Confirmation Circle Group Discussion Guide
“We Rebel Against God.”
Loose leaf paper for making airplanes
3 different target signs
*Before you begin: write out the day’s Brief Statement of Faith section on the white board (it’s below in the “Work” section)
- Share that today’s circle group is about sin, which is an oft misunderstood part of Christianity. Ask students to just share the first words or images that come to mind when they hear the word “Sin.” Don’t feel the need to discuss them, just kind of affirm what students share.
- Explain that our church thinks sin is important enough that we pray a prayer of confession every Sunday. This has always been an important part of Presbyterian worship. Distribute the handout with the sample prayer of confession it, and invite the circle to pray it together in unison.
- Processing: did anyone recognize that particular prayer? Have students experience the unison prayer of confession in worship? What do they think about confessing sin in a room full of other people instead of privately?
Names and Warmup
- Everyone go around the circle, say their name, and share one thing they see that is wrong with world, something that is other than God wants it to be. This is a helpful way to think about sin: something that is other than the way God wants it.
- Processing: note similarities and differences in responses; do the responses focus on things individual people do or groups and systems? Do they think things like our gender, race, age, and wealth affect the wrongs in the world we see and that affect us?
Hook Paper Airplane Targets
- Use three pieces of loose paper from your bag to make three targets, assigning a different point value to each target. Then arrange them on the floor of your room with the smallest point value target closer than the other two.
- Give a piece of paper to each person and allow 3-4 minutes for them to make a paper airplane
- Once everyone has made their airplane, have them all stand behind the same line and throw their airplanes (either one at a time or all together) toward the targets. Score the throws according to the point values on the targets. If a plane didn’t land on any target, it gets 0.
- Do this a few times
- Processing: We’re talking about sin today, and the word “Sin” is actually a term from archery that means “missing the mark.” An archery shot that misses the middle of the target is called a “sin.”
- To say that we, as humans, sin, means that we miss the mark. It doesn’t mean that we’re terrible people, only that we are imperfect.
- What factors influence whether or not you “hit the mark” with your airplane (the design of the plane, your throwing technique, the temperature, etc).
- What factors influence whether or not you “hit the mark” when you’re trying to do the right thing (Peer influence? Education? Your environment?)
Book The Brief Statement of Faith
- Direct students’ attention to the portion from the Brief Statement of Faith you’ve written on the whiteboard
But we rebel against God; we hide from our Creator.
Ignoring God’s commandments,
We violate the image of God in others and ourselves,
Accept lies as truth,
Exploit neighbor and nature,
And threaten death to the planet entrusted to our care.
We deserve God’s condemnation.
- Read it in unison once together
- Ask if there are words they need explained.
- Hand out the journal books and pens and give everyone (leaders included) 3-5 minutes to write a paraphrase of this section in their own words. Students should work alone on these.
- When everyone is finished, go around the group and have everyone share their paraphrase.
- Processing: how were the paraphrases similar or different? Pay particular attention to different words used for “rebel,” “violate,” and “exploit.” How does this statement feel to you? Is this hard to accept for you? Does it seem too harsh? Not harsh enough?
Look Propositions on Sin
- Hand out the sheet titled, “10 Propositions on Sin.”
- Explain that these are one person’s summary of what sin is.
- Give students a minute or two to read over the handout to themselves. Then ask them to choose one of the propositions and to note 1) what about it seems true in their experience and 2) what, if anything, seems wrong about it, and 3) what questions it raises for them. Invite them to write these down in their journals or on the handout if it helps.
- After five minutes or so, go around and ask each person which proposition they picked and their answers to the three prompts. If people share questions the proposition raises for them, invite the group to consider them. Invite people to share answers.
- Once everyone has gone, process the exercise: were several people drawn to the same proposition? Did some questions come up more than once? Does the idea of sin feel more helpful or distracting to them in thinking about faith and their own life?
Took Affirmations of Forgiveness
- Draw the circle’s attention back to proposition 10 from the handout: “known sin is forgiven sin. We only know ourselves as sinners in the light of forgiveness. True repentance does not lead to shame, guilt, and depression. True repentance is an act of sheer joy.”
- Emphasize for the circle that the church does not talk about sin in order to make people feel guilty or ashamed. Rather, we believe that owning where we go wrong and miss the mark is the only way to be truly free.
- Explain that our prayers of confession in worship are always followed by an assurance of forgiveness (or pardon). These are words spoken to remind us that, sinful though we are, God forgives us. This is not the granting of forgiveness by a pastor, but simply a reminder from the worship leader that we have already been forgiven. A typical one sounds like this:
Hear the good news! Who is in a position to condemn? Only Christ, and Christ died for us, Christ rose for us, Christ reigns in power for us, Christ prays for us. Friends, believe the good news of the gospel: in Jesus Christ we are forgiven!
- Practice that last part together: tell students that when you say, “Friends, believe the good news of the gospel,” they should respond, “In Jesus Christ we are forgiven!” Do that a couple times.
- Explain that it is typical to exchange words and signs of peace with one another in worship following the confession of sin and assurance of pardon. This expresses the belief that the peace we experience with God and with one another has its basis in God’s grace. When the leader says, “The peace of Christ be with you,” the people respond, “And also with you!” Try that a couple times, then invite the circle to get up and share those words with everyone else in the circle.
- “Sin” is a term from archery that means “to miss the mark.” That we are sinners means that we are not perfect and that we are unable, by ourselves, to always do the right thing. Being sinners doesn’t mean we’re awful people.
- We don’t dwell on sin without also claiming God’s forgiveness. It’s part of our worship.
- What about today was helpful for you?
- What could be better?
- Please note these down and put them in your bag. Thanks!
10 Propositions on Sin
- Sin is a matter of faith. Sin is fundamentally a disruption between human beings and God, and the knowledge of God is a matter of faith. It takes grace to bring sin to light.
- The fundamental form of sin is disobedience. In Genesis, God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit and they disobeyed.
- “The fall” is not history any more than the creation story is “science.”But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. It’s a pre-historical story about the way it is with you and me.
- “The fall” isn’t really a fall. The story of the Garden of Eden is not that people are different after the apple than they were before. It doesn’t explain sin. Sin can’t be explained. It just is.
- There is no single “chief” sin: Pride. Mistrust. Ingratitude. Un-love. Disordered desire. Humanity curved in upon itself. All these work as summaries of the whole thing.
- Total depravity is a thing. It doesn’t mean that humans are vile and loathsome creatures who can do no good. It means that there is no privileged no-go area that sin doesn’t crash. There is no human act that is altogether uncompromised by self-interest.
- Sin is different from sins. Sins are individual acts of moral failure. Sin is an alien and enslaving power. Jesus conquers sin. He doesn’t just forgive sins.
- Sin is no Ugly Duckling. “Ugly as sin” misunderstands the problem. Sin is alluring and attractive. It promises things it can’t deliver.
- Sin is deceptive. Sin seems exciting, but it always turns out to be unoriginal, recycled, predictable, dead boring--the Same Old Thing.
- Known sin is forgiven sin. We only know ourselves as sinners in the light of forgiveness. True repentance does not lead to shame, guilt, and depression. True repentance is an act of sheer joy.
Adapted from http://www.faith-theology.com/2007/03/ten-propositions-on-sin.html
A Prayer of Confession
“Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent, for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Amen.
An Assurance of Pardon
Hear the good news! Who is in a position to condemn? Only Christ, and Christ died for us, Christ rose for us, Christ reigns in power for us, Christ prays for us.
Friends, believe the good news of the gospel:
in Jesus Christ we are forgiven!