Driveway Christians: An Advent Learning Experience
group magazine: November-December, 2004
Lead your kids in an unforgettable (and simple) experience that will help prepare them to honor Christ’s birth
by Linda Moore Spencer
I lead a home group for teenagers, and my passion is to help them experience what a lifelong walk with Jesus is all about. To that end, I’ve used the following pre-Christmas exercise with great success. It requires a living room, a basement, a driveway, and a dark winter night. Let me walk you through it…
1. The Setup—We begin with everyone seated in my warm, cozy living room, with lots of lighted table lamps, soft music playing, and bowls of crunchy apples and chocolate-covered peanuts. I ask kids in the group to make a list of all their physical needs that are being met while we are seated in this space. They come up with words such as warmth, light, nourishment, companionship, soothing music, comfortable sofas, cushions, and chairs.
Next I casually explain the concept of “No pain, no gain,” and ask if they’re willing to do a bit of suffering in the name of learning something worthwhile. Everyone agrees, and I tell the entire group I’m going to have them stand outside in a small section of my driveway for 15 minutes.
2. The Driveway Experience—The moon is nowhere in sight; the air is crisp. As they walk out the door, I tell my teenagers to take 15 minutes on the driveway to see if they can find the things we appreciated in the comfort of my living room—light, warmth, companionship, nourishment, and so on.
I go inside and leave them to it, only sneaking an occasional peek out the window. At first the noises from the driveway are high-spirited and rowdy, but by the end of 15 minutes they’re more than ready to come back inside. Before they do, I ask for one volunteer, and I tell that person to remain outside while everybody else hurries back inside.
3. The Basement Experience—Next we all troop down to my rough, unfinished basement, where I ask them to look for other “living room comforts” they can find down here. Then we head back upstairs to the kitchen for hot cider and I invite my driveway “volunteer” to join us.
4. The Kitchen Debriefing—As we stand sipping our cider, restoring warmth to toes and fingers, I ask them to describe the driveway experience. I ask them to compare it with the comforts of the basement and the living room.
They tell me they tried to make the most of things. For warmth, they huddled together or jumped up and down. For light, they discovered one girl’s watch glowed in the dark. A few teenagers sat down in the driveway, but most said it was more comfortable to stand. One boy, ready to do anything in the name of science, ate some dirty snow. Most sang songs or listened to those who did, but everyone agreed it was boring and hard work to keep singing the whole time. While they said it was fun at first, they were quite willing to come in.
The girl who remained alone outside said everything changed once everybody left. The night seemed darker and more lonely. She tried to sing but she really didn’t feel like it. She sat down for a minute, but said that felt stupid.
The reports from the basement experience were unenthusiastic. There was no place to sit. It was warmer, but dreary and dingy. There was little light, no food, no music. They were very happy to come back upstairs.
5. The Living Room Debriefing—We move now from the kitchen back to the living room, and I offer an analogy with all the usual disclaimers that any comparison between things will be limited some way and doesn’t necessarily work in all of the particulars.
“Let’s say,” I tell the group, “that being a Christian, being forgiven by God through the work of Jesus on the cross, is like being anywhere on this property. For the purposes of this analogy, once a person is off the street and on the lawn, he is made right by Christ in the sight of God. However, from that point on, you have certain choices, ones you will carry out in your behavior whether or not you ever speak those choices out or not.
“You can live your Christian life in the driveway, jumping up and down to try to make your own joy and warmth, snacking on grey snow, singing to yourself, doing the best you can to stay dry when the winds blow and the rains begin to fall.
“Or,” I say, “You might be a porch Christian. You find a little shelter there, closer to the house. Or you might be a mudroom saint, stepping indoors but never entering fully. You might even be a basement child of God, feeling warm but never really comfortable, never fed, never getting enough light, never hearing any music but the tunes you improvise.
“Or, now get this, you can be a living-room believer—warm, fed, comfortable, and in daily communion with your God. You talk to him, you hear back, and you listen to the music that some days sounds like the very angels must be singing. Or you can be a whole-house Christian, moving freely room to room within the confines of the whole house, which is analogous to your one-to-one, very personal relationship with God. You can go to the kitchen for the food you need, to bed to sleep, to every room in your relationship to enjoy the blessings there.”
Then I stop and ask the question—the question the whole thing has been about: “Where do you think most Christians live most of the time?”
The kids respond quickly: “Somewhere between the driveway and basement, moving back and forth.”
I ask a second question: “Where does God want us to be?”
Through the minutes, then the hours, then the days that lead up to Christmas, my home-group kids circle and then embrace the answer: God sent his only Son to not only give us the answer but to provide the way. This experience was a springboard for weeks of prayer and study for my group—the perfect Advent journey.
Linda Moore Spencer is a volunteer youth leader in Massachusetts.
Now That's A Question!
by Kent Julian
By nature, I’m a “talker”—extroverted, outgoing, and vocal. But I’ve learned a great skill most “talkers” never pick up. By no means have I mastered this skill, but I’ve become a decent...question-asker.
I was first introduced to the art of asking good questions by Bob Thune, a senior pastor I served with in Nebraska.
In my mind, he’s the Yoda of question-asking. Most of what I learned from him came by watching him do his thing. But I once asked him why he asked so many questions. He said good questions…
• help you listen well, which is the most important principle of good communication,
• show genuine concern for the other person,
• make others recognize their importance,
• make listeners into learners, and
• help listeners to see the bigger
Over the past five years or so, I’ve strived to become a better question-asker. I doubt I’ll ever reach Yoda status, but I believe I’ve become a young Jedi.
Here are some steps that have helped me boost my question-asking skills.
1. I ask my family a lot of questions, especially at dinnertime. My wife or I usually ask questions like::
• What was the best thing about
• What happened today that was
• How is ___________________ doing?
We’re trying to create an atmosphere where conversation flows naturally, so we ask questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no.
2. On special days, such as birthdays or holidays, I always ask family members special questions. It’s become so common in our house, it’s almost comical. Once I start in, everyone rolls their eyes and says, “Here we go.” But their smiles tell me they love it (at least, that’s how I interpret them).
Some of my favorite special-occasion questions include:
• What was the best thing about this past year?
• What was the most difficult thing about this past year?
• What are you looking forward to the most about next year?
• What are three things you hope to accomplish or experience next year?
• How can I be a better parent (spouse) next year?
3. In youth ministry, nothing tells a teenager you care more than asking a good question. Some teenagers may not know how to answer a really good question, but they’ll eventually warm up. If you’re wondering how to get started, try these ideas.
• Ask kids where they’re F.R.O.M. This simple acronym gives a basic-questions outline.
F=Friends and Family—Who’s your best friend? What’s he/she like? How many people are in your family? What do you like best about your family? What do you like least about your family?
R=Recreation—What are your hobbies? How do you like to spend your free time? Why do you enjoy doing ______________________ so much?
O=Occupation (Remember, many students see school as their “job”)—What jobs have you held so far? Do you like your current job? What subjects do you excel in at school? Are you planning to go to college? If not, what’s your plan for after high school? If so, what degree do you want to pursue? What do you think you will do for a living?
M=Memories—What’s your favorite memory from youth group? What’s your favorite childhood memory? What’s your favorite memory from last year? What do you want to be remembered for in life?
• Use question-asking resources. Check out great question-asking books, including Tough Questions and JumpStarters (both from Group Publishing, Inc.).
• Use “special day” questions (see above) with teenagers. Hang out at Starbucks or Taco Bell with a teenager on their birthday and fire away.
Kent Julian is a veteran youth pastor who’s
currently head of a denominational youth ministry office. He’s a frequent contributor and recently co-authored a parenting book entitled How to Get Your Teen to Talk to You (Multnomah). He lives in Georgia. Kent is also on our Presenter Team for Group Magazine Live—go to www.group.com/gml for more information.