Learning Activity for Junior High and High School Students.

Expected Outcome:

Young people will increase their knowledge of alternative behaviors by identifying reasons why some young people choose to use drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.

Focus Scripture: John 15:10-11 (NRSV)

“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

Materials Needed

Chalk board, white board, or flip chart and markers

Markers or pens

Tips for Youth Leaders

This activity gets the conversation going about the “why” of youth drug, alcohol, and tobacco use. It helps young people become more aware of and intentional about their decisions. It helps youth become aware of the many things they can do to deal with their feelings instead of participating in risky behaviors like the use of alcohol or other drugs.

Note older youth will see more “grey areas” in the discussion. It is wise for leaders to let the youth fully discuss these issues instead of just expecting a “just say no” answer.

Activity Directions

Step 1. – Ask group members to brainstorm reasons why they think some youth use alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs. This list can include reasons they have actually heard as well as ones the participants guess. What do you think “using” youth say when asked? Make a list on the left side of the board or paper, leaving space to the right of each reason.

Step 2. – After brainstorming all of the reasons youth might use drugs, alcohol, or tobacco, ask youth to list next to each reason a safer, healthier way to accomplish the same thing, such as “a change of feeling.”


Reasons Youth Use Alternatives to using
To Relax Play sports, jog
Calm down Take deep breaths
To belong/be accepted Work with others in a community project

Step 3. – Go back over the reasons youth use and ask for possible consequences of using alcohol or other drugs to achieve the desired effect. Then ask about the possible consequences of using the alternatives to accomplish the same ends. You might even come up with a list of reasons why youth don’t use. Point out how positive it is to learn healthy ways to handle feelings or relate to others.

Look at the list of alternatives. How many of them have spiritual dimensions? Prayer is an alternative that youth need to be encouraged to plug into in dealing with stress. Also, discuss how involvement with the church youth group or projects in the community serve as good alternatives to drugs by providing friendship and stability and by avoiding the many negatives that accompany drug use.

Help the young people think through the process of change. How do people change behaviors? How do deeply held values change? How do new or reaffirmed values result in changed behaviors?

Step 4. – Conclusion. Have each youth write down his or her own personal action plan identifying possible alternatives to alcohol and drug use. Help them make a commitment to let faith guide them in their daily choices of actions.