In this four-part series, we will be exploring what the Trinity is and how it is the perfect example of sacred and beloved community. We will spend the first week trying to explain the beautiful mystery that is the Trinity and recognizing how God has already modeled what beloved community looks like through the Trinity, focused on love and equality. The second week will focus on opening our eyes to see all the vibrant people in our communities. It encourages youth to look beyond what they expect or what they are immediately surrounded by and to see beyond the current community. The third part focuses on hearing all people and recognizing that we are all beloved children of God who ought to have our voices and our stories heard. We will begin conversations on how to recognize voices that have been ignored and how to listen to those who are often quieted. Lastly, we will focus on loving all people and recognizing that we believe in a God who loves every single one of us deeply and wants to be in community with us and wants us to love one another. We will talk about how to show love to those around us and how creating a beloved community is one of the best ways to honor the Trinity and love our neighbor.
Week 1: Introduction of the Trinity
- Play-Doh, LEGO®, building blocks, other materials to build a small community
- Colored pencils, markers, crayons for the activity
- A full-page template of a blank cross for the activity. (See https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Cmt1CWpC3eTgZ3FqDLi3LOdU38kOUZ6K/view for a possible template)
Note to the Teacher:
Trying to explain the Trinity to anyone is tricky business. Be assured that no one can perfectly explain or fully comprehend the Trinity, which is a divine and beautiful mystery. As you go into this lesson, remind yourself that you are stepping into the mystery of this incredible God with your class, and you are not expected to answer these great mysteries. Try to become comfortable with not having the answers but with exploring questions and wondering with your group. Have fun! I think God would approve of it!
The key idea in this lesson and scripture is how the Trinity, in its great mystery, is the perfect representation of beloved community. We talk about the idea that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are one, just as much as they are individuals—three-in-one. We will focus on how this equality of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is the perfect example of how faithful community, the kingdom on earth should be. Each is unique but equal, important, and beloved. For the ice breaker, we will split into teams and imagine what a beloved community looks like. We will build a neighborhood with places that cater to the community members’ needs and find a way to build community together. The discussion allows for curiosity and imagination, as we try to understand the Trinity. We will also discuss what community means, cite some healthy examples of community, and talk about why God wants good community for God’s people. The activity will allow students to draw the blueprints of their beloved community and consider how they can begin to build a community that is healthy and good for people of many different backgrounds and needs.
Total time: 50 minutes
1. Ice Breaker: City Planning (10 minutes)
For this ice breaker, we will help the class members recognize the importance of belonging and community. It is often easier to build spaces that cater to the masses or that allow for only some people to be comfortable while others are lacking. In this activity, class members will be expected to take all of the group members’ needs into consideration and to build a community that is good for everyone. We will later focus on how the Trinity is the perfect example of beloved community.
Set up: Split the group of youth into smaller teams of three to five people. This activity will work best if we the teams are as diverse as possible; split up youth who like to work together or who are good friends. Encourage them to try this activity without their friends; later, they can discuss what they did. Provide Play-Doh or other materials that allow the participants to “build” a city (such as LEGO®, building blocks, figurines, and so on.)
Instructions to the participants: You all have been hired by the city to help plan and build a new community. You have an unlimited budget and will be able to construct the new community however you would like. However, you are allowed to build only ______ buildings (one minus the number of students on the team; if it’s a team of five, they can choose four buildings). Within your teams, you need to make sure there is something everyone likes in this new community, so that everyone feels that they belong and their needs are being met. Take the next ten minutes to build your new community; and you will present it to the class afterward.
If you are meeting online, invite students to build the community with whatever materials they have, or they can draw the community on a piece of paper. They can still collaborate on those structures in a breakout group or through group text or chat.
2. Read Scripture (5 minutes)
Our scripture reading today gives the disciples the task of going to build communities of Christians across the world. In this story, Jesus uses the Trinity to encourage the disciples to model their communities after a beloved and equal partnership of many into one.
Read Matthew 28:16-20.
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (NIV)
3. Discussion (15 minutes)
- What does community mean? Does someone care to define it in his or her own words?
- Talk about a time when you were part of a group or community that made you feel safe or loved. What are some of the details of that community or group that you remember most?
- What do you think are “must-haves” or foundational pillars for a good community? (Hospitals? Schools? Parks or fun things to do?)
- The Trinity gives us a perfect example of beloved community. If we look at the Parent, Son, and Holy Spirit, we see that they are individuals with certain gifts and roles to play in the world and in the shaping of our hearts. They aren’t a photocopy of one another. But they are all equal, all necessary, and all needed to fully experience God. It’s confusing and complicated and that’s OK! We don’t have to work out every single detail to know that God loves us and that God wants to work with us to build more communities modeled after God’s own divine Trinity.
- Think about what the Trinity represents to you (the Parent, the son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit). What characteristics come to mind when you think about the Trinity? Teacher note: Write down all the answers that come to mind, so students can see a visual representation of what they feel the Trinity represents.
- Of these characteristics that we have written, which would you like to have present in the communities of which you are a part? Do you think they are all fully present? How can we add more of ____(missing characteristic) to our communities today?
- This is the kin-dom here on earth! This is what God, the Trinity, wants for people. Community is rooted in love and belonging, and we are all invited to build spaces that make everyone feel safe and seen and heard and loved!
4. Activity and Discussion (20 minutes)
This final activity will give students the opportunity to be the architects of their own wonderful world and community. Ask them to draw a map of their communities that represents characteristics that have been discussed. Encourage them to dream big and build what the kingdom of God can look like on earth!
Give every student a blank printout of a large cross (or ask them to draw one of their own if you are meeting virtually). This cross will provide the boundaries within which the students will build the future community. Encourage them to draw roads, people, buildings, and whatever they would like! Remind them to consider how their neighbors, loved ones, and even people they don’t like can find love and community on this map.
A couple of minutes into the activity, tell them that they have some new residents in the community: a youth close to their age uses a wheelchair and needs special assistance; a family from another country that does not speak much English; an older woman who lives alone and is often lonely. Encourage the youth to change or add to their blueprints to accommodate or make these new neighbors feel at home, loved, and comfortable. How can we expand our love and boundaries to make sure that all people are cared for?
Allow any youth to share with the group if they would like!
Close in the manner that is typical for you. Consider taking joys and concerns from the students; then ask for a volunteer to close in prayer.