BarlowGirl -- I Believe in Love Bible Study

I wrote a Bible Study for the newest Interlinc music magazine. (YLO 69) It just came out in print. The version in the magazine wraps things up a lot more neatly than the one I originally wrote (It looks like the editors weren't comfortable with a celebration of questions and doubt.) Here's the orginal version -- based on BarlowGirl's song, "I Believe in Love."

Leader Guide

Artist: BarlowGirl
URL: barlowgirl.com
Album: How Can We Be Silent
Label: Fervent/Word
Song: I Believe in Love
Writer: Kirk Moore
Ministry: Union Congregational Church
Location: Somonauk, Illinois
Email: kirk@revkirk.com

Doubt, Faith
Materials Needed: Card Deck, Apostle’s Creed handout (using the version most appropriate for your tradition.)

By the end of this study, students will have talked about their doubts and shared their beliefs. They will be encouraged to live their lives for Jesus even through their doubts.
Note: Frank talk about doubt can be unnerving to some of us in youth ministry. This study is designed to give students a safe place to talk about their doubts and to grow in faith.

Warm- up:
I Doubt It: Take an ordinary deck of cards (or an "Old Maid" deck or an "Uno" deck or any other kind of card game) and deal out all the cards to every person in the group. Have players take turns putting down their cards, face down, in the correct order. If the player doesn’t have the correct card they have to bluff their way through the turn without someone challenging the truth of their play. The game goes by many names – the least offensive is probably "I Doubt It." If a person is challenged and caught trying to pass off their cards as some other cards, they must pick up all the cards in the discard pile. If the person who challenges them (by saying "I doubt it" after the cards are placed in the discard deck but before someone else begins their turn) finds that the player challenged was telling the truth, the challenger picks up the discard deck. It really is a fun game, though it can last for as little as a few minutes or as long as a few hours (Call the game over and congratulate all players if it goes longer than 10 minutes.)

Say: This game lets you doubt the validity of what other people are saying to you. It applauds the idea that doubt may be risky, but not unhealthy. Is that a life rule? Is there a life rule anything like it? Is there a life rule completely opposite of it? Today we’re going to listen to a song from BarlowGirl called "I Believe in Love." It is filled with things the singer believes about God and things that the singer doubts. While you’re listening, try to write down as many things as you can that the song shares about doubt and about belief. Write down other ideas that come to you even if you don’t hear them in the song.

Play "I Believe in Love" from BarlowGirl.
During the song, have students write sentences with the ideas they hear in the song. Some they might come up with are:
  • My prayers often seem unanswered
  • I think God is silent
  • I don’t know if I have enough faith
  • Just because I can’t see God doesn’t mean God isn’t real
  • Where is God when I’m in pain and when I’m afraid?
Say: "I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining. I believe in love even when I don’t feel it
And I believe in God even when He is silent. I believe." Our song expresses belief and faith even in the presence of doubt. But can you believe even when you have doubt? Let’s spend time talking about it.

Bible Lesson:
Have a student (or students) read John 20: 19-31 aloud.
Say: Many of you have heard the Bible passage about "Doubting Thomas." Even if you’ve never heard of these verses before, you’ve probably heard the words "Doubting Thomas" before. Here’s where they come from. After he was resurrected, Jesus came to the disciples and showed them his wounds and he breathed on them. When he breathed on them he told them to receive the Holy Spirit. He told them about forgiving sins. However, Thomas wasn’t with them at the time. When the disciples told Thomas about what they had seen, he wouldn’t believe them until he saw it for himself. And then a week later, Jesus appeared again and showed Thomas. He told Thomas to stop doubting and to believe. He also told everyone that the ones who believe without seeing would be blessed. And therefore we should decide to believe without seeing. We should be moved to go from doubters into believers. We have learned that our questions are signs of doubt and that doubt is the opposite of faith.
Ask: What are your thoughts about the last three things that I said? (Repeat them if necessary) Let students discuss their thoughts.
Say: Jesus didn’t scold Thomas for having doubts. Jesus showed Thomas what he needed to believe. I don’t think that doubt is the opposite of faith.

Let me make some statements to you. Think about whether you agree or disagree with them
  • Doubt is uncertainty or skepticism
  • Doubt is the absence of faith
  • Faith cannot exist with doubt
  • Doubt and faith exist together
(Let students respond and discuss their thoughts about the four statements.)

Say: The Apostle’s Creed is a very old testimony of Christian belief. It is said and respected in most Christian denominations today. Let’s say it together: (The text varies slightly from tradition to tradition. Use the version of the creed that is appropriate to your tradition.)

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

Ask: What would it look like if we took some of our thoughts from listening to the song and used them to express our doubts at the same time we express our testimony of belief from the Apostle’s creed? It might start something like this:
I don’t know if I have enough faith but . . .
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

Spend time letting students share thoughts and put together a statement of faith that acknowledges doubt at the same time as affirming faith in God. Have everyone read the composition you’ve come up with together at the end of the meeting.

We’re on a faith journey. May our doubt deepen our faith as we continue . . . Let’s share our faith composition together.

Closing affirmation of faith:
Invite students to read their composition. At the end take a deep breath and dismiss the students with a simple, "Amen."


traci said...

k -
this bible study rocks. i mean it.
i really want to see what interlinc interlink did with it. i think you could use the edits as a basis for an article (or blog post) about how doubt makes people very, VERY nervous. i preached a sermon on doubt here in detroit weeks and weeks ago, and of all the sermons i've EVER preached, it's the one where people still come up to me and say "thanks for saying it's ok to doubt that one time. i think about it all the time." i will look for the sermon and email it to you, i think you would enjoy it.

Kirk said...

Thanks! I'll find a way for you to see the published version. Did you find your doubt sermon yet?

traci said...

so i read the interlink version, and it really honked me off what they did. you are more charitable than i would have been. it seems to me that "they" (the editors) have a severe anxiety about salvation. it would seem to me that they view salvation as a sort of "you're in, you're out, you said the prayer, you didn't" type of way, and that's not at all the point of this study. it's sort of like they're coming from this perspective of "it's not a real service without an altar call" and that makes me wanna... yell. or eat a donut.

Kirk said...

It's not a real Bible study unless there's something to yell about -- and eat donuts.