With junior high students, so much is changing in their lives.
Friendships are one of those things that is constantly changing.
Use this lesson to help students be encouraged and also challenged with what could be ahead for them when it comes friendships.
Enjoy the lesson!
– Nick Diliberto, Junior High Ministry
JUNIOR HIGH MINISTRY LESSON ON FRIENDSHIPS
Written by Mike Sheley
Bible: Luke 5:17-26
Bottom Line: Friends help friends follow Jesus.
OPENING ACTIVITY: Two Friends and Me
Divide students in groups of three.
You can make this a race or you can just allow everyone to give this a try.
The point is for one friend to be carried by two friends.
You can find diagrams and details here on three different options for two people to carry a third person.
Say: In that experience, you were literally being carried by two of your friends.
Hopefully, you know that’s also a metaphor for friendship.
When you hear someone say they were “carried” by someone else, it usually doesn’t mean literally.
It usually means that a friend helped them out in a significant way in a time of need.
When you think back over last year, were there times when friends or family “carried” you this way?
Or were there times when you were the one doing the carrying?
You might have a friend who really struggles in school and you were able to help them with their studying.
Or maybe you have a friend who is having a tough time at home and you were there to listen to them.
Or maybe your Mom or Dad is a single parent and you help them out by doing some of the chores around the house.
Or maybe it was you who needed help last year and your friends or family were there for you.
There’s an extreme example of friends helping a friend out in Jesus’ day.
I want you to see what these friends did and see what we can learn from them.
Read Luke 5:17-20.
“One day while Jesus was teaching, some Pharisees and teachers of religious law were sitting nearby. (It seemed that these men showed up from every village in all Galilee and Judea, as well as from Jerusalem.) And the Lord’s healing power was strongly with Jesus.
Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a sleeping mat. They tried to take him inside to Jesus, but they couldn’t reach him because of the crowd. So they went up to the roof and took off some tiles. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat down into the crowd, right in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man, “Young man, your sins are forgiven.”
Say: That was crazy!
These four friends were so intent on helping their friend get to Jesus that they went up on the roof of the house, tore a hole in the roof, and then figured out a way to lower their friend down right in front of Jesus!
Now, to be fair, people in Jesus’ day often used their roof like we use a porch.
There was probably a stairway leading up to the roof.
So, going up there was pretty normal.
However, even in Jesus’ day, it wasn’t normal for someone to make a hole in your house so they can get to see the guest of honor.
That was not okay.
That was not how things are supposed to be done.
And there were some people who were upset…not about the roof, but about the rules.
Read Luke 5:21-25.
“But the Pharisees and teachers of religious law said to themselves, “Who does he think he is? That’s blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!”
Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”
And immediately, as everyone watched, the man jumped up, picked up his mat, and went home praising God.
Say: These religious leaders obviously didn’t get the point.
They were all about how things were “supposed” to be done.
These friends obviously didn’t care about that.
If you want your friend to get to Jesus, and you can’t get to him through a door, you just come back later.
No you don’t!
You go up on the roof, make a hole in the ceiling, and lower your friend down to Jesus!
Wouldn’t we all like to have friends like that?
I hope we all can be friends like that!
Friends help friends follow Jesus.
Because of his friends, the man was able to meet Jesus, be forgiven and healed! And the result?
Read Luke 5:26.
Everyone was gripped with great wonder and awe, and they praised God, exclaiming, “We have seen amazing things today!”
Say: Not only did these four men help their friend, they helped the whole crowd see the power of God at work in Jesus!
When you think of your life, who are some people you know – friends or family members – who could really use your help?
It may not be that you have to knock a hole in someone’s roof to help them.
But maybe you do some extra chores around the house without being asked or without expecting a reward just to help “carry” your parent or parents.
Maybe you take time to listen to a friend who is already having a rough year – and it just started!
Then pray for them and send them a text letting know you did and that you are here when they need to talk again.
I can almost be sure that you have people in your school, neighborhood and/or family who don’t know Jesus.
They probably have driven by a church. They might know some of his followers. But they don’t know Jesus.
How can 2017 be the year you are so creative in how you help them get to know Jesus, that the story of what you do rivals what these four friends did?
Or maybe, you are that friend!
Maybe you didn’t even realize all of the praying and work your friends have been doing to get you to come here and learn about Jesus!
Is now the time that you say “yes” to following Jesus yourself?
Remember – Friends help friends follow Jesus.
Let’s get into our small groups and move this from history and hypothetical to now and personal.
The goal here is to help students understand the importance of friendship in helping others know Jesus and to take responsibility to put that into action this year and this week.
JUST FOR FUN (5 minutes)
These students need a little fun to help them relax and transition into this small group time.
Don’t skip over this.
It is an intentional part of building relationships and setting up your group to have a great discussion time!
What is one of the nicest things a friend has done for you?
What is one of the strangest things a friend has done for you?
In what ways has someone in your family been creative in helping you out?
How have you been creative in helping a family member or friend out?
(When you have spent about 5 minutes on this section, transition into the discussion questions.)
SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION QUESTIONS (15 minutes)
The goal is to guide the students as they talk, to have a discussion.
Get them to do most of the talking.
Make sure you watch the clock and save 5 minutes at the end for the closing, even if that means you skip some questions and don’t discuss them all.
The man was paralyzed.
He was literally unable to do anything to help himself.
How have you seen someone else be unable to help themselves and need their friends?
Or has this happened to you?
The four friends had so much faith in Jesus that they didn’t care what others thought about them in order to help their friend.
How can our fears about what others think about us stop us from helping other people get to know Jesus?
The friends could have given up when they saw the crowd.
But they didn’t.
They were persistent.
How easy would it have been to give up?
How have you seen friends or family members who could have given up choose instead to be persistent?
What’s an example of a time you prayed for your friends, asking Jesus to help them? (If you haven’t done this, start thinking about a friend you could be praying for this week.)
Sometimes, we have low expectations.
We might not invite our friends to church because we expect them to say “No” or not to like it.
What would be different if we had the same attitude about getting our friends to church as these friends did about getting their paralyzed friend to Jesus?
We can talk about what these friends did and even dream about what we might do.
But that’s not the point.
God gave us this true story in the Bible to motivate us to action!
We need to imitate these four friends and help our family and friends get to Jesus!
You have a few different options here:
1) Pick one specific action you can do for a family or friend this week that will really help them and “carry them” this week. Pray, and ask God to help you follow through on it. And if they ask why you did it, tell them you are trying to be more like Jesus. Maybe even tell them about the four friends.
2) Pick a friend or family member you can invite to church this week. Then actually invite them! If they say “No,” pray for them and be open to asking again in the future. If they say “Yes,” then make sure you get them to church and thank God for using you with your friend or family member like He used those four friends of the paralyzed man.
3) Have the courage to know when to ask for help. Maybe you are like that paralyzed man. You need help and don’t know what to do. Talk to your parents, your small group leader, your pastor and your closest friends. Whatever you do, don’t put it off. Talk to someone this week and be able to ask for the help that they would love to give you!
When that time is up, close your group in prayer – or even better, ask one of the students to close in prayer.
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Written by Mike Sheley, who is the Middle School Pastor (5th-8th grade) at Mount Pleasant Christian Church in Greenwood, Indiana.
He’s been in full-time youth ministry over 17 years with most of that time focused on 5th-8th graders.