Making Distinctions

Doers of the Word

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B

Let this be a worship experience of reconciliation, not just between individuals, but between the church and world, between economic status, between races, between orientations.

Note to the Teacher

Our scripture is from the Book of James, and it talks about the idea of favoritism. The opening activity gets students thinking about their favorite things. The discussion encourages students to look deep into what it means to show favoritism as a church and student ministry. The activity allows youth to design and implement a hospitality challenge that students will do the next week. Times are based on a fifty-minute lesson period but may be adjusted.

1. Ice Breaker: “Sit Down If” – Favorite Edition (10 minutes)

This ice breaker may be played in-person or online. The main idea of the game is to be the last person standing after the caller has finished with his/her favorites list. Begin by handing out a piece of paper and a pen and asking the youth to write down their favorite things in the categories/topics below. If your group is online, they will write down their answers on their own sheets of paper. Ask everyone to stand up (or turn on their video if you are in youth group on video conference). Appoint one student to be “the caller.” The caller will read from his/her favorites list, one category at a time. If someone in the group that is standing has the same favorite, he/she must sit-down (or if online, turn the video off).

Favorites List:

  • Fast Food
  • Color
  • Board game
  • Emoji
  • Car Brand
  • Gum flavor
  • Restaurant
  • Candy or treat
  • Sport to watch
  • Breakfast food
  • Current movie
  • Dessert
  • Sport to play
  • Season
  • Store or brand
  • Gift card
  • Subject in school
  • Type of music
  • Ice cream flavor
  • TV shows

Feel free to add more categories! This is simply a fun game to get students thinking about their favorite things and how they may have favorites similar to those of their friends and classmates.

2. Read Scripture (5 minutes)

Our scripture reading today talks about the idea of favoritism. While the scripture is being read, invite students to think about churches today and how this story sounds familiar.

Read James 2:1-10, 11-13, 14-17.

3. Discussion (15 minutes)

  • What might be the main point of the scripture we just read? (Write answers down on a board or a piece of paper, if possible.)
  • Re-read verses 1-4. What do you think the author’s tone is in these verses? (If the author were saying these words aloud, how do you think they would sound? Is he upset, questioning, mad, parental, etc...?)
  • What do you think favoritism means? Do you think you see favoritism in your family life? In your school life? In the news?
  • Have you seen the church show favoritism? (Where we sit? Whom we invite or don’t invite? What are some other ways favoritism is found in the church? [Who gets money in the church budget? If two groups both need a room or an activity date, does one group often get the space and time it needs?])
  • As you read this scripture, do you think James is strongly against showing of favoritism? Why do you think that?
  • What is James trying to say about the rich in verses 6-7? Would you consider most people in our community part of the rich or the poor?
  • Verse 8 says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Where else have we read this in scripture? How can not showing favoritism toward someone be an expression of love and care toward neighbors and friends?
  • Have you ever heard the phrase, “faith without works is dead”? What do you think this means? Are there parts of the scripture that could help us understand that phrase?
  • If God expresses God’s unconditional love for us through Jesus, how should we encourage one another to express our love for God?
  • What are some things we could do to help our church be more hospitable and avoid favoritism? How could we help our student ministry be more hospitable and avoid favoritism?

4. Activity and Discussion (20 minutes)

Hospitality Overload: During this closing activity and discussion, you are going to come up with one hospitality goal for your group.

Ask your students to make a list of all the ways your student ministry could be more hospitable. Think about those already connected to your youth ministry or internal to your church AND those youth, adults, and community members who have no connection to your church at all. Take about five minutes to brainstorm. After five minutes is up, narrow the list down to one thing your group can actually do this week (or the next time you meet). Ideas might include writing cards to visitors, inviting friends to programs and events, texting students that you’re praying for them, designating a welcome team, figuring out youth to connect with others between church activities, etc.). Take a few minutes to devise a plan for your hospitality overload and a way to implement it. Depending on what your group decides to do, your supplies and times may vary.

The above activity could easily take twenty minutes, especially if you identify what you’d like to change and come up with a plan for how to change it!

If time allows, watch the video,, “The Real Homeless Man Experiment,” and discuss how it relates to the scripture you read today:

After the video, ask the following questions:

  1. Why do you think people gave money to the man when he was dressed in nice clothes, but didn’t when he was dressed in old clothes?
  2. How did this video make you feel?
  3. At the end of the video a quote by Sheila McKechnie said, “People who are homeless are not socially inadequate. They are people without homes.” What do you think she means? Do you agree or disagree with her? Why?
  4. Do you think if we were to do the same experiment in our community that people would react the same way? Why or why not?
  5. What do you think the message of this video was?

Wrap up your discussion by re-reading James 2:1-17.

Close your time together in a manner that is typical for you. Consider taking joys and concerns, then asking for a volunteer to close in prayer.

Total time: 50 minutes


  • Pens or Pencils
  • One piece of paper per student
  • Bible
  • Whiteboard or Posterboard
  • Video and TV or screen to play a video

In This Series...

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes