In the Beginning was the Word…
(a bare bones lesson plan for doing theology with teens)
I. Gratitudes | What’s good?
Each week we gather to share our Good news; to give thanks and to ask one another, “What’s good?” This might sound different in different contexts.
As a youth pastor in a small UCC church in Chicago, gratitudes might sound like, “I made a B on my final exam,” or “I got into the college of my choice.” It also might sound like “a group of friends were shot at last night, but no one was hurt.”
As a youth worker at a shelter that serves mostly LGBTQ youth of color, gratitudes might sound like, “So-and-so got out of jail yesterday,” or “I got to hear my son’s voice today,” or “I’m transitioning and I’ve decided to start taking hormones.”
Either way, the news is Good News to the community. Together we give thanks for the opportunity to share our stories and our lives with one another. We give thanks for another day that God has given us. We give thanks for that which is good and life-giving in our lives.
II. Read Together | Story, Poetry & Parables
Start the conversation with a story or scripture. Provide some context and framework for the discussion.
John 1:1-10 (taken from the Revised Common Lectionary)
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life,* and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.*
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.
- What does the gospel writer mean by “in the beginning was the Word?”
- What is/was the relationship between the Word and the beginning? The Word and God?
- Why does this matter?
- Why do words matter?
III. Discuss | Real Talk
Words are power-full. Take time to talk about their power to create an entire universe, but also to hurt and inspire hate towards an entire people. Watch this video. Listen to this poem by Shane Koyczan called “To This Day.”
- Words that hurt
- Words that inspire hate
- Words that heal
- Words that liberate
- Words that define/describe us
IV. (re)Think It | Flip the Script
Sometimes, stories and scriptures become too familiar. Find ways to rethink, re-read, reconnect. Find a way to flip the script, to do the unexpected, to deviate from the norm. For young people, this can mean finding a way to re-contextualize or re-tell the story; to gain control in a dialogue that is being dominated by adults so that THEY are the ones now in charge. As a youth worker, I try to invite story sharing, encourage truth-telling, and then get out of the way.
V. Activity | Shedding Light on Stereotypes
Here is a way for young people to flip the script on words and stereotypes that have been used to define/describe them; to inspire hate, incarcerate, and yes, even crucify them.
“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:5)
“[Jesus] was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.” (John 1:10)
VI. Pray & Act Together
IF “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” what kind of words are we going to use to define God and describe God’s work this year? What words are we going to use to create and liberate ourselves and our world so that this is the year when everything changed? #2014 #risetogether
God of Beginnings, today is new day. Let it be a fresh start. Guide our actions so that this year is the year that everything changed. Forgive us for the times we have contributed to the darkness around us. Grant us the courage we need to shed light on stereotypes, so that we may one day rise together and help heal one another. In the name of the One who calls us towards hope and liberation, Jesus, our teacher and lighter of the Way, we pray, Amen.