Leadership is about purpose, not popularity; about modeling, not moralizing; about empathy, not elitism; about serving others, not serving one’s self; about following God, not being god.
Read the Student Lesson as well as the Teacher's Guide. This will provide everything you need to teach the Youth Sabbath School lesson.
You can do this with just one, two, or 20, or even 100 people! You may want to invite others to join Youth Sabbath School for this opening activity. (Hint: In general, the younger the participants, the more likely they are to participate. That means children from kindergarten or juniors are more likely to be helpful than most adults.)
You’re probably familiar with charades—acting out something and having others guess what you are doing. Group charades is different. Instead of calling out what you think the person is doing, go and join the charade! That’s right, jump in and get involved. Jumping into the action is much, much more important than getting the action right!
For example, if one person silently acts out conducting a choir, those watching, instead of shouting out or guessing, “You’re leading a choir,” would get out of their seats and join the choir, singing silently and following the conductor’s lead.
At some point, the person who started the charade shouts out, “Stop” or “Freeze.” At that point, ask those involved what they are doing. Maybe it will fit and maybe it won’t (it’s funnier when it doesn’t fit). For example, one person might be playing an imaginary violin because they think the conductor is leading an orchestra rather than a choir. Another might be on their knees in front of the conductor, thinking that person is pronouncing blessings on people who have come to a faith healing service.
Here are 10 ideas to get you going. You can come up with your own, and so can the youth. Remember, the important thing is to get involved! That’s much more important than getting it right!
This week we introduce a new, original song created specifically for Youth Sabbath School called “I Wish.” It’s available under Music Options and as a 5-minute countdown video. Start this five minutes before Youth Sabbath School begins. In the countdown version, the singing begins at 2:27. Hearing a song several times is necessary to get it into your memory. Hum along, sing along, take it to heart.
As we consider “What About Me?” today, let’s be aware that we can’t help but see things from our own perspective, but we can still choose how we will respond. The Israelites’ experience in the desert provide a microcosm of many things we experience today. That’s why the Bible continues to speak to us today.
A short video clip and an idea for you to create your own video on this week’s topic, plus a few questions to follow up with discussion.
Create a video that illustrates leadership. Teens have observed older people as leaders, and have likely noticed other teens who lead. Perhaps some teens in your class are leaders. Some people think of leadership in selfish terms—does this make me popular so others will follow me? But Christ illustrated and taught that leadership was about serving others. It’s much easier to talk about servant leadership than to live it. How could you make this come alive through the creation of a short video? Ask someone in advance to create follow-up questions based on this video.
These are more approaches to the same topic featured in the Teacher’s Guide, but just a different way of looking at it. Expect activities to illustrate the topic followed by some questions.
BASED ON NUMBERS 12
The goal is to draw a smiley face on a piece of paper, using a string to control the marker rather than holding the marker with your hand. This can be done in groups of 2-4 people. If you have enough participants, pit teams against each other to see who can draw the best with this difficult task.
Obviously, it would be easier to hold the marker with your hand, but dangling the marker from a string makes this much more challenging. And to make this even more challenging, you could tie 2-4 strings to one marker and have a different person hold each string.
Tape the strings to the marker and place the paper on a hard surface like a table to for drawing. Give participants a limited amount of time, such as two minutes. Teammates will have to work together to move the marker into the desired directions. They can also give advice and direction, which adds to the dynamics of this experience.
When you’re finished, use the painter’s tape to post the smiley face artwork on the wall.
We’ve been journeying with Israel for a while, but fortunately it hasn’t been 40 years. It’s been kind of like that car ride when I was a kid. Mom and Dad rode in the front in complete luxury while us kids were stuffed in the back. Someone was always touching someone else and the air wasn’t cool enough…oh yeah, our car didn’t have air conditioning! No matter how short the trip, it wasn’t short enough to keep us from fighting.
We find the children of Israel in a similar place. They’re complaining again, which isn’t a surprise, and have gotten on God’s last nerve. Moses has advocated for them time and again, and finally realizes that he needs some help, so he and God choose 70 leaders. So, buckle up and get ready to continue the journey—there’s plenty more to come.
We’ll read through Numbers 12, taking several verses at a time, and then ask a few questions.
Add variety by having the youth take turns reading, having some passages read silently and other passages read aloud, and reading in groups of two. Also vary the way you ask questions—sometimes asking the entire group, another time asking them to share in groups of two, having them write responses and later read them, or write responses anonymously and have others read them.
Let’s start with the first three verses of Numbers 12 (NIV):
1 Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. 2 “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard this.
3 (Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)
4 At once the Lord said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Come out to the tent of meeting, all three of you.” So the three of them went out. 5 Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When the two of them stepped forward, 6 he said, “Listen to my words:
“When there is a prophet among you,
I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions,
I speak to them in dreams.
7 But this is not true of my servant Moses;
he is faithful in all my house.
8 With him I speak face to face,
clearly and not in riddles;
he sees the form of the Lord.
Why then were you not afraid
to speak against my servant Moses?”
9 The anger of the Lord burned against them, and he left them.
10 When the cloud lifted from above the tent, Miriam’s skin was leprous[a]—it became as white as snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had a defiling skin disease, 11 and he said to Moses, “Please, my lord, I ask you not to hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. 12 Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother’s womb with its flesh half eaten away.”
13 So Moses cried out to the Lord, “Please, God, heal her!”
14 The Lord replied to Moses, “If her father had spit in her face, would she not have been in disgrace for seven days? Confine her outside the camp for seven days; after that she can be brought back.” 15 So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on till she was brought back.
16 After that, the people left Hazeroth and encamped in the Desert of Paran.
Once again, it appears that God’s people didn’t learn from their previous mistakes. Jealousy and self-importance reared their ugly heads as Aaron and Miriam complained about Moses, God’s chosen leader. Their lives were spared after Moses interceded on their behalf and they repented. Similarly, the people of Israel found themselves feeling unhappy. They conveniently forgot how the lash of the whip felt as they focused on is the lack of personal comfort. The Israelites continued being ungrateful for God’ salvation, protection, and guidance. God allowed the Israelites freedom of choice, though the consequences cost many their lives. This chapter illustrates that while God knows what is in our best interest, He won’t force us to follow Him and allows us to make our own choices. God doesn’t abandon His people, even during rebellion, but stands by waiting for us to recognize our error and cry out for salvation.
BASED ON NUMBERS 11
Today’s Scripture passage in Numbers 11 includes complaining about manna. You may recall that when manna first appeared, the people recognized it was a miracle from God (see Exodus 16). It provided food at a time they seemed to be starving, and they doubted God’s care. But God did care for them.
So how did the people reach the point of complaining about God providing manna for them? Admittedly, some people can always find something to complain about. But the story in Numbers 11:4-6 (NLT) contains three elements that might provide clues about why the Israelites complained against God and against Moses:
4 Then the foreign rabble who were traveling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt. And the people of Israel also began to complain. “Oh, for some meat!” they exclaimed. 5 “We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted. 6 But now our appetites are gone. All we ever see is this manna!”
Sometimes taste tests are fun, and sometimes they’re not. It might depend on your taste! If we had different steamed vegetables for you to taste, would you like that? If we had a variety of fresh pastries, would you prefer that? What if it was fruits or different beverages?
Today our taste test will focus on potatoes. Few people eat a cooked potato without any seasoning or toppings. Even fewer would eat a raw potato. Let’s see how you like potatoes when various flavors are added.
Allow the teens to sample the potato chips or cooked potatoes with toppings.
It doesn’t take much to warrant a complaint, and we should not ignore injustices. But there’s a difference between pointing out a wrong and harboring an attitude of complaint. Frankly, it’s a downer! While some people complain at times, others might join and turn it into a gripe session.
Are you the type who easily complains? Are you the type who quickly jumps on the complaint wagon? Take a look at the “Who’s Complaining Now?” handout and fill it out by yourself, and then we will compare in small groups or in the group as a whole.
(Ask the same types of questions as you discuss the rest of the “Who’s Complaining Now?” handout.)
You are sure to face situations where you will complain. If you witness an injustice, you might complain to people in positions of power. Sometimes you can transform a negative situation into a positive one by responding to the situation as an opportunity rather than a shut door.
Give each participant the “NO; Thanks!” handout and have them add examples of “NO” responses and then “Thanks!” responses to the same situation. The first one has some examples to get them thinking. You’ll find a total of five. Feel free to add your own on the back side of the page, or download and edit the Word document.
Complaining has a cousin called “worry.” You may have heard people say something like, “Worrying really helps because half of the things I worry about never happen!” Of course, that’s a copout statement. Worry can be an invitation to trust God with issues that seem too big for you to handle, and yet they matter to you. You can bring both your worries and complaints to God.
Here are a few steps for you to take the next time you’re aware of the urge to complain.
Show the slides titled “When You’re Ready to Complain.”
See Option B in the Application Ideas section for specific ways youth can apply this lesson in the coming week.
Most of us can identify with this chapter from Scripture about complaining. Sometimes someone else initiates a gripe session and we join them. This happened with the Egyptians who joined the Israelites and grew tired of manna. The Israelites didn’t speak up about God’s miracle of providing manna every day. Instead, they joined the chorus of complaints. The same thing can happen today, but we can also take steps to go down a different path. That involves expressing gratitude and working to fix social injustices.
Let these spark ideas for ways you can move from talk to action and live out the lesson in a practical way this week. The following applications relate to the corresponding Bible study guide options for this lesson.
Text, email, or call your pastor and pray with him/her. As public figures, pastors often receive a lot of criticism. People may think that the pastor came on too strong in a sermon, or maybe not strong enough. Or perhaps people believe that the church isn’t doing enough, or the church is trying to do too much. Offer to pray for your pastor as they face the stress that comes with being a leader. If you want to take this a step further, offer to pray with your conference president this week. If you can’t reach them for a response, you can still pray for them!
Download “When You’re Ready to Complain” and hand this out to each Youth Sabbath School participant as a reminder of how they can respond when they have an opportunity to complain. They might also find it helpful to take copies of the other two handouts from class today (“Who’s Complaining Now” and “NO: Thanks!”).
This is a bonus just for the youth leader—a quick tip and an illustration to enhance your youth leadership. You may already know this idea, have learned it through trial and error, or just need a quick reminder.
It’s usually helpful to share ideas and glean ideas from others, but you need to do your ministry “in your own armor.” Of course, we all want to keep improving and develop the talents God has given us and skills that can be useful. If you’re musical, then use music. If you don’t know how to lead a discussion, learn how to do it. But don’t just copy another person; take their example and adapt it to your needs and abilities.
Here’s a question a teen is asking, with a response from a youth pastor. This might be a question your teens are asking. Use the response to springboard into discussion with your Youth Sabbath School participants.
Question: Why doesn’t God do something about all the suffering and pain around us?
Answer: Your question is as old as this earth’s history. The best answer I’ve discovered still doesn’t bring suffering and pain to an end until Jesus returns. In the meantime, I need faith to trust that Jesus will eventually put a stop to all suffering and pain.
Suffering and pain come in many forms—rejection from somebody important to you, physical injuries from accidents or attacks, abuse, war, terrorism, disabilities, death.
Why doesn’t God do something? Well, here’s what God did before it began: He warned Adam and Eve about what would happen as a result of living apart from Him. In Genesis 2:17 God said, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”
After both Adam and Eve chose their own way instead of God’s way, suffering and pain began on this earth. The blissful couple went from the Garden of Eden to life outside of the ideal (see Genesis 3:23), which included pain (see Genesis 3:16, 17). And in the very next chapter—Genesis 4—the first murder on this planet is recorded.
Right now we’re living between the beginning and the end of suffering and pain. And until the new earth begins, God is doing the following three things about suffering and pain:
1. He identifies with those who are suffering and in pain. In the parable of the sheep and the goats (see Matthew 25:31-46), Jesus explained that ministry to “the least of these” is ministry to Him. And failure to respond or minister to those who suffer is a failure to respond to Jesus.
2. God has chosen to relieve suffering and pain by ministering through us. You and I are the avenues for God to do something about the suffering and pain we see on this planet. When we ask God, “Why don’t You do something about all of the suffering and pain?” we can expect that He’ll ask us the same question, since He’s equipped us to do something about it (see Ephesians 4:12).
Do something about suffering and pain where you are (see Matthew 25:34-40).
3. God has taken the results of sin on this planet—suffering and pain—and has transformed them into instruments to reach people with His good news of salvation. Paul wrote that there’s no comparison between our suffering and what God has prepared for us (see Romans 8:18). This is the guy who was struck blind so he could see Jesus for who He was (see Acts 9:1-9).
It was Paul who also wrote, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings” (Philippians 3:10).
Suffering and pain will be with us until God makes everything new. Until then, God identifies with those who suffer, He relieves suffering and pain through you and me, and He becomes more real and the only hope for those who do suffer.
That’s what God’s doing.
What are you doing?