Written by Mike Sheley

Junior High Youth Group Lesson on Fear and Change

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This two-part lesson series is perfect for transition time. You could use these as teachings at a pre-promotion event for students coming into your junior high ministry. You could also use them as a special two-part series after promotion either for everyone or just to pull your new junior high students aside. This could even be very timely to use in the fall as these students begin their new experience in middle school or junior high, to encourage them to be brave remembering God is with them.

Option Video Intro

Optional Intro Video: Cat and Cucumber Compilation

Use this fun and popular compilation video of cats being scared by cucumbers as a connection to the culture and a fun way to address this topic. (Stop the video at 1:01 unless you want to show the end where the cat is eating a cucumber.)

Bible Text

Deuteronomy 31:1-8 and Joshua 1:6-9

Deuteronomy 31:1-8

When Moses had finished giving these instructionsa] to all the people of Israel,he said, “I am now 120 years old, and I am no longer able to lead you. The Lord has told me, ‘You will not cross the Jordan River.’ But the Lord your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy the nations living there, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua will lead you across the river, just as the Lordpromised.

“The Lord will destroy the nations living in the land, just as he destroyed Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites. The Lord will hand over to you the people who live there, and you must deal with them as I have commanded you. So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

Then Moses called for Joshua, and as all Israel watched, he said to him, “Be strong and courageous! For you will lead these people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors he would give them. You are the one who will divide it among them as their grants of land. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.

Joshua 1:6-9, NLT

“Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Opening

Ask students: What were you afraid of when you were little? The dark? Being alone? Under your bed? Your closet?

[insert a humorous story of your own about a fear you had as a child that now seems funny to you . . . or use this one by saying “A friend of mine told me…”]

When I was little, I used to be scared of what was under my bed. In fact, I would make sure that none of my blankets drooped down over the edges of my bed in case something scary might be able to sneak in my bed that way. And for the longest time, even during the day, if something like a toy ended up under my bed, I would either get a broom to try and knock it out or ask my Mom or Dad to get it for me.

When I got older, I realized that the only scary thing under my bed was a pair of old sweaty socks that were stinking up my room.

However, as the day approached for me to start at the big junior high school, I had two big fears: lockers and combination locks. I worried about how I was going to remember which locker was mine when they all looked the same in the hallway!? I knew it would have a number, but what if I forgot that number?

And that was just my hallway locker. I was going to have to remember which locker was mine in the gym locker room before physical education class too!

And on top of that, I had combination locks – two of them – to remember! And only a few minutes to find the right locker, get the combination correct, switch out the books I needed for the next class, lock the locker and find my classroom! Junior high was going to be scary!

If we’re honest today, even though my story might sound silly to some of you. I bet there are some people in this room who have similar, if not the same, fears about the unknown of junior high.

I don’t have any magical tips today to help you find the correct locker quickly or even to get your combination correct on the first try every time. But I do have some people in the Bible who can relate to fear.

Read Deuteronomy 31:1-8

Say: (allow students to share answers)

Who is afraid or discouraged? The Israelites and Joshua.

Where were they going? Across the Jordan River to the “Promised Land.”

Who was going with them? GOD!

Who spoke encouraging words to them? God spoke encouraging words to Moses

So you have a group of people, including their leader, going to a place they haven’t been before. They are scared and panicking, otherwise God wouldn’t have had to say “be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic”. Sounds like that even though they are in a different situation, there may be some good principles here to help you, especially if you are afraid and panicking about junior high.

Read Joshua 1:6-9.

Who is afraid or discouraged here? Joshua.

Where is he going? Leading all these people to the “Promised Land.”

Who was going with him? GOD!

Who spoke encouraging words to him? God!

Maybe you have been a leader in your elementary school class or on your sports team. Other friends are looking to you as the one to be brave heading into junior high. But if you are honest, you’d admit that you are actually at least a little nervous and scared. Like Joshua, you need a reminder from God.

Ask yourself these two questions and answer them honestly:

  1. Am I afraid or discouraged as I head to junior high?
  2. Who is going to be there with me?

We’ll talk more about this in small group. My guess is that you are going to find that you have a lot more in common with the Israelites and Joshua than you may have ever realized. And I’m also guessing that the way God encouraged and challenged them will help you as you begin life in junior high.

Bottom Line: God is WITH you so you don’t have to be afraid or discouraged.

Small Groups

GOAL OF SMALL GROUP

To help students understand that although we will face situations that could make us afraid or discouraged, we don’t have to be that way when we remember that God is WITH us.

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!

When you were little, what were you afraid of?

Was anyone afraid of something that now seems silly to have been scared by?

(When you have spent about 5 minutes on this section, transition into the discussion questions.)

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. )

  • (with Bibles open to Deuteronomy 31) What did we learn about being afraid and discouraged from the Israelites and Joshua?
  • How did Moses’ words encourage them?
  • (now turn to Joshua 1:6-9) What did we learn about being afraid and discouraged from Joshua in this passage?
  • How did God’s words to Joshua help him when it comes to fear and discouragement?
  • When you think about your classmates and conversations you hear throughout the day, are more of them people encouraging others or discouraging others? Do you think this will change in junior high for the better, worse or not at all? Why?
  • If you can be honest with our group, this can be a very helpful question for everyone. When you think about going to junior high this fall, what are you afraid of or at least nervous about when it comes to this change?
  • How can taking time to remember that God is WITH you, that you are not going through this alone, help you to avoid being afraid and discouraged?
  • What kinds of things have you heard from others that have encouraged you the way Moses and God encouraged Joshua and the Israelites?
  • What can you be saying to others to help them avoid being afraid or discouraged with this change?

Closing Challenge

Ask the students to draw a square. Tell them to think about this like a giant, one-frame comic. Next to one of them, write: “afraid or discouraged” next to it. Tell them they are going to have 3 minutes to draw in that one box. (just that box) Think about something you were afraid of when you were little that you are not afraid of anymore and come up with a symbol or even an emoji that you can draw really simply in that box. It doesn’t have to be fancy or perfect. What matters is that you remember what that symbolized. Go!

(When that time is up, close your group in prayer – or even better, ask one of the students to close in prayer. Just like you now know that God is with you and helps you to not be afraid of what you feared when you are younger, He will be with you as you head to junior high.)

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BubbleMikeMike is the Middle School Pastor at Mount Pleasant Christian Church in Greenwood, Indiana, where he oversees their ministries for 5th-8th graders.  He’s been in full-time youth ministry over 16 years with most of that time focused on preteens and junior highers.