God promises to show up. This lesson asks youth to focus on waiting.
Make sure there is comfortable seating for participants, and adequate space to both break into 2 groups for a team exercise and also give room for participants to sit quietly and reflect.
Participants will learn that joy and waiting go hand-in-hand when it comes to Christian faith. The joy we experience when we’ve waited for an incredible gift or moment-in-time is often marked by God’s work in our lives. Through examining Mary’s joyful response to the news of her pregnancy with Jesus, participants will reflect their own joyful encounters with Jesus- and those of their family, friends, and community.
In this session participants will explore what joyful waiting looks and feels like is in light of God’s promise to show up (think: incarnation) in our lives. Young people will examine recent times of hope-filled and joy-filled waiting in their lives, and connect that practice with God’s work in their lives. Participants will learn that the true basis of human friendship is the friendship we receive from God in Christ.
Read: Though this article doesn’t connect directly with the practice of waiting, it highlights that in youth ministry, we must be willing to connect the dots for young people to practices or discipleship that appear(s) “mundane.” The idea of “waiting” is not flashy or exciting- it’s simply hopeful. Written by a seasoned youth minister, Seth Vopat, this article may inspire some good reflection for your volunteer team: https://thethread.ptsem.edu/articles-1/all-our-young-people
There are at least two kinds of waiting. There’s the kind of waiting that leaves us feeling, well, bored. And then there’s the kind of waiting (for Christmas, for Birthdays, for exciting vacations and events) that leaves us filled with hope, wonder, and eager anticipation. This kind of waiting- the wonder and joy-filled kind- has a lot to do with what it means to be a Christian. This is the kind of waiting that Jesus inspires. It’s the kind of hope-filled waiting that the Psalmist talks about, “Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long” (Psalm 25:5). As Christians, we believe that the God we are waiting for is a God who keeps promises, and a God who shows up with good news every time.
Young people don’t always associate things like wonder, awe, and joy-filled waiting with their faith lives. The most awe-inspiring events for young people revolve less around Easter Sunday, and more around who is performing during this year’s half-time show at the Super Bowl. And those of us who lead young people struggle with our own understanding of waiting. The kind of waiting we might be most accustomed to are the moments in life where we’re waiting in line, or waiting to hear back on test scores or results. Waiting is not often equated with joy.
But the church tells a joyful story about waiting. We have to look no farther than Mary’s joyous outburst of song when she received the news that she was going to bear God’s son into the world: What it would have been like to wait for Jesus to be born? We meet another joy-filled “waiter” in the person of Simeon, whose whole life had been spent coming to the temple, waiting to see God’s salvation and light (Luke 2:22-38). When he held Jesus in his arms, he could not contain his joy.
The practice of waiting (or: advent), for Christians, is a joy-filled practice. Behind the waiting is an expectation that God is going to show up. Waiting, for the church, must always be filled with a sense that there is something beyond us- a God who breaks in to our lives- and fills our lives with joy. When we wait like Mary or like Simeon for God to show up in the world, we will not be able to contain our joy when God makes good on that promise. As the facilitator of this lesson, spend some time in reflection prior to leading the group: When have you had a clear sense of God “breaking-in” to your life? What was your reaction? Have you connected “waiting” and “joy” with your faith before? Can you think of someone in your life for whom “waiting” and “joy” go hand-in-hand?
As you explore the idea of “waiting” as joyful anticipation with young people, keep in mind that when God shows up, God brings things like: justice, new life, forgiveness, and mercy to our lives. These are the most satisfying kinds of gifts we can be given. You will spend time in this lesson guiding young people to reflect on practices of waiting and joy, with the goal of instilling a familiarity with wonder and awe for Christian faith- alongside the young people you serve.
Gather (10 minutes)
Activity 1: “What Are You Waiting For”
Engage (30 minutes)
Biblical Engagement: “Hurry Up and Wait” – Bible Study
Activity 2: GIF competition (Activity: 2 or more groups, 2 or more “judges”)
Reflect (20 minutes)
Activity 3: “Worth the Wait” (Group and Individual Reflection)
Activity 4: “Community Waiting List” (Group Reflection)
Send Forth (5 minutes)
This resource includes supplementary materials:
Introduction for Leaders