“Influence” can be used for a self-centered thirst for power, but as followers of Jesus, it can also be used in an unselfish way.
As Christians, we have the capability of influencing those around us by the way we live – with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness…
Teenagers need our encouragement to recognize the tremendous opportunity they have to influence their friends, family, and those they interact with every day.
Use this youth group lesson on influence, based on Matthew 5:13 to teach students that true godly influence goes beyond good morals – it flows from a heart that is surrendered to God.
– Nick Diliberto, Ministry to Youth
YOUTH GROUP LESSON ON INFLUENCE
Written by Carrie Busch
Bible: Matthew 5:13
Bottom Line: True godly influence goes beyond good morals – it flows from a heart that is surrendered to God.
- Rope (avoid string as it could cut or sting with friction)
- Optional prizes (candy) for winners of the game
OPENING GAME: THREE-LEGGED RACE
This game will emphasize the theme of the power of influence.
As pairs of students are tied leg-to-leg, when one takes a step, the other goes with him.
Similarly, our behavior, words, and decisions affect those surrounding us.
HOW TO PLAY THE GAME
Pair students up or, if you have a large group, put them in groups of three.
- If in groups of two, tie the right leg of one student to the left leg of another.
- If in groups of three, tie student one’s right leg to student two’s left leg. Do the same on the other side of student two.
Line groups up on one side of the room, determine a finish line and stand there to judge who crosses the finish line first.
Say: “Ready, set, go!” and watch the chaos.
Once the race is over and you’ve handed out the prizes to the winners, sit students down and ask them the following questions:
- What was challenging about this race?
- Did you notice that your partner’s moves affected yours and vice versa?
- Just like in this game, how might your “moves” in life affect others?
Allow a few responses from students and then move on to the TEACH portion of the lesson.
Today, we’re going to talk about influence.
In our race, you had to have noticed that you could not physically take a step unless you dragged your partner’s leg along with you… and vice versa.
This is how influence works in our lives, although sometimes it’s not so obvious.
I’m sure you’ve heard some lectures from your parents about not hanging out with “a bad influence.”
Well, instead of focusing on avoidingbad influence, we’re going to reflect on ourselves first.
Let’s start by reading a verse from Matthew.
Read Matthew 5:13.
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
See, we’re so busy trying not to be influenced by others that we rarely take a good look at what God asks of US when it comes to influence.
In this verse, Jesus calls us “the salt of the earth.”
No doubt you’ve heard this scripture before, but let’s make sure we understand it.
What is the purpose of salt?
Well, today and in the time of Jesus, salt was used to season and preserve food.
In other words, it was a necessarymineral that had a specificpurpose.
So, obviously, if we took this scripture literally, Jesus would be telling us to season and preserve food.
That doesn’t make any sense!
Instead, let’s think metaphorically.
Like salt, Christians are called to season (or enhance) our surroundings by obedience and faith in Christ.
We also are called to preserve the world, using our love to counter the evil that exists and keep it from “spoiling” others.
In other words, our influence is critical!
Take a look at the scripture again.
Ask: What does Jesus say about “salt” once it is no longer “salty”? What does this mean?
What priority do you place on your influence of others?
Allow a few responses from students after each question.
Think about your friends, your partner in the science lab, your family, your little brother or sister, and even your youth group.
Have you considered lately how you may be influencing them?
While you reflect on that, I want to talk about the difference between moralism true Christianity.
Don’t know what I mean?
Well, let’s talk about it.
When we think about our influence of others, it might be tempting to focus only on “good” acts, like not using foul language, avoiding drugs and alcohol, or getting good grades.
Yes, these are good, moralbehaviors, meaning they’re the “right thing to do.”
However, they’re not what the subject of today’s lesson is about.
Moralism is the idea that the Gospel is nothing more than behavior modification (or improvement).
And this is a false gospel.
When Jesus talked about our “saltiness” or our “influence,” he was not referring to moral acts.
This verse is much more serious than we may have thought.
In Matthew 5:13, Jesus was referring to living under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and obedience to Christ.
This kind of influence comes from the inside out and affects all of our thoughts, actions, and words.
Jesus isn’t asking us to be “moral.”
He’s asking us to be obedient, no matter what that looks like.
If we do not die to our own desires daily, we lose that saltiness that influences the world around us.
Think about it – if moralism could accomplish this goal, then wouldn’t “good people” who don’t believein Christ be considered “salt” as well?
If not, then what’s the difference between you and a nonbeliever who is known for good works?
The answer is the Holy Spirit that lives in you.
Good works are just that – good.
But they don’t have the power to influence the world for Christ.
Only the Holy Spirit, living in every believer, has the power to make that difference.
We don’t follow the rules because our rule-following will save us.
Instead, the Law reveals our sin and need for a Savior.
Read Galatians 2:16.
…a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.
In this verse, Paul is reminding us that the Law, like a mirror, reveals our sin and our need for Jesus.
So, following the law (moralism) does not saveand therefore cannot make an impact on the world around us.
Today, it’s essential to recognize whether we’ve been living for Christ or whether we’ve been living a “moral” life apart from Him.
If the second one is true of you, today is the day to repent (or turn) from moralism and trust in the only way: Jesus.
Spend some time in prayer with the students.
When ready, put them into groups for discussion.
SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
- How has today’s lesson changed your view of influence?
- Before today’s lesson, what came to your mind when you thought of godly influence? Did it include moral behavior?
- Think about someone who has influenced you toward putting your faith in Christ? Tell the group how that came about.
- Is it possible for a nonbeliever to be influential? If so, what is the difference between him/her and a believer?
- What are some practical ways that you can influence other people for the Kingdom of God?
- What scriptures remind us that we aren’t saved by our moralism (or good works)?
- In what ways have you seen people use their influence for evil?
- How does the Old Testament law reveal the hearts of sinners?
- Think of a time when you were affected by bad influence. Tell the group the effects of that influence.
- What are some good behaviors that we could unintentionally mistake for righteousness?
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