Over the past few months my family has gone through a number of challenges. Don’t worry, all this has a lot to do with the below youth group lesson on distractions.
In fact, my setbacks could have been viewed as “distractions” that steered me away from focusing on God. Problems have a way of distracting us from focusing on God.
Here’s a quick overview of the setbacks we faced:
We thought our 15 year-old son, Ethan, was in a “life funk”. It turned out the root problem was much simpler than we originally thought. After a series of unfortunate events, a lot of deep conversations, and tons of reflection, it became apparent he was really unhappy being homeschooled. So, 2 weeks ago he started Mandeville High School after being homeschooled since 3rd grade. He’s been a happy camper since going back to school. The “funk” has lifted, and he’s doing well. Through the experience, we opened up the line of communication between him, my wife and I. We’ve also grown much closer to our son and learned a lot of things about him.
Jena has had some weird physical stuff going on since the Augusta Ironman back in September. She wasn’t able to finish the race and ended up spending the night in the ER. We drove back home the next day anxious & confused as to the root of the problem. The doctors originally thought it could be an issue with her heart or maybe her lungs. At one point, we thought she might not be able to train anymore, which would be a big deal for her. She loves training and competing in triathlons. It’s a huge part of her life. After countless visits to a dozen or so doctors we’re still not sure exactly the root of the problem. But, we do have somewhat of an idea of what’s going on. She’s doing better now and training to run in the Boston Marathon in April. Then, she plans on doing an Ironman shortly after. It’s been a humbling & enlightening experience for her. She’s been able to refocus her priorities in life and set healthy boundaries. But the fear of the unknown is still lurking in the background since symptoms still exist. She’s moving forward with caution.
An upsetting event happened with a family friend that shifted the fabric of our family. For privacy reasons, I can’t go into detail about exactly what happened or who it was, but it shook the 5 us to the core. We got the news a few days after Thanksgiving, and the entire event opened up a lot of conversations for all 5 us (Jena & our 3 kids – Ethan, Joey & Emma). It reconnected us as a family. We realized how disconnected we all were from each other over the last 2 or so years. Since then, so much has changed for all 5 of us. We’re deeply connected to each other more than ever. Thankfully, the situation with the family friend is much better now.
Our SUV’s engine stopped working. We had a 2008 Chrysler Aspen with over 165,000 miles on it. While driving home from getting our Christmas tree, the engine out of the blue stopped working. The engine needed to be replaced at a cost of $7,000..yikes! With the new engine, the vehicle would have only been valued at $6,000. We were forced to get a new used vehicle, which I really didn’t want to do (I’m cheap). We ended up getting a GMC Yukon XL, which we really like. But dang…SUV’s are expensive these days!! Poof…there goes a bunch of money we had in savings (for the deposit, tax, title, license, etc.) I was really grateful that I put money aside in savings to cover a big expense like this. Good financial practices are a fairly new skill for me. Up until a few years ago, I reaped the negative benefits of being stupid with money. It’s good to reap the benefit of being wise with money.
All these events happened within the last 4 months. That’s a whole lot to hit at once.
I could have let these events distract me from focusing on God. I could have gotten swept up in the drama of it all, allowing the emotions of these events derail me.
Instead of being distractions, these events brought me closer to God. They actually helped me see God more clearly. He showed up in every one of them. Something good came out of all of these circumstances.
The goal of our lives is to focus on Jesus. Instead of focusing on the distractions of life, it’s important to focus on God. Sometimes the distractions actually help us see God more clearly.
That’s the heart of this youth group lesson on distractions.
Hope you enjoy it!
– Nick Diliberto, Ministry to Youth
YOUTH GROUP LESSON ON DISTRACTIONS
Lesson Overview: How to Not Get Distracted from Focusing on God
Bible: Hebrews 12:1-2; Genesis 37-50
OPENING GAME: DISTRACTED DRIVING
Two storage tubs, large enough for a student to sit inside
HOW TO PLAY THE GAME
Divide your entire group into teams consisting of four people.
The goal of the game is to race from one end of the room to the other without getting distracted, and to do it faster than the other teams.
Teams race one at a time.
Each team chooses one person to “drive” the storage tub in the race.
The other members of that team are blindfolded and will push the tub from the start to the finish line as fast as they can.
Put several obstacles between the start and finish lines. (ex: chairs, tables, etc.)
The driver will direct their team members to move around the obstacles to reach the finish line.
The teams who are not racing will stand on the sidelines, doing whatever they can to distract the driver and slow down the racing team.
Distractors can say things, do stupid actions, make lots of noise, etc. – while remaining on the side of the racing lane.
Each team gets its own turn racing.
Time each team to see who crosses the finish line in the least amount of time.
The team with the shortest time wins.
(Note: You might also like this free game, Paper Plate Powerball, that helps students focus on Jesus.)
Even with distractions, it’s a lot easier to drive a tub than it is to drive a car!
Not all of you have had the experience of standing in line at the DMV, having your picture taken, and being handed that golden ticket to freedom, but you will have your turn someday.
There’s a lot to learn before you can take your driving test – the rules of the road, how to drive in dangerous conditions, and the dreaded parallel parking.
But, there are some things that aren’t outlined in the driver ‘s manual; things that are essential if you are going to drive safely and avoid accidents.
Can you guess what the biggest cause of car accidents is today? (Allow students to respond.)
When a driver is distracted, he or she can cause an accident and endanger not only their own life, but also the lives of others on the road.
Have you ever heard of the word “rubbernecking?”
That’s when people just have to look at something going on outside of the car, on the side of the road.
They slow down and sit up a little straighter so they can see more of the action.
Rubbernecking can lead to accidents or cause traffic to be backed up for hours just because one person had to slow down and see what was going on outside their car.
Unfortunately, there’s a danger that is far more likely to cause you distraction on the road, something almost all of us carry around with us all the time – cell phones. (Hold up your phone.)
There’s a reason texting, and even talking on the phone in some places, while driving is illegal.
People who use their phone while driving are almost three times more likely to get into an accident than those who don’t.
Just like there are distractions when driving, we have distractions in our spiritual lives too.
Read Hebrews 12:1-2 (NCV):
“We are surrounded by a great cloud of people whose lives tell us what faith means. So let us run the race that is before us and never give up. We should remove from our lives anything that would get in the way and the sin that so easily holds us back. Let us look only to Jesus, the One who began our faith and who makes it perfect. He suffered death on the cross. But he accepted the shame as if it were nothing because of the joy that God put before him. And now he is sitting at the right side of God’s throne.”
Our goal as Christians is to “look only to Jesus”…to focus on our relationship with God.
But it’s so easy to get distracted.
The Bible tells us to “remove from our lives anything that would get in the way”.
In other words, don’t get distracted from your personal relationship with Jesus.
Distractions come in many forms: sin, problems, successes, friends, family, school, girlfriends/boyfriends, etc.
Instead of focusing on the distractions, focus on Jesus.
Having a quiet time where you dedicate a chunk of your day to being with God is a great place to start. It gives your relationship with God a solid foundation.
(Note: Use this free lesson to help students develop a quiet time in their lives).
Coming to youth group (or church), singing praise and worship songs, and attending a small group are some other ways to focus on God.
But what about the rest of your life?
You spend about 7 hours a day at school.
You might play sports or do some other after school activity that takes up a few hours a week.
You’re on your phone texting, watching youtube videos, snap chatting, and on Instagram.
You might watch some TV on Netflix too.
Or maybe you do other stuff in your spare time.
Most of your life is spent doing these things.
Why do you separate everyday activities from your relationship with God? How can you focus on God while doing what you do all day long?
The key is to look for what God is doing in your life and those around you.
Be aware that God is always doing something in your life. He’s always up to something good. Just ask God to show you what he’s doing, then be on the lookout for what that might be. Trust your gut. Trust the Holy Spirit’s soft voice within you. Be willing to respond to whatever it is that he’s showing you.
Here’s a couple of examples…
Let’s say you have a science teacher that you really hate.
She’s mean to you and your classmates.
She gives you a lot of homework, and her tests are really difficult.
Instead of just complaining about how horrible she is, maybe you could pause and ask God what to do about the situation.
Maybe this situation is an opportunity for you to learn patience and humility.
Boom! There’s God at work in your life.
Maybe you start crying during a scene in a movie on Netflix (use a personal example here if applicable).
You’re moved deeply.
Maybe that’s God speaking something to you in that moment.
That could be God at work in your life.
Let’s say you’re best friend does something horribly mean to you.
So bad that it ends your friendship.
You pause and ask God for help and insight into the situation.
Maybe that friendship needed to end so that you could open up yourself to other friendships that are even better for you.
That’s God at work in your life.
(Give an example in your own life).
Instead of putting “time with God” and “time doing life” in separate compartments, blend them together.
Notice what God is doing in your everyday life as you go to school, hang out with friends, play sports or other activities, spend time on social media, etc.
Okay, here’s another idea to think about.
The distraction is sometimes the way.
What often looks like a distraction away from God can actually bring you closer to God.
Let’s take a look at the life of Joseph.
His full story is written in Genesis 37-50.
Joseph was misunderstood by his family, rejected by his brothers and sold into slavery.
He became the slave of Potiphar, an officer to the king of Egypt (the Pharaoh).
Read Genesis 39:3-6:
“Potiphar saw that the Lord was with Joseph and that the Lord made Joseph successful in everything he did. So Potiphar was very happy with Joseph and allowed him to be his personal servant. He put Joseph in charge of the house, trusting him with everything he owned. When Joseph was put in charge of the house and everything Potiphar owned, the Lord blessed the people in Potiphar’s house because of Joseph. And the Lord blessed everything that belonged to Potiphar, both in the house and in the field. So Potiphar left Joseph in charge of everything he owned and was not concerned about anything except the food he ate.”
Joseph remained loyal to God.
The situation forced him to focus on God, who proved himself faithful to Joseph.
God gave him favor with Potiphar, who put Joseph in charge of his entire household.
This was a big deal for a servant. It was an honor and privilege to be in that position.
Then, things took a dive for the worse.
He was falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife and put in jail, but Joseph continued to focus on God.
Here’s what happened next.
Read Genesis 39: 21-23:
‘But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him kindness and caused the prison warden to like Joseph. The prison warden chose Joseph to take care of all the prisoners, and he was responsible for whatever was done in the prison. The warden paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s care because the Lord was with Joseph and made him successful in everything he did.”
God continued to show up in Joseph’s life.
The very thing that could have distracted Joseph from God, being falsely accused and put in jail, was just another opportunity for God to show up.
Joseph interprets a dream for some people close to the king, and almost gets a “get out of jail free card” because of it.
Unfortunately, he remains in jail for another 2 years.
The Pharaoh has a bad dream, and Joseph is called in to interpret it.
The dream meant there will be 7 years of plenty food, followed by 7 years of famine.
Then, check out what the Pharaoh told him:
Read Genesis 41:39-40:
“So the king said to Joseph, “God has shown you all this. There is no one as wise and understanding as you are, so I will put you in charge of my palace. All the people will obey your orders, and only I will be greater than you.”
Joseph literally went from jail to being the second in charge of Egypt.
He was later reunited with his family, and found it in his heart to forgive this brothers.
Wow. What an amazing story!
Joseph’s story reminds us that what appear to be distractions away from God can actually bring us closer to God.
The distraction is the way.
The problem is the way.
Any one of these events could have turned Joseph away from God.
He could have become bitter and angry towards his brothers and the unfair circumstances.
However, he chose to let those circumstances bring him closer to God.
What problems or distractions are you facing that could bring you closer to God?
Take a moment to reflect on that question.
End in prayer.
SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
What are some examples of distractions that get in the way of your relationship with God?
Do you find it hard to focus on God in everyday life? Why or why not? Explain.
What are some ways you stay focused on God?
What is God doing in your life right now?
What is God doing in the lives of your friends or family right now?
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This youth group lesson was written by Nick Diliberto, Sue Verner, & Becky Forkel.
Nick Diliberto is the creator of this website. He’s also married to a killer triathlete (Jena), and has three kids: Ethan (15), Joey (13), and Emma (11). Nick oversees the youth group at the Northshore Vineyard Church, just outside of New Orleans, LA.