Learning activity for Junior High and – High School

Expected Outcome:

Youth will explore risky situations and the consequences of their actions and consider ways they might respond if they are ever in a similar situation.

Focus Scripture: Matthew 10:32-33 (NRSV)

“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.”

Materials Needed

    Copies of “A Ride to the River” (Make copies of this case study.)

Tips for Youth Leaders

Youth are strongly influenced by peers and their need to fit in. Many youth find themselves in situations that involve the use of drugs, alcohol or tobacco that they are not prepared for. By involving youth in discussions about situations similar to “A Ride to the River” we can help them think about potential risky situations and plan for a response if they ever find themselves in a similar situation.

Decision making can be defined as a process in which a person chooses from two or more alternatives. Every day, people are faced with situations that demand decisions. Because these decisions are so common, the process is taken for granted until a person has to make a serious decision that has long-term effects on his/her life.

Some decisions are difficult because the issue confronting us is truly complex, and the complexity of the issue creates a moral dilemma. Other decisions are difficult because we have conflicted feelings regarding an issue. The issue itself may be fairly simple and straightforward, but circumstances surrounding the issue and our feelings about these circumstances create the dilemma. Examples of the first kind of dilemma include issues of capital punishment, war and peace and biomedical ethics. Examples of the second kind of dilemma include a number of issues related to substance abuse.

It is fairly clear to many people that smoking cigarettes is probably unhealthy and not a good Christian stewardship of our bodies. The simplicity of the issue is overridden by the complexity of circumstances. Young people experience peer pressure to smoke, and may begin smoking experimentally only to find that cigarettes are addictive. What should have been no dilemma at all becomes a real dilemma because of circumstances and factors larger then the original issue.

The goal of Christian moral education, the path we usually term Christian discipleship, must embrace both kinds of dilemmas. We must provide solid information regarding the complexities of moral decision-making, and sensitivity to the personal/social circumstances that interfere with making clear decisions. Christian discipleship involves both understanding the complexity of issues and developing the character to resist social pressures that tend to cloud issues. We tend to make better decisions when we understand the facts and we are empowered to make Christian decisions when we become persons truthful enough and courageous enough to make such decisions.

When churches offer the opportunity for their teenagers to learn Christian decision- making, they offer the opportunity for a young person to learn how to reason through situations, to solve problems, and to direct behavior. Maturity empowers Christian decision-making. As they center their lives in Christ, young people reduce the amount of ambiguity in their choices and limit the degree to which outside influences affect their decisions. Learning Christian decision-making skills increases the likelihood that each person can achieve that which he/she most deeply values.

Activity Directions

Step 1 – Have youth read through “A Ride to the River.” (You may want to ask for a volunteer to read it aloud or you may want to read it). The situation involves three young people having a good time playing ball who are offered drinks by an older cousin and his friend and then are invited to go for a ride to the river.

Step 2 – Below are some possible questions for starting a conversation about the story. You may want to do this in a small group or with the whole group. Ask the group these questions and allow then to respond.

    Do you think the three younger people in this narrative were having a good time playing softball?
    What are some of the problem situations in the story?
    Did Tanner have more reason to drink than Tanisha or Carlos? Explain.
    Why do you think Tanisha “faked” the drinking rather than saying “I don’t want any?”
    How do you think Tanisha was feeling while they passed the bottle? Why was Carlos faking drinking?
    How did the others feel about Carlos refusing to go to the river?
    If Tanner had refused the drink, how might that have affected the situation for Tanisha and Carlos?
    Alex said he had the quart of vodka at a party. Why do you think some people exaggerate how much they drink?
    What are the choices that Tanisha can make in regard to going to the river?
    Do you think they went to the river?
    How would you have responded to this situation?
    What does our faith say about situations like this one?

Step 3 – The participants may have additional thoughts and questions that they want to discuss. Provide an opportunity for the youth to express any ideas or thoughts that they have. Ask youth if there are any situations similar to “A Ride to the River” that they have been in or can anticipate that they would like to discuss.

Step 4 – Conclusion

You may find yourself in this kind of situation. Remind the youth that church can be a place where it is safe and fun to have activities or events free from drugs, alcohol and tobacco. Your faith can be the foundation for saying no. Ask the youth to share ways their beliefs have helped them in similar situations.

Click here for Learning Activity 5 – Handout.