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BIBLE PASSAGE: Psalm 23
BACKGROUND: This psalm is one of the best-known passages in the Bible. These words, written by a man who had himself encountered the presence of his enemies, experienced a need for rest and been given the opportunity to recover, mean just as much to us today. The need is just as real for our young people, but the imagery may be less familiar. This session gives them the opportunity to explore the psalm in ways that may be more familiar and helpful to them.
As you begin the session, gather the young people together but don’t serve your refreshments just yet. Use this time as an opportunity to catch up with any news from the last week, and to see how your young people are. Ask the group to think about the places they consider to be safe spaces. Why do they think this? What can we do to make this place a safe space?
You will need: a table; fancy decorations; special refreshments
Ask the young people to help you decorate the table and lay out the refreshments.
Invite them to sit around the table and enjoy the refreshments together. As you do so, ask the young people to share what they remember about David from the Bible, exploring what they know of his story from young giant-slayer to mighty-yet-flawed king. For those with less of a church background it may be appropriate to give a brief summary of David’s life, explaining that it can be helpful to have a shared understanding of where he was coming from as we look at this psalm together.
Tell the young people that there is a line in the psalm we will be looking at which says that God prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. Enjoy the feast you have prepared as a group. Explain that you hope this session will be a time of sharing together and will provide a space where you can all be refreshed by God.
You will need: a Bible; a comfortable space (including comfortable chairs and cushions); background music and the means to play it
Explain to the group that you are going to read Psalm 23 to them while they take some time to listen and reflect in peace and quiet. Invite your young people to find a space where they feel comfortable by themselves, and where they can be still and quiet. Take some time to ensure that they are in a good place before you begin to read the psalm. If they find it helpful you could play some background music or provide paper and pens for those who like to be more active when they are listening.
Ask the young people to listen as you read Psalm 23 over them, calmly and without rushing, taking time to pause after each line as appropriate. Encourage them to think about these words as a prayer to God, and to reflect on what they mean to them personally. Invite group members to take hold of the words that resonate most with them.
As you conclude this time together, invite the young people to share how this has helped them and what they noticed from listening to the psalm in this way, rather than exploring it together. Make time to explore any pressing questions or queries.
Continue the discussion about the story, using these questions as a prompt:
- How do you feel about this psalm?
- Which words mean the most to you?
- What challenges you about the psalm?
- Where might you need God’s shepherd- ing in your own life?
- When do you feel most in need of this love and care?
You will need: Bibles; paper; pens
Invite your group to work individually, in pairs or in small groups as they prefer for this activity. Distribute the paper, pens and Bibles, then explain to the young people that they are to write their own version of Psalm 23 using imagery that may be more familiar to them than sheep and shepherds. Encourage them to look carefully at the text in the Bible and to try to remain as close as they can to the meaning of the original psalm, perhaps using the same sentence openers for each line.
Leave them to write their versions independently, but make yourself available to talk through any images that may be less familiar, or about some of the meaningful alternatives they can create.
When they have finished, invite the young people to read their completed psalms to one another. Talk about the different ideas they have used and how they help us understand what David was writing about. If it helps, find a way to share these rewritings with the wider church.
As you draw the session to a close, lead the young people in prayer together. Begin by asking them to choose something from the psalm or from their own rewritings that they want to thank God for. Take turns to call out: “Thank you God for…” or “Thank you God that…” to start their prayers. Then invite the young people to call out: “Please God…”, also using lines from the psalm. If appropriate, you may want to give them the opportunity to offer sorry prayers for the times when they have not come into the place of safety offered by our shepherd God.
Gather the prayers together, thanking God that we dwell in his house all the days of our lives.
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