Project 365: Day 99 A Lent/Passover Bible Study on John 13:1-35


Wednesday night is senior high Bible study night (SBUMCSHBS). Tonight we continued our series on the book of John and Jesus’s last days. Tonight’s lesson was multisensory and went really well, so I thought I would share it with everyone.

Supplies: dish tubs filled with warm water, towels, chairs, hand sanitizer, matzah, kosher grape juice, kosher candy (optional), Kings Hawaiian Sweet Bread loaf (or whatever your church uses typically for communion)

The study begins before anyone enters the room. A sign on the door asks participants to remove their shoes and socks, and to enter and sit quietly.

In silence: One person at a time, leaders guide each person to a chair in front of the water tub. Ceremonially wash and dry each person’s feet. We ended with leaders washing each other’s feet.


Then we welcomed everyone to Bible study and reviewed the stories we have been reading (for us it was Jesus raising Lazarus and Mary anointing Jesus’s feet)

We took turns reading parts of John 13. I’m putting the text here, courtesy of, with some of the discussion questions interjected:

Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

This led to discussion about whether or not Jesus was naked under the towel. Did towels look like we think of today? The good news is we are in the habit of visualizing the stories as we read! (Religious scholars and historians feel free to help us out here. I’m just reporting what we talked about.)

6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

At this point we talked about how it was a common practice of hospitality to provide a basin for washing guests’ feet. The actual washing would be done by a slave, not the host, so Jesus’s act had more meaning. How did it feel to have your feet washed?

Jesus Predicts His Betrayal

18 “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned[a] against me.’[b]

19 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. 20 Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”

21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”

At this point I introduced the matzah and explained it’s history in Jewish tradition. We talked about the significance of unleavened bread to God’s saved people. I also taught about what “kosher” food means. We sampled kosher grape juice with a piece of matzah as we read the next section:

22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”

25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”

26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.

Snap! What just happened? What did it look like when Satan entered Judas?

So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” 28 But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. 30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.

Here we tried the sweet bread so everyone could taste the difference between leavened and unleavened bread.

Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial

31 When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him,[c] God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.

33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

The last two verses are our memory verses for next week. Whoever can recite them next week earns a candy prize. To close the lesson we shared our joys and concerns, we prayed, and then everyone got to sample a piece of kosher candy on their way out.

How does it feel to have someone serve you?
When have you served others?
How is your foot washing like baptism?
Which character would you be in this story?
What did you think of the foods?
How do you show love to one another?

Project 365: Day 57 Senior High Sabbath Bible Study


Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.
Psalm 46:10

Tonight I gave SBUMCSHBS the gift of quiet time with God. We have been studying time, Sabbath and connecting with God a lot this year. We began the hour by centering ourselves, getting the noise out of our heads and putting aside our phones:


Students, journals and pens in hand, quietly rotated through five prayer stations. Each station had a description, Scripture, reflection questions, an activity and a prayer.

They lit a candle and asked for God’s light in the areas of life that needed guidance:


They wrote on a stone as they remembered what God has delivered us from and what He has given us:


They enjoyed grapes and bread as they remembered God’s blessings from the earth:


With water, they were cleansed and made whole and renewed:


And, perhaps most importantly, they
simply rested in quiet meditation:


What a joy to share the gift of quiet time with God!


How do you observe Sabbath time?
What can you do today to quiet yourselves and just be in God’s presence?

Project 365: Day 36 SBUMCSHBS


As a lifelong United Methodist, I love a good acronym. I present to you SBUMCSHBS, pronounced s-bum’-ick-sh-bis. Teaching Wednesday night Senior High Bible Study is one of my favorite parts of my week.

Bonus: It’s also my weekly Texas Youth Academy reunion with Jake.

Tonight we talked about how God communicates with people. We came up with these ways: through Jesus, through other people, the Bible, nature, letters, prayer, burning bushes, music, situations, feelings in our gut and voices in our heads. And the occasional donkey.

How have you experienced God’s communication?
Where have you heard or sensed God?

I love you, Lord…But I AM MAD AT YOU!

This is an article I wrote for The YouthWorker Movement, thought I’d put it here on my personal blog, too:


Are we failing the students in our youth ministry by teaching them to be too polite to God?

I recently visited a different mainline church’s youth group program.  During the lesson time, the youth pastor asked the opening question, “What are different ways we can pray?”  The room contained a wide range of students from goofy 6th grade boys to mature 12th grade girls, so the maturity of answers varied a little, but the gist was: Prayers in church, silent prayer, singing praises, spending time in nature, prayer with movement, liturgical dance, writing down your prayer, reading the Bible, saying grace at dinner…and so on.

While listening, it occurred to me, all of the prayers we tend to teach and model to youth are very polite, reserved even.  And maybe even a little fake.

When I’m honest, there are times in life when I don’t feel polite at all.  When tragedy strikes and it’s on the news – innocent children murdered while at school, civilian hostages being shot and killed in a Kenyan shopping mall – the emotions I feel are shock, horror, sadness, grief, anger.  When I lost my job, I felt wounded, betrayed, stunned, hurt.  I’ve silently grieved the loss of unborn children lost through miscarriage.  These emotions boiling inside of me are neither polite nor reserved.

Learning to cope with strong, often changing emotions is one of the biggest challenges a teen can face.  If I reflect on my adolescent years, emotions I felt then were similar to the ones I feel now, more intense even.  I clearly recall specific times of anger, pain, grief, doubt, disbelief, betrayal, abandonment and more ugliness.  As a teen, I did not know much beyond my own personal experience and emotions.  What is different for me now is I have a faith mature enough to recognize that, no matter the circumstance, God is still good and God is still in control.  Teens don’t all know that yet.  Is there a way to help them deal with pain and anger and other strong emotions by teaching it is okay to feel these emotions, even to pray toward God with them?

What if we taught that it was okay to be real, to even yell at God?  

Here is how I introduced the concept recently:  In this clip from the classic movie, The Apostle (1997) you can see an entirely different model of prayer, one I know that my United Methodist senior highers had never seen before.  In case you haven’t seen the movie (it’s really good), what you need to know is the main character, Sonny, is a preacher that is a complicated, imperfect character.  He just lost the church he started and his marriage is falling apart.

(Follow this link if the above clip doesn’t play for you:

I showed this movie clip to my senior high Bible study last week, followed by questions on how they have seen people pray.  Well, no one had even imagined yelling at God before.  In church we tend to focus on the pretty parts of the Bible, but if you take a close look, there is a lot in Scripture about struggle, anger, pain, grief, jealousy and more.  We followed the clip with a Bible lesson on the wide range of emotions found in the book of Psalms, having the youth read to themselves.   Youth reflected on their week, read Psalms from the list in the lesson that spoke to them, prayed and then wrote their own psalm prayer.  (Here is the complete handout I used: How to Use the Bible to Improve Your Prayer Life, adapted from to “Holy Things for Youth Ministry“ by Brian Hardesty-Crouch.)

Maybe United Methodists in general are never going to feel comfortable with actually yelling at God, especially in front of others, but maybe we should.  What I learned through this Bible study is that there are deep emotions going on in the youths’ lives, even on an ordinary Wednesday school night.  We fail our students if we don’t teach them that it is okay to be honest with God.  Sometimes honesty is a painful thing, yes?  By giving a method to pray about their emotions, by giving permission to be honest and to deal with hard things head on, healing and growth begin.  By teaching how the Bible can give practical help in times of struggle, students learn to turn to God’s Word for guidance.   The youth and I also learned that they are creative and can make parts of the Bible their own story.  My prayer for you is that you can model honesty with God, even when the truth hurts.




What other creative ways have you or your church taught about prayer?  About dealing with emotion?

Is there someone you know whose life would be changed if they knew it was okay to yell at God, to release their anger and hurt?

“Women should be silent.” What?!?! A Bible Study on 1 Timothy 4

It was bad luck for the Baptist denomination that I happened to join my high school friend for Sunday School on the day they were studying the part of Ephesians that mentions women should be submissive to their husbands.  This was my first impression of what a Baptist church was about, and that word “submissive” did not sit well with me.  I was raised with an “anything boys can do, girls can do better” mantra forever in my head, it’s possible I was born thinking that way because I don’t remember ever thinking differently.  So what was this about a woman’s place and being submissive?  WHAT?

No United Methodist Church I had ever attended preached on women being submissive to men.  I had had several female pastors in my life, my own aunt is a UMC pastor.  So what was this about a woman being submissive?  About not being able to teach or preach?  This first impression of a Baptist denomination was hard to swallow.  I wonder, what happens to our own youth when they visit their friends’ churches?

Years later, I have a different understanding of the Scripture about the roles for women.  And I relish my role as a senior high Bible study teacher.  If we can create a place where youth can safely wrestle with even the most controversial parts of Scripture, we can give them a faith foundation that won’t be rocked as they’re exposed to different theology.

We are currently studying the book of 1 Timothy in my Senior High Bible study.  Have you read through 1 Timothy lately?  I chose the book of 1 Timothy because I knew that 1 Timothy 4:12 says “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.”  That’s a verse young people should know, right?  However, I was tempted find another book to study once I read through the book, or at least to skip chapter 2 because of the whole “women should learn in quietness and full submission” part.  I remembered those early impressions from my own youth – would I be doing the same to the girls in my own class?  We took the whole book on anyway and I’m glad we did.  I might add, if you choose to tackle this with your group, it might not hurt to read Jeremy’s article about not getting fired first.  Make sure you have support with you when you’re delving into the controversial & know your youth.

The fun part: During the more controversial part of the Bible study, I had the boys sit in an inner circle to study the Bible with me.  The girls sat outside the circle and were able to take notes but not speak.  You should have seen the reactions – there were furious notetakers and a few angry glares from the girls during the process – and I’m pretty sure more than one boy’s chair got “accidentally” kicked from behind.   It’s a lesson we won’t soon forget.

Take a look for yourself: [download id=”4″]

Obviously, I took this on as a woman in youth ministry.  If you’re male and you try this session, I would love to hear how it goes!



Talk about Hell – Discussion Guide

Talk about Hell

Is Hell real?  What is Hell like?  What really happens when we die?  How do I know if I’ll go to Heaven?  Is Hell like or unlike a junior high lock-in?

When your youth want to learn about Hell, prepare yourself.  Let’s face it, on some issues, take gambling or the death penalty as examples, the United Methodist Church is really clear on where it stands  (in case you’re new, we’re against them.)  Some topics are harder to find a clear UMC stance on – like Hell.

I knew I didn’t know all the answers to the questions my youth were asking.  Youth ask a lot of tough questions…and sometimes I’m still trying to figure out what I believe too.  Don’t let not knowing everything stop you from discussing important things anyway.  Allow youth to think and wrestle with tough issues with you.  The following discussion guide will get the conversation started.

Talk about Hell – A Discussion Guide (recommended for senior high)

Open with prayer.

Video background  (20 minutes)

To frame the discussion, have the youth watch three YouTube videos & jot down anything that sticks out in their minds:

Rob Bell – LOVE WINS: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.(2:57)

Francis Chan on “Erasing Hell” (9:41)

What You Don’t Want to Hear About Heaven and Hell – Mark Driscoll  (5:16)

As you can probably pick up from the videos, Rob Bell wrote his book first.  He started a lot of controversial discussion when he stated that “Love Wins,” that every single person will eventually embrace Jesus.  If God’s nature is love, how could this God of love condemn millions of non-Christian people to hell?  Bell would say no…obviously faithful Christians both agree and disagree.

Questions for youth on first video: 

In the video, Bell says, “See what we believe about heaven and hell is incredibly important because it exposes what we believe about who God is and what God is like.”

  • Is this true?  If Heaven is real, what does that say about God?
  • If Hell is real, what does that say about God?
  • What do you believe are the characteristics of God? What is God like?

On the other hand, Chan explains that while we might not want God to condemn people, God operates in a way that is beyond our understanding.  Who are we to question God’s sense of justice?

Questions for youth on second video:

Chan says, “I’m a piece of clay trying to explain to other pieces of clay what the potter is like.”

  • What characteristics of God surprise you?
  • Are there characteristics of God that you wish were different?
  • How do you learn about what God is like?

Driscoll reminds us that “there is a real hell and that it will be full.  Come to Jesus, or you’ll experience it.”  I especially like the use of the flame background on his set.  As a lifelong United Methodist, this whole fire and brimstone message is one  I am not accustomed to hearing.  Even if the Senior Pastor doesn’t preach this way, students can handle being prepared for discussions like this.  What stood out to the youth as they watched the video?

Questions for youth on third video:

  • Can God be both a God of Love and a God of Wrath?
  • Can wrath and judgement be loving?  Give an example of a punishment that is also loving.
  • Read Luke 16:19-31.  What is hell like for Lazarus?
  • What does holiness mean to you?

So where does the United Methodist Church officially weigh in on the issue of Heaven and Hell?

The basic beliefs of United Methodists can be found in the Book of Discipline in Our Doctrinal Standards and General Rules.  However, mention of “hell” and “heaven” as serious afterlife issues cannot be found in this section or any other part of the Book of Discipline.

Methodist Doctrine: The Essentials  by Ted A. Campbell says, “The Methodist Articles of Religion, following the teachings of the Reformation, rejected the medieval Catholic idea of purgatory as a place where the souls of those who have died in Christ could be aided or helped by the prayers of the living. John Wesley himself believed in an intermediate state between death and the final judgment, where those who rejected Christ would be aware of their coming doom (not yet pronounced), and believers would share in the “bosom of Abraham” or “paradise,” even continuing to grow in holiness there. This belief, however, is not formally affirmed in Methodist doctrinal standards, which reject the idea of purgatory but beyond that maintain silence on what lies between death and the last judgment.” (source:

Questions for youth:

  • Does it surprise you that the United Methodist church doesn’t have a clear stance on this?
  • Is it okay to not have all of the answers?

Closing:  At this point I like to discuss the Wesleyan concepts of prevenient, sanctifying and justifying grace – in my words.   As United Methodists, we believe God offers his grace and forgiveness to us before we even expect or know about it (prevenient grace).  Once we learn about Christ’s saving us and accept this gift of grace, we are saved.  Some believe that we were saved the moment Christ died on a cross for us.  Once we accept this grace, we begin a lifelong process of growing in our faith and growing closer to Christ-likeness.

My answers are not perfect and I believe it’s okay for the youth to know that.  We are on this journey together of trying to figure out answers to the tough questions.

Closing Prayer: Dear God, thank you for being in our discussion today.  Thank you for loving us and for saving us through your Son.  We have so many questions about what happens after we die and we don’t have all of the answers.  We ask that You guide us as we grow in our faith and learn more about your nature.  Help us to be love in the world so others can know you.  In Jesus’s name, Amen.

Be blessed,


Questions for you:

  • Have you talked about Hell/Heaven/Salvation with your students?
  • What would you add or take away in discussing Hell with your youth group?
  • What stuck out in your mind when you watched the video clips?
  • If you try this discussion with your youth group, how did it go?

What if we threw away our curriculum and just used the Bible?

Last night at the Senior high Bible study I teach, I did a revolutionary thing.  Instead of coming into the class with a lesson plan full of activities, skits, handouts, etc., I brought the Bible.

Here’s how it worked:

We opened to a book of the Bible (Jonah – which is hard to find, so we used the Table of Contents).

I talked briefly about the background of the book to set the scene.

I asked for volunteers, and a youth read Chapter 1.  We talked about it verse by verse.  What do you think was going on in Jonah’s heart?  What must the Ninevites have done to get that reaction from Jonah?  What does this text say about the nature of God?  (What we concluded: God is powerful, creative, merciful, answers prayers and has a sense of humor.)  I had done some research ahead of time, so I added a little bit of information from scholars on the text.

Then we moved on to Chapter 2 and did the same thing.

At the end of the evening, we did what we always do.  We closed in prayer and passed out a little card with a Bible verse (Jonah 2:1-2) on it.  If the youth memorize it and can recite it next week, they get candy.  Maybe this is bribery, but I say it’s worth it if I get youth thinking about Scripture and getting it embedded in their thinking.

Here’s what we got from the lesson:

Incredible conversation.  The ability to discuss it without worrying about the theology of the author.  Depth.  Laughter.  Youth listening to youth.

Here’s why it’s revolutionary:

I have shelves of youth ministry curriculum in my office.  I tend to use it like a crutch or a lifeline.  Instead of relying on my own creativity and knowledge, I just grab the book of the shelf, pick what looks fun, look at the supply list and try to recreate someone’s learning scenario.  It’s not bad or inherently evil or anything, but it’s also not awesome.  It feels like creating entertainment more than creating engagement.   What I’ve learned is there is beauty in the simplicity of just reading the Bible and discussing it.  The youth agreed.

So my question/challenge for youthworkers out there: What would youth ministry look like if we made the Bible our main source of curriculum?  How would this change the face of youth ministry?  Pros/cons?  What keeps you from doing this?