Note to the Teacher
This week is about the importance of not just being accepting but being a sign of God’s love and acceptance in the world. The icebreaker combines stories of feeling welcome with the creativity of improv comedy. The discussion explores the call of welcome and acceptance in the Bible, and the activity encourages the youth to put these ideas into practice by developing a welcome statement for the group.
1. Icebreaker (10 minutes)
Yes and Welcome
This around-the-circle story-building game is focused on helping students imagine (and have fun with) how to become radically welcoming as Jesus was. Introduce the game by telling the students that they are going to share stories of when they felt welcome. They are then to expand upon those stories by adding things that didn’t happen but would make them feel more welcome. The game is based on an idea from improv comedy – “Yes, and.” This means that students accept whatever story or ideas have come before them. Then they build on the stories. No one negates or stops the ideas. They just add.
The game begins with someone telling in one or two sentences about a time he/she felt welcomed. For example, a student might say, “The first day of school I sat down, and the person next to me said ‘hello’ and offered me a piece of gum.” Then the person to the right says, “Yes and” and then adds something to the story that would have made someone feel even more welcome. For example, the student might say “Yes, and then I noticed the person was wearing the t-shirt for my favorite band.” This continues until all students have had a chance to add to the story or until someone has nothing to add. Do this with as many stories as time will allow.
2. Read Romans 15:4-13 (5 minutes)
Have students read the verses. Ask them to pay attention to the kind of community the passage describes. Ask them to imagine being a part of a group that lives according to the words in the passage.
3. Discussion (15 minutes)
- What do you think it means when the verse says “…as Christ has welcomed you…”? How does Christ welcome and accept us? How does our church or group try to show welcome to others as Christ welcomes us?
- This passage implies that there are some groups of people that may not have been accepted or who were not easy to accept by the audience originally reading this passage. Can you tell who those “unwelcomed” people/groups are in this passage? (Gentiles, people who are inconsistent with doing the right thing, etc.)
- Can you think of people or groups that the church has not been totally welcoming to or accepting of throughout history? How about today?
- What groups have you seen churches/Christians in our area not fully accept or welcome?
- If a church posts on its social media/website something like, “All are welcome here,” what should that church do to make that statement obvious if someone new visits the church? How could the church live out that statement?
- What do you think the writer of this passage would say to church people or churches who are not welcoming?
- Are there ways that you can tell when you don’t seem to be welcomed or not accepted by a group?
- Do those same things happen in church? Why do you think that is?
4. Activity and Discussion - A welcome statement (20 minutes)
Before you begin, gather art supplies and poster board. Depending on how large you want the final project to be, consider cutting one or two poster boards into three or four pieces. Tell students that they are going to create a welcome statement together so that everyone who comes to the youth group knows they are welcome (especially those who might have felt unwelcome in other church settings). Begin by building on your earlier discussion. Make a list of things that might make someone feel unwelcome or things that students have seen other Christians use as a criterion for rejecting people.
Once students have finished, categorize the words into bigger ideas/phrases. Then, pass out the poster boards or poster board strips to pairs or small groups. Assign one group the task of writing, “YOU ARE WELCOME HERE! It doesn’t matter if…” Then each of the groups takes the words or phrases listed and creates an attractive phrasing that fits with the beginning. For example, a group might take “poor” and say, “you are rich or poor.” Then attach all the pieces/boards together to create a piece of art that expresses the welcome you are offering the people who come into your facility.
Total time: 50 minutes
- Poster board
- Markers/art supplies