Learning Activity for Junior High and High School students

Expected Outcome:

Youth will think about their beliefs regarding drug, alcohol and tobacco use, and they will learn what some adults in their congregation believe about these topics. They also will discover what the Bible teaches about the use of these substances.

Focus Scripture: 2 Timothy 2:2 (NRSV)

“And what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well.”

Materials Needed

    Paper and pens
    Copies of the questionnaire for each participant
    For CONNECT TO THE CONTENT, Option 2: Video camera, VCR and TV

Step 1 – Preparation

    This lesson can be conducted in two sessions if you have the young people interview members of their church and then bring back their results.
    For Connect to the Content, Option 1, you will need to invite members of your church to participate in a panel discussion.
    For Connect to the Content, Option 2, you will need to make copies of the questions so the young people can take them along on the interviews.
    Think about your own history of substance use, including alcohol. How has your faith influenced (or failed to influence) your choices about substance use?

Step 2 – What Do Youth Think?
Read the statements below to the youth, and ask them to indicate what they believe about each statement. Some youth will clearly “agree” or “disagree.” However some youth will have more of a “middle ground” response. Encourage the youth to discuss the “why” behind their beliefs no matter which response they give.

Statements:

    Most teens smoke, drink alcohol and use drugs.
    I know what my religion says about using these substances.
    It is difficult to be popular if you don’t smoke, drink or use drugs.
    There’s not much I can do if one of my friends is into smoking, drinking or drugs.
    I know someone I could talk to if I had questions about these substances, or if I or someone I knew was using them.
    I know what I believe about these substances and I feel like my actions will support my beliefs.

Here are a few discussion points you may wish to highlight during your discussion of the questions above. To help you prepare for specific drug questions, see the drug fact sheets in the adult activity section of this guide.

Statement 1 – Although many people think that ‘everyone does it,’ the truth is that most young people do not use drugs, drink alcohol or smoke. According to the 2000 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, an annual survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, fewer teens are using drugs. The youngest subset of youth (ages 12-13) reported significantly lower rates of current use of any illicit drug. Usage in this group dropped 23 percent, from 3.9 percent in 1999 to 3.0 percent in 2000.

Statements 2 and 3 – Youth may or may not feel pressure to do these things to be popular, but you always have a choice. Nobody will force you to do it. It will take guts, but talking to your friends about not using drugs, drinking and smoking can make a difference in your decisions. More important than talking is what you actually do. Peer pressure can work both ways. If your friends like and admire you, even though you don’t do these things, you will make an impression on them.

Statement 4 – The person(s) you can trust may be someone in your congregation, a school counselor, a parent or another adult. Provide the names of community resources.

Statement 5 - The first step toward being able to say ‘No’ is deciding firmly what you believe – before you have to take a stand. When someone hands you a “joint” that is not the time to be deciding what you believe.

Step 3 – Connect to the Content

Option 1: Interview The Leaders

Invite members of your congregation to participate in a panel discussion with youth about drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. Panel members could include church staff, lay leaders, parents, youth leaders that would include an age span of older and younger members of the congregation. Give panel members a list of possible questions ahead of time, and let them know that the youth will also be able to ask additional questions. Some possible questions:

    What does our faith teaches about drug, alcohol, and tobacco use?
    Why do we have these views?
    What scriptures speak to the use of these substances? What do they say?
    What does our faith say about the occasional use of some of these substances as opposed to the abuse of them? What does it mean to abuse them?
    Is there a difference between youth and adults using these substances? What is it?
    Where can someone get good advice about dealing with the pressure to use drugs, alcohol, and tobacco?
    How does drug use affect one’s ability to develop a spiritually meaningful life?

Lead the panel in discussing the answers to these questions, and ask youth to contribute any other questions or comments they have.

Option 2: Roving Reporters

Using the same questions and possibly the same people as in Option 1, assign youth to go interview and videotape people responding to the questions. The youth should be in groups of 2-3. In addition to interviewing the people who have been contacted ahead of time, the youth might want to try some “on the street” interviews to see what kind of responses they get.

Step 4 – Take Away

Option 1: What Have You Learned About Our Faith?

Go around the room and ask each young person to state one thing that he or she believes about the use of drugs, alcohol, and smoking that is a result of their Christian faith. Continue until they run out of ideas.

Option 2: What Have You Learned About Each Other?

If the youth videotaped the interviews, watch the videos and discuss them. Questions to use in the discussion might include:

    Were you surprised by what people said? Why or why not?
    Did everyone agree on what our faith teaches us? If they disagreed, why do you think that is?
    Did people have strong opinions on this topic, or were they kind of wishy-washy?
    Is there a difference in what our faith teaches about adults or youth using these substances?

Option 3: What Have You Learned About Substance Abuse?

Ask each young person in the group to share two things that they know now about alcohol, drugs and smoking that they didn’t know when the session started.

Step 5 – Wrap Up, Hand out paper and pencils to each student. Ask them to write at the top of the page “THIS I BELIEVE.” Below it, ask them to write what they now believe about the use of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. Encourage the students to be honest and realistic in what they write down.