Category Archives: Priorities

Counter-Culture (EXERCISE)


Silo MentalityTime

25 min

 

Description

Participants will engage in an exercise to examine four negative cultural norms at the organization and four positive replacements.  They will be asked to explore how they feel in the midst of each one and to commit to adopt the positive cultural behaviors.

 

Materials

  • 8 sheets of posterboard
  • Thick marker
  • Masking tape (1 roll)
  • Printouts (1 per participant) of the following two documents. Both documents can be found on the http://www.teachingthem.com website on the Lesson and Material Downloads page..
    • EXERICSE – Counter-Culture – Problems and Solutions.docx
    • EXERCISE – Counter Culture – Wide Range of Emotions.pptx

 

Preparation

  • Print copies of the two documents for all participants.
  • Tape a very large circle with masking tape in the middle of the open floor of the teaching area.  It should be large enough so everyone will be able to stand in the circle together.
  • Create eight large signs on posterboard by labeling each one with a different cultural element from the list below:
    • Distrust
    • Silo Mentality
    • Polishing Our Rough Edges
    • Over-commitment
    • Trusting Others
    • Collaboration
    • Being Vulnerable & Transparent
    • Ruthless Prioritization
    • Ask 8 volunteers to each take one posterboard and line up along two different walls – the four positive cultural elements (Trusting Others, Collaboration, Being Vulnerable & Transparent and Ruthless Prioritization) on one wall and the four negative cultural elements (Distrust, Silo Mentality, Polishing Our Rough Edges, Over-commitment) on the opposite wall.

 

Procedure

  • Pass out the two pages (“Problems and Solutions” and “Wide Range of Emotion”) to every participant.
  • Invite each participant to join in one of eight little groups, aligned behind participants holding up eight large placards.
  • Instruct participants to move around into other groups until there are about the same numbers of participants standing with each placard. (NOTE: This exercise will work even if there is only one person in each small group – the one holding the placard – but will also work with 100 people.)
  • Ask the group behind the “Distrust” sign to read together and aloud the description of “Distrust.”
  • After that reading, call upon anyone in the room to call out the feelings/emotions that they experience when they encounter this cultural problem in their organization. (Remind the participants to look at the graphical list of Feelings in their hands to help them identify any feelings they experience.)
  • After this, have the group behind the corresponding counter-cultural placard (“Trusting Others” in this case) read aloud and together the description of  “Trusting Others.”
  • Then have both groups dealing with the Distrust/Trusting Others issue walk into the large circle in the middle of the room, holding their signs high so everyone can see them.
  • When those participants are in the circle in the middle of the room, the facilitator calls upon anyone in the room to call out the feelings/emotions that come to mind when they imagine this powerful counterculture of “Trusting Others” becoming a reality throughout their organization.
  • On the count of three, have everyone in the room say aloud and together “We release Distrust” and the person holding that placard goes outside of the circle and lays that placard down on the ground.   (The placard “Trusting Others” remains held aloft in the circle.)
  • After this, the same overall process is repeated for the remaining cultural problems and counter-cultural behaviors.
  • When this is completed, invite someone to pray in a short time of conversation prayer.

 

Source – Greg Boyer and Michael Kientz


 


Cultural Problems and Their Counter-Cultural Solutions

 

Some of our cultural problems in our organization are:

1. Distrust – Managers don’t trust staff enough to delegate to them. Staff don’t trust their managers enough to give them honest feedback. Senior leaders don’t trust staff enough to share information.  As a result, work takes longer to complete, misunderstandings abound, and, gossip and rumor often replace formal communication channels.

 

2. Silo Mentality – Staff are focused on doing the best job they can, but they don’t talk to their peers doing the same roles. As a result, they reinvent the wheel on a regular basis or suffer silently, not knowing how to solve problems that someone else has already solved.

 

3. Polishing Our Rough Edges – In a desire to look “Excellent” (which translates to “Perfect” in our culture), staff misrepresent the situation to make it look like things are better than they are. Staff overstate their strengths, skills and contributions. Field Offices put on a show for visiting leaders. Leaders do whatever it takes to ensure they get “green KRIs” (a proxy for all kinds of visible measurements) even when it requires enormous sacrifice from their staff. As a result, leaders and senior leaders don’t have a true picture of the condition of the ministry, resources aren’t allocated correctly, and problems are prolonged.

 

4. Over-commitment – Senior leadership regularly takes bigger bites than the staff can chew. Because we don’t know what’s most important, everything looks important, and we feel that we have to do everything. At the heart of this behavior is a pride that makes us feel like our efforts are essential to the success of the ministry and a lack of faith in God’s provision to bring about positive outcomes.  As a result, staff are exhausted, burnout and turnover are common, relationships are strained, our infrastructure is stressed, and staff lose confidence in their leaders as we regularly invest fully in initiatives that have little to no impact.

 

Counter-cultural corrective attitudes and behaviors are:

1. Trusting Others – Every worker at every level commits to being trustworthy by honoring commitments, being transparent, communicating frequently and strategically, and dealing with conflict in a biblical way. Leaders take risks to share information and delegate to give opportunities for workers to earn their trust.

 

2. Collaboration  – When people encounter a problem that they aren’t sure how to solve or initiate a project, their first thought and action is to contact their peers and find out what’s been done already. Workers regularly spend 25% or more of their time collaborating with other staff both inside and outside their office.

 

3. Being Vulnerable & Transparent – Everyone commits to giving an honest and realistic picture of what the current state is. Leaders and workers ask for help when they need it. Leaders honor this risk by not punishing staff for admitting mistakes or asking for help. Everyone allows their rough edges to show so that God can use them to connect us to each other (like a jigsaw puzzle).

 

4. Ruthless Prioritization – Senior leadership identifies a few anchors that all workers can use to make decisions about which activities get done and which ones detract us from our main focus (even if they look good and important).  Senior leaders require other leaders to justify initiatives by matching them to the anchors and hold themselves accountable to say “no” more often than they say “yes” to new initiatives. The organization regularly assesses workers’ capacity and work-life balance and makes adjustments to protect the well-being of the staff.

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Filed under Collaboration, Communication, culture, Priorities, Transparency, Trust, Vulnerability

Proactivity (GAME)


Audience

Teens, Adults

Time

30 minutes
Description

This game helps participants to recognize the need for being proactive in addressing problems rather than procrastinating, hoping things will change or avoiding the problems altogether.  Participants will make decisions about which problems (from a given set of scenarios) to address with their limited time and resources.

 

Scriptures

2 Samuel 13-18 (for the story of Amnon’s rape of Tamar, Absalom’s revenge and coup against David and the war that followed – Had David intervened early in the conflict, much of the destruction and loss could have been avoided.)

 

Materials

o  Copies of the worksheet, “Proactivity – Game Card” (one per participant.  This document can be found on the Lesson and Material Downloads page at www.teachingthem.com.)

o  Bible (if you choose to look at the Bible verses mentioned above to give context for the game)

o  Prize for the winner (optional)

Preparation

o  Print out the “Proactivity – Game Card” worksheet (one per participant)

 

Procedure

Use the following script (or modify to suit your needs):

  • “We’re going to play a game called ‘Proactivity.’”
  • “The purpose is to show you how important it is to address problems at the early stages before the get unmanageable or cause too much disruption.”
  • “On your worksheet, there are six different problems.”
  • “They are each at a different level of intensity on a scale of 1-10.”
  • “A level 1 problem is not causing much tension or having much impact.”
  • “A level 5 problem is causing measurable tension and negative impact.”
  • “A level 10 problem is totally disruptive and requires immediate attention.”
  • “The game is played in four rounds.”
  • “At the beginning of each round, you have an opportunity to make an intervention on two of the six problems.”
  • “You ‘intervene’ by placing an ‘X’ over the square for the upcoming round on two of the problems.”
  • “This indicates that you have taken action to prevent the problem from getting worse.”
  • “If I announce during the next round that the problem has gotten worse and that it has increased in levels, you do not have to count those extra levels on your sheet.  You prevented them from happening.”
  • “In the following round, you can choose to use your two interventions for the same two problems, for two new ones or for a mix of one new and one old.  It’s up to you.”
  • “Your goal is to finish with the lowest overall score, and your score will be determined by adding up the levels from each round for each problem.”
  • “For example, if one problem starts at a level 3, increases three levels in the second round, increases two levels in the third round and increases four levels in the forth round, your total score for that problem would exceed the maximum level of 10 (unless you used an intervention during one or more rounds.)”
  • “If your score reaches or exceeds the maximum of 10 points, you incur a 5 point penalty for that problem.”
  • “In the same example, if you used an intervention on the second (3 pts) and fourth rounds (4 pts), you don’t have to count those points in your total.  Your score for that problem would only be 5 pts (3 pts in the first round and 2 pts in the third round).”
  • “The trick is anticipating which problems are about to escalate the most in the coming round so that you can avoid the points by using an intervention.”
  • “What questions do you have before we begin?”  (Answer questions.  Then, follow the process outlined below.)
  • “Here are the six problems you are currently facing.”  (They can read what you are saying on their Game Cards.)
  • “Problem #1: Two staff members are in a relationship, but they are currently not speaking to one another.  This is currently at a Level 2.”
  • “Problem #2: Two senior leaders are having a conflict with one another.  This is currently at Level 4.”
  • “Problem #3: A staff member has shown up late to work several times this week.  This is currently at a Level 3.”
  • “Problem #4: A project has missed two of the early deliverables.  This is currently at Level 5.”
  • “Problem #5: You have a sore tooth.  This is currently at Level 2.”
  • “Problem #6: Your spouse is irritated that you are working too many hours.  This is currently at Level 3.”
  • “Before I announce the changes for Round 2, pick two of the problems that you want to intervene on (i.e., take action on to prevent them from getting worse).  Place an ‘X’ on Row 2 in the column for that problem.” (Allow them a moment to mark their “X’s.”)
  • “When I announce the changes, you don’t have to write any change in these two places, because you have taken action to prevent them from getting worse.”
  • “Here are the changes for Round 2.  As I read these, write the number of points in the box on Row 2 for each problem.”
    1. ROUND 2

                    i.     Problem #1 – The couple won’t work on a project team together. Add 2 points.

                    ii.     Problem #2 – No change.  Add 0 points.

                    iii.     Problem #3 – The staff member missed an important deadline.  Add 2 points.

                    iv.     Problem #4 – The project team is forecasting that they will go over budget.  Add 2 points.

                    v.     Problem #5 – You can’t eat out of that side of your mouth.  Add 3 points.

                    vi.     Problem #6 – Your spouse made several sarcastic jokes at a party about you being “home for a short visit” in between trips.  Add 1 point.

  • “You should have something in every box on Row 2 now.  Two squares will have an ‘X,’ and the rest will have a number.”
  • “Before I announce Round 3, mark an ‘X’ in two boxes on the third row to show that you are doing an intervention on those problems.”
  • “Here are the changes for Round 3.”
    1. ROUND 3

                    i.     Problem #1 – The couple had a loud argument at the office.  Add 4 points.

                    ii.     Problem #2 – The senior leaders’ teams are taking sides. Add 3 points.

                    iii.     Problem #3 – No change.  Add 0 points.

                    iv.     Problem #4 – The team reworked the budget and got the costs back under the limit.  Subtract 2 points.  (If a team used an intervention on this problem for this round, they can put an ‘X’ over the 2 points in Round 2.)

                    v.     Problem #5 – A piece of tooth fell out.  It’s hard to focus on anything.  Add 4 points.

                    vi.     Problem #6 – You had a fight about your travel schedule.  Add 4 points.

  • “All the boxes on the third row should have something in them now.”
  • “Before I announce Round 4, mark an ‘X’ in two boxes on the fourth row to show that you are doing an intervention on those problems.”
  • “Here are the changes for Round 4.”
    1. ROUND 4

                    i.     Problem #1 – The female member of the couple filed a sexual harassment lawsuit.  Add 5 points.

                    ii.     Problem #2 – Staff on both teams are sabotaging the efforts of the others.  Add 5 points.

                    iii.     Problem #3 – The staff member missed three days of work in the last two weeks. Add 3 points.

                    iv.     Problem #4 – A major milestone has been missed.  Add 3 points.

                    v.     Problem #5 – Your tooth is abscessed, and you need a root canal.  Add 4 points.

                    vi.     Problem #6 – Your spouse took the kids and left to stay with her parents.  Add 6 points.

  • “Now it’s time to add up your scores.”
  • “If any of your scores is equal to or greater than 10, you have to add a 5-point penalty for allowing that problem to blow up on you.”
  • “Anytime you ignore something important for long enough, it will be both urgent and important to get your attention.”
  • “Add this penalty to your Total to get your New Total.”
  • “After you’ve added each column, add each of those totals together to get your Grand Total.” (You might want to award a prize for the lowest overall score.  Afterwards, have them discuss the Debrief Questions below.)

 

Debrief Questions

  1. What was challenging about the game?
  2. What are some of the major teaching points?
  3. How will you apply them to your life and work?

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Filed under Decision making, Games that Teach, Initiative, Priorities, Problem solving

Project Management Series – Nehemiah (DEVOTION)


This series of devotions is designed to be completed over several days.

 

Devotion – Project Management Series (Nehemiah)

Project Initiation & Planning

In your groups, read the following Scriptures. Then answer the questions below.

  • Nehemiah 1-2
  • What steps did Nehemiah take to initiate and plan this project?
  • Who are the people in these roles: project manager, team, customer, sponsor, stakeholder?
  • What agreements does Nehemiah make with different groups or individuals?
  • What requests does he make from different groups or individuals?
  • What is the project scope?
  • What can we learn from how Nehemiah managed this project?

 

Devotion – Project Management Series (Nehemiah)

Project Execution

In your groups, read the following Scriptures. Then answer the questions below.

  • Nehemiah 3
  • Create a project plan for building the wall. For each task, identify:
    • Owner
    • Duration
    • Due Date (assume an overall project deadline of 4 months)
    • Cost/Budget
    • Who Pays?
    • Put the tasks in order and identify predecessors and successors (be creative with this, since it’s not clearly stated).
  • Identify the critical path by placing asterisks by critical path tasks.

 

Devotion – Project Management Series (Nehemiah)

Risk Management

In your groups, read the following Scriptures. Then answer the questions below.

  • Nehemiah 4-6
  • What unexpected events threated to take the project off plan?
  • Which threats were internal to the team, and which ones were external?
  • How did Nehemiah deal with them?
  • How could he have prepared for them in advance?
  • What can we learn from Nehemiah’s example?

 

Devotion – Project Management Series (Nehemiah)

Risk Management

In your groups, read the following Scriptures. Then answer the questions below.

  • Nehemiah 7:1-5, 70-73; 8:1-18; 9:1-3, 38; 10:28-39; 11:1-2; 12:44-47
  • What things did Nehemiah do that would help to ensure the sustainability (ability to be maintained) of the project?
  • How do you think these would help?
  • What promises did the people make?
  • What can we learn from these Scriptures?

 

Devotion – Project Management Series (Nehemiah)

Project Close-Out

In your groups, read the following Scriptures. Then answer the questions below.

  • Nehemiah 12:27-43
  • How did Nehemiah celebrate the completion of the project?
  • What can we learn from Nehemiah’s example?
  • Why do you think celebration and close-out might be important?

 

Devotion – Project Management Series (Nehemiah)

Monitoring & Evaluation

In your groups, read the following Scriptures. Then answer the questions below.

  • Nehemiah 13
  • What happened after Nehemiah returned to Babylon?
  • What promises from Chapter 10 did the people break?
  • What could Nehemiah have done to prevent these problems?
  • What is the importance of monitoring and evaluation for the success of a project?
  • How should it be done?

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Filed under Bible study, Challenges, Devotion, Evaluation, leadership, Management, Nehemiah, Overcoming obstacles, Planning, Priorities, Problem solving, Project management, Resources, Solutions

Priorities – Mary vs. Martha (DEVOTION)


Read the following Scriptures, and discuss the questions below as a table group.

  • Luke 10:38-42
  • John 11:1-3, 17-44
  • John 12:1-8
  1. Compare and contrast the two sisters.
  2. What is Mary doing that is similar in each of these Scriptures?
  3. What is Martha doing that is similar in each of these Scriptures?
  4. Why do you think Jesus said that Mary’s choice was better in the passage from Luke?
  5. How are you sometimes like Martha?
  6. What is the danger of living our lives like Martha all the time?
  7. What is the best combination of Mary-type priorities and Martha-type priorities for your life?

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Filed under activity, Character, Devotion, Martha, Mary, Priorities, spiritual disciplines, Spiritual Growth, Spiritual Health

God-Sized Vision (DEVOTION)


In your groups, read the following Scriptures. Then answer the questions below.

  • Daniel 10:1-21
  • Daniel 11:1
  • Daniel 12:1-13
  • How did Daniel prepare himself to receive the vision?
  • How did the vision impact Daniel?  Why?
  • What was the response of the “one who looked like a man?”
  • How was the vision delayed?
  • Why do you think it was delayed?
  • How should this influence how we approach God when we want a God-sized vision?

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Filed under Daniel, Devotion, Future, Goals, God's dream, God's Plan, God's Will, Humility, Listening to God, prayer, Priorities, Revelation, Spiritual Warfare, Supplication, Vision

Conversation Starters for Teenage Girls (SCENARIOS)


Audience

Teen Girls

Time

30-45 minutes
Description

These scenarios are intended to provide conversation starters for teen girls and a skilled and caring mentor.  They can also be used in group settings, but an adult guide should still be present to provide perspective and wisdom.  The cards address many challenging situations in which young girls might find themselves.

 

Scriptures

o   N/A

 

Materials

o  Scenarios worksheets (attached – 1 per person) or “Conversation Starters for Teenage Girls – Cards” (a file that you can download at www.teachingthem.com on the Lesson and Material Downloads page.

o  Something to write with (if you use the worksheet – 1 per person)

o  Something to write on (if you use the worksheet – 1 per person)

o  Bible

Preparation

o  Review the scenarios and delete or pull out any that you don’t want to address.

o  Print the worksheets (1 per person) or the scenario cards (1 per group)

o  Practice the script.

Procedure

Use the following script (or modify to suit your needs):

  • “There are many challenging situations facing teenage girls today.”
  • “If you haven’t thought about how you will prepare for them or respond to them, they could surprise you, and you might find yourself under pressure to make the wrong decision.”
  • “Today, we are going to ask you to think about some of these situations and give your opinion about how you should prepare for or respond to them.”  (If you are using the worksheet, pass it out now, and let the girls have 15-20 minutes to complete it.  You can then discuss their answers as a group, or you can have them turn them in so that you can review them before discussing them at your next meeting.  If you are using the cards, lay them face-down in the center of the group, and have the girls take turns drawing one and responding to it.  Then, allow the other girls to share their thoughts, as well.  Sometimes what they say will be enough on the topic, but at other times, you may need to redirect them by sharing your perspective.  Whenever possible, reference biblical principles.)

 

SCENARIO WORKSHEET

Take some time, and read through each of the following scenarios.  Write how you think you should handle each situation on a separate sheet of paper.  Be sure to number your answers.

 

1.     You and your boyfriend have been dating for three months.  Recently, he has begun to bring up the subject of sex to get your opinion on it.  He says that he wouldn’t ever want to do anything that you didn’t want to do, but you can tell that he is hoping you will say it is okay.

2.     One of your girlfriends confessed to you that she has been thinking about suicide.  Her parents have been fighting for years and are now going through a divorce.  She is unpopular at school, and the boys make fun of her because she is heavy.  Recently, she has even stopped turning in her homework, and her failing grades are getting her into trouble with her parents and with school administrators.

3.     At a party, a popular girl invites you to join her and her friends as they take hits of acid.  You initially say, “No, thanks….I’m okay,” but they begin to make fun of you for being so “straight” and “pure.”  They laugh at you and tell you it’s time to grow up and stop being such a little girl.

4.     You are out driving on a date with a cute boy, and he reaches across you to open the glove compartment of his car.  As he does so, his arm brushes your chest.  You are embarrassed, but he is very apologetic, so you say it was no big deal.  However, an hour later, he does the same thing at dinner as he reaches for the ketchup.

5.     You and a girlfriend are out at the mall.  As she reaches to pick out a bracelet that she likes, you see that she has several dark bruises on her arm under her shirtsleeve.  When you ask her about it, she says that she bumped into something, but you aren’t convinced.  The bruises look like finger marks from her arm being squeezed too hard. You keep asking her about it until she confesses that her boyfriend got angry the other day and shook her a little.  She assures you that it’s the first time anything like this has ever happened.

6.     The word is out all over school about a famous celebrity sex video, and you are surprised to find that someone has sent you the link through email.  Your friend is watching over your shoulder when you open the email and tells you that you should click on the link.  “Everyone has seen it except us,” she says.

7.     Report cards come out, and you are surprised to see that you got a “B” in a class that you should have failed.  You didn’t turn in three assignments this semester, and you’ve been dreading getting your grades.  What was even more surprising is that your teacher commented on how much you’ve improved in getting your homework done.  You’re pretty sure that he made some kind of mistake in his grade book, but you are reluctant to bring it up, because an “F” means you will be grounded and miss this weekend’s social.

8.     A friend has started to look tired all the time.  She has dark patches under her eyes, and she no longer seems to have any energy or spark.  She has also been losing a lot of weight, which is confusing, because she eats more than you or any of your other friends.  You’ve begun to wonder if she might be throwing up whenever she goes to the bathroom after you eat out together.

9.     It is obvious to you that the girls who wear the tightest clothing and the shortest skirts get the most attention from the guys.  You’ve always been modest in what you wear, but it hurts that none of the guys is ever interested in you.  One guy even asked you why you wear “old lady” clothes.

10.  You’re out at the movies with a guy.  When he opens his wallet to pay for your tickets, you notice that he has several condoms in it.

11.  You catch your older brother looking at a pornographic magazine in his room.  He first begs you not to tell, then threatens to get you back if you say anything to Mom or Dad.

12.  You wake up late one night when you hear a noise in the dark.  You look out your window and see your older sister sneaking back into her room.  You look at the clock and see that it’s 4:30 a.m. The next morning, your parents tell you to wake up your sister, and you smell alcohol on her breath when you go to get her.

13.  You’ve got a new teacher – a young guy just out of college, and he is really cute.  All the girls are talking about him.  One day, he asks you to stay for a few minutes after class so that he can talk to you about your last paper.  He is very excited about your writing abilities and tells you that you have talent.  This meeting is followed by several others, and he offers to coach you to help you really develop your writing skills.  You have been meeting a few times a week after school for several weeks, and one day at your meeting, he reaches out and puts his hand on yours.

14.  One of your girlfriends just found out that she is pregnant.  She says that there is no way she can have a baby.  Her parents would do something crazy like sending her to live with her aunt in another state.  Her boyfriend is trying to help her raise the money for the abortion pill, and she has asked if you can help out with a little money.

15.  One of the girls in your first period class is upset, because someone stole her iPod out of her backpack.  This girl is really irritating and has always been mean to you, and you are a little amused to see that something bad has finally happened to her.  Unfortunately, you know who stole the iPod.  You saw one of your good friends listening to it yesterday after school, and you know it is the same iPod because of a scratch that it has on the back cover.

16.  You are at a school social with some friends.  When it is time to leave, you realize that the friend who drove you there has been drinking and is in no condition to drive.  You offer to drive for her, but she refuses and says that she is just fine.

17.  You are at a concert with some friends, and someone passes a joint down the row of seats.  You expect your friends to pass it back the other way, but to your surprise, they all take a hit and then pass it to you.  When you start to refuse, they begin to tease you and put the joint in your face.  They say that you are going to get high off the second-hand smoke anyway – why not enjoy it all the way?

18.  You’ve told your parents that you are going to a sleepover at a friend’s house, but when you get there, you find out that the girls have planned a secret trip to a local dance club.  They are busy getting dressed and putting on make-up so that they look “legal,” and one of the girls says that she is a good friend with the gatekeeper at the door.  He promised that he would let them all in as long as they looked old enough.

19.  While at the mall one weekend, you and your girlfriend meet a couple of cute guys.  They are from your school, but you don’t really know them.  You eat together at one of the fast-food places, and then the guys ask if the two of you can give them a ride home.  When you hesitate, they say, “Come on, it’s not far from here.  It will only take you a few minutes.”

20.  You get a friend request from someone on Facebook.  You don’t recognize the name, but they have lots of the same friends as you, so you approve the request.  As soon as you do, the person starts to chat with you.  You start to chat while looking up his profile.  Unfortunately, you still don’t recognize him, but he looks pretty normal in his photos and he goes to the same high school as you.  He is asking you questions about what you like to do on the weekends and when you aren’t working on homework.

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Filed under Challenges, Character, conflict management, Conflict Resolution, Coping skills, courage, Daily walk, Decision making, Fear, leadership, Obedience, Priorities, purity, Relationships, self-image, Self-worth, Sex, Sexual Purity, struggles, temptation, test, Witness

Abraham’s Tests (Lesson)


Time

30-35 minutes
Description

This lesson teaches about how God tested Abraham when He asked him to sacrifice Isaac.

 

Scriptures

  • Genesis 12:1-3; 15:1-6; 17:19-20; 22:1-19
  • Hebrews 11:17-19

Materials

  • Whiteboard, chalkboard or flipchart
  • Marker
  • Bible

Preparation

  • Practice the script.

 

Procedure

Use the following script and instructions (or modify to suit your needs):

  • “Raise your hand if your parents have ever tracked how tall you are growing by putting a mark on a wall right above your head.”  (Acknowledge raised hands.)
  • “My mom used to do that, too.”
  • “I want to see how quickly we can do it today up at this board (or flipchart).”
  • “Everyone line up over here, and then come up and let me mark your height on the board.”  (As each participant comes up, make a mark above their heads and put his/her name beside it.  Try to keep everyone’s marks clustered in the center, because you are going to draw a large heart around them.  You might even want to use the two tallest participants as the top of the heart and then taper the marks toward the bottom.  Don’t draw the heart shape yet, though. )
  • “Wow, we’ve got a lot of different heights in this room!”
  • “So, this is how your parents’ might have tracked your height.”
  • “God does something similar, but He’s not tracking your height; He tracking your heart.” (Draw a heart shape around all the measurements.)
  • “God is much less interested in your height than He is in your heart, so every once in a while, He measures your heart to see how spiritually mature it is.”
  • “You could say that if God measured you, and you were down here (put your hand near the bottom of the heart) that you are not very mature spiritually.”
  • “But if you were way up here (put your hand near the top of the heart), you would be very spiritually mature.”
  • “Does anyone know how God measures the spiritual maturity of our hearts?”  (Listen for responses.  What you want to hear is that He tests us.)
  • “Right!  God tests us to measure the spiritual maturity of our hearts!”
  • “The story I’m going to tell you about today is about a person who was VERY spiritually mature.”
  • “He was very old, and he had followed the Lord for a very long time.”
  • “His name was Abram, but you might know him better as Abraham.”
  • “Have any of you heard of him?”  (Look for a show of hands.)
  • “Great! Well, there is a lot to tell about the story of Abraham, but we are going to focus on one of the times in his life when God was giving him a test to measure the spiritual maturity of his heart.”
  • “This part of his story started when he was 75 years old.”
  • “God made him a very special but very surprising promise.”  (Ask a volunteer to read Genesis 12:1-3.)
  • “God promised to make Abraham (at this point, his name was just Abram) into a great nation.”
  • “This had to be surprising to Abraham, because he didn’t have any children at the age of 75.”
  • “His name, Abram, meant ‘exalted father,’ and it must have felt like a joke to him and may have even been a very painful reminder that he didn’t have anyone to carry on his name.”
  • “But Abraham believed God, and it’s a good thing he did, because this was one of God’s tests.” (Mark a line on the heart about one-third up from the bottom, and write “Abram” or “Abraham” beside it.)
  • “Abraham left his family and went to a place that God showed him.”
  • “Years later, Abraham still didn’t have any children when God appeared to him in a vision.”  (Have a volunteer read Genesis 15:1-6.)
  • “You see, it’s okay to tell God exactly how you feel.”
  • “Abraham complained to God that God had made a promise but nothing had changed.”
  • “So, God made His promise a little more clear and told him that he would definitely have a child..and not just one, but many, many, many…as many as the starts in the sky.”
  • “And Abraham believed him, and it was a good thing he did, because this was another one of God’s tests.” (Mark a line on the heart about halfway up from the bottom, and write “Abram” or “Abraham” beside it.)
  • “Years later, Abraham was 99 years old and had a son.”
  • “Abraham thought this boy, Ishmael, was God’s promise to him.”
  • “Unfortunately, it wasn’t the son that God had promised but a son that came from a mistake Abraham had made when he thought God needed his help making God’s promise come true.”
  • “So, God appeared to Abraham again to help him understand.”  (Have a volunteer read Genesis 17:19-20.)
  • “God got very specific this time and even told Abraham the name of the promised child.”
  • “This was actually the time that God gave Abram his new name, Abraham, which means ‘father of many nations.’”
  • “Abraham laughed at the promise at first (since he was 99, and his wife was 90 – pretty old to be having children), but then he believed God.”
  • “And it’s a good thing he did, because this was one of God’s tests.” (Mark a line on the heart about one-third down from the top, and write “Abraham” beside it.)
  • “One year later, Abraham and Sarah (his wife) had a baby boy, and they loved him very, very much!”
  • “Years passed, and Isaac grew strong and tall.”
  • “Probably about the time that he was a teenager, Abraham was tested by God again.”
  • “And since Abraham was spiritually mature, this test was a really tough one!”
  • “God wanted to know who was more important in Abraham’s heart – Isaac or God?”  (Have volunteer read Genesis 22:1-2.)
  • “This sounds like a terrible test!”
  • “How could God ask Abraham to sacrifice his promised son?”
  • “But Abraham trusted God and knew that even if Isaac died, God could raise him back to life.”
  • “We know that was what Abraham was thinking, because the Bible tells us so.”  (Have volunteer read Hebrews 11:17-19.)
  • “So Abraham obeyed God, and it’s a good thing he did, because this was one of God’s tests.” (Mark a line on the heart a little higher than the last one and write “Abraham” beside it.  Then have a volunteer read Genesis 22:3-5.)
  • “I know this had to be tearing Abraham up in side.  Three days walking with your son, knowing that you were going to offer him as a sacrifice!”
  • “But Abraham kept trusting God every step of the way.”  (Mark a line on the heart a little higher than the last one and write “Abraham” beside it.  Then, have a volunteer read Genesis 22:6-8.)
  • “Do you hear Abraham’s faith? ‘God Himself will provide the lamb…’” (Mark a line a little higher.  Then have a volunteer read Genesis 22:9-12.)
  • “Wow!  That was close!  But you have to understand that God never intended for Abraham to actually sacrifice Isaac.”
  • “God says in another part of Scripture that He must NOT be worshiped by human sacrifice.”  (Deuteronomy 12:31)
  • “God had his angel standing on the ready the entire time, but the test wasn’t complete until Abraham showed that he was actually willing to sacrifice his son.”
  • “Abraham proved that he loved God more than he loved Isaac and that he believed God could bring Isaac back from the dead.”  (Make a mark at the top of the heart, and write “Abraham” next to it.  Then have a volunteer read Genesis 22:13-19.)
  • “When Abraham passed God’s test, God provided a another way that Abraham hadn’t even imagined.”
  • “God provided a substitute for Isaac.”
  • “Instead of Isaac dying, the ram would die.”
  • “And because Abraham passed this test, he got to be part of a very special story – the story about Jesus.”
  • “This story of Abraham and Isaac is a lot like the story of Jesus, and there are clue all the way through.  Can anyone tell me something from this story that is like the story of Jesus?”  (Listen for responses.  Here are some possible answers that you might want to bring it if they aren’t mentioned:

o   Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son just like God was willing to sacrifice His Son, Jesus.

o   Isaac was going to be an offering for sin, just like Jesus.

o   The journey took three days, which reminds us that Jesus was buried for three days.

o   Isaac carried the wood that he was going to be sacrificed on, just like Jesus carried His cross.

o   Isaac asked where they would get the lamb for the sacrifice, and Abraham told him that God would provide the lamb.  God did provide Jesus as the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

o   Isaac apparently was willing to die, just like Jesus, because there is no mention of a struggle (a struggle Isaac surely would have won, since his father was over 100 years old, and he would have been a teenager).

o   The ram was caught in the thickets, a thorny bush, which reminds us that Jesus wore a crown of thorns.

o   An angel was present at both this event and the resurrection of Jesus.  You could say that Isaac also had a type of resurrection, since he was meant to die on the altar.)

  • “You see, this story points us to Jesus.”
  • “Some people call it a type or a shadow of the story of Jesus.  I prefer ‘shadow,’ because a shadow lets you know ahead of time if someone is coming around a corner.  And this type of story tells us ahead of time that Jesus is coming.”
  • “Jesus died for us so that we don’t have to.”
  • “The Bible says that the wages (or payment) for sin is death, and Jesus paid that payment for us on the cross.”
  • “He was our substitute, like the ram in the thicket.”
  • “And because Jesus paid for our sins, we get to live for eternity, forever and ever with Jesus in heaven.”
  • “What I want you to remember from today’s lesson are these few things:

o   God will test the spiritual maturity of your heart many times during your life as a Christian.

o   This test is not really for God to know your maturity; he already knows.  They are for you to recognize how mature you have become.

o   The more mature you get, the bigger the tests God will give you.

o   When you pass a test, God blesses you and uses you to bless others.”

 

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