Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and many others have made a substantial impact on the world.
Although your students might not feel like their influence is as significant, God can use their lives to make a huge impact in the lives of others.
Use this youth group lesson based on John 13:34-35 to teach students that they don’t have to be famous to make an impact for Christ; they simply have to follow God’s lead.
I remember following God’s lead to volunteer in the children’s ministry at my church way back in 1997. I was new to church, in my early 20’s and was trying to figure out what to do with my life.
As I volunteered with those kids, I felt God urging me to do more. And more. And more. One step at a time, God was leading me. He had a purpose for me. Something he wanted to do in and through me.
I eventually became the full-time Children’s Pastor at that church. Over the past 22 years I’ve had the privilege of overseeing various children’s and youth ministry. I’ve also had the honor of starting Ministry to Youth (this website), which impacts churches on a global scale.
That’s my story. Well, the cliff note version of it. You have a story too. And so do the students in your ministry. God has created them to impact the world in a specific way. And he’s given them guidelines on how to live a life of love and service to others.
We’ve created the below free lesson to drive home this point to the students in your ministry. It uses the example of John the Baptist, Josiah, Jonah and others to show students 5 ways they can make an impact in the lives of others.
– Nick Diliberto, Ministry to Youth
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YOUTH GROUP LESSON ON MAKING AN IMPACT
Written by Carrie Busch
Bible: John 13:34-35; Acts 8:26-40
Bottom Line: You don’t have to be famous to make an impact for Christ; you simply have follow God’s lead.
- Pens or pencils (one per student)
OPENING ACTIVITY: IMPACT SURVEY
For today’s activity, you will survey your students to get their honest opinions about some issues related to “making an impact.”
Have students number their papers from 1-5.
Then, out loud, read each of the following statements and ask students to write “Agree” or “Disagree.”
Make it difficult for the students by telling them that they should pick whatever answer pops into their heads first – no “Somewhat Agree” answers allowed.
It will make for better conversation later.
- One person can have a positive impact on thousands.
- The most powerful people make the biggest impact.
- A celebrity has more opportunities to influence others than the person sitting next to you.
- A small group of people can change the world.
- Inaction is as powerful as action.
Use these statements as a springboard for some interesting debate.
Allow the students to explain why they agreed or disagreed with the statements above.
Play “devil’s advocate” by giving them examples that contradict their view.
For example, if students disagree that a small group of people can change the world, talk to them about the disciples and their impact on the world through spreading the Gospel.
Say: You don’t have to be a Hollywood star or an Instagram influencer to make an impact.
In fact, the Bible gives us example after example of people who, despite feeling inadequate, made a huge impact in their area of influence, and ultimately, the world.
Nope, they weren’t perfect.
But they recognized what mattered, and they got up off their couches (okay, maybe not “couches”) and did something!
Likewise, there are so many ways that you can impact the world!
Today, we’re going to go over seven of them.
But first, let’s meet some people who did extraordinary things for God just by being obedient to the call.
John the Baptist recognized Jesus before he was even born.
And John preached the same message over and over again until people began to listen!
Side note. He ate locusts. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to find that on your dinner plate.
Anyway, John the Baptist was just one man.
In fact, he referred to himself as “just a voice,” but he was the one who told anyone who would listen that Jesus was coming.
His message was simple: “Behold the lamb!”
Put in today’s terms, John the Baptist was simply saying, “Here is your savior!”
A simple message with lasting spiritual impact.
Despite his doubt (when things got tough) and his strange diet choices, John the Baptist is a Biblical hero, ranking alongside Moses and Noah.
Because it was John’s goal to make an impact for Christ.
What about an Old Testament figure who made an impact?
Jonah, despite making the really poor decision to run from God, ended up learning his lesson and obeying God’s call to bring a warning of destruction to Nineveh, a city filled to the brim with sin.
Jonah was terrified, and he didn’t believe that any good could come of walking into this deathtrap.
He was convinced that Nineveh would reject his message.
Instead, because of Jonah’s obedience, Nineveh’s people, from “the greatest to the least,” repented and believed in God.
Even the king himself turned to God.
And when God saw what had happened in that city, he relented and did not destroy them.
Talk about an impact!
Okay, one more.
Let’s talk about a lesser-known biblical account.
Josiah, one of the greatest kings to ever rule in Israel.
You want to talk about feelings of inadequacy?
Josiah was only 8 years old when he began his reign!!!
Despite his youth, God looked at him with favor because he did what “was right in the eyes of the Lord.”
Later, Josiah repented on behalf of Israel’s disobedience and made a covenant with God (and all of his people) to follow Him.
He read the Book of the Law to the people and vowed before God to follow it.
Now, imagine how Israel would have fared under the reign of a disobedient king?
Well, we don’t have to, because this young king made a huge impact by following God’s call on his life.
You might be thinking that you can’t make an impact like the people we just discussed.
But there’s where you’d be wrong.
The obstacles that stood in the way of John the Baptist, Jonah, and even Josiah weren’t any different than the obstacles that stand in your way right now.
Are you worried that no one would take you seriously?
So were they.
Are you worried that you can’t do it alone?
So were they.
Are you worried that no one will listen?
So were they.
Yes, the task can seem overwhelming.
But each of the people we’ve discussed today made simple daily decisions to follow God in their everyday lives.
Here are 5 things you can do to make an impact in your world:
1. Love Others.
Read John 13:34-35.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
By “this,” by love, others will know that we follow Christ.
When we begin loving others, not preaching at them, we begin to make an impact for Christ.
He asks us to love people in order to show them what a Christian truly is.
And it’s that love- that surprising, unexpected, generous love- that will get others to crave what you have.
2. Determine Your Area of Influence.
Make a list of the people you interact with on a daily basis.
Then, think about some simple ways that you can bless them.
Sometimes, a simple act of kindness can change the trajectory of someone’s day.
You’ll never know how much of a difference you can make by simply recognizing that your words and actions do affect those around you.
3. Get Involved.
Kingdom work is going on all over the world, and probably right in your hometown.
Check with your church office to see what you can do to be a part of that crucial work.
If you’re having trouble getting involved, why not spend some time thinking about a
If you can’t find anything, start something.
Think about a gift or ability that God’s given you, and figure out a way to put it to good use.
Someone who is busy doing work for the Lord should be able to see the impact!
4. Incorporate the Gospel Story into Your Daily Conversations.
Read Acts 8:26-40.
Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place.
And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure.
He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah.
And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.”
So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:
“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughterand like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”
And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?”
Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.
And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”
And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.
And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.
But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
What an amazing story.
And all Philip did was take an open opportunity to tell someone about Jesus.
The Holy Spirit was there, guiding and prodding like He does, and Philip was simply obedient.
Can you take your conversations and turn them into opportunities to spread the Gospel?
Of course, you can!
Practice giving a 2-3 sentence summary of the Gospel, so that when the opportunity arises, you can do so without thinking.
If talking about Jesus becomes second nature to you, you’ll make an impact wherever you go.
And remember: It’s not your job to lead someone to Jesus – that’s God’s!
All you have to do is follow God’s lead.
We can’t be a very fruitful vessel for Christ if we hold on to grudges and un-forgiveness.
Not only can un-forgiveness get in between you and God (it’s a sin that God wants us to repent of), it can also ruin our chance to show others what God’s love looks like.
When we offer forgiveness to others, even though they may not seem to deserve it, we do the difficult work on being obedient to God’s Word.
It will make an impact because the world does not forgive like God forgives.
People will be shocked by this undeserved mercy and grace, and you’ll get an opportunity to tell people why you’re able to forgive: because God forgave you first!
6. Pray for Others.
This is simple.
Pray for people, whether Christians or not.
When we go to God with the needs and cares of others, it shows that we depend on Him.
Plus, it models for others how to call on Jesus.
7. Stay in the Word.
When you spend time reading the Bible, it naturally flows out into how you treat others.
God also uses His Word to transform you daily.
This transformation will be evident to those around you, even though you might not realize it!
Every believer should be growing in their knowledge of God’s Word because, in it, we find out who God is and who we are.
We can’t make a great impact for Christ if we don’t allow his Word to transform us.
There’s no doubt that you’ve heard of all or some of these seven ways to make an impact.
Notice that each, in itself, is not a huge feat.
You can do this, by the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in you, not by your own strength.
Before we go into discussion time, let’s pray for each other.
Let’s also pray that God will create in us a desire to make an impact for His name.
Close in prayer.
SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
1. When we considered our area of influence, who popped into your mind?
In what ways can you show love, forgiveness, or mercy to that person?
2. Why is it so hard to believe that we can influence our culture for Christ?
3. Think of another biblical account that features a person whose obedience makes an impact for God. In what ways was he or she obedient to God?
4. Why do you think God uses imperfect people for His work?
5. Which of the seven steps for making an impact do you think will be hardest for you to implement in your daily life? How so?
6. Try to think of someone who has made an impact on your spiritual life?
What did that person do to positively affect you?
7. Think of a time when someone blessed you with something simple.
What makes a simple act of kindness have lasting impact?
8. Which of the seven steps for making an impact do you already implement?
9. What is your community or church currently doing to make an impact on your city?
How could your gifts and talents be used for such work?
10. What challenges do you foresee as you begin to focus on your mission to impact the world for Christ?
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