Small Group Studies

Here are different on-ramps to get your small group talking about work, work related issues, and what the Bible says about work.

Choose a workplace topic to discuss

These 1-hour topical studies are free to use with any group. Each comes with scripture, commentary, and thought-provoking questions.

Find a study that matches your group identity

These targeted small group curriculums have been written for specific populations. Use them in similar groups, or adapt them for different groups.

  • for lawyers - 9 case studies with discussion questions and biblical reflections
  • for post-prisoners - 7 Bible studies for men leaving prison or addition, 7 Bible studies for women leaving prison, addiction, or prostitution
  • for children - 12 lessons for children, each with large group presentation, small group activity, and parent take-home-sheet

discuss videos about work in common industries

In the Jesus and Your Job video teaching series, New Testament scholar Sean McDonough explains the link between modern occupations and Jesus' ministry. Each week he is joined by a panel of Christian professionals who answer the question: Where is Jesus in your job?

  1. Good News about Work (Psalm 104)
  2. Bad News about Work (Genesis 3-4, Psalm 90, Ecclesiastes)
  3. Engineering (Hebrews)
  4. Crafts and the Trades (Mark 6:106)
  5. Art (Luke 12:27)
  6. Management (Luke 16:1-13)
  7. Finance (Matthew 25:14-30)
  8. Education (Luke 24:13-32)

FOLLOW THE CAREER OF A BIBLE character

These short reflections on Bible characters can be read and discussed in a half-hour meeting.

 

Abraham / Isaac / Jacob / Joseph / 
Shiphra and Puah / Moses / Deborah / Ruth / 
Boaz / Rahab / David / Solomon / 
Abigail / Elisha / Huldah / Nehemiah / 
Esther / Job / Jonah / 
Mary and Elizabeth / Paul / Lydia /  Priscilla /

Find more ideas about the work of Bible characters in the book Work Matters: Lessons from Scripture. Each chapter is a the story of a different person and his or her work.

You could also structure a multi-week study around one Bible character. See for example the book The Accidental Executive: Lessons on Business, Faith, and Calling from the Life of Joseph.

Dig into the bible, book by book

Choose a TOW Bible Study and buy copies for your group.

The Bible and Your Work Study Series: Biblical Book Studies 
Genesis 1-11 Study / Genesis 12-33 Study / Genesis 34-50 Study /
Exodus Study / Ruth Study / Proverbs Study / Ecclesiastes & Song of Songs Study /
Matthew Study / Luke Study / Acts Study /
1 Corinthians Study / 2 Corinthians Study / Philippians Study / James Study / Revelation Study

The Bible and Your Work Study Series: Topical Studies 
Ethics at Work / Rest and Work / Calling and Work /
Economics and Society / Truth and Deception / Provision and Wealth /
Women and Work in the Old Testament / Women and Work in the New Testament

Read and discuss the TOW Bible Commentary on any book of the Bible, one passage at a time.

Old Testament 
Genesis / Exodus / Leviticus / Numbers / Deuteronomy / Joshua / Judges / Ruth / 1 Samuel / 2 Samuel / 1 Kings / 2 Kings / 1 Chronicles / 2 Chronicles / Ezra / Nehemiah / Esther / Job / Psalms / Proverbs / Ecclesiastes / Song of Songs / Isaiah / Jeremiah / Lamentations / Ezekiel / Daniel / Hosea / Joel / Amos / Obadiah / Jonah / Micah / Nahum / Habakkuk / Zephaniah / Haggai / Zechariah / Malachi

New Testament 
Matthew / Mark / Luke / John / Acts / Romans / 1 Corinthians / 2 Corinthians / Galatians / Ephesians / Philippians / Colossians / 1 Thessalonians / 2 Thessalonians / 1 Timothy / 2 Timothy / Titus / Philemon / Hebrews / James / 1 Peter / 2 Peter / 1 John / 2 John / 3 John / Jude / Revelation

Start with the basics / introductions to faith and work

Here are some ideas on introducing your group to the basic principles of faith-work-integration.

   

discuss a book on faith and work:

watch an introductory video series about work:

God’s Story of Work for Kids

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God's Story of Work for Kids - Introduction

Both children and adults need to work, whether that work is paid (like a paper route) or unpaid (like folding the laundry). But for many adults and children, work has become a dirty word. Work means things that we don't want to do. We may even think God doesn't care about our work, only about praying or reading the Bible. But a look at the Bible reveals the opposite. God Himself is a worker. He has designed us for work. And God values our work deeply. Work is a good thing! When children and their parents learn about God's plan for work, their daily activities take on a new meaning and holiness.

This 12 lesson curriculum is a free resource designed to teach children to see work through God's perspective.

For each lesson the curriculum includes

  • Large group lesson
  • Small group activities
  • Parents take-home sheet to work through the lesson together during the week 

Feel free to use this material in your Sunday school program, in your church youth group, or in your own home.

Table of Contents

1: God is a worker

2: A Partner, Not a Robot

3: What Work is God up to?

4: Masterpieces Are Not for the Closet

5: For Such a Time as This

6: I've God Work to Do

7: 3 Ingredients for Working with God

8: Work That Matters

9: God in our Monday to Sunday

10: Salt and Light

11: Turning Up the Wattage

12: Work Rewards

Kids Lesson 1: God Is a Worker

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This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

Lesson 1: God is a Worker

Main Idea 

God is a worker.

Props

  • potted plant
  • paintbrush
  • gym weight
  • crown

Opening

Leader: The Bible tells us who God is and what he's like. God is loving, compassionate, good, perfect, and holy. I have 4 objects here with me today - a crown, a plant, a paintbrush, and a weight. Which of these do you think shows best who God is? (Hold up one object at a time and ask children to raise their hands if they think that object is the one that best shows who God is.)

Actually, ALL of these show who God is. One is not better than another because God is ALL of these and so much more.

How do you think a crown shows who God is? (Invite children's responses.) Yes, God is king. He is ruler over our world, this planet, the galaxies - everything! There is no one more powerful or bigger than God.

How do you think a gym weight shows who God is? (Invite children's responses.) Yes, God is strong. God also designed muscles and speed. He knows the joy of running, being coordinated, and being fast.

How does a paintbrush show who God is? (Invite children's responses.) Yes, God is creative. Your fingerprint is not like anyone else's. God is an artist!

How do you think a plant shows who God is? (Invite children's responses.) Yes, God is a worker. Genesis shows God creating light, sky, land, seas, planting a garden and creating all kinds of living things. There are over 950,000 kinds of insects on earth today.  Though the exact number is not known, there are about 400,000 species of plants. God created so many different things with incredible detail. Genesis shows God getting his hands in dirt to make the first human being. 

Let's take a look at today's scripture.

Scripture Lesson

Read aloud or ask a child to stand and read for the group.

Genesis 2:4-9

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Leader: Work means putting in energy or effort to produce something. What are the ways you see God working in this passage? (Invite children's responses. As children respond, draw the answers on large Post-Its or on a whiteboard. The visual will help some children remember. If there's a child who can draw well, invite him to be the drawer.)

Yes, God made the heavens and the earth. God made streams to water the ground because he had not yet sent rain. God formed a man from the dust and breathed life into him. Verse 8 tells us that God planted a garden and made all kinds of trees grow.

God was very busy making the world. He is a worker. Genesis 2 shows us God working on making the world. But did God make the world and then stop working? Of course not! How do we see God working today?(Invite children's responses.)

We can see God at work in each of our lives. He takes care of us, provides for what we need. God is at work in neighborhoods, cities, nations and the world.

Closing

Leader: (Hold up objects from the beginning of the lesson) Can anyone tell me, which of these best show who God is? Yes, you're right! All of them show who God is. God is king, he is strong, he is artistic and he is a worker. In the coming weeks, we'll learn more about how God sees work, and how we can become God's co-workers.

Let's pray. God, today we learned that you are a worker. You are a king who rules over everything, and yet, instead of just sitting back on your throne, you work every single moment to take care of your children. Thank you for being such a good God. Help us to see you in our own work, as we do homework, help out at home, and do chores. We know you're in it with us. We love you and bless you, in Jesus' name, Amen.

Kids Lesson 1: God Is a Worker (Small Group Activity)

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This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

Small Group Activity for Lesson 1: God Is a Worker

Props

  • post-its (3 per child)
  • pencils
  • markers
  • bibles
  • timer with alarm
  • God-at-work-charade-cards.pdf (print these out and cut them up to create 10 charade cards)
  • A large paper with these words written on it: made, formed, breathed, planted, put, created, sent, hammered, weeded, dug, cleaned, wrote, finished.

Opening Activity: Sharing Work I Enjoy (5 minutes)

Give each child 3 Post-its and a pencil to jot down 3 kinds of work they enjoy. Examples might be drawing or playing with a sibling or taking care of an animal. Have kids share one of their Post-its.

Teacher Tip: What you share will help set the tone for the sharing. Think of something specific that you enjoy and be ready to share it.

Review: Each of us is different. God made us that way. The things you enjoy doing are a special way God created for you to make a difference in the world.

God at Work Charades (10 minutes)

Stack the charade cards in a pile. Have one child (or a pair of children if there are more than 10 children in the group) pick a card from the pile and act out this kind of work that God does. The other children have to guess. They are guessing the answer to the question "What is God doing here?"

Review: God is at work every minute of the day all over the world. He loves us and cares very much for every person.

Work Word Search (10 minutes)

Post the sheet of paper on the wall with the work words on it (made, formed, breathed, planted, put, created, sent, hammered, weeded, dug, cleaned, wrote, finished). Have students form a relay line on the other side of the room. Give each child a Bible and read Genesis 2:4-9 together. In turn each student runs to the sheet and circles a word that can be found in Genesis 2:49, or crosses out a word that is not in that passage. 

God as Work Popcorn Game (5 minutes)

In Genesis we find God creating many things. Set a timer for 5 minutes. Sit in a circle and go around the circle, each person calling out something God created (monkeys, bananas, humans, etc.) The goal is to name as many things God created as possible before the timer runs out.

Share & Pray (5 minutes)

Ask if any students have an prayer requests to share. Pray for these requests and thank God for being actively at work in each life.

Kids Lesson 1: God Is a Worker (Parent’s Sheet)

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This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

Parent's Take-Home Sheet for Lesson 1: God is a Worker

This Week's Focus: God is a Worker!

This week we learned that God is a worker. Genesis 2:8 shows God as a gardener. The important role work plays in our own lives is one way we reflect God's image. Today's lesson introduced the idea that God is a worker and showed ways God is at work even today. We usually describe God with characteristics such as holy, good, just, kind, merciful, and generous. We often think of God as king, ruler and Lord - images that might convey being above working. But we will learn in the following lessons of this series that God not only works today, God is in the work that children and adults do. 

Do This Week's Workout: God Hunt!

The Weekly Workout is a great way you can work out the week's focus with your child. As you go on this hunt, see how many ways you can find God at work. It may be things you see, words you read or hear, or even smells in the air.

  1. Choose a place with your child to take a walk.
  2. Before you leave, explain that each of you will look for different ways that you see God at work. If children desire, they can take a notepad to jot down or even draw their ideas.
  3. Walk through the area and share as you go. For example, if you walk through a playground, you can notice that God's creativity in the different personalities of all the children and adults.  Or if you walk through the grocery store, smell the produce. It took a lot of time, sunshine, rain, and hard work to make each thing grow. God provided all of that. God also provides jobs through the store, which then helps provide many more things for employees and their families.

Talk about it: How was it to look for God at work? Was it hard? Easy? Did you find more of God at work than you expected to see? What were some of your favorite finds?

Kids Lesson 2: A Partner, Not a Robot

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This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

Lesson 2: A Partner, Not a Robot

Main Idea

God created us to be partners in His work.

Props

  • several pieces of blank cardstock paper
  • tape
  • markers
  • 2 clothes hangers, one labeled ROBOT and one labeled HUMAN
  • loaf of delicious looking bread or cheese or anything children might like to eat

Opening - Robot (Simon Says) Game

Like as in Simon says, children will be given verbal cues first using the phrase "robots" instead of "Simon says." If they don't hear the term "robot" they should not obey (similar to Simon says).

Examples of cues:

  • Robots, march in place.
  • Robots, run in place.
  • Robots, walk in place very slowly.
  • Robots, stop.
  • Robots, jump up and down.
  • Robots, jump faster.
  • Stop! (if any children stop they are out since the word "robots" was not used.")
  • Make up your own...

Leader: Genesis 1:27 tells us that God made human beings, you and I, in his image. To be made in someone's image means that what is made is like the original person. You are made in God's image - meaning that when someone looks at you, there are many things about you that show who God is. We are able to think, create, design, run, fix and grow things because God made us to be like him. God didn't make us robots that just do what he tells us to do.

How cool is that? Look at someone next to you and tell them, "I see God in you!"

One of the ways you and I reflect God's image is that just like God, we work!

Robots and humans both work. But what's the difference between how a robot works and how a human being works? (Invite children's responses. As kids respond, write each answer on a card stock and tape to the appropriate clothing hanger so that the answers form a long hanging row of descriptions. Examples of answers could be: Robots do as they are told. Humans think. Humans create. Robots can be turned off. Humans sleep Humans are alive.)

Humans are very different from robots, aren't they? God could have made us robots that do exactly what he commands. He could have made us all robots that just take orders and do them. Instead God made us alive - He breathed life into the very first human being. He gave us the ability to think, create, dance, invent, move, figure things out and so much more. When we work, we have freedom to come up with things on our own and do things for ourselves.

Instead of robots, God made us partners in his work. A robot is something you command to do things that has no control over its own ability or freedom. A partner is someone who shares a goal with you. Together partners take action towards their shared objective.

Scripture Lesson

Read aloud or ask a child to stand and read for the group

Genesis 2:15-20

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field.

Leader: What is one of the ways in this passage that you see God inviting humans to partner in work? (Invite children's responses.)

Yes, God invites Adam to name the animals he made. How fun is that? God does everything perfectly and is the most creative of all. He could have made the best names, yet he bring the animals to Adam to see what Adam will come up with.  God enjoys getting our input on things and having us partner with him. He enjoys sharing the experience with us. Can't you just imagine Adam saying, "Hmm, this strange animal that swims that makes funny noises... The noises kind of sound like... I know! Let's call it a duck!" I can just picture God and Adam laughing and having a lot of fun.

Today, God is still the same. He enjoys working with us and invites us to be partners in his work. You are created not to be a robot, but a partner.  

(Hold up the loaf of bread or whatever food object you've prepared.) Bread is delicious. But it does not grow on trees. Someone has to do something with what is already there. Because of work, we can turn grain into flour and then into all kinds of delicious bread and pasta. How many of you like cheese? It's delicious but without work there is no milk, butter, cheese, or ice cream. Being able to work is a special privilege where we get to experience the joy of producing something good out of simple materials around us.

Closing

Leader: Can anyone tell me the difference between being God's robot and being God's partner? (Invite children's responses.)

Let's pray. God, we learned today that we were made in your image. We are like you in the way we work. Not only are we able to work, we were made to partner in your work. Thank you for sharing your work with us. It's much more fun and meaningful to be able to create and think than to be robots that just take orders. Help us to discover the cool ways you made us able to work throughout this week. In Jesus' name, amen.

Kids Lesson 2: A Partner, Not a Robot (Small Group Activity)

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This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

Small Group Activity for Lesson 2: A Partner, Not a Robot

Props

  • God-made-you-a-partner-in-his-work.pdf worksheet (one copy for each child)
  • 2 large circles of paper per group (If you don't have large paper, tape together 4 letter-sized sheets of paper, then cut out a circle
  • markers / crayons

Opening Activity (5 minutes)

Ask children to share a time that they helped somebody do their work. It could have been anyone - a teacher, parent, sibling, friend, or a stranger. How did they feel about being able to help? What did they enjoy about the work?

Worksheet: God Made Us Partners in His Work (6 minutes)

Give each child a copy of the God Made You a Partner in his Work worksheet. Ask children to circle the words that describe what a partner does, then circle the words that describe what a robot does. They can add their own words to the lists. Review the lists together.

Robots, Partners and Pizza Game (15 minutes)

Place one large circle in the center of the group. Tell the children you will be the master, and they are the robots. The circle of paper will be a pizza pie, but they must decorate it the way you tell them. Give out orders such as "Robots, put 15 slices of pepperoni on your pie. Robots, put broccoli on your pie. Robots, color your pie green." (Give specific orders, suggesting things that the children might not like on their pizza.) (Alternative - You can invite a child to be the Master and give the orders.)

Place the second circle in the center of the group. Tell the children that now they will be partners, not robots. You are all part of a pizza shop and you need their help to create some really creative pizzas. Have them work together to come up with a new pie.

Review: Ask the children: What did you enjoy about being a robot? What did you not like? What did you enjoy about being a partner?

Share & Pray (5 minutes)

Ask each child to pray for the person to his/her right. If they are unsure how to pray, you can model and they can repeat. Or lead them in the following prayer. Explain that you will start the prayer, and when you pause they can add any names or requests they want to pray for.

Leader: Dear Jesus, thank you for our class and for teaching us today that you want us to be partners in your important work. You know each of us by name. You made each of us and love each of us so very much. You know the things we want to bring to you and right now we lift up ____________________________. In Jesus' name, amen.

 

Kids Lesson 2: A Partner, Not a Robot (Parent’s Sheet)

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This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

Parent's Take Home Sheet for Lesson 2: A Partner, not a Robot

This Week's Focus: I am God's Partner in Work

This week we learned that human beings were made by God in his image. As human beings, we reflect who God is in how we are made - which includes our ability to work creatively.  What a privilege that instead of creating robots that execute his orders, God designed us to be creative, to think like him and to partner with him in his work. From the very beginning God invited Adam to help name the animals he made. God desires relationship with us not only through prayer and reading his word but through work.

Do this Week's Workout: Project Partners!

The Weekly Workout is a great way you can work our the week's focus with your child - in action. Invite the whole family into this time. God is at work.

God is working all over the world - and right here in your neighborhood, school, and home. Talk together about a place God is working that you can partner and join this week as a family. Pray together and see if there's something or someone or somewhere specific that God brings to mind. 

Here are some suggestions to get ideas rolling:

  • Partner in caring for the poor. Make sandwiches to give to the local homeless.
  • Partner in caring for creation. Sign up to volunteer to weed a local park, or go as a family to pick up garbage in an area. (Pack gloves, thick garbage bags, and sanitary wipes.)
  • Partner in caring for the lonely. Make a card to brighten the day for someone who could use a bit of cheer. 
  • Partner in welcoming people. Take a room in your house that could be made more welcoming when people come over. Think through small things you can do to make it more welcoming and work on it together. (For example, paint and hang up a blessing verse on the living room wall, throw away clutter, etc.)

Talk about it: What impact did you see from partnering with God? What gifts/abilities that God gave you were you able to use to partner with him? Take time as a family to point out and affirm the gifts you saw in action in each other. Be specific, such as "I saw your gift for organization in how you remembered to pack the gloves."

Kids Lesson 3: What Work is God up to?

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This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

Lesson 3: What Work is God up to?

Main Idea 

God's work is the restoration of his original design.

Props

  • broken pieces of a mug or other broken object
  • a branch or stick
  • whiteboard or large Post-It
  • whiteboard marker

Opening

Leader: Have you ever tried to fix something that was broken? I have a pile of pieces in my hand. Can you guess what it might have been? (Invite the kids to make guesses.)That's right, it was a mug. If I work very carefully and patiently, I can try to put it back together so that this messy pile of pieces can become the mug it was originally meant to be. That's called "restoration."

Actually, ALL of these show who God is. One is not better than another because God is ALL of these and so much more.

The word "restoration" means to have something return to the original condition. Sometimes famous works of art become hard to see over time due to many years of soot, grime, and buildup on the original work. Restorers who work for museums carefully clean the artwork to reveal its original beautiful colors and design.

During the past two weeks, we learned that God is a _______ (Invite children to fill in the blank.) Yes, God is a worker! And he made us not to be robots but ___________ in his work. (Invite children to fill in the blank.) We are invited to be partners in God's work.

But what work is God up to? It's a lot tougher than putting a mug back together. To understand the work we are invited to partner in, we need to first take a look at Genesis 3.

God had created the perfect world. His original design was very good. There was no pain in work, and Adam, Eve and God enjoyed a free, loving relationship with each other. It was a joy to tend the garden. God had made a beautiful garden with hundreds of trees and plants. In it, there was one tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, that he told Adam and Eve that they should not eat from because they would die. Now let's take a look at what happened next.

Scripture Lesson

Read aloud or ask a child to stand and read for the group.

Genesis 3:1-8

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Leader: Remember how God didn't make human beings robots? He could have made it so that humans only did the right thing all the time. But instead, he gave us free will - the ability to choose what we want to do. Adam and Eve were free to choose, and they chose to do things their way instead of trusting God. As soon as Adam and Eve disobeyed, the original design God had for the world was broken. (Snap the stick in half for emphasis.) What changes in Adam and Eve's relationship with God do you notice happen immediately? (Invite children to respond.)

Yes, immediately Adam and Eve felt shameful of their nakedness and felt the need to make some kind of covering. And instead of freely talking to God, they were afraid when they heard God walking in the garden and hid. Shame. Fear. Hiding. All these things have no entered God's design. In fact, all realationships were now broken. The four key relationships Adam and Eve had - with God, each other, creation, and themselves - were no longer completely good, loving, and trusting. Even when they looked at their own selves, they felt ashamed and guilty, no longer free to just be themselves.

In this terrible moment whre Adam and Eve chose against God's desires, what is wonderful to read is the next verse.

Genesis 3:9

But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”

God knows everything. At that moment, as Adam and Eve were hiding in fear, he knew what they had done - and still, he moved towards them instead of yelling or getting rid of them. God always seeks relationship with us, no matter what we have done. Think of a time that you did something wrong. Perhaps you got upset with someone or said something mean. Even when we do something wrong, God always moves towards us in love wanting to work things out with us, instead of turning his back on us.

The original good design that God had for all creation was now broken. But God doesn't give up or get rid of Adam and Eve to start over. Instead, the Bible tells us the story of God's patient love - how over hundreds of years God patiently worked to step into the mess that had been made. Ultimately, God gave his only son, Jesus, to be born into our world to die for sin once and for all, and pay the price for all of us. through Jesus, anyone who believes in him can come to God without fear and have a restored relationship with God - and through this restored relationship with God, we can have a restored relationship with others, ourselves and creation.

As a child of God and member of God's family, we get to partner in God's important work to restore our world back to the original design. To restore something, you have to know what is broken. A ceramic restorer will look at these broken mug pieces and know what it should become. A painting restorer looks at a painting and knows that there are bright colors and details hidden under the layers of dirt everyone else sees.

What are some of the broken things you see in our world? (Invite children to respond. Write a list on a whiteboard or large Post-It.)

Examples:

  • fighting / war
  • broken families
  • kids who are hungry
  • homelessness
  • bullying

Can you help me think about what God's design and desire is for each of these?(Write God's plan next to each listed item.)

Examples:

  • fighting / war -> loving relationships
  • broken families -> families together, supporting each other
  • kids who are hungry -> every kid with enough food to eat
  • homelessness -> every person with a safe place to live
  • bullying -> people saying encouraging words to each other

Closing

Leader: So far we have learned that God is a worker and that we are made in his image. Being made in God's image means that we are also created to work. God invites us to join his work of restoring the world back to his original design where relationships with God, people, our own self and creation were not broken but whole and loving.

Let's pray. God, thank you for not leaving our world broken but coming to rescue and restore our world and each of us back to your original design. Thank you for letting us join you as partners in this important work. We love you. In Jesus' name, amen.

Kids Lesson 3: What Work is God up to? (Small Group Activity)

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This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

Small Group Activity for Lesson 3: What Work is God up to?

Props

  • small puzzle of at least 9 pieces, but no more than 25 pieces
  • blank sheet of paper for each child
  • pencils or colored pencils

Opening Activity: Trivia Review Puzzle (10 minutes)

Lay out puzzle pieces on the table or floor. Lay a corner piece out to start. As you ask the following questions that review the past weeks, the child who answers correctly can help add ap piece to the puzzle. Continue until the puzzle is complete. Feel free to add your own questions.

Teacher Tip: What you share will help set the tone for the sharing. Think of something specific that you enjoy and be ready to share it.

Questions:

  1. What are some of the things God first made when He made the world? light, sky, waters, animals, plants
  2. Who created Adam and Eve? God
  3. What was one of the first jobs God gave Adam in the garden? naming the animals God made
  4. What did God warn Adam and Eve about? to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil
  5. What did God say would be a consequence of eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil? they would die
  6. What did Adam and Eve do immediately after eating the fruit? their eyes were opened and they realized they were naked, so they made coverings out of leaves
  7. What did God say when Adam and Eve were hiding? God said, "Where are you?"
  8. What kind of work is God up to today? restoring the world back to his original design
  9. What is an important way that God began restoring our world back to the original design? He sent his only son Jesus to die for sin
  10. What are the 4 key relationships God is looking to restore? our relationships with God, with each other, with creation, and with our self

Draw/Write & Chat (20 minutes)

Give each child a blank sheet of paper.

  1. Ask them to draw or write a description of a place they often go - i.e. school, library, playground, etc. Can you share what you've drawn? Where is it? How often do you go?
  2. Ask children to think about and draw or write down what they might see if everyone there knew God loves them and had a relationship with God. What would be different? For example, everyone in school would want to please God not him or herself. Perhaps Bible verses would be there to encourage people praying for each other.
  3. Ask children to think about and draw or write down what they might see if everyone there had a good relationship with each other. What would be different? For example, there would be no bullying in school. You might see everyone playing together instead of being in cliques.
  4. Ask children to think about and draw or write down what they might see if everyone there took good care of the things around them - plants, desks, books, animals, etc. What would be different? For example, the classrooms would be clean and things would last longer.
  5. Ask children to think about and draw or write down what they might see if everyone there had a good relationship with their self and could think of themselves the way God wants for them. What would be different? For example, no one would feel ashamed of who he or she is. You might see people who are confident and smiling or people who are trying new things they want to do instead of letting fear stop them.

Share & Pray (5 minutes)

Ask children if they have any prayer requests that they would like prayer for. Feel free to share your own. Pray for the requests or invite a child to pray for the class.

Kids Lesson 3: What Work is God up to? (Parent’s Sheet)

Back to Table of Contents

This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

Parent's Take-Home Sheet for Lesson 3: What Work is God up to?

This Week's Focus: God is working to restore the world

This week we learned that God is actively working to restore the world back to his original good design. We see his commitment to do this in how he sent his only son, Jesus, to pay the price for sin. The primary focus of God's restorative work revolves around four key relationships - our relationship with God, our relationships with each other, our relationship with our self, and our relationship with creation. As children of God, we have the special privilege of partnering with God in his work of restoring these relationships back to his design.

Do This Week's Workout: Restorers in Action

The Weekly Workout is a great way you can work out the week's focus with your child. Invite the whole family into this time. God is at work.

Invite God into this time as you begin. Pray together and ask God where he might be inviting you as a family to partner with him. Together, choose one area from the list below to partner with God in restoring and think about one specific thing you can do together in that area that will help bring this relationship closer to what God desires. Some ideas are listed below to help spark your own:

Relationships with God

  • Prayer walk a neighborhood. As you walk, take turns praying out loud for what you feel led to pray for. You can invite God into homes and families, ask him to provide jobs for those out of work, etc.
  • Invite a friend to attend church and share a meal afterwards.

Relationships with each other

  • Each member of the family can think of one relationship that is not doing well and design a way to show love to that person, whether through a card, reaching out to talk to them, etc.
  • Reach out as a family to a neighbor who is alone.

Relationships with self

  • Ask each family member to take a moment to think about one way he or she struggles in being comfortable in his or her own skin. Help each other think together about what would help. Note: It's so important that if you address this, you make the effort to listen and ask questions instead of offering only solutions. Validate the person and show you care about how what was shared makes him or her feel.

Relationships with creation

  • Think of a way that as a family you can live greener lives. Decorate cloth bags to bring to the grocery store, or do a home audit of your energy use as a family.

Talk about it: How was it to make intentional effort to partner with God in restoration? What was hard, what was easy? What did you learn about God in the process?

Kids Lesson 4: Masterpieces Are Not for the Closet

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This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

Lesson 4: Masterpieces Are Not for the Closet

Main Idea 

God designed each person uniquely.

Props

  • vase
  • real flower (lying by the vase)

Opening

Leader: Take a look at this vase. Someone thought about it and designed the shape, color, and look of it. There was thought and time that was put into making this vase. Let me share two scenarios of how this vase could be used.

First, imagine after all of the thought and work that went into making it, this vase gets put into a storage closet and the door is closed. It just sits there for years, gathering dust on a shelf, unseen and forgotten by everyone. do you think this is what the vase was made for? No, the vase was made to be seen and used.

Now imagine a different story. Instead of being put into a storage closet and forgotten, the vase is put in the middle of the living room table. It's used to hold fresh flowers. (Put the flower inside the vase.) Every day it's seen by people in the family and the guests they have over. The color and design of the vase is seen and enjoyed by others.

Which of these do you think is the better story? (Invite children to respond.) It seems like the second story is better, because the vase is being used in the way it was intended. Also it adds something to the lives of others by being seen and used.

The same is true for you. No one in this room, and on this planet, was created by God just to exist and then die. Each of you was created with specific gifts, talents, abilities, and personalities. You were put in a specific place, not to be hidden away. God wants you to use all your gifts and abilities to be part of God's team, working on his project to restore the world.

God never does things in a hurry or sloppily. He is thoughtful and intentional in how he designs. Just think - no two fingerprints in the world are the same. He knows how to make more than 7 billion fingerprints differently. No two people are exactly the same. When God made you, he gave you unique gifts, talents, personalities, and passions. The way you think about things, the way you like to work, the things you are able to do are all unique to only you.

Every single person has a special part to play using the unique ways we are made. In God's kingdom, no one is created for the sidelines. God's restoration project, his work to rstore the world back to his original good design, is so big that there is room for every single person on this planet to play a big part. The project can make use of a team of 7 billion people at one time.

Have you ever thought of yourself as a masterpiece? Ephesians 2:10 tells us that "we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life."

Some translations say that we are God's "handiwork" or his "masterpiece." Either way, we are made by God to do good works, not to be put away in a storage closet. Through the unique ways God has made you, you are able to partner with God to accomplish good things.

Scripture Lesson

Read aloud or ask a child to stand and read for the group.

1 Corinthians 12:12-20

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body.

Leader: It would be silly if every part of the body wanted to be an ear. The body wouldn't function. We would not be able to eat, talk smell, or breathe.

Every part of the body is important and has a special design and function. The same is true of you. You have a special design and function in God's plan. No one in history or on this planet right now is exactly like you. You are able to do things that others can't because of your unique background and abilities.

Take a look at someone near you and tell them, "You are a masterpiece!"

When we use who we are for his glory and not ours we will discover joy because this is what we were created for. Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, creative, mathematical, spontaneous or planning, you were created in a specific way to use your gifts for God.

A lot of times, the news and television shows focus on certain people over others. Because of this, we might sometimes want to be like a famous athlete or a movie star or leader. But no one can be a copy of another person. God is so creative and loving that he has designed unique life stories for each of us. Think about it, it would be a lot easier for God to make all of our stories the same. Instead, he takes the time to design each of us in a unique way. If we are true to how God made us, we will find joy because it's who we're supposed to be and God will receive glory.

Instead of looking at others, today in small group you will be looking at yourself. What are your gifts and talents? What's your personality? What do you care about? What do you love doing? What do you dislike doing? Let's go discover the nose or ear or tendon or kidney - whoever you're supposed to be.

Closing

Leader: God, you made each of us so unique and beautiful. There's not a single person here whose name you don't know. Thank you for loving us so personally. Would you help us to discover what our unique design is? Help us to see and appreciate who we are instead of trying to be like someone else. Bless each person, God, and may each of us live out the design you have given us for your glory. In Jesus' name, amen.

Kids Lesson 4: Masterpieces Are Not for the Closet (Small Group Activity)

Back to Table of Contents

This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

Small Group Activity for Lesson 4: Masterpieces Are Not for the Closet

Props

Opening Activity: Different from You (5 minutes)

Sit in a circle and have each person think of 3 things that they think are probably unique to them and that no one else has done. Go around the circle and have each person share their 3 things. If no one has done any of them they get 3 points. Deduct a point for each thing shared that others have also done.

Review: Though we might have some things that we've done that are similar, how we felt about them is not exactly the same. Each of us has been designed quite differently.

Worksheet: The Me God Designed (15 minutes)

Have students fill out the worksheet. When completed, have each student share 1 or 2 things from their worksheet with the group.

Review: What do you like most about yourself? What do you find the most interesting about someone else in the group?

My Puzzle Piece (10 minutes)

Have kids decorate their puzzle piece with things that represent who they are. (You can either decorate large pieces of a real puzzle, or cut puzzle piece shapes out of paper for each child.) For decoration ideas, the children can use their inventory worksheet. Tape the puzzle pieces together or hang them on the wall.

Review: What do you think about how God made people? What is something new you appreciate about how God made you or someone else in the group?

Share & Pray (5 minutes)

Remind the children that God uniquely designed them in the unique ways they described in the worksheet. God has a special purpose for each child in his plan. Ask children if they have anything about their unique design that they want to thank God for. Ask if there are any things they have a hard time accepting about themselves, and ask for God's help. Pray for the requests or invite a child to pray for the class.

Kids Lesson 4: Masterpieces Are Not for the Closet (Parent’s Sheet)

Back to Table of Contents

This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

Parent's Take-Home Sheet for Lesson 4: Masterpieces Are Not for the Closet

This Week's Focus: God has designed each person uniquely

This week we learned that just as the eye and nose each have a unique design and function, we each have unique and important parts to play. God has designed each person with a purpose. When we try to be someone else, we miss out on the joy of fully seeing our unique design and how it fits into God's plan. When we know God and live for him, using all our gifts and skills, we find great joy and purpose. Sometimes it's hard to see ourselves, though. Kids need encouragement from their loved ones about who they are and what they bring to the family.

Do This Week's Workout: Family Inventory

The Weekly Workout is a great way you can work out the week's focus with your child. Invite the whole family into this time. God is at work.

Write each person's name on the top of a blank sheet of paper, one for every member of your family. If everyone in your family can write, pass the papers around. Each person writes down the unique gifts, personality traits and abilities they see in each person. Or if your children are too young to write, brainstorm out loud about each person in your family:

  • What do you think this person is good at? (think about talents as well as natural abilities like problem solving, listening to others, fixing things, etc.)
  • What do you enjoy most about this person't personality?
  • What does this person add to the family dynamic? (for example, silliness, laughter, preparation, safety, etc.)

Talk about it: Go around the family circle and share the answers to these questions:

  1. What are you surprised to hear about yourself from your family?
  2. Did hearing this feedback change the way you think about yourself?

Consider throwing a party to celebrate how God designed your family.

Kids Lesson 5: For Such a Time as This

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This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

Lesson 5: For Such a Time as This?

Main Idea 

God designed when and where we live.

Opening

Leader: Raise your hand if any of these things seem strange:

  • You see cars on the highway.
  • If you need to buy clothes, you open your computer and order things to be sent right to your door.
  • You can talk with a friend via video cha.t
  • You travel to another city in the United States, miles from you, all within one day.
  • When it's dark, you brighten your room with just a flip of a switch.
  • You don't know the meaning of a word, so you look it up on the internet.

These things don't seem strange to us because it's how we live at this moment in time. Now raide your hand if any of these things seem strange:

  • If you are a girl, you only wear dresses. If you are a boy you only wear breeches and boots.
  • Everyone in your family sleeps in the same bed.
  • Every toy you play with you have to make yourself.
  • When you need soap, clothing, or butter you make it at home.
  • At school, everybody from kindergarten to high school studies in the same room with the same teacher.
  • If you want to travel from New York to Louisiana it takes five weeks.

These seem strange to us today, but they were all normal to anyone born in the 1600s in the United States. They would have been shocked to know that today you can travel from New York to Louisiana in just three and a half hours by flying in the sky.

Not only did God design how you look, your unique talents and abilities, and your personality, he designed the time and place where you were born.

There's a reason you were born today and not in the 1600s.

We're going to take a look at two people from the Bible. Each of them was born in a unique time and place by God's design. The first is an orphan girl who had neither mother nor father. The other is a man who has special talents for working with his hands.

Scripture Lesson

The Bible tells us about a young Jewish girl who lost her mother and father at an early age. She was cared for by her cousin Mordecai who raised her as if she was his own daughter. The girl's name was Esther and she was beautiful. She happened to be alive at a time when the King of Persia was looking for a new wife. Esther also happened to live in the citadel of Susa, the place where King Xerxes' throne was. When the king made a search for the most beautiful woman in Susa to be his bride, he picked Esther. He didn't know that Esther was Jewish. Meanwhile King Xerxes had a helper named Haman who craved power. He asked everybody to kneel in front of him, but Mordecai refused because he would not kneel to anyone except God. This angered Haman and he decided to take revenge against Mordecai. He issued an order to kill all the Jews. Mordecai asked Esther for help, but she said she couldn't do anything to help. Then Mordecai convinced her that she could.

Read aloud or ask a child to stand and read for the group.

Esther 4:12-17

When they told Mordecai what Esther had said, Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.”

Then Esther said in reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.”

Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.

Leader: Because Esther was born at this time and place and because she was faithful with the talents, abilities and opportunities given to her, she was able to step in and help rescue the Jews from being completely destroyed. Even though Esther could have been killed for it, she went to speak to the king, and eventually she revealed Haman's evil plan. The king was furious with Haman and gave Esther power to do whatever could be done to protect the Jews.

Many other people in the Bible were selected by God for special projects in the time and place where they lived. One of these was Bezalel. He was gifted with wisdom, understanding and knowledge, and with abilities in all kinds of crafts. It was no accident that he lived when the Israelites were building a meeting place for God. The job required a master craftsman, and there were no factories or machines to make things. Bezalel was just such a person.

Exodus 31:1-6

The Lord spoke to Moses: See, I have called by name Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: and I have filled him with divine spirit, with ability, intelligence, and knowledge in every kind of craft, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, in every kind of craft. Moreover, I have appointed with him Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have given skill to all the skillful, so that they may make all that I have commanded you.

Bezalel was able to do the job just like God wanted.

Exodus 38:22

Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made all that the Lord commanded Moses.

It is no accident that Bezalel was born at that time and gifted with exactly that talents that were needed.

It's no accident that you were born with the talents, abilities and opportunities given to you at this particular time and place. Just like Esther and Bezalel, you may face a time when work is hard. But God gave you important work to do. He can also give you strength when you need it.

God is a master artist and he creatively works with time and people for his restoration project. In small group today, you will take time to think through the unique time and place God has prepared for you.

Closing

Leader: God, you made each of us so uniquely and beautifully. Not only that, you have also specifically crafted the time in history and the place you put us. Help us to see and appreciate the unique experiences, resources and opportunities you have given us. Nothing is by accident because we know that you are Lord of all. In Jesus' name, amen.

Kids Lesson 5: For Such a Time as This (Small Group Activity)

Back to Table of Contents

This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

Small Group Activity for Lesson 5: For Such a Time as This

Props

  • time-travel-cards.pdf
  • blank sheet of paper for each child
  • A copy of the Life Mapping Guidelines for each child
  • pens or pencils
  • colored pencils or markers

Opening Activity: Time Travel (10 minutes)

Place a stack of the Time Travel Cards in the middle of the group upside down so that the words are not seen. A student turns over the top card. He or she describes what it took to do the listed activity a hundred years ago, and what it takes today. Each student takes a turn mentally traveling back in time.

Review: How we live and how things are done today is quite different from a hundred years ago. God created you to be alive today in this particular time.

Worksheet: Life Mapping (20 minutes)

In this exercise students draw a map of their particular time and place in history. Give each child a copy of the Life Mapping Guidelines, a blank sheet of paper, and pens or pencils to work with. When completed, have each student share one or two things from their map that they are grateful God has given them.

Review: What is something you are able to do for God in your unique setting because you are alive today?

Share & Pray (5 minutes)

Remind the children that God designed the unique time and place of their birth. Ask children if they want to thank God for anything particular about their current moment. Ask children if they have an personal prayer requests. You can go around the circle in popcorn prayer style, with each child thanking God for what he or she wants to having the next student pray for that child.

Kids Lesson 5: For Such a Time as This (Parent’s Sheet)

Back to Table of Contents

This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

Parent's Take-Home Sheet for Lesson 5: For Such a Time as This

This Week's Focus: God designed when and where we live

This week we learned that not only did God design who we are, he also placed us in a particular time in history. There are no accidents with God. The purpose he has for us coincides with the needs of the world and the work that needs to be done in this moment. A biblical example of this is Esther. Se was an orphan girl raised in Susa, the very place King Xerxes looked for a new wife. By being Queen, Esther was able to help the Jewish people when they faced annihilation.

Do This Week's Workout: Family Life Map

The Weekly Workout is a great way you can work out the week's focus with your child. Invite the whole family into this time. God is at work.

Supplies Needed:

  • A large sheet of paper (large enough to allow the family to easily gather around and write or draw on it together.
  • markers, colored pencils, pens or pencils

Place a large blank sheet of paper in the middle of the table or floor. Either a piece of butcher paper, poster board, or 8 sheets of legal paper taped together will work.

Write your family name in the center of the paper and draw a circle around it.

Around this circle, write down each place your family goes in a typical week. (Parks, stores, public buildings, etc.) Draw a circle around each of these place names and draw a line connecting these to the center circle.

For each of these places, answer the following questions either aloud or by writing or drawing the answers:

  1. What is this place like?
  2. What does this place need?
  3. What would this place look like if God was in charge?

See the example, what-it-might-look-like-if-God-were-in-charge.pdf

Talk about it: Go around the family circle and share the answers to these questions:

  1. What areas of need to you care about the most?
  2. Knowing the skills, resources and personality of your family, what is one thing you can do this week to make one of the places you go more like God wants it to be?

Kids Lesson 6: I’ve Got Work to Do!

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This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

Kids Lesson 6: I've Got Work to Do!

Main Idea

God has work for ME to do.

Opening - Actors Needed:

  • Person A - a construction worker
  • Person B - a business person on a laptop answering emails
  • Person C - a student practicing drills for soccer
  • Person D - a mom trimming plants

One after another, each actor acts out their role as the teacher explains what they're doing via the script below. For fun, exaggerate the the roles.

Leader: Which of the following is an example of work?

Person A is a construction worker. He spends his day helping to build a new office building on Main Street. It takes a lot of strength to do his job.

Person B is a business executive at an advertising firm. In designing a new advertising campaign, she needs to answer many different emails between co-workers and the firm they are designing the campaign for.

Person C is a student at Easton Elementary School and on a local soccer team. He is trying to become a better player by practicing some drills.

Person D is a mom who has 3 kids who are at school right now. She loves to garden and has many different plants that she takes great care of. She grows her own tomatoes and cucumbers.

Which of these people is doing work? (Invite children to respond.) They are all doing different kinds of work. The definition of work is "effort put in to produce or accomplish something."

In the Bible, the word "work" shows up 555 times! That shows how important work is and how much it matters to God. Work is a big part of all of our lives. We see the word "work" right from the very beginning of the Bible and before humans even exist, God is working. In Genesis 2:2 it says, "And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done."

There are many different kids of work. How many can you think of? (Invite children to respond. You can start off with examples such as cleaning, studying, selling cars, doing laundry, etc.) It's not just adults that work - kids work too! Most kids go to school, work on homework, do chores, and play sports. What kind of work do you do? (Invite children to respond.)

Scripture Lesson

Read aloud or ask a child to stand and read for the group.

Genesis 1:26-30

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.

Leader: Work is an important part of how God made us. Although because of sin, work can be hard sometimes, it is also incredible that God would give us a part to play in his big plan. By giving us the ability to work, we get to make a difference in the world and help restore it with God's help to what God originally designed.

It's not just adults that work. Everyone, including you, has work to do! Sitting in class and learning, helping take care of your sibling, cleaning up at the dinner table, making a card, practicing and playing with your soccer team, baking cupcakes, playing piano, writing a song - all of these things are work.

The work you do is an ability given to you by God.

Closing

Leader: God, thank you for the unique work you've given us all to do. Thank you there are so many ways that we can work just like you worked. Be with us in all our work this week. In Jesus' name, amen.

Kids Lesson 6: I’ve Got Work to Do! (Small Group Activity)

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This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

Small Group Activity for Lesson 6: I've Got Work to Do!

Props

  • three index cards or pieces of paper per student
  • my_work_inventory.pdf
  • a large paper with the words "made, formed, breathed, planted, put, created, sent" scattered throughout. Around these words, write other random words to create a kind of word search
  • bibles
  • markers

Opening Activity: Work Charades (5 minutes)

Have each student write down an example of work on each piece of paper. Put the papers in a pile with the writing faced down. Divide the children into pairs. Have each pair draw a card and act out the work listed. The other child will guess what kind of work it is.

Review: God gave us the ability to do so many different kinds of work.

Worksheet: My Work Inventory (20 minutes)

Have students fill out how they spend their time each day on the work inventory worksheet, my_work_inventory.pdf. Have them put a star next to work they enjoy and a triangle next to work they find hard or not fun. Take some time to share - ask children to share one kind of work they enjoy and one kind of work they find difficult.

Review: The work each person does is unique and given by God - both the work that is ordinary and sometimes hard, and also the work that is special and fun.

Work in the Garden Word Search (5 minutes)

Have students open a Bible to Genesis 2:4-9. Tape up the large word search paper to the wall on one side of the room. Students will line up on the other side. Set a clock for five minutes. Each student will run, one at a time, with a marker, to circle a work-related word that can be found in Genesis 2:4-9. As one student finishes, they will pass the marker to the next student.

Share & Pray (5 minutes)

Ask if any students have any prayer requests to share. Pray for these requests and for God's presence to fill the work of each student.

Kids Lesson 6: I’ve Got Work to Do! (Parent’s Sheet)

Back to Table of Contents

This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

Parent's Take-Home Sheet for Lesson 6: I've God Work to Do!

This Week's Focus: God has work for me to do.

This week we learned that work is a big part of all our days - whether we are kids or adults. The definition of work is "effort put in to produce or accomplish something." In the Bible, the word "work" shows up 555 times. This shows how important work is, how much it matters to God, and that it is a central part of our existence. Work is a big part of all our lives, and important part of the life God designed for each of us, and goes beyond just paid work.

Do This Week's Workout: How Do We Work?

The Weekly Workout is a great way you can work out the week's focus with your child. Invite the whole family into this time. God is at work.

Ask each other: What kind of work do you do? Which work do you enjoy most?

Put every family member's name into a hat and take turns pulling a name out.Pick a work task that this person normall does and do it for them this week. For example, a child might fold laundry for mom, while mom might do yard work for dad. Pick a time to meet again as a family to talk about the experience.

Or, pick and activity that one person in the family normall does alone, and work on it together as a family. It could be a household chore, a fixing project, a shopping errand, etc.

Talk about it: Go around the family circle and share the answers to these questions:

  1. What was fun? What was hard?
  2. What did you learn by doing someone else's work?

Kids Lesson 7: 3 Ingredients for Working with God

Back to Table of Contents

This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

Lesson 7: 3 Ingredients for Working with God

Main Idea 

Working with and for God means doing work with faith, hope, and love.

Props

  • Large cardboard box

Opening

Leader: Every human being on this planet - currently 7.4 billion people - works every day. Work includes cleaning a house, studying for a test, working for a company, or running your own business. Many of the 24 hours each day, 7.4 billion people are in motion working. Imagine you had the job of traveling around counting all the people who are working. If you worked hard and counted a thousand workers per day, it would still take you more than two hundred thousand years to count all the workers in the world.

Imagine what the world would be like if all 7.4 billion people worked for and with God. What difference would that make in everybody's work?

Often Christians try to work for God. But God would rather work with people. What do you think is the difference?

I need one volunteer to help me. (Invite a child up and ask them to carry the cardboard box.) When (child's name) is working for me, it means they are doing things on their own, whatever I tell them to do. But when (child's name) is working with me (carry the box with the child) we are working together. God wants us to work with him. It might be surprising, but God wants to be part of our everyday work.

There are three special ingredients that will help us learn how to work with God. The three ingredients are: faith, hope, and love.

Faith. When you work with faith, you believe that God wants to be a part of what you're doing, and you believe that his presence in your work makes a difference. Believing these things is working with faith.

Hope. When you work with hope, you know that God can do surprisingly big things through your work. Your work is like a small seed - God can use your work to touch more people than you might expect, or make other things happen that you might not expect. Working with hope means that you don't limit how you see people and situations you are working with - you leave room for God.

Love. When you work with love, you do the task with all your heart. Even if it's a simple task like washing dishes. By working with love, you work to serve others as God would, bringing his attitude, work ethic, and care into whatever you do.

When you work with faith, hope, and love, you're not just working for God, you are working with God. You and God are partners in work.

Scripture Lesson

What does it look like to work with faith, hope, and love? Let's take a look at two people in the Bible we can learn from. The first is Paul. Philippians 3:4-9 tells us about his background.

Philippians 3:4-9

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.

Paul was someone who was extremely smart. He had studied with Gamaliel, a well-respected and well-known teacher of God's law. As a Pharisee, Paul would have memorized, known, and followed the 613 laws for how to follow God. He was someone who was 100% about following God. When he believed that Jesus was not God's son, he used his energy and time to go after the early Christians, dragging them to court to face death. He was determined that God should be honored. Acts 22 tells us that on his way to persecute Christians in Damascus, Paul had a supernatural encounter with Jesus. A bright light from heaven shone around him, and Paul fell to the ground. He heard a voice say "Why do you persecute me?" Paul asked who the voice was and heard, "I am Jesus of Nazareth, who you are persecuting." From then on, Paul's life changed. He spent his whole life working to make Jesus know.

When Paul worked with God, he added faith, hope, and love to his intelligence and determined personality. With these 3 ingredients, he reached many people who had never heard of Jesus. He could have built a career for himself teaching the Jewish law, but instead he partnered with God by working with faith, hope, and love. With faith Paul traveled to non-Jewish countries, believing that God would be with him and use his travel to make many more Christians. With hope Paul knew that the work he was doing was bigger than himself. With love Paul paid for his travel by sewing tents, instead of asking other people for money. Thanks to his work with God, many of us are Christians today.

Acts 16 tells about another person who worked with faith, hope, and love. Her name was Lydia. She was a businesswoman, selling purple cloth. She opened her home to Paul, even after he came out of prison. She had faith that talking about Jesus was important. She had hope that her home could be a place where many people, not just her family, could learn about Jesus. And she showed love to Paul by always giving him a place for rest and encouragement.

So, of the 7.4 billion people on the planet, some are working for their own fortune, while some are working for God but not with God's help. If you want to work with God, partner with him by doing your work with faith, hope and love.

Closing

Thank you, God, for giving us a way to know you through Jesus. We want to partner with you in every kind of work we do. Please teach us to work with faith, hope and love. We want our work to be filled with your presence. In Jesus' name, amen.

Kids Lesson 7: 3 Ingredients for Working with God (Small Group Activity)

Back to Table of Contents

This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

SMALL GROUP ACTIVITY FOR LESSON 7: 3 ingredients for working with god

PROPS

OPENING ACTIVITY: Red light, green light, faith-love-hope (5 MINUTES)

Teach students 3 moves for the game:

  • Faith - forearms crossed in a cross shape
  • Hope - hands folded in prayer
  • Love - arms crossed across the heart, hugging oneself

How to play "Red Light, Green Light, Faith-Love-Hope"

  1. Start with everyone along the starting line
  2. Stand at the finish line, turn around, and say "Green light, 1,2,3!" - as you do, everyone will move towards the finish line to tag the leader.
  3. After a seconds say "Red light, 1,2,3." Everyone must immediately stop.
  4. Play this game, but instead of calling out "1,2,3" when you get them to stop, call out "1,2, Faith!" or "1,2, Hope!" or "1,2, Love!" Depending on the word that is called, students have to freeze in the position called. You can walk around and see if they wiggle - which usually gets the children giggling. Any players that move have to return to the starting line.
  5. Start a new round after the leader is tagged. The first person to tag the leader can be the new leader.

Remind students that because we know Jesus, we now work for and with Him. This means doing work with 3 things: faith, hope and love.

 

Applying Faith-Hope-Love: blessing Cards (25 MINUTES)

Explain to students that you are going to make cards to bless people with - reminders that God sees and loves them. Explain that you are going to pray together as a class to invite God into inspiring the decorations, in showing us who to give these cards to, and leaving them in the right places to reach people who need encouragement. Pray for the cards and ask God for His love. Ask students to take a moment to ask God who they should make the cards for. Provide a moment of silence for this. A random person may come to mind - encourage them to ask God whether this is from Him.

Make the cards. Have students fold construction paper in half, then tear in half to make 2 cards. Cut out a  heart from the God-sees-you-heart-printout.pdf, sign it and paste to one side of the paper. On the front, students can decorate with the name of the person they want to bless - or if it's a surprise, the title "I prayed for you today."

Leave the cards. Children can either give to someone they have designated or leave them in places that come to mind (i.e. church fellowship hall, bathroom).

Explain that how this activity was done was a way of inviting God into our work. By pausing, we first invited God into the process. We asked for His ideas and wisdom in who to serve with this project. We invited Him into our creativity and made these with love. We have hope and faith that by inviting God into this, we might be used by God to encourage someone who needed this message. We can do the same things with other work that we do during the week.

 

SHARE & PRAY (5 MINUTES)

Ask if any students have any prayer requests to share. Ask which are is the hardest - doing work with faith, with hope, or with love? Pray for these, and pray blessing on the children.

Kids Lesson 7: 3 Ingredients for Working with God (Parent’s Sheet)

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This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

PARENT'S TAKE-HOME SHEET FOR LESSON 7: 3 Ingredients for working with god

THIS WEEK'S FOCUS: Working WITH and for god means doing work with faith, hope and love.

This week we learned that God seeks relationship with us. Rather than us working for him, he desires that we work with him. Three things that can help us approach work with God are doing work with faith, hope and love. In faith, we invite God into our work believing God desires to be present and active in all work - no matter how ordinary or small. In hope, we believe that God can do more with the work we do, those we work with and the situations we are in, beyond our efforts. God can do more than we imagine. As we work with love, we partner with God in being His presence in that work. Work with love leaves quite a different taste than work done as rote or without love.

DO THIS WEEK'S WORKOUT: how to do hard things

Have each family member think about the work they do. What is one task that has been particularly hard - that has been difficult to see God in? It could be something ordinary you do like a chore, or a challenging situation with other people. Agree as a family to approach that task this week with the following plan:

  1. Before starting the task, pray and invite God into it
  2. If there are difficult people or situations involved, remind yourself of the truth of what God can do in this situation, ex: "God, you see and delight in my co-worker. You desire more than anyone to see a healthy workplace. Nothing is impossible for you. The work I do today counts for you and for eternity." (It helps to pray this out loud.)
  3. Work with love - work as if doing this for Jesus
  4. Reflect immediately after the work - pause for a couple of minutes. How did it go? Where did you see God? What struggles came up for you and why? Confess to God if there is any sin to share and ask his help. Joy, freedom and deeper partnership with God come from being honest with our struggles, seeing what causes them and bringing them to God who can work in these areas as we invite him.

Talk about it: How did the week go? Has anything changed? If so, what are the changes? If not, what do you think is the reason for this

Kids Lesson 8: Work That Matters

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This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

LESSON 8: work that matters

MAIN IDEA 

Work that matters requires living as a steward or manager, not as the boss.

OPENING

Leader: How many of you would like your life to be one that makes a difference in the world? Where you know that because you lived, something changed for the better. Raise your hand. Who are the people in the world today that make a difference?

(Hold up a newspaper.) All around us, we get updates on what's happening in the world. There's headlines and articles in the newspaper and online. We see important news covered through television reports or on the radio. Who do we usually see shown on TV or in the news? (Invite students to respond.)

Yes, usually the media covers the stories of world leaders, the CEOs in charge of large businesses, celebrities, people involved in exciting news or current breaking news that's affecting a lot of people. Are these the people who are making a difference?

Think about five jobs that reach a different number of people. A CEO of a company, a janitor, a retail store manager, a store salesperson, and the President of the United States. Who do you think is most important?

Who is making the most difference? Well, it depends on who is working as a steward rather than as a boss. A steward is a person who manages another person's property or money. A steward manages these things the way the owner would want them managed. Christian stewards know that everything they have - their money, their abilities, their family and friends are all things God has entrusted them to take care of and manage. Stewards look at the work they do as managing things on behalf of God.

The people in the newspaper and the hundreds of people around us every day - the ones who are making a real difference - are the ones who are being good managers of what God has given them. A celebrity might not care about stewarding relationships and might treat people very poorly. Another celebrity might value the people around her and take care of those relationships. A classmate of yours might not care about his schoolwork. Another classmate might be working hard to learn new things and to be responsible for his work. 

It doesn't matter whether someone makes the headlines. What matters is whether they are looking to steward, or manage, the people, things, opportunities, and jobs that God has given them - or whether they are lookin gto use these for their own personal gain. Let's take a look at Jesus to see how he worked.

SCRIPTURE LESSON

Read aloud or ask a child to stand and read for the group.

John 13:1-5, 12-17

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord - and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

Jesus, God's Son, has more power and abilities than anyone else in the world, and even more than the whole world combined. In this story, how did he use his power and abilities? How did he treat his friends? (Invite children to respond.)

Yes, Jesus served his friends and used his power and abilities for other people. He was the most powerful steward of what God gave Him. God has given you and me many things to be stewards and managers of: things we own, where we live, where we learn, our families, friends, and abilities. How are you taking care of them?

Managing something well means:

  1. You treat the thing or the person as belonging to God and not to you
  2. You handle it with love
  3. You invest time into developing or caring for it

When you manage well the people in your life and the things and abilities you have, you represent God to the world around you. By being a good manager you are joining God in his restoration project to heal broken relationships between people and God, between people and each other, and between people and creation. Nothing is more important than this!

CLOSING

Leader: God, you gave each of us many things: our families, friends, things we own, abilities and talents, our neighborhoods we live in, opportunities to learn and so much more. You created and put us here to manage these things well. Help us not take these things for granted or use these things for our own self. God, open our eyes to see the incredible responsibility you've given us and help us manage all of these well by your power so that you shine brightly in this world. In Jesus' name, amen.

Kids Lesson 8: Work That Matters (Small Group Activity)

Back to Table of Contents

This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

SMALL GROUP ACTIVITY FOR LESSON 8: Work that Matters

PROPS

OPENING ACTIVITY: word race (5 MINUTES)

Review the spelling of the word STEWARDSHIP a couple of times. Leave a scrambled pile of the post-it notes on one side of the room. Set a timer with two minutes. Have students line up and race across, one at a time, to tape the letters to the other side of the room to spell STEWARDSHIP.

Review the meaning of the word stewardship: a person who manage's another person's property or money as the owner would wish them to. Another word for steward is a manager.

 

Management Worksheet (15 MINUTES)

Have students fill out the categories on their copy of what-im-in-charge-of-managing-for-God.pdf with all the things, people, and abilities that God has put them in charge of. If children are stuck or unsure what to write, help them think through what they have.

After everyone has filled out their sheets, ask students to share one thing they do a good job managing or taking care of, and one thing they have a hard time managing.

 

Group Think (15 MINUTES)

Pick a category that all the children have in common as something God has given them to manage - i.e. doing homework, siblings, etc. Ask them to brainstorm what it would be like to manage this area well. Write suggestions on the big piece of paper.

Remind the group of the three areas that are involved in being a good steward or manager:

  • You treat things and people as belonging to God and not to you
  • You handle things and people with love
  • You invest time into developing and caring for it.

SHARE & PRAY (5 MINUTES)

Ask if any students have any prayer requests to share. Pray for these requests, and for blessing on everyone in the room.

Kids Lesson 8: Work that Matters (Parent’s Sheet)

Back to Table of Contents

This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

PARENT'S TAKE-HOME SHEET FOR LESSON 8: Work that Matters

THIS WEEK'S FOCUS: Work that matters requires living as a steward or manager, not as the boss

Every human being longs to make a difference. This is part of God's design for us. There are true and counterfeit ways to fulfill this longing. The counterfeit way is to use the people, things and abilities in our lives for our self. The life-giving way is to live seeing the people, things and abilities in our lives as gifts and responsibilities given by God to steward and manage for him. A steward is a person who manages another person's property or money as the owner would want them managed. We se such a life of stewardship in Jesus. God's son washed the feet of his friends, the disciples, rather than seeking ot have his feet washed. As we live and work as managers, we help bring God's presence into our broken world.

DO THIS WEEK'S WORKOUT: HOW DO WE WORK?

The Weekly Workout is a great way you can work out the week's focus with your child. Invite the whole family into this time. God is at work.

  • To steward or manage something well means:
  • You treat the thing or the person as belonging to God not to you
  • You handle it with love
  • You invest time into developing or caring for it

Pick an area of your family life that could be better stewarded. It could be an area of your home or property, or a relationship that needs attention. Do you need to spend time doing physical work together? or doing relational work together? (talking together, praying for each other, etc.).

Decide on what you will do this week to steward this area of your family life. It could be a one-time thing such as a family work day, or it could become a weekly habit of unplugging together, or a daily habit of praying together every morning.

Talk about it: How did it feel to steward this together?

  1. What did you learn by doing someone else's work?

Kids Lesson 9: God in Our Monday to Sunday

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This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

LESSON 9: god in our monday to sunday

MAIN IDEA 

God is in our everyday work.

PROPS

  • dinner plate
  • Bible

OPENING

Leader: Which of these is doing God's work? (Hold up the dinner plate and the Bible.) Washing dishes or teaching the Bible? (Invite children to answer.) A lot of Christians believe that spending time praying or going on a mission trip or reading the Bible is doing God's work - work that will last - and that taking out the garbage, washing dishes, doing laundry, doing homework and everyday things like these is temporary work that is not as holy. But 90% of our week or over 150 hours is probably spent doing other things than praying, reading the Bible or going to church. If these are the only things that really matter, then most of our Monday to Sunday is spent doing things that don't count. Thankfully this is not true!

Doing God's work is not based on the religious character of the work - for example, activities like prayer and Bible reading - but whether they are done in faith, hope and love.

The right belief is to know that God is involved in all things and wants us to give all of our life to him.

SCRIPTURE LESSON

Read aloud or ask a child to stand and read for the group.

Colossians 1:16-17

For in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers - all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Deuteronomy 6:5

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.

He wants to be a part of every aspect of our lives - our emotions, our decisions, the things we care about, the things we work on - not just the times we pray. God is in 100% of the 168 hours we have each week.

When we know that God is in all things we know anything can be God's work. A nurse who takes care of patients with faith, hope and love is doing holy work. A construction worker carrying heavy supplies and helping to build a new office who does this work with faith, hope and love is doing work for God. A dancer who practices and performs with faith, hope and love is doing work for God. A student learning and studying with faith, hope and love is doing work for God. Each of these is working as God's co-worker and partner to bring his presence to the areas they work in. A son or daughter loving their parents and siblings is also working for God.

God is not only in some kinds of work. God is not only in some spaces like the church building or worship service or prayer times. God is in schools, local businesses, and all around us. God is in all things and constantly at work in the world all around us. Instead of finding God only in some activities, we find him everywhere! God is in our Monday to Sunday. He's a part of the jobs your parents have and the everyday work you do.

Though the Bible is full of stories of men and women who focused on teaching about God, it tells stories of people called by God doing different work.

Exodus 31:1-11

The Lord spoke to Moses: See, I have called by name Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: and I have filled him with divine spirit, with ability, intelligence, and knowledge in every kind of craft, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, in every kind of craft. Moreover, I have appointed with him Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have given skill to all the skillful, so that they may make all that I have commanded you: the tent of meeting, and the ark of the covenant, and the mercy seat that is on it, and all the furnishings of the tent, the table and its utensils, and the pure lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the basin with its stand, and the finely worked vestments for the priest Aaron and the vestments of his sons, for their service as priests, and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense for the holy place. They shall do just as I have commanded you.

God filled Bezalel with the Holy Spirit - not to preach - but to have wisdom and knowledge to work with stones, metal and wood to build a beautiful place to worship God. Bezalel's calling from God was to be an expert craftsman. God has different work callings for each of you. Perhaps some of you are called to become business owners who provide excellent products and work environments that treat people with dignity. Or maybe you're called to become a great dad or mom. Or perhaps you're called to use your math and science skills to engineer better ways to travel. God's work is not only when you become an adult and get a job. The work you are doing right now is work you can partner with God in by doing it with faith, hope and love. God wants to bring schools, learning, and everything you're involved in back to his original design. By participating in these with faith, hope and love, you are God's coworker. 

An important thing to remember that God is in all work - whether it is seen by many or no one. What are some of the everyday kinds of work you do that no one really notices? (Invite children to respond.) God is in those things too.

Brother Lawrence was a monk who lived in the 1600s. He is known for a small book he wrote called The Practice of the Presence of God. At a monastery, monks have many different tasks in addition to prayer and Bible study. Each monk also has an assigned task they are responsible for in the care and upkeep of the monastery, such as taking care of the garden, farming, or cooking. Brother Lawrence had the task of washing dishes. He knew that God is in all work and washed the many dirty dishes with faith, hope and lots of love. As he did, he sensed God's presence just as much as he would in times of prayer.

God is in our prayer times and the times we are in a worship service. God is also in the ordinary dish washing, making of our beds, taking our the trash. When we do these with faith, hope and love, we will discover dish washing can also be holy work.

CLOSING

Leader: God, you are in all things and all around us. Often we think you're here in church with us or when we pray but forget you are right there with us when we're at school, on the playground, or setting the table for dinner. Help us not miss out on you and help us to join you in all of the ordinary tasks of our lives from Monday to Sunday. We want to bring your presence everywhere we go. In Jesus' mighty name we pray, amen.

Kids Lesson 9: God in Our Monday to Sunday (Small Group Activity)

Back to Table of Contents

This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

SMALL GROUP ACTIVITY FOR LESSON 9: god in our monday to sunday

PROPS

  • clock or timer
  • paper to keep score and pen or pencil
  • large sheet of paper
  • pencils
  • the-kingdom-times.pdf
  • pens, markers, colored pencils, crayons

OPENING ACTIVITY: Work of a week race (5 MINUTES)

Divide the class into two teams. Put two minutes on the clock. The first person on each team runs to the teacher who is on the opposite side of the room and shouts a task they do anytime between Monday through Sunday, then runs back to the end of the line. The teacher writes down the tasks and keeps score. The team who lists the most tasks by the end of the two minutes wins.

Review that God is in every day, every hour and every second of each week. Each of us lived 604,800 seconds this past week. God was in every moment of it whether we realized or not.

 

God's Many coworkers map (10 MINUTES)

On the large sheet of paper, have students draw a circle with their name in it. Connect the circles to show they are all part of one team. Give each child a blank sheet of paper. Ask them to fill out the following:

  1. Draw a line from your circle and list the chores you are responsible for
  2. Draw a line from your circle for each member of your family
  3. Write down what kind of work they do under their name and where they work.

Remind the children that God calls us to partner with him in all things. Each child's faith, hope and love affects how the other people on this map experience  faith, hope and love.

 

the kingdom times (20 MINUTES)

Distribute a copy of the-kingdom-times.pdf to each student. Ask them to think of someone they know well whose work is unnoticed or underappreciated. God values this work. Newspapers often recognize people who are famous as if the work they do is more valuable. But God notices every single person, and the ordinary work they do with faith, hope and love counts. Create a newspaper headline and article showing off this person the way God sees him or her. For example, "Today, Mrs. Smith Folded Her Laundry!" or "Henry Did His Homework!" They can give their newspaper to the person as a way of saying that person's work truly matters.

SHARE & PRAY (5 MINUTES)

Ask children to lay their hands on the map they created and lead them to pray that each person listed would discover more of God in all 168 hours of this week. Bless the work of each person on the map.

Kids Lesson 9: God in Our Monday to Sunday (Parent’s Sheet)

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This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

PARENT'S TAKE-HOME SHEET FOR LESSON 9: god in our monday to sunday

THIS WEEK'S FOCUS: God is in our everyday work

God didn't just call people to be preachers, he also called craftsmen to work in the trades and he blessed them with skills to carry out their work. Often we don't see the holiness of the work that other people doall  around us. But God sees. God wants everyone's work to be valued. And he wants us to feel his presence in the work we do Monday through Sunday.

DO THIS WEEK'S WORKOUT: seeing the value in everybody's work

The Weekly Workout is a great way you can work out the week's focus with your child. Invite the whole family into this time. God is at work.

On a large piece of paper write the names of each person in your family. Draw a circle around each of those names. Then ask each person in your family what work they plan on doing this week. There might be multiple types of work that one person does: work for money, work in the home, work for school, and work  for fun. Draw lines out from each circle and write down the different types of work each person in your family does.

In the spaces left on the paper, write down people whose work affects your life. These could include a coworker, a fellow student, a teacher, a babysitter, a mailman, a family doctor, or the person who makes your coffee. Take turns pointing to each of these people and listing ways their work makes your life better. End by praying that God would be present in each person's work, and that each person would see the value in their own work and in the work of others.

Talk about it: What did you learn about the work of the people around you? Do you want to thank anyone for the work they do?

Kids Lesson 10: Salt and Light

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This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

KIDS LESSON 10: salt and light

PROPS

  • a plain boiled potato
  • a fork
  • a shaker of salt

MAIN IDEA

Our work for God affects the world around us.

OPENING

Leader: We've been learning a lot of different things about work. To recap, God is a worker and part of his design for human beings is being coworkers with him in his work. We get to partner with God in restoring all things back to his original design. We join him by takin gcare of who and what he's given us, right where we are, with faith, hope and love.

 

SCRIPTURE LESSON

Read aloud or ask a child to stand and read for the group.

Matthew 5:13-16

"You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

"You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven."

Jesus compares his followers to salt and light. I'd like a helper for this demonstration, someone who's hungry. (Invite a child to come up.) Name of Child is going to taste this potato. If possible, I'd like you to eat all of it. How is it? Would you like some salt? (Add salt.) How is it now? (Thank student and ask them to return to their seat.) Have you ever had a meal without salt? That would be awful. Salt adds flavor. In Jesus' time, there were no refrigerators. Salt was used as a preservative to help keep food from spoiling. As the salt of the earth, we add flavor to the people and situations around us. Our influence - how we affect the actions, behavior and opinions of others - is how we are salt in this world.

Jesus also said that we are the light of the world. Light helps brighten a dark place and also helps us see things that need to be fixed. With God's help we can brighten the world around us with good works, and we can help people discover the goodness of living life with God. When we show how we live for God, our witness is a light.

Today we're going to look at a few real-life stories of what living as salt and light can look like.

Barry Meguiar is President and CEO of Meguiar's Car Care Products, one of the leading brands nationally and among the top five brands internationally. His products are created with excellence, and he treats his employees well. Barry's joy and enthusiasn for life makes working at Meguiar's a great experience and shows what God has to offer.

Diane Bickle founded Glad Heart Realty in 2001 to help people connect to the right neighborhood and home. The agents go above what is expected to help clients find their homes and adjust to moving into their new location. By caring for their clients, Diand and her coworkers give their customers a taste of God's love, and make the homebuying process easier. 

Petyon Manning was the former quarterback for the Denver Broncos. He won two Super Bowls and played for 18 seasons. He played football well and he played it for God. When he retired, his coworkers described how he was salt and light to them.

NFL comissioner Roger Goodell said, "Peyton Manning's extraordinary career was driven by his talent, and incredible work ethic... He has served as a great representative of the NFL both on the field and in his community."

Tennessee football coach Butch Jones said, "Peyton defines excellence in every sense of the word."

Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said, "It was a blessing to coach Peyton Manning. Nobody worked harder at the game and nobody prepared harder than Peyton. His preparation was the best I've ever seen with how he went about his business. There was nothing like his work habits. Each and every week, he did everything he could to get ready to play not only against the defense but against the coordinator."

Former Broncos and Colts wide receiver Brandon Stokley said, "Peyton, he made me better. He made a lot of guys better. We would have made the NFL probably, but Peyton made us all better. We were more because we played with Peyton Manning. And just think about how many guys can say that."

Through faithfulness over long periods of his career, Peyton was salt and light in the world of football by inspiring others with excellence and making them better.

As you live for Jesus each moment, being faithful with the people and work you have, you will be salt and light to those around you.

CLOSING

Leader: God, we have no power of our own but when we partner with you. You fill our work and something greater happens. With you, our work is able to touch and heal lives, brighten the world and make it better. We give our lives to you this coming week. Lead usin our work. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.

Kids Lesson 10: Salt and Light (Small Group Activity)

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This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

SMALL GROUP ACTIVITY FOR LESSON 10: salt and light

PROPS

OPENING ACTIVITY: The Power of Light (7 MINUTES)

Pair up students. Explain that one teammate will be blindfolded by the other. After being blindfolded, the other teammate will hand them 10 straws of different lengths. In one minute, they must line up the straws by height order. After one minute, switch so that the other teammate has a turn. Repeat the activity - this time with no blindfold.

Review - Having light makes life so much easier. It makes an incredible difference. Jesus calls us the light of the world. We can help people see a better way to live and show who God is by living for Jesus and being lights.

WORKSHEET: My salt and light impact (15 MINUTES)

Give each child a copy of my-salt-and-light-impact.pdf  Review what it means to be salt and light as identified on the sheet. Have students fill out the sheet to identify where they are (or could be in the future) salt and light.

Review- Ask students what it might be like to live in a world where no food had any salt and to live without light. Salt and light make such a big difference in our daily life, and Jesus was very intentional when he used these 2 things to compare what Christians are like. Though students might not think so, when they live for Jesus in our broken world, they bring an incredible taste of God with them. The words and actions of faithful Christians are salt and light to those around them.

One or the other game (8 MINUTES)

Every time we meet someone or do something we have two choices. We either give light by shining for Jesus, or we bring darkness. Pair up students and have each pair pick one card from the pile of cards cut out from one-or-the-other-cards.pdf One person will demonstrate what it's like to be light, the other person will demonstrate what it's like to be darkness. Give students some time to prepare, and then let each group perform in front of the class.

SHARE & PRAY (5 MINUTES)

Ask students to share where they would like to do a better job being salt or light. Ask them to pray for each other and remind them that God listens to their prayers.

Kids Lesson 10: Salt and Light (Parent’s Sheet)

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This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

PARENT'S TAKE-HOME SHEET FOR LESSON 10: Salt and Light

THIS WEEK'S FOCUS: our work for god affects the world around us.

We learned today that Jesus calls us the "salt of the earth" and the "light of the world." Salt adds flavor and in Jesus' day it was used as a preservative to help keep food from spoiling. As the salt of the earth, Jesus says that we flavor the world and preserve what's good in it. Our influence - how we affect the actions, behavior or opinions of others - is how we are salt in this world. 

Light helps brighten a dark place and shows things that need fixing. As we choose to shine the love and truth of Jesus through our words and actions, we help people realize the goodness of God. 

DO THIS WEEK'S WORKOUT: thermostat for salt and light

A thermostat sets the temperature in the room. Brainstorm together ways your family can be a salt and light thermostat this week. Depending on your family's schedule, pick an activity:

Living Salty 1 - practicing the power of positive presence

Each family member will pick one place they interact with people regularly. Ask: what words do you typically hear there? What attitudes do you see there? Agree as a family to be positive in words and attitude in that place this week. Create a chart with each person's name and the place he or she picked. Have star stickers ready so each night that a family member is successful, he or she can put a sticker on the chart.

LIVING SALTY 2 - family project

Think of a place your whole family can show up and serve together in some way. Do something that goes beyond what's expected. 

Examples:

  • Practice making balloon animals and show up at a playground
  • Bake and package cookies for the local soup kitchen - add a handwritten note such as "Thinkin gof and praying for you." Pray over the recipients.
  • Go out to eat and leave the waiter a big tip.

Talk about it: How did it go? Did you affect the world around you through your work?

Kids Lesson 11: Turning Up the Wattage

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This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

KIDS LESSON 11: turning up the wattage

MAIN IDEA

God's light in us shines brighter in our world as we grow in our relationships with him.

PROPS

  • box filled with random items including loose sheets of paper to make a mess
  • unplugged lamp with a power outlet nearby

OPENING

Leader: (Tip over the box full of papers, as if by accident.) I don't know about you, but when there's a mess, I'd rather walk away to something new rather than do the hard work of cleaning it up. Thankfully God is not like me. 

In the beginning, God created a beautiful world full of live and joy. It was broken by sin when Adam and Eve chose to go against God's command. Today we see the mess that resulted as we look around us. There are big issues like poverty that affect millions and we also see brokenness in everyday life - unkindness, mean words, jealousy, selfishness, and people being left out. People often use their abilities and power to hurt other people instead of doing good.

But the good news is that God did not turn his back on us or the messy state of things. God sent his only son Jesus to enter this mess, pay for our sin, and make a way to restore the world to God's original design. Through Jesus we get to know God. And through Jesus we get God's authority to heal other people and fill all the dark areas of the world with light and joy.

If every person on this planet knew God and tried to follow Jesus' example, the world would be very different. Cliques and bullying would not exist in schools. Schools would be welcoming and exciting places to learn. There would be no trash in our streets. Everyone would have a home to live in and food to eat. Not a single animal or person would be abused or alone. People would listen to each other, see the value of each person and all of God's creation, and partner with God in their work.

God is actively moving through girls and boys, women and men all over the world who are lookin gto partner in all of live with him. But there's something very important to remember when we look to be God's partner.

Take a look at this lamp. It's not working? Why not? That's right, it's not plugged in.

It's the same way with us. God has given us a lot of power and ability to light up the world and restore things to his original design. But the key is we must be plugged in to God.

Think of the people you are most close with. To become close to someone takes time. you have to get to know them. When you spend time together you might share things with each other, laugh together, share something hard you're going through, help each other, encourage and challenge each other. With a good friend, you spend time enjoying each other. The same is true with God.

It takes time to know God and the more you come to know God, the more plugged in you become.

Here's 3 simple ways to grow in knowing God:

1. Include God. God is everywhere but he doesn't force himself to become your friend. In whatevery you do, you can pause, talk to God and invite him into what you're doing - whether that's homework, playing sports or music, dancing or cleaning.

2. Be Honest. True relationships grow stronger out of honesty. It's funny how often people who know God pray only what they think God wants to hear. With God wedon't need to try to look good or be on ourbest behavior. God knows our hearts and he loves to share life with us. We can be completely honest with what we say or ask. If we're sad or angry, we can tell him that. If we don't want to do something, we can tell him that too. Talk to God and see how he responds.

3. Listen for God. One of the best ways to grow in knowing someone is asking them questions about themselves and listening. Often when people pray, they are busy telling God things. A friendship takes two-way conversation. If only one person talks all the time and never listens, it's not a friendship. You can find out more about who God is by reading the Bible. If there's things you don't understand, ask God to help you understand. Ask God your questions throughout the day. Listen for what he might show you. God might speak directly to your heart or answer you through someone or something else. God loves having a relationship with us.

SCRIPTURE LESSON

Read aloud or ask a child to stand and read for the group.

David is one of the most well-known kings of all time. But before he became famous, he was just a little lightbulb. As he got more and more plugged in with God, his light grew and grew. His light grew so big that it affected the entire nation of Israel.

Long before David became king, he was just a young boy. Like other youngest children in Israelite homes, David had the smelly job of taking care of the family sheep. Even at that young age, David knew God and included God in his work of being a shepherd. David would sing songs to God while out with the sheep and asked God to help him when a bear or lion attached the sheep. A lot of other children would have run off but David stood to fight the preditors and protect his sheep. Here is one of the songs that David wrote to God:

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures; 
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name's sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff - they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.

Starting from when he was little, David included God in his celebrations and in times when things were scary or hard. David was honest. His songs to God are full of feelings: anger, sadness, joy and questions. When David made a big mistake, he talked to God about what he did wrong. King David had a two way relationship with God. He would listen for what God wanted again and again. And over time, David's light grew.

David when from shining God's light in the fields with the sheep, to shining God's light while fighting the giant Goliath, and finally as king of Israel.

Sometimes it may not be easy to plug in to God. If you haven't ever experienced God speaking to you, it may seem hard to sit still and listen. It can be hard at the beginning. But God promises that we will find him when we look for him with all our heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

As you include God in all you do and if you are honest with him and listen for him, you'll shine brighter for God every day. God's light shining through you will touch lives all around you.

CLOSING

Leader: God, thank you for being the eternal light that shines in our darkness. Nothing can put out your light. Thank you for shining your light through us. Help us grow in our relationship with you, so we can shine brightly and bring hope to everyone around us. In Jesus' name, amen.

Kids Lesson 11: Turning Up the Wattage (Small Group Activity)

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This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

SMALL GROUP ACTIVITY FOR LESSON 11: turning up the wattage

PROPS

  • paper and pencil for each student or team
  • poster board, post-it notes, markers, and pens for each team
  • psalm-23-worksheet.pdf

OPENING ACTIVITY: Electrical impact (7 MINUTES)

Pair up students or have them work on their own. Give each person or team a paper and pencil. Tell them to jot down, in 2 minutes, as many things as they can think of that would be affected if they couldn't be plugged in.

Review - We're so used to having electricity today that we pretty much take it for granted. If we had a blackout for 2 hours, we would miss some of the things we're used to using. What happens when people are not plugged in to God? What happens when they are plugged in to God?

WORKSHEET: Psalm 23 study (15 MINUTES)

Read through Psalm 23 together.

  • Have students circle key word that stand out to them.
  • Ask students to write down 5 things about who God is and what he is like, based on how David describes God in this psalm.
  • Ask if they share David's view of God? Why or why not?

Review- How do we know someone is trustworthy or loving? It's usually because we've experienced someone as trustworthy or loving in the past. David experienced God as trustworthy and loving, when David was fighting lions and bears to protect his father's sheep, and when David fought the giant to save Israel. David also experienced God through  prayer and writing songs. God was there for David whether David was singing or fighting.

plugging in (10 MINUTES)

Break the class into 3 teams.

  • One team will brainstorm ways to include God in their everyday life.
  • The second team will brainstorm what it means to be honest with God in everyday life. What else is there besides telling God about something you did wrong?
  • The third team will brainstorm about how to listen for God. What are ways they've heard from God? What would help someone hear from God?

Give each team 8 minutes to work on a poster board with their ideas. Then invite each team to share with the group. 

Review- What is one new thing from these lists that you would like to try this week?

SHARE & PRAY (3 MINUTES)

Ask for prayer requests. Pray and bless the students, asking God to reveal more of himself to them in everyday life.

Kids Lesson 11: Turning Up the Wattage (Parent’s Sheet)

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This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

PARENT'S TAKE-HOME SHEET FOR LESSON 11: turning up the wattage

THIS WEEK'S FOCUS: God is in our everyday work

We learned today that our source of power for partnering with God is... God! We are like a lightbulb that can only light up when plugged into a power source, and God is the power source for us. As we grow in relationship with God, we are able to be more fully ourselves, and more fully aligned with God's desires for our work. Growing in relationship with God is like any relationship - it takes a commitment of spending time together where we include God in what we're doing, be honest with God, and listen for God.

DO THIS WEEK'S WORKOUT: THE examen

Pick an activity to do with your family this week:

option 1 - PRAy the examen individually and share

  • As a family, dedicate 15 to 20 minutes of each weekday evening to gather and pray silently.
  • Print the examen-guide.pdf for each family member.
  • Once the quiet time is over, gather together and share 1 sentence each of something you sensed from God.

option 2 - talk over these questions at the dinner table

  • What moment today made you most happy or thankful? (Initially you may need to name a few things in a young child's day to help them catch on.)
  • What moment today made you the most unhappy or least grateful?
  • How did you show love today? (For very young children, you may offer suggestions to clarify how someone shows love: Who did you share with today? Who did you help today?)
  • What was one time your actions or behavior were negative or you withheld showing kindness? (Again, for young children you might ask: Was there a time you did not share today? Was there a time you said a hurtful word or did not help?)
  • Briefly give thanks fo rthis time of reflection and for God teaching each of you to be more loving.

Kids Lesson 12: Work Rewards

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This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

LESSON 12: WORK rewards

MAIN IDEA 

God will reward our work and the best is yet to come.

PROPS

  • 1 object for each of these materials: gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw (if hard to obtain, show a picture)
  • box of matches
  • 2 drinking glasses
  • a gold or silver object you're willing to burn (could be a small piece of jewelry)
  • a small clump of hay or a piece of wood

OPENING

Leader: God is all around us and in the work you do every day. The work you do matters today - it shapes you and it affects the people around you. Also, the work you do in your life will matter on the special day when Jesus returns.

I have a bunch of items here. (Explain what each item is and what it's made from.) Can someone come up and organize them in the order of most value? (Invite a student to do this. Ask why they put the things in the order they did.) Some of these materials cost a lot more than others. That's because they last longer.

Optional Experiment: Place a gold or silver object in one uncovered glass. Place the dry hay or dry wood in the other uncovered glass. Light a match and drop it into each cup.

If a fire happened, wood, hay or straw would burn up and become ashes. But the gold, silver and precious stones would still be sitting there when the flames die away. They can endure incredibly high temperatures.

The Bible compares our work to these things. Work that endures is work that we do with faith, hope and love. When you clean your room or take care of your brother or sister with love, it's like gold. As you work with faith, hope and love, you become more enduring yourself, more like Jesus. You can endure tough situations with character and caring. When you work with faith, hope and love you become like gold yourself.

When we work without faith, hope and love, that work is like wood hay or straw - it doesn't last very long and doesn't have much value. Let's take a look at the Bible passage.

SCRIPTURE LESSON

Read aloud or ask a child to stand and read for the group.

1 Corinthians 3:12-15

Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw - the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.

These verses show us that God cares about the work we do. The word "foundation" in verse 12 refers to Jesus. All the work we do is built on who Jesus is and what he has done for us. As we follow Jesus in doing our work for him with faith, hope and love, it's like building a house using solid materials - gold, silver, and precious stones.

The "Day" mentioned in verse 13 is the Judgment Day when Jesus returns. One day, Jesus promises that he will return. Revelations, the last book of the Bible, tells us that when Jesus returns the work of each of our lives will be tested by fire. Our actions, small or big, our attitudes, our words, our thoughts - our entire life and how we lived it -matters to God and will be tested to see if it's hay or gold.

Depending on this test, the Bible mentions two kinds of crowns that God will award. The first, written as stephanos in Greek, is a crown of victory such as those made of laurel leaf and given to Olympic athletes. This kind of crown was given to those who overcame difficult situations. The other kind of crown is called a diadem -and is the type of crown worn by kings. Some people will receive this crown for all the souls they led to know God. Daniel 12:3 says, "Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever." Then the biggest best party will begin with Jesus presents to God all of the people who followed him.  The people will throw all the crowns they earned at Jesus' feet in adoration of him. In this way, our work becomes worship even to the very end of time.

We don't know the date for when Jesus will return. But we do know that our work matters very much to God. 

We all have things we don't enjoy doing. Next time you start folding laundry or doing homework and want to groan, remember that God's in it. What you're doin gis holy when you do it with faith, hope and love. Your work counts for eternity. One day God will say to you, "Well done."

CLOSING

Leader: God, it's amazing that the work we do - even ordinary things like folding laundry - matters to you. Help us become aware of your presence in all things and grow in doing small and big work with faith, hope and love. Shape us to become more like you as we do. In Jesus' name, amen.

Kids Lesson 12: Work Rewards (Small Group Activity)

Back to Table of Contents

This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

SMALL GROUP ACTIVITY FOR LESSON 12: work rewards

PROPS

OPENING ACTIVITY: Gold, stone, straw (7 MINUTES)

Teach kids the motions for God, Stones, Straw. The motions are:

  1. Gold: arms straight down, held tightly against each side
  2. Stones: both hands open with fingers wiggling to symbol "twinkling"
  3. Straw: arms straight up and hands clasped to look like a straight line

Review the meanin gof each building material. Gold and stones both last through fire - these refer to work that is done for God with faith, hope and love. Stones are most likely referring to work that helps people come to believe in Jesus. Straw is work that doesn't last - it's not done for God.

Read a scenario from the list gold-stones-straw-scenarios.pdf.  Kids jump into the pose that they think the scenario demonstrates.

WORKSHEET: 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 Study (15 MINUTES)

Read through the passage together out loud. Have students answer the questions on the worksheet building-my-life-worksheet.pdf. Gold and silver are purified by fire and precious stones are produced out of incredible environments of pressure and heat. Wood, hay and straw become ashes and disappear when burnt.

Review- Who can you think of in the bible that lived a life that was probably built with gold, silver and precious stones? Who can you think of in the Bible that lived a life built with straw, hay or wood?

letters to jesus (10 MINUTES)

This is the last session of the curriculum. Give each student a sheet of stationary, an envelope and a pen. If possible, play instrumental worship music in the background as students work. Invite them to write to Jesus. He sees each of them and loves them very much. Each of them brings joy to his heart. Ask them to take some time to write a letter to Jesus about 3 things:

  • Their favorite kind of work
  • The work they find hardest
  • The kind of life they want to build

Thave them seal their letters and hold them in closing prayer.

PRAY (3 MINUTES)

Pray a blessing over each student individually. Ask God to lead them in a life built with gold, silver and precious stones, by the power of his Holy spirit.

Kids Lesson 12: Work Rewards (Parent’s Sheet)

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This lesson is part of God's Story of Work for Kids, a 12-week curriculum that teaches children to see work through God's perspective. To see all materials in this curriculum go to God's Story of Work for Kids Table of Contents.

PARENT'S TAKE-HOME SHEET FOR LESSON 12: work rewards

THIS WEEK'S FOCUS: GOD will reward our work

We reviewed today that all of our work - small and big, ordinary and special - matters very much to God. We learned that one day Jesus will return and test the quality of our work and the lives we have lived. Some lives will show they were built with solid materials that survive fire - gold, silver and costly stones. Other lives will be revealed to be made out of wood, hay or straw, things that get burned up in the fire. We work for Jesus with faith, hope and love so that our lives become more like gold.

DO THIS WEEK'S WORKOUT: thank you party

Plan a party to celebrate the work and uniqueness of each person in your family.

Some ideas:

  • Have each person make a dish that another family member likes
  • Personalize each place setting with not just the person's name, but the kind of work they do and a big "THANK YOU!"
  • Make crowns for everyone to wear
  • Use gold colored plates as a symbol of the value of each person's work done with faith, hope and love
  • Pray a prayer of blessing over everyone and their work before you eat - personalize the prayer and make it special by praying for each person specifically
  • Talk about the past 12 weeks and what you learned or what you want to keep practicing
  • Serve some sparkling apple cider and make a toast to each person and their work
  • Make it a team party - everyone helps set up, everyone helps clean up
  • Print the examen-guide.pdf for each family member.
  • Once the quiet time is over, gather together and share 1 sentence each of something you sensed from God.

OPTION 2 - TALK OVER THESE QUESTIONS AT THE DINNER TABLE

  • What moment today made you most happy or thankful? (Initially you may need to name a few things in a young child's day to help them catch on.)
  • What moment today made you the most unhappy or least grateful?
  • How did you show love today? (For very young children, you may offer suggestions to clarify how someone shows love: Who did you share with today? Who did you help today?)
  • What was one time your actions or behavior were negative or you withheld showing kindness? (Again, for young children you might ask: Was there a time you did not share today? Was there a time you said a hurtful word or did not help?)
  • Briefly give thanks fo rthis time of reflection and for God teaching each of you to be more loving.

Issues Christian Lawyers Face

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The following small group studies were produced for the New Zealand Christian Lawyers national conference 2017, in partnership with Steven Moe.

These studies can be used in small groups of several lawyers talking together, or in larger professional or religious meetings. While some of the contents is specific to the practice of law in New Zealand, many issues will be relevant to practicing lawyers and law students everywhere.

Issues Christian Lawyers Face

Table of Contents

  1. Balance
  2. Identity
  3. Status
  4. Justice
  5. Specialization
  6. Conflicting values
  7. Ethics
  8. Failure
  9. Disruption

Balance for Lawyers

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This lesson is part of Issues Christian Lawyers Face, a study guide produced by The Theology of Work Project in partnership with Steven Moe, for the New Zealand Christian Lawyers national conference in May 2017. Click the Table of Contents on the right of this page to see the entire curriculum.

Introduction 

Many lawyers struggle with having a good work and life balance.  Clients can be demanding and there can be strict deadlines that need to be met, which are usually urgent.  Often this means that long hours are required to prepare and best serve the client.  As well as that, a lawyer is often judged by the number of billable hours they record during a year, so there can be pressure to work longer and harder in order to succeed and progress their career.  

Case Study

Sally has been working as a corporate lawyer for a large law firm for four years.  An overseas client is flying in tomorrow to continue the negotiation of the sale and purchase of a business they are buying.  Before they got on their flight to come, they sent a one-line email that asked for a revised version of the agreement to be prepared and be ready for the meeting at 10am tomorrow, before they go to meet with the other side at 11am.  Her partner joked that she was surprised they had been given that much time.  Sally has been working on the revised agreement since she got into the office that morning and skipped lunch in order to keep progressing the review.  It is now 7:45pm and she realises there are still another 45 pages to be amended.   She reluctantly calls a friend that she was due to meet that night and cancels dinner, as she glances out the window at the sky and the clouds which are lit up by the sunset.  She hangs up and slowly turns back to her computer screen.

Questions for discussion: 

  • What can you relate to in the case study in your context, and why?
  • How do you cope with the demands of strict deadlines and time pressures?
  • How do you strike a balance between the desire to be good at your job as a lawyer with other competing demands?
  • How does a job as a lawyer impact on other roles and responsibilities – such as with family, church, sports teams and other roles in the community?

Biblical reflection 

On the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.
(Genesis 2:2-3)

Everything that God creates is “good,” but rest is the first thing in the Bible that God calls “holy.” God rests on the seventh day, and he asks people to rest too. This commandment is repeated throughout scripture, from Exodus 20:8-11 to Nehemiah 13:18 to Hebrews 4:1. In fact, the injunction against constant work has to be repeated over and over again, probably because it is just so hard to keep. In a world that includes sin and its consequences, work demands a lot of time and effort. God explained this sad reality to Adam when he said, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken” (Genesis 3:19). 

And yet, God hopes to restore rest for all people. Jesus makes the unequivocal claim that he can give people deep rest:

“Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gently and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:28-30)

Jesus provides people with spiritual rest, paradoxically, by freeing them from the commandment to stop working. Jesus himself breaks the Sabbath at will, and he absorbs any guilt that you might feel from doing likewise. As St. Paul explains, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

This means you have freedom to choose when and how to rest, knowing you can always connect to God’s through Jesus. This doesn’t mean work always wins or that family, church, and sleep aren’t important. It just means that you have the freedom to choose which obligation you want to attend to at any moment. 

This may or may not help you solve real life dilemmas of work-life balance. Those have always existed. The noble women in Proverbs 31, after all, woke up early and went to bed late (Proverbs 31:15, Proverbs 31:18). She juggled competing demands of family, commerce, and religion. Even so, she managed to be called “happy” (Proverbs 31:28). So perhaps there is hope for us all.

Discuss: What are the key principles from this study that could be applied in your situation?  

For more on balance, read the Theology of Work Project long form article Balancing Rhythms of Rest and Work. Or watch the video of Tod Bolsinger on balancing work and family.

Identity for Lawyers

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This lesson is part of Issues Christian Lawyers Face, a study guide produced by The Theology of Work Project in partnership with Steven Moe, for the New Zealand Christian Lawyers national conference in May 2017. Click the Table of Contents on the right of this page to see the entire curriculum.

Introduction 

How does our identity as a Christian intersect with our identity as a lawyer.  Is the identity best expressed as being a “lawyer who is a Christian” or a “Christian lawyer”. 

Case study

James likes going along to Church and catching up with his friends, but views that as an identity quite separate to his job as a lawyer.  He represents his clients vigorously and enjoys helping them achieve their goals.  One day his client calls saying he is looking to terminate a commercial lease early and they set up a time to meet with the other side.  James will need to be aggressive in how he deals with the counterparty in order to achieve the best result for his client.

When the other side gets to the meeting he has no legal representation and James inwardly smiles.  This is almost too easy, he thinks.  Surprisingly, the business owner greets him as a friend and James suddenly realises that he recognises him - while he goes to a different Church his kids are in the same swimming class with James’ own kids.  All of a sudden what he is about to say becomes more difficult than he had previously anticipated.

Questions for discussion

  • What can you relate to in the case study in your context, and why?
  • Is it possible to compartmentalise one identity from the other so you are a “Christian” and a “Lawyer”?  Or is it possible to be a “Christian Lawyer”.  
  • How would a Christian lawyer practice in a way that was different from others? Should there be a notable difference?
  • Which identity should dominate – or should any?  And how about other roles we may have (Church member, Parent, Caregiver etc)?

Biblical reflection 

God wants you to work profitably so that you can support yourself and your family. One scripture on this point offers the chilling reminder that “whoever does not provide for relatives, and especially for family members, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). So making money is a legitimate concern for Christians, one which God understands.

On the other hand, the call to belong to Christ supercedes any particular call to an occupation. Believing in Christ, which is to say being a Christian, places demands on the way you execute your work:

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
(2 Corinthians 5:17-20)

The Bible does not prescribe different moments for acting like a Christian and acting like a lawyer. Rather, the passage above assumes that faith is an all-encompassing identity, such that anyone who believes in Christ is a “new creation.” The writer of this letter tasks all Christians with the “ministry of reconciliation,” in which you are an “ambassador for Christ.” That includes the time you’re at work as well as the time you’re at church.

Another letter confirms the importance of bringing your Christian identity into your daily work:

Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters.
(Colossians 3:23)

The Bible does not break up identity into multiple parts, some of them Christian and some of them secular. However, the world we live in often demands we do exactly that. What does it mean to you to be a Christian in your workplace?

Discuss: What are the key principles from this study that could be applied in your situation?  

For more on the relationship between work and identity, see the Theology of Work Project commentary on Acts 8-12, or the article on calling and vocation.

Status as a Lawyer

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This lesson is part of Issues Christian Lawyers Face, a study guide produced by The Theology of Work Project in partnership with Steven Moe, for the New Zealand Christian Lawyers national conference in May 2017. Click the Table of Contents on the right of this page to see the entire curriculum.


Introduction

While most people would recognise that lawyers play a unique role in society and they are respected, at the same time there are also a huge number of lawyer jokes.  As well as that there is prestige associated with the profession and there can be a certain amount of pride which comes from being known as a lawyer.  Many legal jobs are highly paid and there can be a temptation to focus on material wealth and possessions. 

Case study

John grew up on “the wrong side of the tracks”, but worked hard holding down multiple part time jobs while studying and graduated last year from law school.  His parents were thrilled and tell everyone they can that their son is now a lawyer.  John even found his dream job back in the city he grew up in, working in construction law.  He enjoys walking by the building sites dressed in an expensive suit and tie and stopping to watch the workers out in the hot sun.  He feels a sense of pride in having drafted the agreements the very wealthy clients he works for signed and often thinks about his last appraisal: “keep working hard, stay hungry, and you’ll go far”, he was told before being given a significant raise.  

One morning an email announces that the annual Christmas party will be held at the home of one of the senior Partners.  When the day arrives one of the Associates he works with offers him a lift and they slip into his two seater sports car and move out into the traffic.  John can’t help but notice the watch his colleague is wearing, which probably cost more than John’s second-hand car.  As they get closer the houses grow larger.  When they pull up at their destination John looks at the 4 car garage and realises his childhood home was of a similar size to the garage alone.  Inside there is a free flow of drinks, laughs and conversation.  John relaxes into a comfortable leather chair and looks around him.  He is still a bit surprised by where he is, but hopes that one day he can “make it” too.

Questions for discussion: 

  • What do you identify with in this story, and why?
  • What temptations are there in being a lawyer in the area of (i) reputation and (ii) material wealth?
  • Is the image portrayed above the predominant image that you think the general public has, or is it more diverse than that?
  • How do we guard against thinking more of ourselves than we should?  
  • What should form the basis of our identity? Is this something that everyone working faces or is it more acute for professionals?

Biblical reflection 

God wants you to thrive economically. God’s intent is for people to have good things in abundance, which is why he blessed people by saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28).

At the same time, Jesus warns about the spiritual consequences loving wealth and status:

People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
(Mark 10:13-27)

These two stories from Mark’s gospel are connected by the theme of status. Children had low status in ancient society, while rich men had a lot of it. Yet Jesus turns the normal status equation on its head, saying that godliness is easier for babies than it is for millionaires. Perhaps this is because status exerts a powerful pull. A high regard for status may keep you from devoting time, talent, and treasure to the other things you recognize as important.

Doing your job well may bring you wealth and status. The only danger is turning away from God when your desires are fulfilled. Material possessions are lovely, but they don’t last forever. The following proverb sums up all of this:

Do you see those who are skilful in their work? They will serve kings; they will not serve common people. When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you have a big appetite. Do not desire the ruler’s delicacies, for they are deceptive food. Do not wear yourself out to get rich; be wise enough to desist. When your eyes light upon it, it is gone; for suddenly it takes wings to itself, flying like an eagle towards heaven.

(Proverbs 22:29 – 23:5)

Discuss: What are the key principles from this study that could be applied in your situation?

For more biblical insight on wealth, see the Theology of Work Project long form article Wealth and Provision, or the commentary on Mark 10:13-22. Or watch this video on staying grounded.

Pursuing Justice as a Lawyer

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This lesson is part of Issues Christian Lawyers Face, a study guide produced by The Theology of Work Project in partnership with Steven Moe, for the New Zealand Christian Lawyers national conference in May 2017. Click the Table of Contents on the right of this page to see the entire curriculum.

Introduction

The poor and underprivileged have limited access to justice as they do not have the means to pay for it.  Yet many lawyers got into law in the first place as they felt that there would be a chance to help those in such situations.

Case Study

Marty almost doesn’t pick up the phone when he gets a call, because he has so many files to be looked at before he can leave for the day.  The paperwork piled around isn’t what he had thought his career would end up like – back in law school he had volunteered once a week at the community law centre and felt like he was making a real difference.  Now he really has no time for pro bono work.  

When Marty answers the phone an elderly man says his name is John, and he then says, “I have to be honest that I don’t have any money to pay fees, but I really need help to appeal a decision that is completely unfair - no one else will listen to me…”  Marty sits back in his chair and nods his head as his eyes look at the billable work swamping his desk.  He finds he is already thinking through who he could pass this call on to.  

Questions for discussion

  • What do you identify with in this story, and why?
  • What is our responsibility in the area of seeking access to justice for those who cannot afford it? 
  • Our work often is focussed on other things (wills, property conveyances, business set up etc) and those tasks are important in society – to what extent are they undervalued because we charge for them?
  • Does the amount of work done in this area of promoting justice and acting altruistically change over a career? How is it different for (i) a new graduate (ii) a freshly appointed partner (iii) someone nearing retirement.

Biblical reflection 

Scripture is of one mind when it comes to justice and our responsibility to the poor:

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8)

Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.
(Isaiah 1:17)

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
(Matthew 25:34-40)

God cares deeply about justice for the poor and the oppressed. He expects those who follow him to work on their behalf.

On the other hand, Jesus admits that the needs of the world around us are overwhelming. When his disciples’ dedication to charity gave them a superiority complex, Jesus chided them saying, “You always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me” (Matthew 26:10) Poverty is an intractable problem, and you cannot be expected to solve global injustice on your own. 

Perhaps this is why the verse from Micah is so important. God doesn’t require you to solve all the world’s problems, but only to do what is just in your small sphere of influence. God wants you to actually enjoy the practice of extending kindness. It should make you feel humble (unlike Jesus’ disciples) because in the end, winning justice for the poor is partnership with God in the work he wants done.

Discuss: What are the key principles from this study that could be applied in your situation?  

For more on money and justice, read the Theology of Work Project article on justice in Proverbs or Romans 13 or Romans 3:21-26. Or listen to this audio inspiration titled Be the Answer.

Specialization as a Lawyer

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This lesson is part of Issues Christian Lawyers Face, a study guide produced by The Theology of Work Project in partnership with Steven Moe, for the New Zealand Christian Lawyers national conference in May 2017. Click the Table of Contents on the right of this page to see the entire curriculum.

Introduction

There are a wide range of areas that a lawyer can choose to practise.  The work that is done in those different areas often benefit different types of people.

Case Study

Andrea has been cornered by an old friend that she hasn’t seen since University days.  He recalls the time that she practised mooting with him as an audience and then asks, “So what’s it like standing up in Court with the Judge looking at you and defending the oppressed – do you ever get nervous”?  Andrea looks away and considers which answer to give.  She decides on the truth and says, “Well I don’t actually go to Court at all, it’s not like the TV shows … I am involved in residential conveyancing so I am mainly on the phone, answering emails, responding to questions…”.  As she says this she can see a bit of disappointment on his face.

Walking home Andrea considers the other way that conversation usually goes - being asked for advice about an obscure legal issue because “you’re a lawyer so you must know the answer”.  She takes a deep breath as she looks up through the trees above her at the stars just coming out.  Conversations like the one tonight do make her wonder if she chose right way back when she was being interviewed for her first job.  Should she have held out for a role in a firm which dealt with human rights and injustice which is what she had always thought she would do?  Now it felt a bit late with 10 years doing conveyancing and she isn’t sure there will ever be the opportunity to switch. 

Questions for Discussion:  

  • What do you identify with in this story, and why?
  • How did you decide what to specialise in and what advice would you give those at an early stage of their careers?
  • Is there more or less value in the different types of work done as a lawyer?  
  • Does our Christian faith inform our decision about the area we specialise in?

Biblical reflection 

Career specialization happens in the Bible, for the same reasons it happens today. Some people get careers based on their unique gifts, like the apostles, prophets, evangelists and teachers in Ephesians 4:11. But many heroes in the Bible had jobs that were dictated by circumstances rather than soul-searching. Jacob worked as a shepherd because he was after a girl (Genesis 29:20) and also perhaps because shepherding was the only game in town. Joseph worked as a butler (Genesis 39:4), as a prison warden (Genesis 39:22), and then as an agricultural planner (Genesis 41:41), none of which he chose for himself. Nevertheless, he performed all his duties in a way that demonstrated that the Lord was with him.

Scripture restates this last point, that any job can be divinely important if you do it for God’s benefit:

Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters.
(Colossians 3:23)

Discuss: What are the key principles from this study that could be applied in your situation?  

For more on career choices, read the Theology of Work Project long form article on vocation and calling.

Conflicting Values When You’re a Lawyer

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This lesson is part of Issues Christian Lawyers Face, a study guide produced by The Theology of Work Project in partnership with Steven Moe, for the New Zealand Christian Lawyers national conference in May 2017. Click the Table of Contents on the right of this page to see the entire curriculum.

Introduction

Sometimes our clients (or even other colleagues) have motives or objectives which do not align with our own.  How do we act in those situations?

Case study

John has been working for two years at a medium sized firm.  He has never been summoned in to the Managing Partner’s office before but that is where he has found himself.  He sits beside his supervising partner and feels nervous while looking around the large room.  On the wall are various awards and recognitions.  The Managing Partner finally turns from his screen and John feels the full force of his cool stare, “So tell me John, what is the issue here with this particular client?”.

John shifts nervously in his seat.  “Well I just feel uncomfortable acting for this business.  I know it is just a lease and that they are a new client and it is good to have the work flowing in.  But I feel like my values are going to be compromised if I am asked to act for them because I just, well … I just think that a brothel is probably in that grey area for me…”.  He sees the managing partner nodding but feels like he hasn’t made his case well because all he gets in response is that nod and he realises that the room has gone very quiet.  

Questions for Discussion

  • What do you identify with in this story, and why?
  • What other examples of conflicting values have you faced?
  • Does the way you make decisions about your actions as a lawyer differ if it is for those who are amassing wealth, or who are aggressive in their business affairs (or worse)?
  • How does Christian faith impact on decision making in these types of situations?

Biblical reflection 

It’s impossible to work only with people who share your beliefs. Paul recognized this in 1 Corinthians 5:9-10 when he wrote, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons, not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since you would then need to go out of the world.” Paul feared the influence of hypocritical Christians on the early church, but he wasn’t worried about any threat from unbelievers. This mirrors Jesus’ instruction to “let your light shine before others” (Matthew 5:16). Retreating from the secular world, even with all its faults, was as impractical 2000 years ago as it is today.

But Paul does caution against being so closely tied to an unbeliever that you can’t make your own decisions. “Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship is there between light and darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). This verse is often translated as “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers,” reminiscent of Deuteronomy 22:10 which prohibits yoking an ox and donkey together for field work. When animals are yoked together they must move in lockstep: if one turns left the other does also. This is dangerous for animals of differing sizes, and it is also dangerous for people of differing beliefs. If someone else’s choices compel you to act in the same way, then you are yoked together. If that person has values that are unequal to yours, then you are unequally yoked.

Discuss: What are the key principles from this study that could be applied in your situation?  

For more on working with unbelievers and what it means to be "unequally yoked," read the Theology of Work Project commentary on 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.

Ethics When You’re a Lawyer

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This lesson is part of Issues Christian Lawyers Face, a study guide produced by The Theology of Work Project in partnership with Steven Moe, for the New Zealand Christian Lawyers national conference in May 2017. Click the Table of Contents on the right of this page to see the entire curriculum.

Introduction

Sometimes we may be asked to act in a way which is ethically questionable.

Case study

Nicola is chatting with one of the clients her partner Greg has had for years.  He is explaining a tricky situation and says, “… so the accountant has said that what we need to do to get that $250,000 tax benefit is, for the document you helped with, to be dated before the end of the financial year.  But of course because that was yesterday what I want you to do is to print out a new copy then I can sign it and you witness the deed and we date it and the company resolution last week sometime – doesn’t matter when – as long as it is before financial year end.”  Nicola hesitates long enough for the client to continue, “We did this last year too Greg, it’s really common in our industry, and there will be a benefit for you too as I’m happy if you want to charge me a few thousand for this service - there is a lot of money at stake here…”.

Questions for Discussion

  • What do you identify with in this story, and why?
  • Is the answer to this situation the same for all lawyers – or is there a difference between legal ethics and Christian ethics?  
  • How does Christian faith impact on decision making in these type of ethical situations?

Biblical reflection 

The Bible says a great many things about following God at work, including its positive effects on wellbeing and security:

Happy is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways. You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.
(Psalm 128:1-2)

But ethical dilemmas in the workplace aren’t always cut and dry. Moreover, it would be impossible to create a Christian rule-book that covers every conceivable workplace dilemma. Instead, you can work through a dilemma by thinking of it from multiple angles:

Command approach – What rules or commandments apply in this case?
Consequences approach – What are the possible consequences of this action, either good or bad?
Character approach – What does this mean for my character? What kind of person do I want to be?

Perhaps you will not make the right decision every time, or perhaps there is no right decision in some instances. A better hope is that you will mature as a Christian, becoming more like Jesus each time you wrestle with these questions:

Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
(1 John 3:2-3)

Discuss: What are the key principles from this study that could be applied in your situation?  

For more on the 3Cs approach to making ethical decisions, read the Theology of Work Project long form article on Ethics at Work or the article on Truth and Deception in the Workplace. Also see bible commentary on Daniel 3 and Psalms 15, 24 and 34.

 

How Can Lawyers React to Failure?

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This lesson is part of Issues Christian Lawyers Face, a study guide produced by The Theology of Work Project in partnership with Steven Moe, for the New Zealand Christian Lawyers national conference in May 2017. Click the Table of Contents on the right of this page to see the entire curriculum.

Introduction

Sometimes things go wrong. This may be in relation to a particular client and their situation which we cannot control or due to a mistake we have made. Many of us have a perfectionist streak which may have led us to the practise of law in the first place. How do we react in the light of some form of failure?

Case Study

Vicky sat perfectly still and felt like the oxygen was being sucked out of the room as she listened to what the lawyer on the other side was saying. As she continued to hold the phone to her ear she began quickly shuffling and sorting through the pile of papers on her left desperately searching for the variation deed to confirm what the new settlement date was. The voice on the other end of the line continued in such a casual tone it just added to her rising sense of panic: “And so, because your client did not confirm the conditions in time our client is exercising its right to cancel the contract under clause 5.1 while keeping the non-refundable deposit …”. She finally found the piece of paper that would make all the difference. March 11. How could it be that date? She looked away and then back again. She looked up at the screen and her email to the client and read back her own words: “While we could confirm the conditions earlier there is plenty of time - but the latest we have to do that is March 14.” The deposit on this purchase for this business sale had been $125,000. Vicky’s client had told her to go ahead and confirm back on March 10 but she had advised them there was still time to do some more investigations so they had waited until March 13. It looked like she may have made a mistake. When she put the phone down she swivelled around in her chair back and form for a minute then she got up slowly and started the long walk down the hall towards the Managing Partner’s office.

Questions for Discussion

  • What can you relate to in the case study in your context, and why?
  • To what extent can there be disillusionment with the law when bad things happen? Do such failures expose our true worldview that practice is all about us as an individual (my goals, my pride and proving myself rather than working as a lawyer being a “calling”)? What forms the basis of our identity?
  • What role does grace play for a lawyer? Think about the perspective of the Managing Partner in the story above. Does grace impact how you would deal with mistakes that others who work for you have made?
  • This example could have been framed to highlight other situations. How would you deal with some shortcoming in the following contexts? A court decision doesn’t go your way after months preparing and arguing all the facts for your client. A complaint is laid against you by a client alleging some mistake was made on their file.

  • How does your faith help you in times of failure?

 

Biblical reflection

Peter was determined to be better at his job than anybody else following Jesus, saying, “Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you” (Matthew 26:33). So it was a huge failure for Peter when he denied three times that he even knew Jesus (Matthew 26:69-75). All he could do was cry, which is a normal reaction to screwing up and letting someone down.
 
Jesus’ responded in a way that restored his relationship with Peter, as well as restoring Peter to his vocation. When the resurrected Jesus appeared to his disciples on the beach, he asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Each time, after Peter affirmed his love, Jesus gave Peter a job, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17). Jesus forced Peter to face his failure and right the wrong he had committed. Not only that, Jesus used this moment as an opportunity to give Peter a fresh start in his work. The next step after their personal reconciliation was a charge to get back to work.
 
When you make a big mistake at work, grace might not come cheap. Like with Peter, it might come after tears and some humiliating conversations. But afterwards there’s the hope that God still has important work for you to do.

Discuss: What are the key principles from this study that could be applied in your situation?  

For more scriptures on this topic, see the 5-day devotional reading plan Working through Failure. Or watch the video of Andy Crouch on How Failure is Part of Life.

Disruption in the Legal Profession

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This lesson is part of Issues Christian Lawyers Face, a study guide produced by The Theology of Work Project in partnership with Steven Moe, for the New Zealand Christian Lawyers national conference in May 2017. Click the Table of Contents on the right of this page to see the entire curriculum.

Introduction

What does disruption mean for the legal profession and our jobs/role/identity?

Case study

Lucy is reading yet another article about “disruption” and how it will impact professional services firms.  The article is headed “Will you be replaced by an AI robot?”.  It talks a lot about different technologies which can read every court case and give accurate predictions on fact situations.  She inwardly scoffs at the very idea and turns on to another article.

That night she is having dinner with a friend, who tells her she has just lost her job at a law firm where she had been working in a corporate team.  Her friend explains, “they decided to automate all the precedents and train up more legal executives in how to select the appropriate clauses to insert – they can pay them less and churn a lot more work that way and they just need one senior person to oversee them all.”  Lucy sips her drink and begins to rethink her views on that article she had been reading earlier.

Questions for Discussion

  • What do you identify with in this story, and why?
  • How are you seeing disruption affecting your role?
  • How do we adapt and deal with changes to our profession and potentially the roles we have traditionally played as lawyers with the advent of new technology?

Biblical reflection 

Nobody, not even Christians, can predict the future:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.”
(James 4:13-15)

At the same time, Jesus encourages his followers not to worry about the future:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
(Matthew 6:25-34)

Not worrying about the future when you don’t know what it will bring can be a hard pill to swallow. It was hard for the Jewish people exiled in Babylon, so they participated in life there half-heartedly, hoping to leave the first chance they got. Jeremiah told them to stop listening to false prophets and to instead focus on living in the present:

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let the prophets and the diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream… For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.
(Jeremiah 29:4-8,11)

God’s plan didn’t look like the future the exiles were expecting. And yet God would make it work for them, promising prosperity and hope. God also offers you a future with hope. It may or may not look like what you expect.

Discuss: What are the key principles from this study that could be applied in your situation? 

For more on living with an uncertain future, see the Theology of Work Project articles on Proverbs 31:25 and Job 1:13-22. Or take a look at this newsletter called Changing Jobs Ready or Not.

Prison to Work

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In April 2017 The Theology of Work Project piloted this curriculum with men and women coming out of prison or addiction and heading into the job market. These men and women were residents at Southern California Teen Challenge, a Christian residential rehabilitation program. The theological material in this study was taught in conjunction with practical skills such as resume writing, interviewing, budgeting, and managing debt.

Southern California Teen Challenge hosts two separate rehabilitation programs, one for men and one for women. In addition to the practical considerations that make this a good idea, men and women face different entry-level job markets. Men are likely to go into construction or warehouse labor, while women are more likely to work in service industry jobs. Because role-playing workplace scenarios and thinking through case studies is an important learning divide for this curriculum, we have created two versions: a curriculum for men rehabilitating from prison and addiction, and a curriculum for women rehabilitating from prison, addiction, and prostitution. While common themes such as calling, conflict, boredom, or money appear in each curriculum, the workplace examples reflect the likely career options for each group. At the same time we have taken care in the women's course to include biblical examples of strong women who worked in a variety of ways.

Our hope is that you will use or adapt this material for your own group. God is capable of doing great works for and through all people who love him.

 

Men: You Were Made for Good Work

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This curriculum was piloted in April 2017 by Southern California Teen Challenge, in a program for men rehabilitating from drug addiction and prison.

More than any other population, these men deserve to know that God cares deeply about them and what they make of their lives. Over seven lessons, rehabilitating men will learn what God thinks of their work, how they can work well with others according to biblical principles, and how to reenter the workforce amidst the challenges of a fallen world. You are free to use this curriculum individually or in groups, or adapt it for different settings.

Table of Contents

  1. Does God Care If I Have a Job?
  2. Do I Have a Calling?
  3. The Challenges of Job Searching with a Criminal Record
  4. Dealing with Boredom at Work
  5. Dealing with Bosses
  6. Resolving Conflict with Coworkers
  7. Money and God’s Provision

Does God Care If I Have a Job?

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This lesson was piloted in April 2017 by Southern California Teen Challenge, in a program for men rehabilitating from drug addiction and prison. To see all lessons, go to the Men's Prison Curriculum Table of Contents.

This class will help you find a job. But it’s not just about finding a job. This class will also help you find the meaning and purpose behind a job, whatever that job may be. 

Many people think of work as a curse, something terrible they have to do to make money. They may even ask God to save them from work. The great poet Langston Hughes once wrote, “I wish the rent was heaven sent.”

Even though many of us feel this way, a curse was not God’s original intention for work. God meant work to be fun and meaningful for people. God gave people important work to do, work that would make them feel productive and happy. Even though the world is polluted with sin, God’s intention for work hasn’t changed. In fact, God sent Jesus into the world to reclaim joy and purpose for his people. You may not think of joy or purpose when you think of work. This class will help change that.
 
Over the next few weeks we will talk about many problems people have with finding a job and keeping it. We will search the Bible for real life solutions. We will talk together about your past experiences with work, and your hopes for the future. 

Discussion Question: What was the best job you ever had? What did you like about it?

First we have to begin at the beginning, by asking the question: Does God care if I have a job?

Work is very important to God. This is because God himself is a worker. In Genesis 1 God creates everything piece by piece. God made the earth when there wasn’t an earth before, just like a construction crew turns a vacant lot into a building people can use. God “made the dome” of the sky (Genesis 1:7) and set the lights of the sun and moon there (Genesis 1:17), like a roofer and an electrician on a gigantic scale. And of course, everything that God created was good. 

God’s favorite piece of work was human beings. God created people to be like him, in his image. And just like God starts out the Bible as a worker, God created people to be workers too.  

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
(Genesis 1:26-27)

God creates people with a job description in mind: ruling over his creation. In fact, the first time God talks to people it’s to give them instructions about their job.

God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
(Genesis 1:28)

God tells people to do two things with his creation: rule over it and make something out of it. He wants people to take care of the world and also to make something of it. Just like God created everything out of nothing, God expects humans to create homes, buildings, and businesses out of the world he gave them.

Discussion Question: What do you think about these two Bible passages? Do they have anything to do with you today?

Because God created important work for people to do, working makes you feel important. Work makes you feel fully human. Work increases your self-respect and connects you with God who is a worker. If you feel good after you build something or fix something or clean something, it’s because it’s in your DNA to work. God made you that way.

But work isn’t always fun or fulfilling. In the real world it can be hard to find a job, exhausting to do the job you have, and difficult to make ends meet with the money you get. That’s because the world isn’t perfect like God created it. Sin in people and in society creates problems.

When God created the world he also created limits. In Genesis 1:31-2:2 God put a limit on himself, working for only 6 days and resting on the 7th. God also gave limits to people. When God gave Adam the job description  of farmer (Genesis 2:15), God also set a limit. “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat.” (Genesis 2:16-17). Adam and Eve refused to follow God’s limits, so work became more difficult for them. Adam’s farming work, which had once made him a partner with God, became toil.

And to the man he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
(Genesis 3:17-19)

If your work makes you sweat, or if it’s hard to put bread on the table, it’s because of this curse. Work itself isn’t cursed. But the ground is cursed because of Adam’s sin, and that makes work harder and less fulfilling.

Discussion Question: What is the hardest thing about working or finding a job?

In the fallen world we live in, finding a job, holding a job, and making ends meet can be tough. But Jesus offers hope. God sent Jesus to earth to cancel curses.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” – in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
(Galatians 3:13-14)

Jesus took on the curse of sin so that every person who comes to faith also receives “the promise of the Spirit”. That’s a big deal. But it’s not the only thing God wants to do through Jesus. God also wants you to be free from failure. God wants you to be free from discipline by the law. And God wants you to be free from poverty.  God promises to “fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

Discussion Question: What would you like to be different in your life?

But God isn’t going to do this all on his own. Just like God made farming a joint effort between himself and people, God asks people to help with his plan for redemption. If work is going to be more fun, more satisfying, and more godly, you have to help make that happen. There are many biblical principles in this class. By learning these principles, you will learn how you can work with God to redeem work itself.

Jesus has high hopes for his followers.

“You are the light of the world. A city build on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
(Matthew 5:14)

Because you believe in Jesus, you carry God’s light with you everywhere you go. You can be part of God’s plan to fix the world of work. And God is ready to go out into the work world with you.

Discussion Question: What do you think, can work be redeemed for you? What would that look like? 

Do I have a calling?

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This lesson was piloted in April 2017 by Southern California Teen Challenge, in a program for men rehabilitating from drug addiction and prison. To see all lessons, go to the Men's Prison Curriculum Table of Contents.

Did you ever hear someone talk about his job as a calling?

When people use the word calling, they usually mean that God pointed them to a particular career. Mostly this is something that pastors say. Or you sometimes hear of doctors or artists talk about being called to their work. But not often. For most people, a job is a job.

According to the Bible, there is more than one way to be called. Everyone’s first and most important calling is to belong to Christ. Everyone is called to this. No matter who you are or what you do, you’re included.

Including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ
(Romans 1:6)

Discussion Question: What did it feel like when God called you to believe in Jesus? Did you ever feel the same way about a job?

Some people in the Bible got called to specific jobs. God called Moses to help free the Hebrew people from slavery.

God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” … Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey… So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”
(Exodus 3:4,7-8,10)

God called Moses to this job, which was part political, part military, and part spiritual. 

This type of direct calling is exciting but rare, even in the Bible. Most heroes in the Bible didn’t hear directly from God what they were supposed to do. Instead, they just did whatever work was in front of them. Some very faithful people in the Bible took care of other people’s animals (Genesis 29:15). One of the saints waited tables (Acts 6:2-5), and another made tents for a living (Acts 18:3).

Discussion Question: What was the last job you had? Did you feel like your work was important to God?

God does not have a preference for any particular type of work, as long as it’s an honest living. But he does care that everyone who can work should find productive work to do.

Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.
(2 Thessalonians 3:10-13)

It doesn’t matter what job you do. You can be a godly stone cutter.

The Lord spoke to Moses: See I have called by name Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: and I have filled him with divine spirit, with ability, intelligence, and knowledge in every kind of craft, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, in every kind of craft.
(Exodus 31:1-5)

Bezalel was called to cut stones and carve wood for God’s purposes. In the Bible, there is not a competition between the work of ministry and secular work. Any job that faithful people do is important to God.

Discussion Question: Does anything surprise you from these two Bible passages?

If you’re wondering what type of job to look for, here are three tips from the Bible on choosing a profession:

1) Pay attention to your unique gifts.

We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us; prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
(Romans 12:6-8)

2) Pay attention to the needs around you.

I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.
(Matthew 25:35-36). 

This includes the needs of your family. The Bible makes a special point that you should seek a job that provides for your family.

And whoever does not provide for relatives, and especially for family members, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
(1 Timothy 5:8)

3) Pay particular attention to any job that gives you joy.

He fulfills the desire of all who fear him; he also hears their cry, and saves them.
(Psalm 145:19)

Discussion Question: How did you find your last job? 

Discussion Question: What do you think would be the perfect job for you?
 

The Challenges of Job Searching with a Criminal Record

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This lesson was piloted in April 2017 by Southern California Teen Challenge, in a program for men rehabilitating from drug addiction and prison. To see all lessons, go to the Men's Prison Curriculum Table of Contents.

Discussion Question: What scares you most about looking for a job?

Looking for work when you have a criminal record has special challenges. Many employers are afraid to hire someone with a record. For Christians, this is extra frustrating. On one hand, you are a new creation. Any sins from your past were wiped away by Jesus’ sacrifice (2 Corinthians 5:17). At the same time, you have a paper trail that follows you around. People are making hiring decisions based on this past information. How can you ensure you get a fair hearing? Should you be upfront about your history? Or hide it as best you can? This is difficult moral question.

Jesus realized that difficult questions come up all the time. In fact, he warned his followers that going into the world as Christians would be difficult.

“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
(Matthew 10:16)

When you wonder what to say about your criminal record, you may feel a tension between being wise and being innocent. People who think a lot about ethics have suggested a way to think through tough moral questions like this one. You can remember the method using three Cs: Commandments, Consequences, and Character.

Commandments: What commandments apply to this situation?

Consequences: What are the consequences of each potential course of action?

Character: How does each action reflect on the type of person I want to be?

Let’s use the three Cs to work through this question: What do you say to a potential employer about your criminal past? And when do you say it?

First think of any commandments that relate to this situation.   Many Bible verses stress telling the truth, such as Leviticus 19:11 which says “You shall not lie to one another.” However, when truth telling conflicts with doing something else that is right, the commandment doesn’t apply. Many Bible heroes do the right thing by misleading someone else, like the Hebrew midwives who lie to save baby boys (Exodus 1:15-21), or Moses who tells Pharaoh the Hebrews are only going into the desert for a brief festival (Exodus 5:1), or David who lies several times to preserve his own life (1 Samuel 21:1-3, 12-15). To sum up, you’re commanded to tell the truth, but with exceptions to do good for yourself and others.

Next think of the consequences of any action. If you reveal on a resume that you have a criminal record, you might not get an interview. However, if the interviewer asks you about past convictions and you don’t fess up, you’ll face bigger problems when a background check comes in.

Lastly, think about how your actions might reflect on your character. What type of person do you want to be? How do you want others to see you?

Discussion Question: How do you think commandments, consequences, and character apply to talking about your criminal record on your resume or in an interview?

Job search experts give these tips for being both wise and innocent when writing resumes and interviewing for jobs.

  • Don’t reference your criminal background on a resume. The purpose of a resume is to get you a job interview. Criminal history is best revealed in an interview, when you can put a positive spin on what you’ve learned from your experience.
  • If a job application asks about a conviction record, you can’t lie. But you can choose to explain yourself later. In the section that asks you for details on past convictions, you can write “will explain in interview.” 
  • If you did any work or education in prison, you can put this on your resume.  Use the name of the facility as the employer, and write any key skills you learned. Or, if your experiences in prison are unrelated to the job you’re applying for, you can leave them off your resume. 
  • When you explain your criminal record in an interview, be brief and focus on the positive: what you learned from your experience and how it will make you a good fit for the job.
  • You can use a 3-part model for explaining your past, one that shows creation, fall, and redemption. Example: The real me is a good man and a hard worker. I made some mistakes, but I paid for them and I learned from that experience. Right now I’m the best person for this job because nobody will work harder than me.

Discussion Question: What did you learn from prison or addiction? How are you different today from five years ago?

Discussion Question: What did you learn from your past experience that makes you the best person for a job?

Dealing with Boredom at Work

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This lesson was piloted in April 2017 by Southern California Teen Challenge, in a program for men rehabilitating from drug addiction and prison. To see all lessons, go to the Men's Prison Curriculum Table of Contents.

Discussion Question: Have you ever had a boring job?

Even if you have a job and feel blessed to have one, work can be boring. Many people feel bored in their jobs. If your work feels routine or mindless, or if you feel like it lacks meaning, you’ll likely feel bored. That doesn’t mean you should quit or do your job poorly. Here are some ways to counteract boredom at work.

I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.
(Ecclesiastes 3:12-13)

If your work is repetitive, you’re likely to get bored after a while. The writer of Ecclesiastes describes work as “toil” for this very reason. But he also says that it’s God’s gift to enjoy this toil. How does God give that gift? How do we get it?

One clue comes from Brother Lawrence, a seventeenth century monk. In his book The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence describes how he learned to feel God’s presence. While running errands or doing menial work in the monastery kitchen, Brother Lawrence thought about God and how much God loved him. When his superiors asked him why he was so happy, Brother Lawrence explained that thinking about God made him feel like God was present in his work. Brother Lawrence came to love his work, because he felt like it was something he and God were doing together.

If your work is repetitive, ask God to be with you in your work. When you’re doing a repetitive task, think about God and what he’s like. See if this changes your experience of your work.

Discussion Question: What task do you do over and over? How do you feel when you’re doing it?

Sometimes boredom comes from the idea that your work isn’t meaningful. There are several people in the Bible who probably felt like this.  Joseph is one of them. He dreamed of achieving greatness, but he ended up spending years in slavery and then in prison. Only the passage of time made him see that his previous boredom was necessary. 

And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.
(Genesis 45:5-8)

Discussion Question: What do you think Joseph was trying to tell his brothers in this passage?

Your work may have a hidden meaning that you can’t see now. Maybe it will be revealed with time. Or maybe you can ask your family or friends if they have any ideas about the meaning of your work. Or ask God to show you the meaning. This could short-circuit boredom with work.

Lastly, if your work is really unenjoyable, let yourself cry out to God about your boredom. The psalmist writes “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” (Psalm 13:1) If you are really unhappy at your job, share it with God in prayer.

Discussion Question: How have you dealt with boredom in the past? How do you plan on dealing with boredom in the future?

 

Dealing with Bosses

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This lesson was piloted in April 2017 by Southern California Teen Challenge, in a program for men rehabilitating from drug addiction and prison. To see all lessons, go to the Men's Prison Curriculum Table of Contents.

Discussion question: What kind of bosses did you have in the past? How did you feel about them? How did you relate to them?

Most everyone who works has a boss. But very few people know that dealing with bosses is a skill. Even fewer people know that you can get better at it by studying the Bible.

One difficult lesson from scripture is that you have to respect your boss and work for him diligently, whether or not he or she is a good boss.

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ; not only while being watched, and in order to please them, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not to men and women, knowing that whatever good we do, we will receive the same again from the Lord, whether we are slaves or free.
(Ephesians 6:5-8)

This verse encourages slaves to obey their masters and do good work, as if they were serving God and not people. The work of slaves was probably hard and uninteresting. But St. Paul tells them to do it with focus and enthusiasm. 

Working diligently and happily for your boss, whether he or she is good or bad, helps you in the end. The verse from Ephesians says that if you work as if you’re serving God, you “will receive the same again from the Lord.” In other words, there are rewards for working well. Even if your boss doesn’t plan on rewarding you, there will be a reward from God for your good work.

What’s more, God has placed certain people in power for a reason, even if we don’t know the reason. You should not retaliate against a bad boss because “it is God who executes judgement, putting down one and lifting up another” (Psalm 75:7). David, for example, respected Saul as King over him, even when Saul acted dishonorably. Saul was out to get David, but David refused to take revenge, saying, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to raise my hand against him; for he is the Lord’s anointed” (1 Samuel 24:6).

If you have a boss that makes work difficult, you should still act in a way that brings balance to your workplace, not instability. That means respecting people in power, even if they’re bad bosses.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all goodness and dignity.
(1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Discussion Question: Why does this Bible passage say to give thanks for everybody in power? What is the result of praying for your boss? 

Discussion Question: The result of getting along with a boss is a peaceful life, with goodness and dignity. What does a peaceful life look like?

Resolving Conflict with Coworkers

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This lesson was piloted in April 2017 by Southern California Teen Challenge, in a program for men rehabilitating from drug addiction and prison. To see all lessons, go to the Men's Prison Curriculum Table of Contents.

Discussion Question: Have you ever had a fight with someone you worked with? What happened in the end?

The most common problem workers face is conflict with coworkers. You spend more time with your coworkers than you do with any other people. Sometimes you come from different backgrounds with different understandings of what behavior is okay. Or maybe you’re in competition for a position. Whatever the reason, conflict with coworkers makes work miserable. And if you have a criminal record, a conflict with a coworker increases your chances of getting fired.

Jesus understood that conflicts happen. He laid out a model for conflict resolution when he told his disciples how they should relate to each other.

“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
(Matthew 18:15-17)

You can take several lessons from this verse for resolving conflicts with coworkers:

  • Address the problem as soon as possible with the other person, face to face.
  • Describe the problem without name-calling or self-justification.
  • Listen to the other person’s side of the story. Listening is so important that Jesus mentions it three times in this passage.
  • If meeting one-on-one doesn’t bring a solution, ask mutual friends or a direct supervisor to step in.

Discussion Question: Imagine that a coworker took one of your tools home without asking, and you couldn’t do your job. What do you do? Imagine you are talking to that person the next day. What do you say?

Discussion Question:  Imagine that one of your coworkers told you another coworker was talking about you behind your back. What do you do?

Jesus had to remind his followers to stay non-violent when they were threatened. 

While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him.
(Luke 22:47-51)

Even the people following Jesus got angry when threatened. They wanted to respond to violence with violence. But Jesus said violence is never a good idea. The version of this story in the Gospel of Matthew adds this explanation.

Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”
(Matthew 26:52)

Violence isn’t a way to solve problems; it will only get you into more trouble. You often hear people say: “Live by the sword, die by the sword.” This is what Jesus tells his disciples. If you use violence or threats of violence, there will be a negative consequence.

Discussion Question: Jesus gives a lot of advice about solving conflicts. Which tip will you try next time you’re in a fight with a coworker?

Discussion Question: What part of Jesus’ advice is hardest to follow?

Money and God’s Provision

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This lesson was piloted in April 2017 by Southern California Teen Challenge, in a program for men rehabilitating from drug addiction and prison. To see all lessons, go to the Men's Prison Curriculum Table of Contents.

Discussion Question: When you were growing up, how did your family talk about money? Was it a scary subject? Or something you worried about constantly? 

God’s original plan was for everyone to have enough. God gave people the whole earth with all its resources so that everybody could flourish.

God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.”
(Genesis 1:28-29)

But in a fallen world, many people don’t have enough resources. Sometimes poverty is caused by individual sin, as in the proverb: “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich” (Proverbs 10:4).  More often, however, poverty results from sins of society. The Bible recognizes that racism and other evil forces make it difficult for people at the bottom to get ahead.

The field of the poor may yield much food, but it is swept away through injustice.
(Proverbs 13:23)

Jesus yelled at powerful people who benefited from a system where other people didn’t have enough.

As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
(Mark 12:38-40)

The powerful people that Jesus condemned took property away from poor people and spent their money on fancy meals and clothes. This was true in Jesus’ time and sadly it is still true today.

Discussion Question: Do you see your life story in any of these Bible verses?

The good news is that Jesus came to change the order of things on earth and eventually make all things new.

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
(Colossians 1:19-20)

God is working to reconcile all things, including your personal finances. As with all of his projects, God wants you to work with him.

Three biblical attitudes will help you have a healthy view of money and make good financial decisions. These attitudes are: stewardship, gratitude, and contentment.

The biblical attitude of stewardship reminds us that God owns everything, and it is only our job to take care of it for a time.

The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.
Psalm 24:1

You may own property or have money, and you certainly have a right to use them. But in the end, everything you own belongs to God. God created everything in the world and asked humans to rule over it. That doesn’t mean people get to take everything away from God. Just the opposite. People have to take care of everything for God.  That means you have a responsibility to use your time and your money wisely. One day God will ask you to give an explanation of what you did with everything he gave you. 

“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents [about $6,000,000], to another two, to another one, each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest.’”
(Matthew 25:14-27)

Jesus told this story to show that God expects you to do something with what you’ve been given.

Discussion Question: What has God given you so far? What do you think he would like you to do with it?

The biblical practice of gratitude helps you break the bad habit of spending money on things you don’t need. Gratitude means thanking God for everything you get, whether it’s a lot or a little.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

When you’re starting to practice gratitude, it helps to remember key times to thank God for what you have. Thank God before you eat a meal, every time you get a paycheck, after you reach a savings goal or when you buy something that makes your life better.

The last biblical attitude that helps you reshape your relationship with money is contentment.  Contentment means enjoying what you have right now.

Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
(Hebrews 13:5)

Discussion Question: What do you enjoy most in life? Is it exercise, a good meal, hanging with friends, or something else?

Whatever makes you happy, make sure you do it regularly and really enjoy it. If you are content in the present moment you won’t be thinking of other stuff you need to buy to make you happy.

If you have serious financial problems, please pray about them.  God promises to work with people who pray.

“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”
(Matthew 7:7-9)

God does not promise that Christians will escape every effect of the fallen world. Money troubles are real and frustrating. God does promise to provide for the things you absolutely need, and to make good things come from a bad situation.

And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:19)

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
(Romans 12:28)

Discussion Question: What are the biggest challenges in your finances? What do you want God to change?

Discussion Question: What would you call ‘a good life’?  What do you need for your life to be good?

 

Women: Working Warriors

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This curriculum was was piloted in April 2017 by Southern California Teen Challenge, in a program for women rehabilitating from drug addiction, prison, and prostitution.

Each woman deserves to know that God sees her as powerful. Moreover, God has important work for each woman to accomplish. The Bible tells many stories of heroic women working in difficult circumstances. These stories teach us that God consistently uses working women of all kinds to do important things in the world. Over seven lessons, women will learn what God thinks of them and their work, how they can work well with others according to biblical principles, and how to reenter the workforce amidst the challenges of a fallen world. You are free to use this curriculum individually or in groups, or adapt it for different settings.

Table of Contents

  1. Does God Care About My Work?
  2. What's a Calling?
  3. Getting Past the Past When You're a Woman with a Record
  4. Boredom and Overcoming It
  5. Bosses, Good and Bad
  6. Fights with Coworkers
  7. Money

Does God Care About My Work?

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This lesson was piloted in April 2017 by Southern California Teen Challenge, in a program for women rehabilitating from drug addiction, prison, and prostitution. To see all lessons, go to the Women's Prison Curriculum Table of Contents.

This class will help you find a job and keep it. But it’s not just about finding a job. The Bible readings and discussions in this class will help you understand the special purpose God has for you as a working woman. 

Many people sneer about ‘women’s work’ or claim that women shouldn’t work at all. But this was never true for God. From the beginning, God created women for important work. 

Discussion Question: Did your mother work for a living, or work at home? How did she talk about her work?

God himself is a worker. In Genesis 1 God created everything piece by piece. God’s favorite piece of work was human beings. God created both men and women to be like him, in his image. And just like God is a worker, God created people to be workers too.  

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
(Genesis 1:26-27)

God creates people with a job description in mind: ruling over his creation. In fact, the first time God talks to people it’s to give them instructions about their job.

God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
(Genesis 1:28)

God tells people to fill the world he created, rule over it, and make something out of it. He wants people to take care of the world and also do something with it. Just like God created everything out of nothing, God expects humans to create homes, delicious meals, and businesses out of the world he gave them.

Because God created important work for people to do, working makes you feel important. Work makes you feel fully human. Work increases your self-respect and connects you with God who is a worker. If you feel good after you make something or clean something or help someone, it’s because it’s in your DNA to work. God made you that way.

In the second chapter of Genesis, we learn more about God’s specific job description for women.

Then the Lord God said, it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.
(Genesis 2:18)

God created the first woman to share the work with the first man. They were supposed to work together as partners. Unfortunately, many negative opinions about women and their work have come from the word ‘helper’ in this verse. Some people think a woman is only a lowly assistant to a man. But that was never God’s intention. The original Hebrew of the Bible says that the women was created as an ezer. The word ezer is used twenty-one times in the Old Testament, first to describe the woman, and then to describe powerful nations that Israel called on for help. Sixteen times in the Old Testament the word ezer refers to God. So woman isn’t a helper like a servant. Woman is a helper like a strong rescuer or a protector. Woman is a helper the same way that God is our help.

In the original language of Genesis, God not only created you to be a worker, he created you to be a strong warrior. 

Discussion Question: What do you think about these Bible passages about women? Do they have anything to do with you today?

Unfortunately, being a woman in the work world often doesn’t make you feel powerful. It can be hard to find a job, difficult to make ends meet, and you might face sexual harassment at work. That’s because the world isn’t perfect like God created it. Sin in people and in society creates problems.

When God created the world he also created limits. In Genesis 1:31-2:2 God put a limit on himself, working for only 6 days and resting on the 7th. God also gave limits to people.  “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat” (Genesis 2:16-17). Adam and Eve refused to follow God’s limits, so work became more difficult for them. Adam’s farming work, which had once made him a partner with God, became toil (Genesis 3:17-19). Meanwhile, Eve faced new challenges to “fill the earth and subdue it.” Filling the earth with children became more painful. Subduing the earth was harder because she herself would be subdued by her husband who would “rule over” her (Genesis 3:16) as a result of their shared sin.

Sin creates many ways people try to dominate each other. Even so, work itself isn’t cursed. It may be harder and more frustrating, but work is still a part of God’s good plan for you.

Discussion Question: What is the hardest problem you ever faced at a job?

In the fallen world we live in, work can be tough. But Jesus offers hope. God sent Jesus to earth to cancel curses.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” – in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
(Galatians 3:13-14)

Jesus took on the curse of sin so that every person who comes to faith also receives “the promise of the Spirit”. The promise is to restore people to the goodness for which God created them. Through Jesus you are free from the cost of sin. God also wants to restore your identity as an ezer, a beautiful warrior.

Discussion Question: Where do you see yourself 5 years from today?

God isn’t going to bring you back to your created greatness all on his own. Just like God made work a joint effort between himself and people, God asks people to help with his plan for redemption. If work is going to be more fun, more satisfying, and more godly, you have to help make that happen. There are many biblical principles in this class. By learning these principles, you will learn how you can bring God to work with you.
 
God has always counted on women to work with him. When Jesus first spread his message on earth, women financed his travels, using their money and skills to make his work possible.

He went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.
(Luke 8:1-3)

Mary, Chuza, and Susanna traveled with God. With their own money, these women made Jesus’ work possible. You too can go to work with God, or take God to your future workplace.

Discussion Question: Do you relate to any of these women who followed Jesus? Why or why not? 

What’s a Calling?

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This lesson was piloted in April 2017 by Southern California Teen Challenge, in a program for women rehabilitating from drug addiction, prison, and prostitution. To see all lessons, go to the Women's Prison Curriculum Table of Contents.

Did you ever hear someone talk about a job as a calling?

When people use the word calling, they usually mean that God pointed them to a particular career. Mostly this is something that pastors say. You sometimes hear doctors or artists talk about being called to their work. Some women talk about being called to unpaid work like mothering. But not always. If you have never felt a specific calling, you’re not alone.

According to the Bible, there is more than one way to be called. Everyone’s first and most important calling is to belong to Christ. Everyone is called to this. No matter who you are or what you do, you’re included.

Including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ
(Romans 1:6)

Discussion Question: What did it feel like when God called you to believe in Jesus? Did you ever feel the same way about a job?

Some people in the Bible got called to specific jobs. But most people don’t hear directly from God about the job he wants them to do. Instead, their friends or family have to point out God’s calling. This was the case of Esther, who had to have God’s plans explained to her by her cousin Mordecai: “Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

 
Most heroes in the Bible didn’t hear from God at all about what work they were supposed to do. Instead, they did whatever work was in front of them. Some very faithful people in the Bible took care of other people’s animals (Genesis 29:15). One of the saints waited tables (Acts 6:2-5). Ruth took care of herself and her mother-in-law by working in the fields (Ruth 2:3).

Discussion Question: What was the last job you had? Did you feel like your work was important to God?

God does not have a preference for any particular type of work, as long as it’s an honest living. But he does care that everyone who can work should find productive work to do.

Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.
(2 Thessalonians 3:10-13)

Discussion Question: Does anything surprise you from this Bible passage?

If you’re wondering what type of job to look for, here are three tips from the Bible on choosing a profession:

1) Pay attention to your unique gifts.

We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us; prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
(Romans 12:6-8)

2) Pay attention to the needs around you.

I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.
(Matthew 25:35-36)

This includes the needs of your family. The Bible makes a special point that you should seek a job that provides for your family.

And whoever does not provide for relatives, and especially for family members, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
(1 Timothy 5:8)

3) Pay particular attention to any job that gives you joy.

He fulfills the desire of all who fear him; he also hears their cry, and saves them.
(Psalm 145:19)

Discussion Question: What do you think would be the perfect job for you?

Getting Past the Past When You’re a Woman with a Record

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This lesson was piloted in April 2017 by Southern California Teen Challenge, in a program for women rehabilitating from drug addiction, prison, and prostitution.  To see all lessons, go to the Women's Prison Curriculum Table of Contents.

Discussion Question: What scares you most about looking for a job?

Looking for a job has special challenges when you’re a woman with a criminal record. Employers can be afraid to hire someone with a record. For Christians, this is especially frustrating. Jesus forgave you of everything in your past, just like he forgave the woman caught in adultery (John 8:11). Jesus set you free to live a new kind of future, just like he told that woman, “Go your way, and from now on do not sin again” (John 8:11). And yet, the paper trail that follows you makes it complicated. Should you be upfront about your history? Or hide it as best you can? This is difficult moral question.

Jesus realized that difficult questions come up all the time. In fact, he warned his followers that going into the world as Christians would be difficult.

“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
(Matthew 10:16)

When you wonder what to say about your criminal record, you may feel a tension between being wise and being innocent. People who think a lot about ethics have suggested a way to think through tough moral questions like this one. You can remember the method using three Cs: Commandments, Consequences, and Character.

Commandments: What commandments apply to this situation?

Consequences: What are the consequences of each course of action?

Character: How does each action reflect on the type of person I want to be?

Let’s use the three Cs to work through this question: What do you say to a potential employer about your criminal past? And when do you say it?

First think of any commandments that relate to this situation.   Many Bible verses stress telling the truth, such as Leviticus 19:11 which says “You shall not lie to one another.” However, when truth telling conflicts with doing something else that is right, the commandment doesn’t apply. Many Bible heroes do the right thing by misleading someone else, like the heroic Hebrew midwives who lie to save baby boys (Exodus 1:15-21).

The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, “When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.” But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?” The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.
(Exodus 1:15-21)

Other examples are Moses who tells Pharaoh the Hebrews are only going into the desert for a brief festival (Exodus 5:1), or David who lies several times to preserve his own life (1 Samuel 21:1-3, 12-15). To sum up, you’re commanded to tell the truth, but with exceptions to do good for yourself and others.

Next think of the consequences of any action. If you reveal on a resume that you have a criminal record, you might not get an interview. However, if the interviewer asks you about past convictions and you don’t fess up, you’ll face bigger problems when a background check comes in.

Lastly, think about how your actions might reflect on your character. What type of person do you want to be? How do you want others to see you?

Discussion Question: How do you think commandments, consequences, and character apply to talking about your criminal record on your resume or in an interview?

Job search experts give these tips for being both wise and innocent when writing resumes and interviewing for jobs.

  • Don’t reference your criminal background on a resume. The purpose of a resume is to get you a job interview. Criminal history is best revealed in an interview, when you can put a positive spin on what you’ve learned from your experience.
  • If a job application asks about a conviction record, you can’t lie. But you can choose to explain yourself later. In the section that asks you for details on past convictions, you can write “will explain in interview.”
  • If you did any work or education in prison, you can put this on your resume.  Use the name of the facility as the employer, and write any key skills you learned. Or, if your experiences in prison are unrelated to the job you’re applying for, you can leave them off your resume. 
  • When you explain your criminal record in an interview, be brief and focus on the positive: what you learned from your experience and how it will make you a good fit for the job.

Discussion Question: What did you learn from your past experience that makes you the best person for a job?

Boredom and Overcoming It

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This lesson was piloted in April 2017 by Southern California Teen Challenge, in a program for women rehabilitating from drug addiction, prison, and prostitution. To see all lessons, go to the Women's Prison Curriculum Table of Contents.

Discussion Question: Have you ever had a boring job?

Both work at a job and work in the home can feel boring sometimes. This is especially true if the work you’re doing feels routine or lacks meaning. That doesn’t mean you should quit your job or give up housework forever. Instead, look to the Bible for ways to counteract boredom with work.

I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.
(Ecclesiastes 3:12-13)

If your work is repetitive, you’re likely to get bored after a while. The writer of Ecclesiastes describes work as “toil” for this very reason. But he also says that it’s God’s gift to enjoy this toil. How does God give that gift? How do we get it?

One clue comes from a seventeenth century monk who worked in the monastery kitchen. In his book The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence describes how he learned to feel God’s presence, even while washing dishes, by thinking about God's love in that moment. In a similar way, the famous nun Theresa of Lisieux practiced living in the moment to combat boredom. “If I did not simply live from one moment to another,” she wrote, “it would be impossible for me to be patient, but I only look at the present, I forget the past, and I take good care not to forestall the future.”

If your work is repetitive, ask God to be with you in your work. Be present in the work you’re doing right at this moment. See if this changes your experience.

Discussion Question: What task do you do over and over? How do you feel when you’re doing it?

Sometimes boredom comes from the idea that your work isn’t meaningful. There are several people in the Bible who probably felt like this.  Esther is one of them. She spent months primping in a harem, not knowing when the king would call on her. And yet because of her boring job, she was able to save the Jewish people when crisis hit. Her cousin Mordecai guessed that she had "come to royal dignity for such a time as this." (Esther 4:14)
 
Discussion Question: What are the hidden opportunities of sticking with a boring job?

Like with Esther waiting for the king to summon her, your work may have a hidden meaning that you can’t see now. Maybe it will be revealed with time. Or maybe you can ask your family or friends if they have any ideas about the meaning of your work. Or ask God to show you the meaning. This could short-circuit boredom with work.

Lastly, if your work is really unenjoyable, let yourself cry out to God about your boredom. The psalmist writes “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” (Psalm 13:1) If you are really unhappy at your job, share it with God in prayer.

Discussion Question: How have you dealt with boredom in the past? How do you plan on dealing with boredom in the future?

 

Bosses, Good and Bad

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This lesson was piloted in April 2017 by Southern California Teen Challenge, in a program for women rehabilitating from drug addiction, prison, and prostitution. To see all lessons, go to the Women's Prison Curriculum Table of Contents.

Discussion question: What kind of bosses did you have in the past? How did you feel about them? How did you relate to them?

Hagar had a bad boss. Ruth had a good one. Most everyone who works has a boss. The Bible tells us how to deal with bosses, both good ones and bad ones.

One difficult lesson from scripture is that you have to respect your boss and work for him or her diligently, whether or not he or she is a good boss.

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ; not only while being watched, and in order to please them, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not to men and women, knowing that whatever good we do, we will receive the same again from the Lord, whether we are slaves or free.
(Ephesians 6:5-8)

This verse encourages slaves to obey their masters and do good work, as if they were serving God and not people. The work of slaves was probably hard and uninteresting. But St. Paul tells them to do it with focus and enthusiasm. 

Working diligently and happily for your boss, whether he or she is good or bad, helps you in the end. The verse from Ephesians says that if you work as if you’re serving God, you “will receive the same again from the Lord.” In other words, there are rewards for working well. Even if your boss doesn’t plan on rewarding you, there will be a reward from God for your good work.

What’s more, God has placed certain people in power for a reason, even if we don’t know the reason. You should not retaliate against a bad boss because “it is God who executes judgement, putting down one and lifting up another” (Psalm 75:7).

God told Hagar to go back to working for her bad boss, after she had run away. In return, God promised to reward her.

The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave-girl of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am running away from my mistress Sarai.” The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her.” The angel of the Lord also said to her, “I will so greatly multiply your offspring that they cannot be counted for multitude.”
(Genesis 16:7-10)

Hagar didn’t know everything that God was doing through her bad boss. Even though she disliked her work situation, she went back to work. She felt comforted to know that God saw her and had a plan for her (Genesis 16:13).

Discussion Question: Do you relate to Hagar in any way? What do you think of her story? 

Ruth had a good boss, whose name was Boaz. He made sure Ruth got what she needed, and he protected her from sexual harassment. Ruth showed her gratitude by speaking to him humbly and by working extra hard.

“I have ordered the young men not to bother you. If you get thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.” Then she fell prostrate, with her face to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your sight, that you should take notice of me, when I am a foreigner?... May I continue to find favor in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, even though I am not one of your servants.”
(Ruth 2:9-10, 13)

Discussion Question: What does Ruth’s story tell you about working for a good boss? How are you similar to Ruth? How are you different from her?

Fights with Coworkers

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This lesson was piloted in April 2017 by Southern California Teen Challenge, in a program for women rehabilitating from drug addiction, prison, and prostitution. To see all lessons, go to the Women's Prison Curriculum Table of Contents.

Discussion Question: Have you ever had a fight with someone you worked with? What happened in the end?

Drama at work can make life miserable. It’s not surprising that conflicts come up between coworkers. You don’t get to choose the people you work with, and often they come from different backgrounds or have different views of the world. What is surprising is that most people don’t know how to resolve workplace conflicts peacefully. Jesus knew.

Jesus understood that conflicts happen. He laid out a model for conflict resolution when he told his disciples how they should relate to each other.

“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
(Matthew 18:15-17)

You can take several lessons from this verse for resolving conflicts with coworkers:

  • Address the problem as soon as possible with the other person, face to face.
  • Describe the problem without name-calling or self-justification.
  • Listen to the other person’s side of the story. Listening is so important that Jesus mentions it three times in this passage.
  • If meeting one-on-one doesn’t bring a solution, ask mutual friends or a direct supervisor to step in.

Discussion Question:  Imagine that one of your coworkers told you another coworker was talking about you behind your back. What do you do?

Jesus often had to remind his followers not to criticize each other. When Martha publicly criticized her sister Mary for not doing her share of the housework, Jesus pointed out Martha’s negative attitude and told her to leave Mary alone.

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

(Luke 10:38-42)

Even the people following Jesus got angry and wanted to respond with violence. But Jesus said violence is never a good idea.

Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”
(Matthew 26:52)

Violence isn’t a way to solve problems; it will only get you into more trouble. You often hear people say: “Live by the sword, die by the sword.” This is what Jesus tells his disciples. If you use violence or threats of violence, there will be a negative consequence.

Discussion Question: What part of Jesus’ advice is hardest to follow?

Money

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This lesson was piloted in April 2017 by Southern California Teen Challenge, in a program for women rehabilitating from drug addiction, prison, and prostitution. To see all lessons, go to the Women's Prison Curriculum Table of Contents.

Discussion Question: What’s the hardest thing about money: making it, spending it, or saving it?

In God’s original plan, both men and women would have everything they needed. God gave people the whole earth with all its resources so that everybody could flourish.

God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.”
(Genesis 1:28-29)

But in a fallen world, many people don’t have everything they need. Sexism, racism, and other evil forces make it especially difficult for women on their own. God’s law offers protections for women without husbands (Deuteronomy 27:19), but in reality many single mothers struggle alone. Jesus recognized this unfairness, and he yelled at men who grew powerful while exploiting poor women.

As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
(Mark 12:38-40)

Jesus is on the side of women in need, and he intends to make all things new.

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
(Colossians 1:19-20)

God is working to reconcile all things, including your personal finances. But he needs your help. Three biblical attitudes will help you make good financial decisions. These attitudes are: stewardship, gratitude, and contentment.

The biblical attitude of stewardship reminds us that God owns everything, and it is only our job to take care of it for a time. 

The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.
Psalm 24:1

In the end, everything you have belongs to God. That means you have a responsibility to use your money wisely. The place you live and the people around you are important to God. When you make decisions about saving and spending, you are making decisions about God’s money. Do your financial decisions take care of the place you live and the people around you?

The biblical practice of gratitude helps you break the bad habit of spending money on things you don’t need. Gratitude means thanking God for everything you get, whether it’s a lot or a little.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

When you’re starting to practice gratitude, it helps to remember key times to thank God for what you have. Thank God before you eat a meal, every time you get a paycheck, after you reach a savings goal or when you buy something that makes your life better.

The last biblical attitude that helps you reshape your relationship with money is contentment.  Contentment means enjoying what you have right now.

Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
(Hebrews 13:5)

Whatever makes you happy, make sure you do it regularly and really enjoy it. If you are content in the present moment you won’t be thinking of other stuff you need to buy to make you happy.

Discussion Question: How can you practice stewardship, gratitude, and contentment in these situations: Shopping for food? Shopping for clothes? Paying debt? Saving for the future?

If you have serious financial problems, please pray about them.  God promises to work with people who pray.

“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”
(Matthew 7:7-9)

God does not promise that Christians will escape every effect of the fallen world. Money troubles are real and frustrating. God does promise to provide for the things you absolutely need, and to make good things come from a bad situation.

And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:19)

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
(Romans 12:28)

Discussion Question: What are the biggest challenges in your finances? What do you want God to change?

Discussion Question: What would you call ‘a good life’?  What do you need for your life to be good?

Small Group Studies on Workplace Topics

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1-hour small group studies on Workplace Topics

These 1-hour topical studies  free to use with any group. Each study includeswith scripture, commentary, and thought-provoking questions.

Small Group Study on Ambition

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For more small group studies on workplace issues, go to the Small Groups Studies Page.

One Hour Session on Ambition

Note to the Leader

This study is intended to engage Christians who work in a discussion about ambition. It brings together the practical reality of life at work and the spiritual guidance of the Bible. The study begins with an optional, provocative video. It is not intended as a statement of what’s right, but as a vivid discussion starter. Participants then read a passage of the Bible and talk about its perspective on ambition. Then they explore how to apply what they’ve discussed to their own work.

The study does not require any reading or preparation in advance. The study is intended to take about an hour, including reading the passages out loud. If your group has more time, of if you’d like to continue the discussion next time, three additional Bible passages and a case study are provided for further exploration.

GETTING STARTED:

[Optional] Begin with a prayer, according to your group’s custom.

Discuss: 

  1. What comes to your mind when you hear the word “ambition”?
  2. [Optional] Watch this video clip: “Ambition vs Discontentment - What is the difference?” (The link takes you to 37 sec from the start. From there to the end is 7 minutes). Note: this video is intentionally provocative!  It only expresses the opinion of the presenter. What’s your opinion?
  3. Does God want us to be ambitious? If no, why not? If yes, ambitious for what?

A BIBLICAL VIEW OF AMBITION

Ambition vs. Selfish Ambition

Read together (Philippians 2:3-11):

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Discuss:

  1. What words, images or characters do you see in the passage that relate to ambition at work?
  2. How does what you observe in the passage relate to what comes to mind when you hear the word “ambition”?

APPLYING IT TO YOUR WORK

The passage above from Philippians speaks against “selfish” motivation, but not against ambition itself. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility
value others above yourselves. ” If our ambition is to serve the interests of others--for example by excelling in our work, expanding our sphere of action, or gaining power to make things better—ambition may be a form of service to God. But if our work is motivated by selfishness or is done with indifference to others, we are not aligned with the mind of Jesus. A biblical perspective on ambition may result in a major paradigm shift for some people, both for those who think that all ambition is un-Christ-like and for those who think God doesn’t care much about how they go about their work.

Adapted from the Theology of Work Bible Commentary For further study on this passage see Do Your Work in a Worthy Manner (Philippians 1:27–2:11).

Discuss:

  1. What are you ambitious for?
  2. If your ambitions succeed, how will it benefit you? Who else will your successs benefit, and how exactly? Can you ever be completely free of selfish ambitions?
  3. What practical steps can you take now to turn your ambitions more toward serving others?
  4. What do you need to ask Christ for?

[Optional] End with a prayer, according to your group’s custom.

This ends the one-hour study on ambition.

Additional Study Material on Ambition

For a longer session, or for follow-on sessions, choose from the material below.

CHARACTER MATTERS

Read together 1 Timothy 3:1-7:

The saying is sure: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task. Now a bishop must be above reproach, married only once, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way— for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace and the snare of the devil.

This passage views ambition for leadership (at least in the church) as a “noble task.” (The Greek word translated “bishop” is episkope, literally meaning “overseer.”) But this ambition must be paired with a lifelong commitment to Christ-like character formation.   

For further study on this passage see Integrity and Relational Ability are Key Leadership Qualities (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9).

Discuss: 

  • The passage doesn’t say why aspiring to leadership is a noble task. What do you think is noble about ambition for leadership? Does this only apply to church leadership?
  • Look at the specific character traits in the passage. Which of them are the most important in your workplace? What happens when a leader has or does not have them?
  • Which leadership characteristics do you most wish to develop? How does following Christ help you grow towards them?

GOALS MATTER

Read together the following excerpt from “Ambition” in The Complete Book of Everyday Christianty:

Since Scripture is somewhat ambiguous on the subject of ambition, it is not surprising that many Christians are confused. Paul warned against unbridled appetites (Phil 3:19) and the danger of loving money (1 Tim 6:10). But there are also positive statements like like the one approving those who set their hearts on being an elder—a godly ambition (1 Tim 3:1). While Paul counseled against being conformed to the  mindset of the world (Romans 12:2 ) and rejoiced to see his enemies preach the gospel even though they wanted to make life more difficult for him (Phil 1:18),  he was ambitious to have a harvest among the Romans (Romans 1:13) and to evangelize Spain. It has often been suggested that when Paul got converted, so was his ambition: ‘What Paul can teach us is that there is a gospel-centered way to speak about competitiveness, a way to be ambitious for the sake of Christ, a way to raise the desire for success above the level of self-interest or ideology’ (Kuck, p. 175).

From: Robert Banks & R. Paul Stevens, eds., The Complete Book of Everyday Christianity, (InterVarsity Press, 1997, p. 34). For further study about Paul’s ambition as an apostle, see God’s Work in Us (Philippians 1:1–26)

Discuss: 

  • What kinds of “unbridled appetites” underlying ambition have you observed where you work? Have you been conformed to these mindsets at all?
  • Is it really possible to be competitive “for the sake of Christ.” Doesn’t competition necessarily mean that someone wins and someone else loses? How could competition and ambition not ultimately end up benefiting yourself at the expense of others?

INVESTING IN OTHERS MATTERS

Read together James 4:1-10

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures….That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

A perspective from the Theology of Work Bible Commentary on James 4:1-2:

In the workplace, one temptation is to use others as stepping stones to our own success. When we steal the credit for a subordinate’s or co-worker’s work, when we withhold information from a rival for promotion, when we shift the blame to someone not present to defend themselves, when we take advantage of someone in a difficult situation, we are guilty of selfish ambition. James is right that this is a chief source of quarrels.

Ironically, selfish ambition may impede success rather than promote it. The higher our position in an organi­zation, the more we depend on others for success. It can be as simple as delegating work to subordinates, or as complex as coordinating an international project team. But if we have a reputation for stepping on other people to get ahead, how can we expect others to trust and follow our leadership?

The remedy lies in submitting to God, who created all people in his image (Gen. 1:27) and who sent his Son to die for all (2 Cor. 5:14). We submit to God whenever we put our ambition in the service of others ahead of ourselves. Do we want to rise to a position of authority and ex­cellence? Good, then we should begin by helping other workers increase their authority and excellence. Does success motivate us? Good, then we should invest in the success of those around us. Ironically, investing in others’ success may also turn out to be the best thing we can do for our­selves. According to economists Elizabeth Dunn of the University of Brit­ish Columbia and Michael Norton of Harvard Business School, investing in other people makes us happier than spending money on ourselves.

Discuss:

  • How much of the fighting and quarreling in your workplace comes from people’s selfish ambition to “use others as stepping stones to our own success”? Describe an example.
  • To what degree does success in your current work depend on the success of others around you?
  • Do you have a reputation for helping others in your workplace be successful?
  • What do you think of the claim that the best thing an ambitious Christian can do is to invest in the success of others around them?

CASE STUDY ON AMBITION 

After graduating from Harvard business school, Diane Paddison served as global executive for two  Fortune 500 companies and one Fortune 1000 company. Today she acts as an independent director for two corporations and four non-profits and writes for Christianity Today’s digital magazine “Today’s Christian Women.”

Paddison writes: 

What if women are not being "held back," but rather women are choosing not to move forward?

If I see a woman making a mature and purposeful choice to "lean back" from work in order to prioritize other things, I celebrate her and praise God that she has the opportunity to make that choice.

The problem is that some women, and especially Christian women, aren't making that choice for themselves. Instead, they're letting guilt make it for them. We've come to see ambition as synonymous with greed, pride, and selfishness. If you offer a young mother-to-be a choice between her family and "selfish pride," she's almost definitely going to choose family. Have you ever heard anyone (male or female) complimented at church for their "ambition"?

Ambition shouldn't be a dirty word. It doesn't have to entail sacrificing family or other good things. It is possible to balance career ambitions with life's other priorities, like family and faith.

It's important to remember that God made you. He built every piece of you. It's not an accident that you have the intelligence and skills to excel in the professional world. These abilities were given to you by God to use for his service.

Not everyone feels a strong desire to advance at work, but if you do, it means that God made you that way. Ambition is a gift, not a curse. It must be stewarded. It must be focused with care. But it shouldn't be crushed or ignored.

Remember that God has a purpose for all of us. He has placed us in and works through our circumstances. If he is prompting you toward success, don't be afraid to follow the path he has drawn for you. And most importantly, don't forget that he is the reason for it.

              Adapted from “The Truth About Ambition” at www.4wordwomen.org.

Discuss:

  • What is Paddison’s opinion of ambition? What do you think about it?
  • Do you believe that God gives ambition as a gift?
  • If a friend came to you for advice on balancing career ambitions with family and faith, what would you tell him or her?
  • What do you think of your own ambitions in light of this?

Bad Boss?

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1-hour small group study on having a bad boss

For more small group studies on workplace issues, go to the SMALL GROUPS STUDIES INDEX.

INTRODUCTION TO THE ISSUE:

Because they are human and subject to the effects of the Fall, bosses can be arrogant, self-centered, or even abusive. Dealing with a bad boss requires extra tact and forethought. Here is a case study from the bible on one bad boss.

A BIBLE HERO WITH A BAD BOSS

Daniel had a bad boss. Not only was king Nebuchadnezzar self-possessed and violent, he had taken Daniel and his friends captive to work in his royal court. Nevertheless, Daniel deals with his supervisor in a shrewd way that gets results.

The king commanded his palace master Ashpenaz to bring some of the Israelites of the royal family and of the nobility, young men without physical defect and handsome, versed in every branch of wisdom, endowed with knowledge and insight, and competent to serve in the king’s palace; they were to be taught the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the royal rations of food and wine. They were to be educated for three years, so that at the end of that time they could be stationed in the king’s court. Among them were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, from the tribe of Judah. The palace master gave them other names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshack, and Azariah he called Abednego.

But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the royal rations of food and wine, so he asked the palace master to allow him not to defile himself. Now God allowed Daniel to receive favor and compassion from the palace master. The palace master said to Daniel, “I am afraid of the lord the king; he has appointed your food and your drink. If he should see you in poorer condition than the other young men of your age, you would endanger my head with the king.” Then Daniel asked the guard whom the palace master had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishale, and Azariah: “Please test your servants for ten days. Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. You can then compare our appearance with the appearance of the young men who eat the royal rations, and deal with your servants according to what you observe.” So he agreed to this proposal and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was observed that they appeared better and fatter than all the young men who had been eating the royal rations. So the guard continued to withdraw their royal rations and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.
(Daniel 1:3-16)

Daniel and his friends had several conflicts with their supervisor. First he changed their names to honor Babylonian Gods (Daniel 1:6-7) then he asked them to conform to local dietary customs (Daniel 1:8-16). In this hostile work environment, Daniel and his friends chose which battles to fight. They did not protest the renaming, perhaps because they knew the king couldn’t change their true allegiance to God. But they did make an issue out of the food, which was very important to their religious identity.

Daniel shows great tact in the way he raises this tricky issue with his superior. He talks to his boss respectfully, with a desire to maintain a good relationship. Daniel makes sure he understands the issue from the other person’s perspective. It turns out the palace master is worried about his own job, which includes keeping Daniel productive and healthy. Since health rather than food was the most important issue for the boss, Daniel suggests a test trial period that suits everyone’s needs.

Discuss:

  1. What lessons do you take from Daniel’s negotiation with his supervisor?
  2. How could these principles apply to a workplace conflict you face?

 

Even with the greatest tact and creativity, however, sometimes our work gives us people and problems we cannot fix. This may be true if your boss or your company asks you to do things at work that violate your moral code. For Daniel’s friends, the deal-breaker issue was idol worship. Not bowing down to an idol was so important that they were ready to sacrifice everything for it: their careers in the kings service and even their lives.

King Nebuchadnezzar made a golden statue whose height was sixty cubits and whose width was six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent for the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, to assemble and come to the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. So the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, assembled for the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. When they were standing before the statue that Nebuchadnezzar had set up, the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, you are to fall down and worship the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire.” Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

Accordingly, at this time certain Chaldeans came forward and denounced the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! You, O king, have made a decree, that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, shall fall down and worship the golden statue, and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire. There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These pay no heed to you, O king. They do not serve your gods and they do not worship the golden statue that you have set up.”

Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought in; so they brought those men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods and you do not worship the golden statue that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble to fall down and worship the statue that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire, and who is the god that will deliver you out of my hands?” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defense to you in this matter. If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.”

Then Nebuchadnezzar was so filled with rage against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face was distorted. He ordered the furnace heated up seven times more than was customary, and ordered some of the strongest guards in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and to throw them into the furnace of blazing fire. So the men were bound, still wearing their tunics, their trousers, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the furnace of blazing fire. Because the king’s command was urgent and the furnace was so overheated, the raging flames killed the men who lifted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. But the three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down, bound, into the furnace of blazing fire.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up quickly. He said to his counselors, “Was it not three men that we threw bound into the fire?” They answered the king, “True, O king.” He replied, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the middle of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the fourth has the appearance of a god.” Nebuchadnezzar then approached the door of the furnace of blazing fire and said, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men; the hair of their heads was not singed, their tunics were not harmed, and not even the smell of fire came from them. Nebuchadnezzar said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants who trusted in him. They disobeyed the king’s command and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that utters blasphemy against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins; for there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.” Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
(Daniel 3:1-30)

Discuss:

  1. What lessons do you take away from the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?
  2. Have you ever been faced with a deal-breaker ethical issue at work? What would be a deal-breaker issue for you?

 

Conflict at Work

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1-hour small group study on Conflict at Work

For more small group studies on workplace issues, go to the SMALL GROUPS STUDIES INDEX.

INTRODUCTION TO THE ISSUE:

Most of us have experienced conflict at work. Shows like The Office and movies such as Office Space make light of conflicts between bosses and subordinates or between coworkers. But real workplace conflict is no laughing matter. If conflict goes unresolved it could leave you feeling stressed, drained and unenthusiastic about your work. This session will offer a biblical framework for resolving conflict, and help you reflect on conflict you've faced in the workplace.

Discuss:

  1. Have you experienced a major conflict at work? How does conflict affect your experience at your job today?
  2. Have you ever had a conflict with a coworker or with a boss? How did you resolve the issue?

WHAT CAUSES CONFLICT?

In the workplace, many factors cause conflict, including competition over resources, differences in individual work styles or values, and unclear roles. Indeed, conflict has been around since the beginning of human experience. Because of their sin in the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve are cursed with conflict for the remainder of their relationship. “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16). Their children Cain and Abel are also famous examples of conflict. We should be unsurprised then when conflict comes up in our places of work.

JESUS’ MODEL FOR RESOLVING CONFLICT BETWEEN COWORKERS

Fortunately, Jesus offers a way to redeem workplace conflict. In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus describes a process for conflict resolution between coworkers.

If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
(Matthew 18:15-17)

To sum up, here are the steps in Jesus’ conflict resolution plan:

  1. Talk in person (rather than over email where misunderstandings can fester).
  2. Describe the problem respectfully, without self-justification.
  3. Listen to the other person’s side of the story (listening is so important that Jesus mentions it three times in these verses).
  4. If talking one on one doesn’t generate a solution, ask for help from mutual friends.
  5. If that doesn’t work, bring up the matter with a higher authority.
  6. If someone cannot accept an impartial judgement, it likely spells the end of that working relationship.

 

Discuss:

  1. What insights do you take from Jesus’ model for conflict resolution?
  2. Could you apply this framework to a workplace conflict you face now?

 

Leading Up

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1-hour small group study on Leading Up

For more small group studies on workplace issues, go to the SMALL GROUPS STUDIES INDEX.

INTRODUCTION TO THE ISSUE:

For every powerful boss whose wish is the command of others, there are infinitely more subordinates who must respond to those wishes. Unless you’re a boss with despotic power, you must learn to influence other people at work. This Bible study will teach you how to “lead up” in your workplace, based on biblical principles.

Discussion: What is the most challenging thing you’re trying to achieve in your work? Who do you need to influence to make that happen?

Four biblical principles apply to leading up:

  1. Be consistent and faithful in service
  2. Be an example
  3. Be patient and persevere
  4. Be bold at the right time

BE CONSISTENT AND FAITHFUL IN SERVICE

So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
(Mark 10:42-45)

An attitude of humble service is a virtue for a Christian. More than that, a humble worker with a good work ethic becomes trusted by all his or her co-workers. Before you try to convince other people at work to follow you, you have to lay a foundation of trust.

Discuss: Think about someone in your workplace who has earned your trust. How did he or she do it?

BE AN EXAMPLE

Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
(1 Timothy 4:12)

As an upstart taking on his first leadership role, Timothy was perhaps worried that other people wouldn’t listen to him due to his youth. Paul advised Timothy to lead by example, by demonstrating the type of behaviour he might hope to inspire in others. One moral member of a team can quietly sway the group towards better behaviour. When she was first coming on the job, an engineer named Wendy told her mostly male co-workers, “I was raised in a Christian household, so I don’t feel comfortable with rude jokes or swearing. If you want to talk that way, don’t do it around me.” The other engineers valued Wendy and her expertise, so they didn’t want to say anything that might offend her. As a result, the level of discourse improved for everyone in the office.

Discuss: How would you like people in your workplace to act? What kind of example can you set for them?

BE PATIENT AND PERSEVERE

Although Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he continued to go to his house, which had windows in its upper room open toward Jerusalem, and to get down on his knees three times a day to pray to his God and praise him, just as he had done previously. The conspirators came and found Daniel praying and seeking mercy before his God. Then they approached the king and said concerning the interdict, “O king! Did you not sign an interdict, that anyone who prays to anyone, divine or human, within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be thrown into a den of lions?”… Then the king gave the command, and Daniel was brought and thrown into the den of lions. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you faithfully serve, deliver you!”
(Daniel 6:10-12, 16)

Changing the mind of a stubborn boss or the culture of an entire organization takes time. If this is your goal, then you have to be patient. Daniel is a biblical example of patience. He worked for a king who frequently made immoral decrees. Nevertheless, Daniel kept doing his job well, while also doing what was right for his own religious beliefs. In the end Daniel’s faith was vindicated in the incident with the lions, and Daniel’s boss ends up praising God. But it took patience and perseverance on Daniel’s part.

Discuss: What do you need to persevere in the difficult parts of your work?

BE BOLD AT THE RIGHT TIME

Mordecai gave him [Queen Esther’s servant Hathach] a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther, explain it to her, and charge her to go to the king to make supplication to him and entreat him for her people. Hathach went and told Esther what Mordecai had said. Then Esther spoke to Hathach and gave him a message for Mordecai, saying, “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law – all alike are to be put to death. Only if the king holds out the golden sceptre to someone, may that person live. I myself have not been called to come in to the king for thirty days.” When they told Mordecai what Esther had said, Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.”
(Esther 4:8-14)

If you are in a vulnerable position at work, you may face competing concerns of self-preservation and wanting to make a difference. Should you speak above your pay grade and risk getting fired? The story of Esther demonstrates that there is not only a right action but also a right time for that action. Esther took a risk in going to see the king without an appointment. She had to; the clock was ticking! On the other hand, at that anxious meeting she only asked the king to come to dinner. Esther waited until the king was pleased with her and in a pleasant mood before plying him with her request. This story demonstrates that God has a right time for every right action. Your challenge is to be both bold and wise.

Discuss: Mordecai speaks of his dire moment in history as “such a time as this.” Are you in a dire situation in your work? Or is there another time that would be better to act?

PERSONAL EXERCISE: MAKE A PLAN FOR LEADING UP

Take some moments to reflect on your work and answer the following questions:

  1. What is the biggest thing I’m trying to achieve or change in my workplace?
  2. Am I already an example of the behavior I want to see? Or is there anything I need to change about my behavior to be a good example?
  3. Who do I need to influence to make this happen? For each person I need to influence, what would be the best time to talk to them?

 

Giving and Receiving Feedback

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1-hour small group study on Giving and Receiving Feedback

For more small group studies on workplace issues, go to the SMALL GROUPS STUDIES INDEX.

INTRODUCTION TO THE ISSUE:

Talk about performance at work can bring up all sorts of mixed feelings. In a recent study of over 1,000 professionals, nearly a quarter of respondents said they "feared" their performance review, while 42 percent said they think managers leave important elements out of their review. According to the study’s authors: "Traditional annual performance reviews are inadequate. They’re biased towards recent work, goals aren't communicated clearly, there's misalignment in objectives between organizations and employees, and quite simply, the whole process just takes too long."

While some large companies have scrapped the traditional review process, many Christian professionals still give or receive reviews each year. This session will offer a Christian perspective on measuring performance and giving and receiving feedback.

A QUICK HISTORY OF PERFORMANCE REVIEW IN THE BIBLE

In one sense much of the Bible reads like a performance review. In Genesis 1 God evalutes his own performance after each day’s work and pronounces things good. The job description for human beings is laid down in Genesis 1 and 2 and the first human failure and performance review takes place in Genesis 3 with drastic consequences. In the Old Testament God establishes a number of formal covenantal relationships with his people, with privileges and responsibilites clearly defined on each side and the knowledge that there will be review and accountability. When God gives the Law to Moses and later raises up Judges and Prophets to evaluate the performance of his people, it is with reference to the special relationship that they enjoy with God who crafts for them a special destiny.

A similar review process that demonstrates a commitment to growth within a faithful relationship takes place between Jesus and his disciples. Jesus offers both personal encouragement and critical evaluation. Furthermore, performance evaluation also operates in the epistles of the Apostle Paul. These are often letters of encouragement, instruction and critical evaluation that come out of a strong personal relationship. The people of God are commended for what they have done right and criticised for ways in which they have strayed. Paul offers instructions about what is required to get back on the right path again. He prays for them and offers what personal support he can.

In brief, the Bible offers this model for performance evaluation:

  1. Review within a committed supportive relationship
  2. Start with a reminder of job description, privileges and responsibilities
  3. Give positive encouragement for accomplishments
  4. Critically evaluate failures
  5. Give instruction on how to deal with failures and build on successes
  6. Offer ongoing support and help

THREE TYPES OF FEEDBACK IN ONE RELATIONSHIP

Encouraging The Potential In Someone

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
(Matthew 16:13-19)

This interaction between Jesus and Peter sets the stage for Peter’s future ministry. It is particularly striking because Jesus sees something in Peter that few others see. At this moment in the story, Peter is a volatile, impetuous, naive and unstable man. He is hardly the foundation stone on which you would expect Jesus to build a movement. Yet Jesus sees potential. In this passage Jesus lays in front of Peter a vision of what he can become.

Part of offering encouraging feedback is seeing not only what is, but what can be. Then nourishing this hope with positive affirmation.

Discussion Question: Has a teacher, coach or supervisor ever pointed out some potential in you that you didn’t see? How did that make you feel? Did it change the way you thought or acted?

Facing Failures

Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before all of them, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.” When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.” After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know the man!” At that moment the cock crowed. Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
(Matthew 26:69-75)

Peter was not immediately up to the task of demonstrating rock solid faith. In this scene Peter denies three times that he knows Jesus, just as Jesus predicted a few hours earlier, even though Peter swore up and down that this would never happen. This story invites us to ponder what to do with failure.

There is nothing so awful as failing those we love. Even in work relationships, failure can bring on a feeling of tremendous embarrassment. Peter is reduced to tears over his failure, so we should not be surprised if failure leaves us in a similar emotional state.

Feeling remorse for failure is the first step in making failure a useful learning experience. The good news is that no failure is final. Peter’s failure started with grief but ended with redemption. The difference between a person who languishes in whether or not they accept the failure and move beyond it.

Discussion Question: How to you tend to face failure? What is hard about learning from failure? What is exciting about it?

Moving Forward After Failure

When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”
(John 21: 9-19)

When Jesus gives feedback he stresses the primacy of relationships. In this scene Peter is restored to relationship with Jesus and to his importance in the Christian mission. Using Peter’s original name “Simon son of John,” Jesus reminds Peter of the beginning of their relationship. Then by asking Peter to profess his love three times, Jesus gives Peter a way to process and remedy his previous failure. With the instructions to “feed my sheep” Jesus gives Peter instructions on how to move forward.

Discussion Question: What can you learn about performance reviews from Jesus and Peter? What lessons do you see for someone supervising a performance review? What lessons are there for someone being reviewed?

Best Practices From The Business World

Tips on Giving Feedback

  • Feedback should be about behaviour not personality
  • Feedback should describe the effect of the person’s behaviour on you, for example: “When you did [x], I felt [y].” “I noticed that when you said [x], it made me feel [y].” “I really liked the way that you did [x] and particularly [y] about it.” “It made me feel really [x] to hear you say [y] in that way.”
  • Feedback should be as specific as possible. It's easier to hear about a specific occasion than about ‘all the time’!
  • Feedback should be timely - not only in formal meetings

 

Discussion Question: Are these tips similar to or different from the biblical perspectives on giving feedback?

Tips on Receiving Feedback 

  • Be open to the feedback
  • Clarify what you don’t understand, for example: “I'm not quite sure I understand what you are saying.” “When you said ........ what did you mean?”
  • Restate what you have been told in simple terms
  • Do not add to the speaker’s meaning or take the speaker’s topic in a new direction
  • Always thank the person for giving you feedback

 

Discussion Question: Are these tips similar to or different from the biblical perspectives on receiving feedback?

CONCLUSION: A PRAYER ABOUT FEEDBACK

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me. Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long. Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O Lord! Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees. For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great. Who are they that fear the Lord? He will teach them the way that they should choose. (Psalm 25:1-12)

Work-Life Balance

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1-hour small group study on Work-Life Balance

For more small group studies on workplace issues, go to the SMALL GROUPS STUDIES INDEX.

INTRODUCTION TO THE ISSUE:

A quick online search (Sept 2016) of some recent surveys that explore work and family issues demonstrate these results, which form some of the background to tonight’s discussion.

  1. The majority of America’s employees believe they don’t have enough time with their children, their spouses or for themselves.
  2. Each year, Americans spend more time working.
  3. 81% of respondents in a Work/Life Survey reported unhappiness with their work/life balance.
  4. 88% of employees say they have a hard time juggling work and life.
  5. More than 60% of married couples with children under 18 are both working.
  6. 40% of employees work overtime or bring work home with them at least once a week.
  7. The level of dissatisfaction for the current generation of parents is twice that of their parents. 

Group Discussion: Do you see work as competing with life or part of life?

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT WORK-LIFE BALANCE?

 

A capable wife who can find?
    She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
    and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
    all the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax,
    and works with willing hands.
She is like the ships of the merchant,
    she brings her food from far away.
She rises while it is still night
    and provides food for her household
    and tasks for her servant-girls.
She considers a field and buys it;
    with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
She girds herself with strength,
    and makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
    Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
    and her hands hold the spindle.
She opens her hand to the poor,
    and reaches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid for her household when it snows,
    for all her household are clothed in crimson.
She makes herself coverings;
    her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the city gates,
    taking his seat among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them;
    she supplies the merchant with sashes.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
    and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
    and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household,
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her happy;
    her husband too, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently,
    but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her a share in the fruit of her hands,
    and let her works praise her in the city gates.
(Proverbs 31:10-31)

Integration

The impact of the industrial revolution has been to compartmentalise and to separate the different parts of our lives. Many of us struggle to gain a sense of integration among the roles and responsibilities we carry.

And yet, in Proverbs we see that juggling competing time demands and commitments is not new. The woman described in Proverbs was a wife and mother, managing the household, but also a businesswoman – buying and selling real estate, planting a vineyard, making and selling clothes. Then there was her service among the poor, and her reputation for being a wise counsellor. All-in-all this passage can serve as a model of work-life integration.

Group Discussion: According to Proverbs 31:10-31, which tasks does God value?

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

Balance

While the Proverbs 31 passage seems to give a day-in-the-life snapshot of an integrated life, Ecclesiastes reminds us that some seasons are more heavily weighted towards one activity or another. In real life there will always be some periods where one of our roles (worker, parent, caretaker) dominates our energy and time. As Gerald Sittser notes, “Short-term imbalance is inevitable; long-term imbalance is destructive.” Balance is something we bring to our lives not in each individual moment, but over the long-haul. We do it by recognising where we have been giving our energy recently, and then by compensating –giving our energy in the next season to the other important parts of our lives.

Group Discussion: What phrases in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 refer to work? Which refer to other aspects of life? Is there anything verse you identify with in your current circumstances?

OPTIONAL PERSONAL EXERCISE – THE JUGGLER

Draw a picture of yourself as a juggler on the bottom of a blank page. It may be just a stick figure or a picture of your head and shoulders. Don’t draw anything you are juggling just yet.

As you think about the different sorts of activities that take up your time and energy, picture these as balls or other objects in the air and draw them on your page in ways that identify the relative amount of time and energy each one consumes.  Name them and think about the questions below:

  1. Which activities add more energy than they take from you?
  2. Which activities consume most of your energy?
  3. What balls are you worried you might drop?
  4. Is there anything important that you have neglected and that should be there?
  5. Which activities do you love to do and which do you feel obliged to do?
  6. How sustainable is the mix you are juggling now?
  7. What could you do to make it more sustainable?
  8. Is God making you aware of anything important as you do this exercise? 

Discuss: In groups, talk about what you discovered doing the juggler exercise.  How do you think you might improve work-life balance in your own life?

Sabbath and Work

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1-hour small group study on Sabbath and Work

For more small group studies on workplace issues, go to the SMALL GROUPS STUDIES INDEX.

INTRODUCTION TO The Issue:

God created people to live in a rhythm of working and resting.  After creating the world, God looked around and saw that “it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). God did not just cease from his labor; he stopped and enjoyed what he had made. The idea behind Sabbath is to experience joy in what God has done. And yet this rest is often illusive, illustrated by the following poem by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Come, rest awhile, and let us idly stray 
In glimmering valleys, cool and far away. 

Come from the greedy mart, the troubled street, 
And listen to the music, faint and sweet, 

That echoes ever to a listening ear, 
Unheard by those who will not pause to hear­ 

The wayward chimes of memory's pensive bells, 
Wind-blown o'er misty hills and curtained dells. 

One step aside and dewy buds unclose 
The sweetness of the violet and the rose...

You have forgotten what it is to smile 
In your too busy life­ come, rest awhile. 

Group Discussion: Does the word "Sabbath" conjure up images of rest or joy in your mind?  What images does Sabbath bring to your mind?

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT SABBATH AND WORK?

What does the Bible have to say about Sabbath? Right from the beginning of the Bible story it seems that a pattern of not only daily work and rest but also weekly work and rest is laid down. So let’s listen to the end of Genesis chapter 1 first and then the fourth commandment from Exodus chapter 20, which also refers back to Genesis.

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude.And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done.  So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.
(Genesis 1:26-2:3)

An interesting fact about these verses is that the first thing in all of creation that is made holy is not a person or even an object. Rather, it is a day. Genesis does not say why God makes the seventh day holy, merely that God does make it holy. 

Group Discussion: In your mind, what makes a day holy? Do you have other days that you celebrate as holy (birthdays, anniversaries, etc?) What does a holy day look like to you?

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work.  But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
(Exodus 20:8-11)

The first part of God's command regarding the Sabbath calls for ceasing labor one day a week. In the context of the ancient world, the Sabbath was unique to Israel.No other ancient people had the privilege of resting one day in seven. At the same time, such a rest required an extraordinary trust in God’s provision. Six days of work had to be enough to plant crops, gather the harvest, carry water, spin cloth, and draw sustenance from creation. While Israel rested one day every week, the encircling nations continued to forge swords, feather arrows, and train soldiers. Israel had to trust God not to let a day of rest lead to economic and military catastrophe.

 

Group Discussion: We face the same challenge today to trust in God’s provision today. If you follow God’s commandment to rest one day a week, will you be able to hold a job, keep the house clean, prepare meals, mow the lawn, or complete your other responsibilities? Do you trust God to make this work for you?

 

The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying "Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: When you enter the land that I am giving you, the land shall observe a sabbath for the Lord. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in their yield; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of complete rest for the land, a sabbath for the Lord: you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You shall not reap the aftergrowth of your harvest or gather the grapes of your unpruned vine: it shall be a year of complete rest for the land. You may eat what the land yields during its sabbath—you, your male and female slaves, your hired and your bound laborers who live with you; for your livestock also, and for the wild animals in your land all its yield shall be for food.

You shall count off seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the period of seven weeks of years gives forty-nine years. Then you shall have the trumpet sounded loud; on the tenth day of the seventh month—on the day of atonement—you shall have the trumpet sounded throughout all your land. And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you: you shall return, every one of you, to your property and every one of you to your family. That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you: you shall not sow, or reap the aftergrowth, or harvest the unpruned vines. For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you: you shall eat only what the field itself produces.
(Leviticus 25:1-12)

In the Old Testament we find not only weekly patterns of work and rest but also yearly, seven-yearly and forty-nine-yearly cycles of rest. These cyclical rests serve two purposes. The first is to give both people and land a physical rest from the hardship and frustration of work. The second purpose is to invite people to recommit to God and experience deep spiritual rest. This second purpose satisfies a need to rest not only from physical exertion but from the instability, anxiety, and insecurity of your lives. God institutes these cycles of rest so that his people can set aside time to worship him and rediscover his covenantal love and faithfulness towards them. During these times of worship, Israel is reminded that God himself is their rest: “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest" (Exodus 33:14). When Israel turns to God in trust and obedience, this promise of rest is realized through Divine protection and blessing.

Group Discussion: Do you incorporate cyclical rest practices into your life? If so, what do you get out of them? If not, what might you hope to get out of a yearly retreat or sabbatical?

WHAT DOES SABBATH LOOK LIKE FOR US TODAY?

Here is a list of possible Sabbath practices, adapted from materials by Tim Keller and research by The Theology of Work Project. As you read this list, notice if any practice jumps out at you as something you want to try.

  1. Take time for inactivity - Stop all schedule work, even ministry activities, and don't plan anything. This is analogous to Israel’s cyclical practice of letting a field lie fallow. During that seventh year, whatever grew in that field was left to come up.  People need unscheduled time to let surprising ideas crop up too.
  2. Take time for pleasurable activity - This means scheduling time for something that brings you joy, including refreshing recreation, prayer or devotional activities, and spending time around things you find beautiful such as God's creation or art.
  3. Choose activities that recharge you, depending on whether you're an introvert or an extrovert - If you feel recharged after relational activity, then make sure you spend time around other people during your Sabbath rest.  If, on the other hand, you need time alone to recharge, then honor that in your practice.
  4. Be aware of life seasons - It's hard to rest consistently if you're parenting a new baby or starting a business. Be aware of busy seasons and hold yourself accountable to taking a rest after a fixed period of time. (For example: the next three months is hectic at work, so I am scheduling a vacation for January.) 
  5.  Reflect on things that are just, pure, and pleasing (Philippians 4:8) - Some people find it helpful to keep a gratitude journal.
  6. Imagine your life from an eternal timescale (2 Corinthians 4:17-18) - look at your current situation from a distant point in the future
  7. Take stock of your priorities - If there is a solution that promises to fix all life’s problems, and it’s not Jesus, repent of it.
  8. Try a daily rest practice - for example reading a daily devotional or Bible reading plan or praying worshipfully at the beginning and end of every day.
  9. Decide on a weekly rest practice -commit to one full day of rest a week, or to a weekly meeting of Christians at church or in a small group.
  10. Plan for seasonal or annually rests - schedule a retreat, a sabbatical, or celebrate seasons of more intensive spiritual devotion, such as Advent and Lent.

Group Discussion: Which of these ideas stood out to you? Did a different Sabbath practice come to your mind? What do you plan on adding to your life as a result of this discussion? (Go around the room and have each participant answer.)

OPTIONAL CASE STUDY

Judith Shulevitz is a Jewish journalist who has written a book called The Sabbath World: glimpses of a different order of time. This is how she describes her discovery of Sabbath at a time when her work seemed overwhelming.

On the weekends my mood would darken until, by Saturday afternoon, I’d be unresponsive and morose. My normal routine, which involved brunch with friends and swapping tales of misadventure in the relentless quest for romance and professional success, made me feel impossibly restless. I started spending Saturdays by myself. After a while I got lonely and did something that, as a teenager profoundly put off by her religious education, I could never have imagined wanting to do. I began dropping in on a nearby synagogue.

It was only much later that I developed a theory about my condition. I was suffering from the lack [of a Sabbath]. There is ample evidence that our relationship to work is out of whack. Ours is a society that pegs status to overachievement; we can’t help admiring workaholics. Let me argue, instead, on behalf of an institution that has kept workaholism in reasonable check for thousands of years.

Most people mistakenly believe that all you have to do to stop working is not work. The inventors of the Sabbath understood that it was a much more complicated undertaking. You cannot downshift casually and easily. This is why the Puritan and Jewish Sabbaths were so exactingly intentional. The rules did not exist to torture the faithful. They were meant to communicate the insight that interrupting the ceaseless round of striving requires a surprisingly strenuous act of will, one that has to be bolstered by habit as well as by social sanction.

Individual Reflection: Take 5 minutes to write down any ways in which you identify with the experience of Judith Shulevitz or any ways in which her discoveries about Sabbath are important for you.

OPTIONAL TABLE DISCUSSION

Read these modern quotes about Sabbath and discuss with your group:

“He could take on anything and everything, it seemed, rather than leave himself time to reflect on his dissatisfaction with his life and what he might do about it.” ―Claire Tomalin writing about Charles Dickens

“Sometimes we feel that the busier we are, the more important we are--as though our busyness defines our worth...We can spend a lifetime whirling about at a feverish pace, checking off list after list of things that in the end really don't matter. That we do a lot may not be so important. That we focus the energy of our minds, our hearts, and our souls on those things of eternal significance--that is essential.”- Joseph B. Wirthlin

“The busyness of your life leaves little room for the source of your life” – Ann Voskamp

“There are a whole lot of people who are so freakin’ busy –they’ve so cluttered up their lives –they’re at their wits’ end. And if they’d only stop for a minute, they could hear the God of the universe whisper to them, ‘I love you’.” - Mike Yaconelli

“Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life” – Dolly Parton

“Anybody can observe the Sabbath, but making it holy surely takes the rest of the week” – Alice Walker

"If you keep the Sabbath, you start to see creation not as somewhere to get away from your ordinary life, but a place to frame an attentiveness to your life” – Eugene H. Peterson

“Our great-grandfathers called it the holy Sabbath day. Our grandfathers called it The Sabbath. Our fathers called it Sunday. Now we just all it The Weekend” - David L. Herring

“I think the church is often a culprit in the busyness, especially in the evangelical church. Again, it's part of being Americans. Part of being evangelicals too is that we're highly activist. We are always diving in, willing to solve problems, and again there's a lot good there. But we also need the theological balance that the Kingdom is not ours to bring or ours to create.” ―Kevin DeYoung

Discussion Question: Do any of these quotations apply to your view of Sabbath? How has your view of Sabbath changed tonight?

 

For more small group studies on workplace issues, go to the SMALL GROUPS STUDIES INDEX.


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