explore what friendship really is in light of the revelation of God and how they are currently experiencing friendship in their own life. Participants will learn that the true basis of human friendship is the friendship we receive from God in Christ.
Read: Wes Ellis, “Friendship, Joy, and Youth Ministry” at Kindred Youth Ministry, http://kindredyouthministry.com/friendship-joy-and-youth-ministry/
Jürgen Moltmann, “Freedom Experienced in Open Friendship” in The Living God and the Fullness of Life (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2015), 117-128.
Watch: Kenda Creasy Dean & Wes Ellis: “The Joy of Untamed Friendship,” from Yale Youth Ministry Initiative: https://youtu.be/YBFRYBi-UyA?list=PLJ6vgdGbZWnbo16fpTeJtRLbGIR4bpIhi
Friendship may seem like a mundane concept, even a bit superficial for a bible study. And, depending on your definition of friendship, it might be. But here, friendship is not just a “buddy” relationship. The gospel of Jesus Christ reframes the way we might usually look at friendship. Far from being a superficial relationship that’s just about fun and games, Christian friendship is a joy filled relationship that endures in the face of whatever may come… even death. Jesus says to his disciples, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). The kind of friendship Jesus has with his disciples, the kind of friendship that God has extended to the whole world, is an unconditional friendship—a loving relationship even if….(fill in the blank). These are the kinds of relationships to which Jesus has invited us, his disciples.
Incidentally, young people need these kinds of relationships. Erik Erikson called it “fidelity.” According to Erikson, “‘the cornerstone’ of adolescence [is] the strength of being utterly true to oneself and others amid competing and contradictory value systems.” He wrote, “The adolescent looks most fervently for [people] and ideas to have faith in, which also means [people] and ideas in whose service it would seem worthwhile to prove oneself trustworthy.” Unfortunately, however, these are not the kinds of relationships young people (or people in general) are actually experiencing most of the time in our society. Because of our obsession with achievement, we tend to use each other to get what we want, to get ahead. Unfortunately, “many contemporary young people simply have not experienced enough fidelity on their behalf to acquire it themselves.”
The church should be different—Christian friendship should be different! In this study, participants will learn from Jesus that true friendship is not about being bound to other people like a slave or using people to reach an outcome. True friendship is about the joy and freedom of self-sacrificial love—being liberated and opening free spaces for other people—because that is what God’s friendship with the world looks like. As the facilitator of this discussion, you have the unique opportunity to help young people sort through how they think about their relationships and to guide them toward relationships that reflect God’s joy and delight in the world.
Gather (5 minutes)
Practitioners’ Note: Have the students write the prayers out on paper and take them home.
Engage (30 minutes)
Activity 1:“Friend Like Me”
Activity 2: “I no longer call you slaves”
Practitioner’s Note: Splitting this exercise into two separate 40-minute sessions with two separate reflection activities below works. This exercise really helped students articulate how their relationships actually are and to rethink relationships.
Reflect (20 minutes)
Activity 3: “I Call You Friends”
Activity 4: Let’s Be Friends
Send Forth (5 minutes)
This resource includes supplementary materials: