This is the first in a series of 10 studies that I will post on the development of spiritual character in young teens. I use these studies to help the young teens in our Middle School ministry at the Baltimore Church of Christ. I have found the studies to be effective in helping our kids deal with the unique challenges they face as they battle to be spiritual in an unspiritual world. I want to give recognition to Phil and Kris Arsenault of the Boston Church of the International Church of Christ for developing this study series. The studies shared here are all grounded in the Bible, as I believe that the Bible is the model for true and lasting character development.
This study series is composed of ten lessons developed for young teens. The studies were developed because experience has taught us that many teens and preteens that grow up going to church may know the right spiritual answers, but don’t necessarily understand what it takes to have a “heart for God”, or how to develop a deep emotional relationship with Him. (For that matter many adults have difficulty with the same issues, and will find the material challenging and helpful for their own walks with God as well!)
Parents and teen leaders can be fooled by the seeming innocence and eagerness of young teens, and may have a difficult time identifying a young teen’s sins, and helping them to repent (especially those teens who are “good kids”). Without focus on spiritual character development, we run the risk of converting these teens into little “Pharisees” who have a thorough knowledge of scriptures, and say all the “right” things at home or church, but live a completely different life when away from their church families. The only way to help our kids with these all too common issues is through a lot of prayer, the help of the Holy Spirit, and for parents to focus on the development of Spiritual Character.
It is my prayer that these studies will help you and your families, as they are helping mine, and the many teens in our group.
How to use the studies:
In studying with a teenager it is essential that you as a leader allow the teenager to answer the questions. Draw out the heart by allowing them to respond (Proverbs 20:5). After they have responded, add your insight. It is important to continue asking stimulating questions to be sure they understand. Have a conviction that shallow and generic responses are unacceptable. When you ask a question, an example of a shallow response is: “I don’t know the answer.” Ask them if they would like to know the answer, and help them search for the answer. Examples of generic responses are: ”I need to obey,” “Because God says so,” “The Bible,” etc. Ask them why they need to obey, why God says so, and continue to ask these types of questions until you have truly drawn their hearts out. Help them see a relationship with God is not about knowing the right information, or doing the right things “because I have to.” Rather, out of a sincerely loving relationship between the teen and God, they should want to do what God asks. They need to obey out of a willing spirit through an overflow of their personal love for God (Acts 13:22)
At the end of each study, we’ve asked that the teenager write a one page essay on what they’ve learned from the study. They need to bring their essay to the next study to read. This will assist you in determining how much the teen is really learning and how much they are connecting with God. It also helps draw out the teen’s heart through their own words. Feel free to add your own scriptures, discussion or examples to the studies to most effectively meet the needs of the teenager you are working with. Pray at the end of each study. Finally, believe in each teen you are studying with-even when it takes months or years for them to connect with God in a heartfelt way. God’s word will not return to Him empty (Isaiah 55:11), and each study will plant seeds with will help them develop a godly character.
Study 1: HONESTY
To the leader of the study:
Honesty is a critical character trait to have as a teenager. One of the tendencies in the sinful nature of a teenager is to lie. Lying manifests itself in half-truths, exaggeration and deceit. The goal of this study is to free teens from the trap of lying and help them see that honesty is absolutely God’s way. Note: the more open you are about your life, the more open the teenager will be! BE HONEST!
1) Why do teens lie?
a) afraid of getting in trouble
b) want to look good in front of others
c) ashamed and embarrassed about something. The leader of the study should share some of the lies they have told and why they told them-even from their teen years.
2) To whom do teens lie?
a) authority figures (parents, teachers, ministry leaders etc.)
3) What do they lie about?
a) performance (i.e., report cards, chores, bible reading, sports performance, homework etc.)
b) treatment of others
c) relationships (boyfriends, girlfriends)
*The goal of this study is to get you to see that honesty is what God wants from you and that when you are honest, you are being like God.
Psalm 139:1-18, 23-24
Name some different things God knows about you.
Why does it make sense to be honest all the time?
a) God knows and sees when we even just think about lying.
b) God knows and sees when we tell half-truths, when we exaggerate, when we’re deceitful and when we blatantly lie.
*Bottom line: God knows everything about us. Lying to others instantly leads to lying to ourselves and ultimately, lying to God
What can you learn from this scripture?
a) Lying is Satan’s language
b) Satan is the father of lies.
*Bottom line: Satan is behind every lie.
How would you define “deceit?”
a) shading the truth
b) not telling the whole truth, usually to make yourself or situation look better.
c) not saying what you are really thinking, not being open (giving answers like “fine”, “okay”, or “I don’t know” when you know there is more in your heart)
*Bottom line: Saying what you are really thinking is very important because that’s the only way you can get the spiritual help you need to be able to change your heart.
Does God take lying seriously?
*Bottom line: Liars go to hell.
PERSONAL HEART-CHECK QUESTIONS
1) When are you tempted most to lie?
2) Are you willing to change your life and be totally honest all the time?
When you lie:
a) Confess it to the person you lied to.
b) Confess it to your parents, and/or teen leader
c) Tell them you are sorry and want to change
d) Then, go on your way happily and joyfully, because you did what was right before God.
Write out one page about what you’ve learned from this study, some things you have done or will do differently because of this study, and how it will help you be a better disciple of Jesus if you are already one.
The next study in the series: HUMILITY.
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Until next time…rise above mediocrity…and coach strong!
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