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Bible passage: Daniel 3
Background: Nebuchadnezzar seems to be a very paranoid ruler. He constructs a golden statue for people to worship, but he considers anyone who won’t do so a potential threat and applies fatal consequences to their rebellion. These must have been difficult circumstances for his people to cope with, let alone foreign immigrants like Daniel and co. What it gives us, however, is an aspirational example of how to conduct ourselves with integrity in a society that looks down on our beliefs: one of the most useful resources the Bible could offer our young people today!
Welcome the young people to the group and share out any drinks and snacks you have. Chat about the week the young people have had. Share in their triumphs and disasters, and maybe add a story or two from your own week.
You will need: three tents (or the equipment to build three makeshift shelters: sheets, chairs, pegs etc) Build three small tents as a group. Arrange them around the outside of your space facing into the middle.
You will need: a room fan; bricks or small logs; flame-coloured ribbons; gaffer tape; camping lights; a Bible
Create a campfire between the tents. Carefully place a fan on the floor facing upwards. Use a ring of bricks, kindling, logs, scrunched-up newspaper etc to disguise it (and its shaft and cable!). Tie red, yellow and orange strips of ribbon to the grills. Tape down the cable so that no one trips over it.
Gather the young people inside the circle of tents around the campfire. Give some of them a camping lamp and ask them to turn it on. Turn the main light off and the fan on. Sitting around the campfire, take time to stare into the flames. Chat about the mesmerising effect of fire and how it makes them feel.
Comment that much of the Old Testament was passed down orally, before it was all written down in the format we have today. Read Daniel 3 to the group. Go back to the fire and discuss how hot and impressive Nebuchadnezzar’s fire must have been. 5
Use these questions to discuss the Bible passage, making sure everyone gets the chance to contribute:
- What similarities are there between Babylon’s and our society?
- Have you ever had to sacrifice anything for your faith – even something small?
- Do your friends know you are a Christian?
- Our government doesn’t threaten to throw us into a fire for our faith, but are there any ways in which we are exiles from the kingdom of God, living in a society that largely doesn’t know, understand or worship him?
You will need: Post-it notes in yellow, red or orange; scissors; reflective music and the means to play it
Give the young people time to reflect. Tell them to turn the Post-its upside down so the sticky bit is at the bottom, and then cut the top into the shape of flames. On each note, write words that describe the pressures on their faith: things that tempt them away from the beliefs and behaviour they ascribe to, or idols they feel pressured to worship, such as playing Sunday morning football instead of going to church; indulging in drinking, smoking or other things; listening to music with dodgy lyrics or videos; playing violent video games; or confusion about theology or alternative philosophies. They could discuss these issues in pairs or groups or respond individually. These Post-its should be stuck all around the campfire and across the floor.
Discuss Jesus walking in the fire with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Jesus is with us through all these pressures, hardships and temptations. Imagine him here now by the fire. Create an atmosphere of worship. Put on some music and encourage the young people to walk around the campfire, deliberately treading on the Post-it ‘flames’. Ask them to quietly list things they are grateful to God for and to use their fingers to mark each one off. This should help focus their minds on how many things we have to be grateful for. Give them five minutes or so and challenge them to see if anyone can get to a hundred things in that time!
You will need: three prayer stations set up as described below, one in each of the tents
Tent one: decorate the tent with a red drape or rug, and scraps of flame-coloured paper. Place some white paper inside for the young people to write confessions, sins and prayers of penitence on. If they want to they can throw these confessions onto the campfire once they have done business with God.
Tent two: decorate the tent with a white drape, rug or cloth. In here they should ask God to help them live a life that is worthy of him and his calling. Print off a few aspirational quotes, verses, positive words and the names of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and stick them around the inside of the tent. Encourage the young people to pray that they will have an impact on their society and communities, just as these men did in Daniel. Place a bowl of water in the centre to aid contemplation.
Tent three: decorate this prayer station with bright colours. Challenge the group to think about the impact they are having on society. While they are in here they should consider how they represent the kingdom of God in the UK: in our towns, schools, workplaces, sports facilities and friendship groups. Place a few newspapers or other prayer prompts inside and a large sheet of paper and pens in case they want to write something or doodle pictures and prayers. The focus should be on praying for our society, our friends, our government and so on.
Give the young people as much time as they need to move between the tents and pray.
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