How to Teach Teens About Grace
Youth leaders can read scriptures and talk about God's grace until they are blue in the face without ever reaching the hearts of teens with the real, practical meaning and significance of grace in their own lives. Activities that highlight the practical application of grace in daily living provide the best illustrations to teach teens. When they see the relevance of grace in their own lives, they are more likely to extend it to others.
Create a list of nearly impossible tasks such as reciting the books of the Bible backwards from memory or inflating a balloon with your nose. Set an unreasonable time limit for accomplishing the tasks and promise the youth a fantastic prize if he is able to accomplish all the tasks within the time limit. When time is up and the teens realize that they could not live up to the challenge, read 1 Timothy 1:12 to 17 and discuss how humanity could never on its own live up to the perfect holiness that God requires. But in His grace, he showed mercy so that even though Romans 6:23 states that "The wages of sin is death;" a person does not have to pay the penalty for their own shortcomings because Jesus already paid the price on the cross. Demonstrate grace to the teens by granting them the promised reward in spite of their failure to measure up.
Ask the teens if they think there is anything they can do to earn or lose God's favor and grace. Make a class chart of what the perfect day in the life of a teen would look like. Ask if God loves you more on a day like that. On the opposite side of the chart, list the activities and events of the worst teen day they can imagine and ask if God loves you less when you are wallowing in such misery. Elicit the understanding that no matter what you do you cannot earn more grace than what Jesus already offers you nor lose His mercy because of sinful choices. He will always take you back no matter what you've done.
Read the story of Jonah and discuss how Jonah rebelled when God asked him to extend grace to the wicked Ninevites. Point out that when someone receives the gift of grace, sometimes God calls him to step outside his comfort zone and do things he might prefer to avoid if given a choice. Ask the teens to think of someone they would rather not speak to about God or who they feel does not really deserve to be forgiven. Remind them that those they deem least worthy of God's grace are the ones that most need to hear the gospel and repent as the Ninevites did, much to Jonah's dismay. Ask the teens to consider how they would respond if their worst enemy gave her life to Christ and asked for their forgiveness for past misdeeds. Work through what a godly and graceful response would be in that situation.
Read Matthew 10:8, "Freely you have received, freely give." Explain that Jesus is teaching that the proper response to the gift of grace is to extend it without hesitation to others 4. Just as God forgave humanity's sin, when he deserved death, so teens should forgive and show love to those who offend them. Ask teens to think of someone they find difficult to relate to and role-play how to respond to that person with grace and the good news of the gospel. Challenge the teens to put grace into action this week with the people they identified and report back on the results the next week.
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