Note to the Teacher
The Scripture we read is the story of John the Baptist and Jesus. The ice breaker invites youth to experience the feeling of something being torn. The discussion encourages students to experience the baptism of Jesus and to be reminded of their own baptism. The activity allows youth to write about what they experienced through the scripture and discussion questions. Times are based on a 50-minute lesson period but can be adjusted.
1. Ice Breaker: Paper Tearing Contest (10 minutes)
Ask students to find (or provide them with) one sheet of 8.5 x 11 printer paper. The color does not matter; however, the size of the paper must be 8.5 x 11 (regular size of printer paper). Tell students they are going to compete to see who can tear the paper into the most pieces. Give students 30 seconds to tear the sheets of paper into as many pieces as possible. Count the number of pieces and award a winner!
Variation 1: Give students 60 seconds to tear a single sheet of paper. The person with the most pieces wins. If there is a tie, give students another 10 seconds; repeat until there is a winner.
Variation 2: Tell students to use one hand only. They can tear the paper using their arm, legs, toes, mouth, but they are allowed to use only one hand. (Alternate with the non-dominant hand.)
You can also do this game in a bracket format and invite students to cheer one another on!
2. Read Scripture (5 minutes)
Our scripture reading today is the story of John the Baptist and the beginning of the gospel of Jesus. While I read the scripture, try to pay attention to the person of John the Baptist. What was he like?
Read Mark 1:4-11.
3. Discussion (15 minutes)
- The scripture we just read has two main characters. Who are they and what do we know about them? 
- What was John doing before he baptized Jesus? 
- Remembering back to what John looked like from verse 6, how would you feel about John baptizing you?
- John says in verse 7, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.” Who is he referring to? What does this tell us about the person?
- What do you know about baptism? (Make a list on posterboard or use a sheet of 8.5 x 11 paper.)
- Do you remember your baptism? If you have not been baptized, have you ever seen anyone baptized? What was it like?
- How would you feel if you heard a “voice from heaven” after your baptism as Jesus heard after his?
- What would you do if you had witnessed what happened at Jesus’ baptism with the “heavens being torn” and the “spirit descending on him like a dove” (v. 10)?
- Most of the story of Jesus’ ministry takes place after this baptism. How might remembering your baptism help you to live out your faith every day?
As we enter this new year, let us remember our baptisms. If you want to be baptized, let’s find some time to talk with a pastor! We are going to enter into this new year with a new perspective on life—one that looks back at our baptism and remembers how the power of the Holy Spirit has always been at work in our lives.
4. Activity and Discussion (20 minutes)
Front Page News: Design the front page of a newspaper with the headline and news about the baptism of Jesus. You may choose to draw pictures, write about eyewitness accounts, talk about what led up to this encounter, and propose what you think will happen next. Once you have finished, share your newspaper with the group. This activity can also be done as a group project. If students are online, invite them to use their device to create the front page in a word processor application if they would like.
After everyone has shared, say, “Remember our opening ice-breaker activity?” Ask students to gather all their pieces of torn paper. If you’re meeting in person, have everyone gather together. If you are meeting virtually, they are already gathered. Ask a student to re-read Mark 1:9-10. Tell students that when you get to the word “torn” they are going to throw their pieces of paper into the air. Now read verse 11 and transition to a closing, reminding youth that they are loved by God and cherished as his sons and daughters (2 Cor. 2:18).
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
- One sheet of 8.5 x 11 printer paper for each person.
- One stopwatch or timer on your phone.
- Posterboard and markers (or pens and 8.5 x 11 printer paper)
 John the Baptist and Jesus
 John was preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins to the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem. (v. 4-5)