Leaders' Notes: The Future’s Bright

Introduction

The session outline provided serves as a guide for exploring what the future may hold and, in particular, what influence our young people have on shaping the future. This is an ideal opportunity to allow the group to consider what role their faith plays in shaping their outlook and their hopes for the future

The purpose of the session is to get the young people thinking about the way things change over time and how individual events can play a big role in shaping the future – both through people’s feelings about those events and their reactions to them. Ultimately, we want the group to consider how our past and the history of the particular groups to which we belong play an important role in what we hope to see become a reality in the future.

An important focus for the day will involve an overview of Christian and Muslim teaching, both looking back through history, following the journey that these groups have taken up to this point and also looking ahead to what they teach about the future. To help you prepare for this, here are a few opening thoughts from a Christian perspective:

  • Where have we been?:
    Creation & Covenant – God made the heavens and the earth. He made humankind in His image and appointed us as stewards over all that He had made. This marked a special relationship between the Creator and the ones He created – a relationship which He established out of love.

    Even when the people He loved failed to met His expectations, He provided for them and established guidelines for them so they would understand the kind of devotion He desired – this eternal God spoke to His people in relational terms. He promised to raise up a nation whom He would bless and through whom He would bring blessing to all peoples. Again and again the people broke the Law that had been laid out for them so God sent people to bring warnings of the consequences the people would face for their actions and promises of restoration, always desiring their repentance and a return to true devotion.
  • Where are we now?:
    Christ: New creation & New Covenant – The Law was never something that the people would be able to keep perfectly – that was not it’s intention. The purpose of the Law was to keep God’s people mindful of their need to rely on Him and trust in His grace but the cycle of devotion, complacency, sin and repentance continued. Something had to be done and, as ever, God made the first move – He sent His Son to come and show us how it should be done – pouring his everything into serving God and pursuing justice, righteousness and love. His death made new life possible and, in fulfilling all of the requirements of the Law, it was no longer needed to show us how to live a life that pleased God – Jesus was the Way, the Truth and the Life – he was the only example we needed and so a New Covenant was established through him.

    Jesus often spoke about the Kingdom of God being ‘near’ or being ‘at hand’ – this is the age we’re living in now – he has opened the door to that Kingdom and we are helping to bring it into being, but until it comes in all its fullness, we’re faced with a world that has been saved by grace but is still battling with the consequences of human sin and disobedience.
  • Where are we going?:
    Consummation: New Heaven & New Earth – I think this can be summed up in the words of 1 Corinthians 13: 8-12: “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes the imperfect disappears. When I was a child I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I will know fully, even as I am fully known.” This is a beautiful picture of the life of faith – we do our best based on our limited vision and accept that our understanding only goes so far but we look ahead to a time when all is made perfect; when our best efforts will become obsolete because there will be nothing to strive for – all will be made whole.

Scriptures

Genesis 3: 14-19 (distortion of relationships); Genesis 3: 21 (God still provided for humankind); Genesis 12: 1-3 (God’s blessing); Genesis 15 (God’s Covenant); Exodus 19: 3-6 (God’s people); 2 Samuel 7: 11b-16 (God’s promise to David); Amos 5 (Judgement and a call to repentance); Isaiah 40-66 (Hope for God’s people); Hebrews 1: 1-4 (Jesus – the source of creation and its sustainer); Luke 4:18-19 & Isaiah 61:1-2 (Jesus – God’s Anointed One); Acts 2: 16-17 (the beginning of the end); 2 Peter 3: 10-13 (living life in preparation for the end); 2 Corinthians 4 especially 16-18 (the ‘here and now’ will give way to something glorious and lasting); Revelation 22: 13 (Jesus – the Alpha and the Omega).

Quran

‘When My servants ask you about Me, indeed I am near. I answer the prayer of the asker when he prays to Me.’ (Qur’an 2:186)

Despair not of the mercy of Allah, verily Allah forgives all sins. Truly, He is
oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. ( Qur’an 39:53)

‘A smile is charity’ (The Prophet Muhammad )

‘God is beautiful and He loves beauty.’ (The Prophet Muhammad)

‘Indeed, the angels lower their wings for the seeker of sacred knowledge, pleased with what he is doing. The creatures in the heaven and the earth seek forgiveness for the student of sacred knowledge, even the fish in the sea.’ (The Prophet Muhammad)

‘What good is an increase in wealth when life grows ever shorter? So be joyous only for an increase in knowledge or in good works, for they are your two companions that will accompany you in the grave when your family, wealth, children, and friends stay behind.’ (Imam Abu Hamid al Ghazali)

‘Reflect upon the beauty of the creation on land and sea. Look into God’s attributes both openly and secretly. In the self and on the horizon is the greatest witness to God’s perfections, which are limitless.’ (Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib)

Practical Points

There are parts of the session that may require more time and preparation in advance, here’s a list of ideas and resources that you might find useful to get things planned ahead of time, helping things to run more smoothly on the day:

Activity
Aim
Suggested Resources
You won’t know where you’re going…

A fun introduction to the weird and wonderful world of predicting the future! The idea is to get the whole group involved in guessing what people in by-gone ages genuinely expected the future to bring – how ever far-fetched it might have appeared.

The internet will most likely be an invaluable resource for this game! There’s a lot to be found regarding past predictions especially connected to technology and scientific research, but try to keep the themes broad and varied e.g. dates for the end of the world, the improbability of something working that at the time was unknown, ideas that were ridiculed which are now commonplace and if you feel creative you could always throw in a few red-herrings! It’s probably best if there’s a physical element to the game – i.e. get the young people to ‘vote with their feet’.

…until you see where you’ve been

Following on from past predictions, consider the surprises that history has thrown up – what emerged from those ‘crazy’ predictions that really worked out. The purpose here is to establish an idea that possibilities exist that reach beyond our understanding but which can be achieved with hard work and patience. Also, the idea that future is not ‘set in stone’ – we can all have a part to play in shaping it.

It might be helpful at this stage to have a flip-chart or whiteboard where the young people can record their impressions, that way, they can use this as a point of reference or for inspiration at a later point. If you’ve got a particularly large group (i.e. more than 15-20) you may want to split into two groups to enable more people to share their thoughts.
It’s important that the young people get to express their impressions, but if discussion needs a bit of a kick-start, use the aims to help shape questions to draw out ideas.

How long

Particularly for people who learn best though tactile means or by visualising a concept, this activity should help them engage with the idea of how quickly change can take place. It’s also fun to get a bit nostalgic about things and, by using items that are familiar to the young people, you’ll be able to underline the concept that we’re all both subject to and involved in change.

You might want to take a trip to a second-hand shop or visit a car-boot sale for this activity. Better yet, ask friends with teenagers if you could borrow any toys they’ve kept from when they were younger – furbies, pokemon figures, tamagotchi etc. Be sure to include things from earlier on (perhaps from your childhood!) and some more recent additions to help draw comparisons.

Change of a lifetime

The idea here is to look at how things that happen in the wider world impact on our lives and relationships and how the actions of individuals can have far-reaching consequences. The examples given in the session outline only serve as illustrations for the kind of events that you might include. Think carefully about whether you feature ‘9/11’ (or 07/07/2005). Obviously it will have a particular relevance in a group like this, but given the tensions that events like these have given rise to, we don’t want members of the group to feel that they’ve got to be on the defensive.

You’ll be able to find video footage on the internet that you could use and edit together to play to the group. Alternatively, depending on the time and resources that are available to you, you might want to use video clips and/or still images with a written description of the events they depict and link them in a PowerPoint presentation.
If you choose to include events such as ‘9/11’ then try to be objective when using words to describe the events and consider balancing it in some way, for example, by including footage of US and UK troops being deployed to Afghanistan.
Depending on what you choose to include in the video/presentation, you might find it helpful to provide a question sheet or display a series of questions on screen to help focus the discussions on how these events effected change and what can be learned from them. You might want to include information about the stories behind these events so that the groups have additional information to draw on.

Change will do you good

This activity should present an opportunity to move beyond what has gone before; allowing the groups to consider what role their faith has to play in responding to change and looking to the future.
What you do with this activity may well depend on how the groups responded to the previous session so prepare resources which can be used in a number of ways.

There are a number of ways you may wish to approach this part of the day. You may decide to keep it as an open discussion in small groups; you might choose to give the young people an opportunity to consider their ideas individually, perhaps by providing sheets with Scriptures from the Bible and Qur’an, or quotes from respected leaders for them to reflect on and write their own thoughts before rejoining their groups to share their reflections; perhaps you could use these sheets as a starting point for small group discussions.

Where are we?

Hopefully by this stage the young people will have learnt to take predictions about the future with a pinch of salt! So they should be able to enjoy imagining what could become a reality during their lifetime. The main purpose of this activity is to help the group as a whole to consider what may be possible in years to come and to help ‘set the scene’ for their roles in a future that can only be imagined at this point.

Good places to get information about future innovations are science & technology magazines and international publications such as New Scientist and National Geographic, both of which have articles that can be accessed online. Also internet searches ending with ‘…of the future’ (i.e. ‘homes of the future’, ‘cars of the future’, ‘fuels of the future’ should glean some interesting results. If you have the time and the means, you could make this a mini research project if you were following this session over a weekend, for example.
Alongside all of the relevant information provide different media for the groups to use to construct or create a ‘model’ of the future as it’s been described. A good place to get resources would be a recycling centre – many of them have arts projects where you can source a wide range of materials.

Authors of our own future

Drawing together the an image of the physical side of our future with the technology that may be at our disposal and the environmental factors we’re likely to face, lets take the next step to consider how society might look in 20, 30 or 40 years’ time… Encourage your groups to take the principles they’ve learnt through the session as a whole, i.e. understanding the lessons of the past to look ahead to the future, and apply them as they look at what their own faiths have to teach them… tracing a line through their own cultural heritage to paint a picture of what the future could hold.

Draw together the threads from the morning sessions using the information and ideas the groups have gathered through the day. With this as a basis, encourage the young people to think beyond how their faith helps them respond to change to consider how it might help them shape change in their own lives and in their wider communities. The discussion part should enable the groups to establish a framework for seeing how their faith impacts them, how it has impacted the wider world and what influence it may have on the future. It’s up to the groups to decide if they want to draw links between the two traditions in their artwork or if they want to draw ideas from their own faith in particular.
A good starting point might be to display a timeline of Islam and of Christianity giving Scriptures that relate to the changes that have taken place throughout their history – i.e. prophecies, Scriptures that explain or describe change or speak of the future.
You’ll probably get a lot of use out of the art materials you used for the previous activity too. It might help to provide images of places of significance, e.g. Mecca, the Holy Land, locations of significant religious events or individuals who’ve had an important influence in Islam or Christianity. You might find it helpful to produce extra paper-copies of the timelines for the groups to use.

What a difference a day makes

This is something to do as a whole group to round the day off. It will provide the groups to share what has come out of their discussions and how that’s affected both the artwork they’ve created and their ideas about the future. Try to encourage all of the members of the various groups to share something about what they’ve got from the day – both what their artwork represents and how the day has influenced their thoughts about the future. Finally, if it seems appropriate to do so, encourage the group to share ideas about what Christians and Muslims can do together to help shape the future.

It would be great for everyone to have something to take away with them to reflect upon and refer to for the future. Make notes of key phrases or ideas that come out of the feedback that the groups give and use these thoughts to help frame the manifesto.
In terms of drawing up a manifesto, get together with the other group leaders in advance to discuss what would be appropriate themes for a shared statement and draw up a structure for it so that you have an outline that can be tweaked on the day.
Ideally try to use a laptop, linked up to a projector – and type in what the young people say, in their own words. When everyone’s happy with what’s written save it. You could even incorporate photos of the artwork the groups produced as a part of the manifesto. If you have the means, print off copies for the young people to take away with them. Alternatively, email it to everyone or, to provide them with something lasting, get it printed professionally and distribute copies to everyone through their leaders.

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