Need: post its, pens, composition books, three in one pictures handout

Attendance. Please note the first and last names of students who are present here:


Welcome everyone to your circle group! Explain that today begins our exploration of the Brief Statement of Faith, one of the 12 sources for our Presbyterian faith found in our church’s Book of Confessions. Remind them that these sources range from brief statements like this to long, rambling creeds to question-and-answer catechisms; from as recently as 1982 and as long ago as the third century; from Rome to America, South Africa to Germany.

We hold all those sources together to claim what who we are, what we believe, and what we’re about in the world.

Lead them in reciting these very beginning lines of the Brief Statement of Faith, having them recite after you, line-by-line:

In life and in death we belong to God.

Through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,

the love of God,

and the communion of the Holy Spirit,

we trust in the one triune God, the Holy One of Israel,

whom alone we worship and serve.

Ask if anyone has heard the words, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit” before. It’s a common benediction in our worship services.

Names                 Name, Activity, Remember

Start with a volunteer and go around the circle clockwise, asking each person to say their name and one activity they enjoy in their free time. Each subsequent person then tries to recite the names and activities of the people who came before them in the circle. After everyone has gone, see if anybody wants to try naming everyone and their activities.

Warmup                Triune Balderdash

Ask students if they have ever played Balderdash before. If they haven’t, explain that the word “balderdash” means nonsense, and the game it’s named for involves coming up with nonsensical definitions for obscure words.

Then play a round of balderdash with the word “Triune.” Make sure everyone has a post it note and a pen. Give everyone two minutes to write down a definition for the word “triune” that they think would convince people is the real definition. Note: this is not a test of the correct definition, only the one that can convince the most people. The leader should write “Three in one” on a post-it while students are writing their definitions. Tell them to put their initials on their post-its, fold them, and pass them to you when they are done. The one with “three in one” needs to be collected with all the others.

Read all the definitions students submitted once, but don’t say who wrote them. Then go around the circle and ask each person to vote for the definition they think is the correct one. After everyone has voted, reveal the correct definition. Everyone who guessed correctly gets a point. Everyone who tricked someone into voting for their definition gets two points.

Processing: some of our faith history involves words that are obscure, like triune. A lot of them have Greek and Latin roots. But just because they’re old and from another language doesn’t mean they aren’t important to our faith today.

Some of the terms and concepts of faith are hard to fully understand. “Triune” means that God is how the church worships God as a trinity, that is, one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Let’s stand up and do an activity to help us explore this a little bit.

Springboard                Group Beat

Have the group stand in a circle. Invite one person to begin a simple rhythmic sound that they will continue throughout the exercise, like slapping their hand on their thigh in quarter notes. Others join in whenever they like with a rhythmic sound of their own, which they will also continue. These sounds can be verbal, like beat-boxing or singing, they can be stomping, clapping, finger snapping, whatever. They can be simple or complex, but they should fit with the beat that is already happening. Continue the beat as long as possible, preferably until everybody is participating.

Processing: this exercise requires a community of people to function as one. We’re all still individuals, but we’re functioning as a single instrument. Everything we do in this exercise affects everyone else. One of the central claims Christianity makes is that God is three and God is one. At the same time.

Work                Drawing The Trinity

Hand out a composition book to each student. Explain that they will use this book over the course of the year, and give them a moment to write their name on the cover. They will leave it with you at the end of the hour.

Give them a few minutes to draw what three-in-one looks like. They can draw shapes, people, whatever they want--just try to draw something that represents the idea of three in one.

After a couple of minutes, invite students to share their drawing. Point out similarities and differences between their drawings.

Show them the three in one images handout and invite their feedback on some of the images there. Note that these are some of the classical ways that the church has visually identified how God is three in one.

Invite students’ observations of the differences between them and ask if they have one they prefer over the others. Make sure they understand that none of this are the “right” image of the trinity; there isn’t a right one. God wants us to use our imaginations to describe the mystery of the trinity.

Work                Propositions on The Trinity

Explain that the church has had a couple thousand years to think about this. The word “Trinity” is not in the Bible anywhere. Three-in-one is the church’s way of expressing the ways we see God at work in the Bible, and there are other ways to express those ways than “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” We see God as the Creator in the Bible, also as the Redeemer, and as The Sustainer.

It can get a little confusing, so here are some simple “rules” for thinking about God as Trinity, borrowed from a writer named Kim Fabricious:

  1. The Trinity isn’t optional. We believe that three-in-one is really who God is.
  2. It isn’t smarty pants philosophy. Identifying God as Trinity comes out of the experience of worshiping God, not thinking fancy thoughts about God.
  3. Experiencing Jesus is what causes people to describe God as three-in-one.
  4. There is nothing hidden about God. We have seen God as Creator, as Jesus, as The Holy Spirit; all of that is really what God is--there is no more God on the shelves in the warehouse.
  5. The Trinity means that God is love. It’s how we express the mystery that the one God is not a loner up in the clouds but a community of love at work in the world.
  6. The words “Father” and “Son” don’t mean biological gender. God is not male. Or female.
  7. God is a mystery to be entered and experienced, not explained.

Invite students to express confusion or clarity about any of these propositions. Note down things they confused about or questions they have in the space below:


God is one. God is three. Christians of all kinds put their trust in God as a trinity of loving relationship between three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. Perfectly understanding this is not a requirement for faith or church membership; the church is a community that is always open to learning about and experiencing God more than explaining God perfectly. We want to trust, not understand, God.


Give students a moment to share things about this time that was useful or not useful to them.