The session outline provided serves as a guide for exploring the idea of identity and character.
The purpose of the session is to get the young people to share a bit about themselves, to talk about the things that influence them and make them who they are and ultimately to discuss the role that their faith plays both in shaping their identities and challenging them to develop ‘godly’ characteristics.
The following Bible passages provide a basis for study as we consider the idea of identity being found in our relationship to God and how, as Christians, we’re encouraged to grow to be more like Christ:
‘I have not created Men and Jinn except that they may worship Me’ (Dhaariyaat, 51:56)
‘The believers are nothing else than brothers. So make reconciliation between your brothers.’ (49:10)
‘When My servants ask you about Me, indeed I am near. I answer the prayer of the asker when he prays to Me.’ (Quran 2:186)
‘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)
‘None of you believes perfectly until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.’ (The Prophet Muhammad)
He who imitates any people is one of them (The Prophet Muhammad)
Muslims believe that this Universe, by necessity, has a Creator. It is hard for a person’s common sense to encompass that the Universe with all its order and regulation is a product of mere chance. One of the scholars of Islam, known as Abu Haneefah (d. 150H) once debated some atheists. He asked them: “What do you say about someone who tells you that he had seen a loaded ship without a captain and a crew amidst a strong storm, but sailing well towards a safe harbour [thereby saving itself]? Do you intelligently accept this?” They said: “Our reasoning cannot accept this”. Abu Haneefah then commented: “If your reasoning does not accept the story of a ship without a leading crew, then how do you accept a whole universe with all its varied conditions and complex nature running without a Creator in full charge?” So the atheists were dumbfounded and came to believe in Allah. Allah says in the Qur’an:
‘Verily, in the creation of the Heavens and the Earth, and in the alternation of the night and day, and the ships that sail through the sea with that which is of benefit to human-kind, and the rain which Allah sends down from the sky and makes the earth alive therewith after its death, and the moving (living) creatures of all kinds that He scatters therein, and in the changes in the direction of the winds, and the clouds which are held between the sky and the earth, are indeed Aayaat (proofs, signs, evidences) for a people of understanding.’ (Baqarah, 2:164)
‘And verily, whoever shows patience and forgives, that would truly be from the things recommended by Allah.’ (42:43)
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:
To encourage the group to think about the different things that make us unique and the fact that much of what marks us out as individuals is related to the things that we value highly and invest time and energy in.
This will involve a bit of forward planning! Contact the leaders’ of the groups who’ll be attending and ask them to get everyone to bring a personal item with them on the day, preferably not something very expensive, but the more obscure the better! It could be a piece of sports equipment that they use, a toy or game, a trophy, souvenir or an item of clothing that’s special to them.
In terms of how the game runs, the idea is to get young people in pairs. So, when someone guesses correctly, they pair up with the owner of the item they picked, retrieve their own item and tell their partner what it is and what it means to them. People who guess incorrectly rejoin the group and wait for a second turn or for someone to guess their item correctly.
To allow the pairs to get to know one another and to explore further the idea of what makes each other who they are.
You could either provide sheets for each pair to ask one another questions or have questions on a board or screen for them to use. It might be easier, rather than put them on the spot by asking their own questions of one another, to get everyone in the group to write down a question they’d like to ask as they’re registering at the start of the day and incorporate these into a set of questions you’ve already prepared. Try to keep the questions varied – things about one another’s family (number of siblings, who’s the oldest, where the family is from), favourite sports/subject at school, hidden talent/party trick, likes and dislikes etc.
To get them into larger groups so they can get to know others and to start to broaden their thinking to consider how our relationships with others shape us and how the people we’re closest to know the most about us.
To make this possible you’ll either need to get a family member or friend to provide answers to specific questions ahead of time (this might be something that could be sent out with details of the day) or get friends to give answers for one another as they arrive. It’s probably best to limit the questions to keep things fair and simple; you have three questions that they have to give one answer for each (obviously they’ll need who gave the answers about them) which will then be checked against the answers given in a envelope marked with their name.
Time for the young people to think about the different aspects of their lives. This is an important part of the day, partly in terms of everyone recognising for themselves the many influences and features that make them unique and also by establishing an the idea that we’re all complex individuals and so much of what we are is affected by a whole web of experiences, relationships and values. The ‘iceberg’ principle comes into play here – that 90% of it’s mass is below the surface, therefore, the majority of what makes us individual is unseen.
You can find body outline templates on the internet – a good basic outline can be found at: http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Outline-body.png
It’s up to you whether you give guidelines on the sheet for the kinds of things they might include, although it might help guide their thoughts if you were to provide headings around the sheet such as those given in the session outline: physical features, emotions, values & beliefs, ideas, likes, dislikes, relationships, talents.
To introduce the idea that our faith is something that should have a broad impact on our whole lives and is a big part of what drives our decisions, values, efforts and the way we choose to spend our time.
The things that they wrote in the previous activity should provide the material for the discussion in this session but it’s important to provide some additional pointers to help them think less subjectively about the role faith plays in their lives. Again, it might be helpful to provide the groups with sheets giving the questions in the session outline as a starter for discussion and include Scripture passages from the Qur’an and Bible that are relevant to this discussion along with examples of events, festivals, celebrations that are important to Muslims and Christians and which help to shape our religious experience.
Taking the focus off the group to consider other people’s experience of faith and the role their faith has played in shaping their lives and work. This should help the group to identify the role faith plays in our lives and how if we allow God to work in our individual experiences we can overcome challenges and achieve things we wouldn’t have expected.
For this you’ll probably need the help of people in your local Mosque or Church. Ask friends or colleagues if they’ll share their story about how they came to have faith, what their faith has enabled them to do, the challenges they’ve faced and what they’ve learnt about themselves and about God in the process. If you know anyone who’s competent with a camcorder and good at editing you might want to enlist their help too! It’d be good to hear a range of stories and experiences – maybe six stories altogether – including people who maybe didn’t grow up with a faith and people who struggled with their faith and overcame big challenges.
To encourage the group to think beyond today and consider how they’re going to take what they’ve learned and apply it in their lives.
Fairly straightforward – all you need is paper and pens!
Take time at the end of the day to recognise that, whilst we’re all individuals, we all need the support, encouragement and input of other people to help us be all that we can be.
Paper, pens & space. This can work well as a game of consequences: if everyone folds the paper over once they’ve written their piece, then the following person won’t see what was written and will write something independently. You’ll often find themes emerging once you read it all together. Allow about 5 mins per person so it’s not rushed and so everyone can write more than one word. Encourage them to be creative if they want. If they’d prefer to write a poem, draw a picture or include song lyrics there’s room for that – the only rule is to keep it positive!