Present this pertinent challenge to the class: Have you ever heard anyone say, “Practice what you preach!”? Is your reaction one of feeling criticized? It is not an unreasonable command or request. This concept is paired with the saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” Take a look at your own behaviors. Are you living out what you truly believe? It is so much easier to find fault in others, but we need to continually examine ourselves by turning the mirror of God’s Word upon our souls. The Bible addresses this issue, “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? … Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:3–5).
“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). The biblical metaphor of “the Christian race” is familiar to us. What if we allowed this concept to propel us forward each day? Think about your religious workouts (Bible reading, meditation, prayer, memorization, witnessing, etc.). Do you find that you have hit a wall, or are you advancing in your faith? A steady pace is advised if you want to have endurance until the finish line. Remember that it is a marathon rather than a sprint. Have you discovered that your spiritual “hamstrings” are strained? Be sure to stretch before you begin, and check your heart rate regularly along the way. Strive to set personal records, and reach for your individual best. Invite others to join you side-by-side, and expect those metaphorical endorphins to “kick in.” Run the race victoriously!
What does the Bible say about marriage? Have the students list several themes from Scripture that characterize God’s intentions and plan for matrimony. Talk about the purposes of nuptials, and mention some of the differences that may be present in a Christian marriage vs. a secular or ungodly one. Have the class members share some blessings that they have experienced in their own marital relationships, or allow them the opportunity to tell of examples of couples who have followed God’s plan for a Christian home. Perhaps you could explore possible decisions that individuals might make that would take them away from a godly ideal of marital bliss. Discuss barriers to happiness that a wedded twosome faces which may prevent the unit from achieving God’s will for their lives. Ask the group for principles to live by that class members could share to bolster the strength of marriages today.
Solicit examples from the class of notable stories where one person had a major impact upon important Christian figures in history. Henrietta Mears is a solitary human being whose ministry influence still lives on today. She was a Presbyterian Sunday school teacher in Los Angeles who had a burden for young boys. By hosting Bible studies, she extended warmth and encouragement that resulted in untold eternal investments. Some of those who sat under her godly teaching and mentorship were Dawson Troutman (founder of the Navigators), Billy Graham, Bill Bright (Campus Crusade for Christ), and future Senate chaplain Richard Halverson. Everyone has a role in God’s kingdom, and there is a contribution for every believer to add. “Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one” (1 Cor. 3:8).
As sanctified believers, it can be tough for us to admit that we sometimes lose our tempers. Most likely, those who are on the receiving end of these strong emotions do not question our spiritual status; rather, they would simply appreciate an apology when our emotions get out of hand. We are still human, and each one of us experiences very genuine feelings and frustrations. The challenging task is for us to respond in a godly and loving way to others even when we may not agree with what is being stated. Perhaps what is needed is a daily surrendering of our extreme reactions when someone makes comments that we dislike. The Holy Spirit is faithful to do His part if we will do ours. Let us take a few minutes to ask God to help us to exercise self-control in the areas where we tend to overreact.
No doubt, all of those present in the class have had role models whom they have admired and looked to as an example for them to follow. What was it about these individuals that inspired them? Ask the members if their heroes were relatives, celebrities, Bible characters, or someone notable in church history. Did these amazing people possess something unusual that made them a success (a quality that eludes the average person)? Or did they simply make “right” or “best” decisions when faced with uncertainty in their lives? What character traits did these mentors or icons lead with that inspired the adults in the class in their youthful days? How did their loyalty to these teachers, parents, or neighbors impact their life decisions and help them to be more like Jesus? Perhaps someone would want to share about emulating a person that turned out to be a negative influence.
Ask several class members to read each of the following verses and to comment upon them with respect to the way that God provides for His children. “Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?” (Luke 12:24). “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them” (Gen. 3:21). “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things” (Gen. 9:3). “The young lions . . . suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing” (Ps. 34:10). “For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly” (Ps. 84:11).
What is it that weighs us down in our spiritual walk? Why do we expend a tremendous quantity of energy in an attempt to “prove” that we are godly? While the manner in which we live our lives impacts others, it seems Jesus is the one we need to impress. Is it confining social expectations or a fear of being judged by others that motivates us? What if we stopped “trying so hard” in our own efforts and began to trust the Lord to make us the spouse, parent, or friend that He designed us to be? God is “enough,” and He will supplement what is lacking. Can we allow our shortcomings to be the areas where our Father pours in His grace and power to make up the difference? Discover that your Savior will be “made perfect in [your] weakness,” and He will receive the glory.
Take a few moments to inspire the class with the hope of eternity. Encourage the members to look up or quote verses that come to mind about heaven. Start the conversation with Titus 3:7: “That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Discuss the aspect of faith in this matter, and point out the confidence that Christians can have based upon Scripture. Allow an opportunity for testimonies of God’s assurance in the lives of individuals. Perhaps there are those who would like to share a story about the “home-going” of a saint that they experienced. The awareness of something supernatural is often evident to those in the room, and the one passing from this life is many times filled with a sense of peace. End by including, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life” (John 3:36).
There may be teens and young adults in your church that your class members know well (or not at all). Together as a group, discuss conceivable activities that could be planned to assist your group in developing a closer connection with the youth of your church. Following are some possible events to consider: family game night, church picnic, youth/adult interviews (pre-planned questions to facilitate conversations), progressive dinners, etc. In order to easily permit parishioners to get better acquainted, perhaps factsheets listing information about each young person could be compiled. These might include a picture, age, year in school/occupation, details about one’s family, interests/hobbies, and a prayer need. The adult class members could select one or more youth to remember in prayer, and they could make a point to write notes of encouragement to the young people and intentionally develop a connection with them.