Love and relationships are always hot topics, but especially in February.

To top it off, the Olympics are on TV right now.

Mash those two together, and you have a prime opportunity to deepen your students’ understanding of what love is.

Here’s a lesson you can utilize or tweak however you’d like.

Hope it serves you – thank you for loving students!



Explain that you’re going to begin your lesson by encouraging them to try to listen to God through two popular songs you’re going to play back to back. The goal for this time is not that they sing along or be entertained by something they may have heard on the radio, but that they try to consider the two different types of commitment being shared here. Dim the lights to minimize distraction, and play these two songs:

  • “Say Something” by A Great Big World & Christina Aguilera
  • “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz

[ Option: Combine these two into a video that guides them during this time: http://youtu.be/5-8nHjnPHg4 ]


Talk with the students about what they gained from that time.

  • Which of those two songs symbolizes the type of love you’ve seen modeled growing up in our community or culture?
  • Which of those two songs symbolizes the type of love you’d like to experience or give another person?
  • What do you think it takes from someone to say something that the lyrics in the first song?
  • What do you think it takes from someone to say something that the lyrics in the second song?

[ Download this Power Point slideshow for the following ]


Ask students to read the following Bible verses out loud and pause after each one to brainstorm the role that truth might play in a committed relationship, such as marriage.

  • Psalm 34:18
  • Hebrews 12:15
  • Philippians 4:12


Use the Power Point slides to cycle through these points as you share them.

Say something like:

[slide]  “The Olympics may have started recently, but reporters, athletes and tourists from around the world began checking into the Sochi hotels even before that.

[slide]  Many began describing appalling conditions in the housing there. Hotels are still under construction. Water, if it’s running, isn’t drinkable. This has spilled over into some of the conditions the athletes are enduring, too.

One person said it this way: ‘Almost every room is missing something: light bulbs, TVs, lamps, chairs, curtains, WiFi, heat, hot water. Shower curtains are a valuable piece of the future black market here. (One American photographer was simply told, “You will not get a shower curtain.”) In one hotel, the elevator is broken and the stairway is unlit, with stairs of varying and unpredictable heights. Outside another hotel, there is a bag of concrete in a palm tree, leaking grey down the trunk. Inside, some of the electrical outlets are just plates screwed into drywall.’

[slide]  One famous picture is of a sign outside a toilet… the person who posted it said, “People have asked me what surprised me the most here in Sochi. It’s this. Without question… it’s… THIS.” A sign that says “Please do not flush toilet paper down the toilet. Put it in the bin provided.”

[slide] One person spoke about his experience with the hotel lobby… which was non-existent.

“OK, so my hotel doesn’t have a lobby yet.”
“For those of you asking, when there’s no lobby in your hotel, you go to the owner’s bedroom to check in.”

[slide] One woman wrote, “My hotel has no water. If restored, the front desk says “do not use on your face because it contains something very dangerous.”

[slide] She later updated, adding, “Water restored, sorta. On the bright side, I now know what very dangerous face water looks like.”

[slide] Another woman warned, “What your step #Sochi2014 – I’ve noticed on walkway and on sidewalks that not all man holes are covered.”

[slide] A man observed, “Spa and Fitness Center at Gorki Grand Hotel… you get in shape by putting it together?”

[slide] Another guy said, “Good news. I have internet. Bad news. It’s dangling from the ceiling in my room.”

[slide] Other pictures showing the unique conditions the athletes are staying in have also been made popular.
This is certainly not the standard many people would expect of the Olympics, let alone your basic Holiday Inn Express.

[slide] So let me ask an obvious question… why would an athlete, journalist or even a visitor stick this out?

You know the answer, don’t you? It’s the Olympics… even in harsh conditions, it’s the Olympics.

Sure, things are hard. People are experiencing circumstances that would make them want to leave. Yet they aren’t leaving. They’re still there – the athletes, the reporters and the tourists.

Now… how about an honest question – how many of the marriages you know about in your family or extended family… your friend’s moms and dads… your neighbors… how many have approached their marriage realizing that they’re in an Olympic level relationship? That things may not be ideal, but there is a more important Story worth hanging in there on to enjoy?

How many of you realize what’s on the line one day if you get married… that there will be times you will say, “Yeah, these circumstances are less than ideal, but I’m in this for the gold.”

[slide] It reminds me of one more passage of Scripture: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (read it)

BRAINSTORM: This is a passage about what it means to live life as a Christian, but there are some great principles here about relationships. What from this passage could you apply into what a God-honoring, Olympic-level love kind of marriage could look like?

(let students come up with ideas – affirm them, and then share this summary)

[slide] You all had great ideas. Let me sum up what I see in this passage:

  • Understand you are in a marathon, not a sprint.
  • Push yourself past your perceived limits.
  • Run toward a real goal – no “Wii” running
  • Cross the actual finish line.

Wrap Up:

Remind them of the songs from earlier, and ask them to identify how these ideals either do or don’t play into each song. Ask them to identify what (in their opinion) is the number one quality they need to actually live this out. Let them struggle with this a bit, and then guide them to the realization that they won’t be motivated to love this way until they’ve experienced love this way. This is the kind of love Jesus offers us. He sings the second song over us each day, and models what we see in 1 Corinthians.

Reread the three Bible verses from earlier. Ask students to consider how God is with us at every step of our journey in knowing His love and in how we love others. Invite students to respond to the grace and love of Jesus Christ – this is a great opportunity to help them make a decision to receive Him as Savior/Lord.

If you have time (and if it makes sense to your group), dare them right then and there pray for the relationships now and the potential future marriage they might have one day. Encourage them to even pray for their future spouse – that God would strengthen and love on that person even now.

superbowl_snapshotHow did you spend your Super Bowl night?

It’s not uncommon for churches and youth groups to gather together for the big game. Some student ministries use it as an opportunity to serve others, while others make it a missional gathering one way or another.

This year’s game offered another opportunity… a rather unexpected one.

Putting it lightly, it wasn’t Denver’s night. That’s great news if you’re a Seattle fan, or salt-in-an-open-wound if you were cheering for the Broncos. Social media only amplified things, which may have even spilled into your party. You may have even found a tweet or two that resonated with you.


Another site captured some of the quick retorts various companies used to leverage the game’s slant in their favor.


The summary of the game on news sites took on its own slant. For example, USAToday.com ran the headline “Peyton Manning, Denver can’t recover from Super Bowl mistakes.”

Really? That’s a powerful statement – “can’t recover.”

Granted, it was just a sports summary. We’re used to these types of post-game comments from 24-hour news outlets looking for yet another way to spin the game.

Still, might we need to seize this as a teaching moment?

  • How many teenagers (and adults, for that matter) have had moments where everything they planned to go one way ended up going another? What does the concept of “can’t recover” say to them, even subliminally?
  • When everyone at your church-sponsored-party was laughing at the first snap of the game that went over Peyton Manning’s head, did your guests take away a message of “works” or “grace?” Did you consider the kid who was sitting there because he hates being at home where his dad constantly berates him? How about the girl who never measures up against her more poised peers? What about the grown-up who gets bullied at work for poor performance just like the old high school days?
  • As the game ended up lopsided and every camera shot of the Broncos displayed their depression, was the conversation at your party, “Must stink to be them,” or did you stop a moment and say, “Let’s pray for those guys… for their spirits… for how Monday will feel to them and their families. Sound good?”

It’s ironic – you may have preached “Come as you are. God loves you just as you are.” on Sunday morning… yet promoted “IN YOUR FACE!” on Sunday night. Sure, it’s common… but might there be something more “Jesus-centered” you can foster?

Politics aside (let me say that again – politics aside), consider a pre-game quote from President Obama: “I try to focus not on the fumbles but on the next play.”

Admittedly, I didn’t claim all of these opportunities myself.

Awesome moment after the clock expired... Broncos players joined Seahawks LB Mike Morgan for a postgame prayer before celebrations.

Awesome moment after the clock expired… Broncos players joined Seahawks LB Mike Morgan for a postgame prayer before celebrations.

That said, is there still a teaching moment for the Super Bowl that you can instill in others today?



In spite of the fact that I am athletically challenged, have never really known exactly what to cheer for as my children have played soccer, basketball, or baseball and don’t even really like or follow ANY sports of any kind, somehow all my son has ever wanted to do is play football.  We placated him with the “flag” version for several years,  however,  he  just wanted to play the “real” game.  This year as he enters 7th grade we gave in.  It has been an eyeopening experience for all of us.  It is teaching him discipline and responsibility in new and creative ways.  However, for the first time EVER sports will infringe on church and church activities (including youth group.)  It is interesting because in the world of us youth pastors this is what we always complain about.  How could parents/students choose sports (or band, debate, drama) over what’s important?

Here are some thoughts from the “other side:”

Unpacking  Faith

As far as he or we can figure out He is the ONLY Believer on His team. Daily in practice he is navigating listening to both coaches and players cuss and deciding if this is a good choice for him. This is only one example of ways he is forced to think about what living in the world and among the world, but not getting sucked into it really means. We have had discussions on ways he might talk about Christ with others. In short he can’t relegate his faith to certain nights of the week when he is “supposed” to be thinking about it.

Life Lessons

It has amazed me the solid life lessons football is teaching him.  He is learning the power of being truly needed on a team. This summer he has missed out on some “vacation” for the sake of the commitment he made. If he does not learn to follow directions and allow himself to be guided and “coached,” there are consequences.  As an incredibly regular and awkward JH kid he needs affirmation in addition to his parents.  It matters when Coach D tells him his strength is his greatest asset.  (Of course it didn’t hurt that he picked a kid up and pushed him back 30 yards in practice the other day.)  It isn’t “better” but he wasn’t learning  all of this in this way in youth group- a great one,  with an awesome youth pastor.  (No not me, silly, he goes to another one too.)


My son is crushed he is going to miss youth group on Thursdays for the sake of football.  He likes the structure of small groups and deep Bible study, his youth pastor and his friends. This year he is testing if “football is worth it” going forward. For awhile he may attend another youth group as well, because it meets on a night when there is no practice.  It made me wonder what is it that we “youth people” are really angry about when parents tell us, “I’m sorry it’s (blank) season, my kid won’t be coming.”  Is it we miss their child?  Is it we are worried about the student slipping away from the Lord?  OR  Are we mad that our “program” wasn’t more appealing?  Should we perhaps find ways to reach the sports kids at their interest point?

Parent’s Hate The Pull Too

Now I know there are some families out there who move heaven and earth to make sure sports take precedence in their kid’s lives.  HOWEVER,  I think more parents are like us.  They see their child enjoys something, and might even be good at it, and they want to let them be a part of it. Each of my children are allowed to pick ONE activity besides church stuff per season.  Still I have three kids in MS so if they all pick something different- that is three directions at best.  Sometimes we are just tired, we are trying really hard, and that is why we ask you to just make this “one exception for my kid” to come to “whatever.”


There is a difference between kids who are apathetic and flippant about church and youth programming and those who are not.  This is in spite of sports or other activities.  We don’t expect adults to ONLY be involved in church why do we put that pressure on our students? Unfortunately we live in a secular culture that sets schedules in spite of our “religious affiliations.” My son likes football, his Dad and I care his relationship with Jesus doesn’t suffer. We will get him to youth group, and attend early services on Sunday as we have to deal with afternoon games.  I am hoping that somehow we can find support in this decision to allow him to play. After all he really wants to be the next “Ray Lewis,” whatever that means.

How are you helping your “sports” families this Fall navigate church and “other?”

Oh my goodness. Matt McGill Sports Instructional videos have returned.


I just got done sitting in the cold rain watching a high school soccer game…and it was absolutely amazing! God taught me something tonight about ministry that I too often forget. The power of presence. Sometimes just being with a student or going to one of their games can be more impactful than anything you say. I watched 3 student’s faces light up tonight as they walked off the field and saw that I braved the cold to watch them play soccer. It was really the highlight of my day! Too often we as youth pastors can become “too busy” to attend events and games but really it’s just inconvenient because it’s in the evening. It’s worth every minute.

Here are some helpful hints for attending events:

1) Spring is a great time to attend because all events are outdoors and they’re FREE!

2) If you can’t be there the entire time, show up halfway through or when they compete.

3) Stay after and connect with the student encouraging them!

4) Take the opportunity to meet their parents and build relationships while in the stands.

Brian Dickison is the Youth Pastor at Gold Creek Community Church in Mill Creek Washington 

The HSM Bowl is a fun activity we do every year – thought you might be interested in grabbing the info and rules this packet for this year’s event. Might help you pull off an event like this in the future – you can grab it over on Taffy’s Rice and Worship blog right now!


This year we’ve trying a fun new idea that we’ve been cooking for small groups – we’ve just launched HSM’s Life Group Leagues!

From time to time throughout the small group year we’re going to host a few casual sports nights here at the church where groups can participate in some fun activities like volleyball, ping pong or basketball. The games are all for fun, not highly competitive and simply give small groups a chance to take a break from the pace of the year and have some fun together.

I’ve always liked the idea of intramural sports in college and wondered if it would translate to high school ministry. We’re off to a great start so far – thought the idea might be a good one to share here, too!


If you are into sports, you might be able to relate to what I am talking about. I personally am a huge hockey fan, I love the Vancouver Canucks and watching hockey is something I really enjoy doing. But this year I have realized that my passion is just not healthy, in fact arguably sinful. I am certain that I am not the only person that gets wrapped up in sports, but when I hadn’t eaten for 24 hours leading up to an important game God convicted me in a big way about this obsession.

The combination of stress, joy, malnutrition and unusually high heart rate should have been a dead give away that something was amiss, but when my brother brought me home a T-shirt from the game that read “this is what we live for” that I realized just how wrapped up I was. Could it be, that this is what people including me are living for? A seasonal passion for a sports team, and how could it be, that I could get so wrapped up in it. I wasn’t hungry on game days, I was grouchy when they lost, pumped when they won, its not right.

But what about the thing that is most important in my life, where is my undying passion for that, and that is where it hit me. I was in over my head and more invested in sports than my ministry and here is what I have been praying God would do in light of this deep conviction that I had let a sports team become an idol.

1- That God would help me to be more excited about what He is doing in the lives of our students than how my team is doing in the playoffs.

2 – That I would be as passionate about seeing hearts won for Christ as I am about games won by my team.

3 — That I would be living for something that matters and that passion would be obvious to my students, leaders and others, saved and un-saved.

In the age of Facebook our lives are more transparent and students can easily see what we hold highest and its really easy to let other things upset what should be a clear hierarchy of priority and I am sure that many of us have been in the same position. If you are someone that gets easily wrapped up in things other than His Kingdom, ask Him to work that out. It’s been a great week as God has worked on my heart to make sure its pointed to Him.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Be sure to check out his Twitter stream for awesome ministry goodness. Want to get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself? See how right here.