Chapter OneWHAT ON EARTH
AM I HERE FOR?
Leave me alone!" I said it a million times when I was a teenager. "Leave me
alone!" Even though the words came quickly from my lips, aimed at my parents,
sisters, and friends, in my heart I didn't feel that way. If I would have been
able to identify and express my feelings, I would have said something like this: "I'm
lonely! I don't want to go through life without anyone. Don't leave me alone. I need
people in my life. Don't believe me when I say, 'Leave me alone.' The more you pay
attention to me, the happier I'll be. But I'm afraid to say that I need you. What
would I do if you reject me?"
I didn't say what I should have said. Instead I pushed a lot of people away.
Over the years I've learned how to have strong relationships with others-the
type that go deeper than the usual superficial level. I've learned plenty of lessons
about love and life in these relationships. The more I learn, the better I understand
how God created me to be one of the players in a number of relationships-first in
relationship with him and then in growing relationships with others. Life hums along
at its best when I'm solidly connected to God and people.
The same is true about you. You'll live a deeper, richer, more rewarding life if
you can let others get to know the real you. You'll find out how important relationships
are to you. No more "leave me alone" cries.
Congratulations for making a commitment to be in a small group. It has the
potential to create an environment that enables you to develop strong relationships
and to learn about God's purposes for your life. You're about to begin a journey
that will give you opportunities to learn more about yourself, others, life, Jesus, and
God's Word. What you learn will change you forever.
Begin your journey by committing to reveal the real you. Watch people draw
close to you. Life isn't meant to be lived alone. Doing life together is a gift from
Let the journey begin.
FELLOWSHIP: CONNECTING Your Heart to Others'
[goal: to have students share about their lives and listen attentively to others]
Everyone hides behind a mask to some degree or another. (Mine is the
receding hairline kind of ugly mask.) We naturally don't reveal too much
too soon. Little by little, we test the security of our relationships, only revealing
private information when we know we're safe.
Ultimately before others can get to know the real you, you have to take
some risks to be more open than may feel comfortable. If you stop hiding,
you'll be taking the first steps in creating strong relationships. You may not
be able to be completely transparent right away, but stretch yourself. You'll
find the rewards worth the risks. Besides, you don't expect everyone else to
be perfect; others don't expect you to be perfect either. Sometimes our
imperfections bond us together the tightest.
Having said that, you won't be able to share for unlimited amounts of
time and still get through the entire session. Divide the time allotted among
the number of people in the group. Assign someone to watch the time.
You'll have many more sessions together to get to know each other better.
As others share their stories, pay attention to what they're saying.
Listening carefully when others are talking communicates how much you
value them. Active listening is a key skill you'll be developing throughout
1 Share information about yourself that will help others
know you better-family life, hobbies and interests,
the food you hate to eat, animals you hate to pet,
what makes you laugh, what makes you smell bad.(You
can mix serious information with humorous stuff!
Laughing with your small group is a good thing!)
2 Answer the following question with only one sentence: What's the purpose of life?
3 If you haven't discussed the Small Group Covenant on page 88,take time
to read it together and discuss it now. Make commitments to one another
that your group time will reflect those values. As a reminder, you may
want to have one person read the covenant to the group before you begin
Use the Small Group Roster (page 90) to record the names and contact information of
the small group members.
DISCIPLESHIP: GROWING to Be Like Jesus
[goal: to explore God's Word, learn biblical knowledge, and make personal applications]
Everyone eventually wonders about the big question. It can be phrased several
* Are we there yet?
* Why am I here?
* What's the point?
* Does this life matter?
* Will I ever go on a date with a
human? (Oops! That's an important
question, but not the big one!)
* What's the purpose of life?
It's a natural question, and it's important to pursue answers. Jesus knew that
at the core of who you are, you would crave significance and purpose. You
need it. That's why Jesus gives the meaning of life in just a few words:
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the
Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 "Teacher, which is the
greatest commandment in the Law?"
37 Jesus replied:" 'Love the Lord your God with all
your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'
38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second
is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the Law
and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." -Matthew 22:34-40
Terms that look like this are described in Learn a Little More near the end of the session.
4 What do you know about the Sadducees and
the Pharisees? Why would they try to test
Jesus? What kind of test was this?(Would
you flunk a spelling test if "Sadducee " was
5 Reread verse 40. What was Jesus referring to when he says," all the Law and the Prophets"?
6 What does Jesus mean when he says, "with all your heart and
with all your soul and with all your mind?" How would we put this
kind of love into action?
7 In your own words, what does it mean to love God?
Love your neighbor?
8 Jesus says to "love your neighbor as yourself." What does he mean?
9 Does every person love himself or
herself? Explain your thinking. In what
ways do people with low self-esteem
still love themselves? What implications
do your ideas have about loving others
the way Jesus commanded?
10 Jesus answers the legal expert's question with two great commands-the greatest and the
second greatest. Is it possible to practice only one command without the other? How would
you explain what Jesus means?
11 Do you find these two commands surprising? Why didn't
Jesus say, "One of the great commands is to pursue your
own happiness"? What are the implications for your life?
12 Which are you better at: loving God or loving others? Explain your answer.
13 What's one extreme act of love you've seen
someone else show (either to you or someone
MINISTRY: SERVING Others in Love
[goal: to recognize and take opportunities to serve others]
I hope you came to the conclusion that loving God and loving others can't
be separated in daily living. Life together with God means life together with
others, and life together with others means life with God. God has created
a great relational system for us: when we love God, he will give us the
power to love others. When we receive love from others, we're thankful to
God and learn new ways to increase our love for him.
One of the main points of life on earth is learning to love. During the
next five lessons in this book, your group will discuss five actions that move
you along the path toward loving God and others better. In every lesson
you'll be given an opportunity to either discuss ways to show love or you'll
be challenged to show love to others in some way. Some lessons will be
fairly easy, while other will stretch your comfort zone.
14 Write a definition of what it means to serve others in love.
15 Share your definition with the group. Make notes of ideas others offer
that you haven't included in your definition.
16 Take a moment to rewrite your definition,
incorporating the best of the ideas shared.
17 What's one practical thing you can do during the coming week to love one of your
EVANGELISM: SHARING Your Story and God's Story
[goal: to consider how the truths from this lesson might be applied to
our relationships with unbelievers ]
At the beginning of small groups such as this one, you should decide
whether your group is open to inviting friends to join your group. If the
group is open, answer questions 18-21. Your small group leader or your
youth group leadership team may have already determined the group is
closed at this time. If so, a good group respects and follows that decision.
You may be able to invite friends to join you in the next Life Together book.
If your group is closed now, skip to question 22.
If your group is open at this time
18 Take a few minutes to list names of friends you'll consider inviting to the
group's next session.
19 Check the option that seems like the easiest way to invite others to
your group. Share your answer.
* Call them.
* Talk to them at school.
* Talk with them when another person from the group is with you.
* Send them an e-mail.
* Kidnap their pets. Offer to release the pets if they come to your small group.
(Okay, maybe not.)
* Other _________________________________________________.
20 Discuss what might happen if everyone you invite comes to your small group. Could you handle
them all? Do you have extra books for everyone? Could you launch another new group? Can someone
from your group lead it? What other options do you have? What else do you need to consider?
21 As you think of some of the potential inconveniences of the new additions,
keep in mind God's love for everyone. Love isn't meant to be kept to a few
holy, special people. Love is meant to be given away.
Read How to Keep Your Small Group from Becoming a Clique on page 92.
If your group isn't open at this time
22 When is the right time to bring friends to our
23 How do new people feel when they
come into our ministry?
24 How can each person in our group make new people
WORSHIP: SURRENDERING Your Life to Honor God
[goal: to focus on God's presence]
Sessions will usually end with prayer. This is your opportunity to submit to
God's ways and to connect your heart to God's heart.
Especially if your small group is just beginning, don't feel the pressure
to have everyone pray out loud if they're not comfortable with it yet. Group
members can pray in the silence of their hearts: "God, help me to be a
more loving person. I need help loving ____________________________."
Another option is to close this prayer time by praying for the people
whose names you listed on page 27.
Take some time this week to answer the questions on the Spiritual Health Assessment
(pages 95-103). The goal is to evaluate your spiritual journey honestly, not to get a
high score. If you don't have time to write answers for all the questions, make sure
you at least circle the numbers on the scale that best apply to you. (It should only
take a few minutes.) You may have the opportunity to share your results during your
You'll find three prayer resources in the back of this book. By
reading and discussing them, you'll find your group prayer time
* Praying in Your Small Group (page 126). Read this article on
your own before the next session.
* Prayer Request Guidelines (page 128). Read and discuss these
guidelines as a group.
* Prayer Options (page 130). Refer to this list for ideas to give your
prayer time variety.