The adventure of my youth group and reading the Bible continues with us reading the book of John. Yes, we’re in the Good Book Club, and it’s going how you could imagine it would go with a group of anywhere between two and eight teenagers. This week, the keyword was hectic – which, for me, means perfect.
Each week since January 5, I’ve prepared the following materials for our hour-long meetings.
- Good Book Club coloring calendar – the first week with extras available each week
- Good Book Club weekly bulletin insert for the current week
- Printout of the week’s readings from Bible Gateway in at least two translations – you can substitute Bibles in a variety of translations
Before we started reading in January, I decided to focus on the Way of Love spiritual practice of Learn in more than the obvious way of reading the Bible. I thought John would be an excellent opportunity for us to examine different translations of scripture. At first, I printed separate versions using NRSV and The Message or the Common English Bible. Then I discovered the side by side feature on Bible Gateway and started choosing a couple of translations to compare. They found that for John, they preferred the NRSV text but appreciated having The Message or CEB for clarification. One week I threw the Good News Bible in since it was the new translation when I was their age. What they loved about it was that they could see the translations that provide headings (AKA spoilers) and the ones that don’t (KJV). Verdict: they prefer headings.
This week, the youth decided to jump ahead and read John 11:28-44: Jesus Weeps, and Jesus Raises Lazarus to Life. Our discussion ranged from zombies and the state of a body after four days to the meaning and implications of Jesus resurrecting Lazarus. Why wait? Why Lazarus? Why not let him stay dead? Reading the whole text would solve some of their questions. But they were curious enough about these things that I bet I’ll find next week that some of them went back and found the answers.
The best part for me was that we talked about the fact that Jesus was a human being with friends, feelings, and tears. Jesus had a mission that meant he had to die. But he also had a life, and this part of John lets us get very, very, close to Jesus, the man. We also talked about foreshadowing – Lazarus’ resurrection showing what would happen to Jesus.
One of the members of our youth group happens to be my youngest daughter, Jaiya, so I interviewed her about how she thought this week’s youth group meeting went.
Me: Jaiya, how did you think Youth Group went this week?
Jaiya: It was crazy. It hasn’t been that hectic in a while. (Now, she’s talking to her dad) A glass yeeted across the floor, kids were yelling and arguing, someone got nauseated by Lazarus being dead for four days – the same person who asked if Lazarus was a zombie!
Me: Okay, that’s fair. But aside from all of the yelling, arguing, and breaking glass, what do you remember?
Jaiya: (deep breath) Well… okay, when we got to Jesus weeping, I realized that it’s not something we heard about in Godly Play. Now that we’re older, it’s something we should talk about. Jesus was crying with other people. It just shows that Jesus had human emotions and wasn’t always this Godly figure that everybody says that he is.
Me: That’s a great observation, and we had a pretty good conversation about Jesus’ humanity. So why do you think it was so chaotic?
Jaiya: I don’t know. But at prayer time, I prayed for people to listen to each other and take in what others say, even if you don’t necessarily agree. Start a conversation, not a debate.
Me: Yeah, I caught that. But to me, it was good arguing. If you have enough passion for arguing, then you must care about it.
Jaiya: Yeah, right. (insert slight eye roll)
Me: So, do you think it was a good meeting?
Jaiya: Hmm… I guess it was.
Our youth group is a place to discuss ideas and interpretations of the scripture so that everyone can form their own opinions about what’s happening. This group doesn’t hold back asking discerning questions and challenging each other on their ideas. The best news is that we keep reading the Bible, and the youth keep showing up. At Calvary, we believe lives are changed by reading the Bible. My youth group is proof of the transformation that comes from reading scripture in a faith community. Are you in the Good Book Club? It’s never too late to join!
bulletin insert art by Jay Sidebotham; colored by Jaiya McKenney