2021 Synod Journey Resources
There will be nine Discussion Guides that will focus on our identity in Christ, using the metaphor of a tree with deep roots that is equipped to grow and be resilient as it encounters the changing seasons of life. The Discussion Guides will follow a creed statement that will help us explore who we are and whose we are.
Each session will focus on one aspect of the creed statement and its accompanying image. Participants will engage through discussion and activities that can be led in-person or online. Supplemental resources on mental health will be available for each session. Discussion Guides will be released monthly.
Ideas for Use
Discussion Guides are designed to be led in-person or online. Sessions can be completed in one meeting or spread out over the course of several meetings/gatherings. Individual sections could be used as devotions/rituals to begin or end meetings.
- Middle School and High School Youth: Use as part of confirmation, youth group, retreats, Sunday school.
- Adults: Use with church council, committees, adult forum, women’s and men’s groups, Bible studies.
- Pastors: Use as a sermon series, Advent or Lenten focus, online devotional or video series.
Please note: The PowerPoint that accompanies the curriculum is uploaded in Google Slides. You are encouraged to download the PowerPoint to your local computer prior to use.
Session One: “I AM”
Image: Trees Images representing your community
Session 1: On an 8.5 x 8.5 square piece of paper, each participant will be asked to draw an image of a tree that best represents their image of themselves. For example: Are they more like an evergreen or a weeping willow? In full bloom or sprouting a few branches? Encourage creativity. Their name should be incorporated into their drawing. These drawings should be collected and laid side by side to create a “mat” either for the center of your gathering circle or to be hung as the background image for your Zoom gatherings. The “I Am” should be at the center of your “mat”.
Action: Gathering Introductions
Each session will begin with participants introducing themselves. “I am (name)”. Even if you are a familiar group this is an important way to begin each session, acknowledging the presence of each person in the space. After everyone present has said their “I am” statement, take a moment to hold in care those who are not in attendance, naming the people on your mat that are not with you.
Session Two: “Created By an Ever-Present, Loving God”
Action: Breathe – Remembering God’s presence with us
The air, while invisible to the eye, sustains a tree. While not always visible to the eye, God’s presence sustains us. This section will encourage participants to pause and remember God’s loving presence with them. Participants will be invited to take deep breaths. There will be a phrase to breathe in and phrase to breath out, reminding us of God’s presence.
Session Three: “Deeply Rooted in Christ Jesus”
Action: Opening Prayer – Station your feet firmly on the ground, imagine roots holding you firmly in the ground.
This section will provide the opening prayer for your time together. Each prayer will start by inviting participants to stand and plant their feet firmly on the ground. They will be asked to imagine deep roots holding them firmly in place. A tree stands upright, despite strong winds and running waters because of their deep roots. The opening prayer invites God to root us once again.
Session Four: “Equipped to be Resilient Amidst Change”
Image: Seasons (fall leaf, winter branch, spring bud, summer flower)
Action: Check in questions: Which season best reflects your current state? OR Share a winter/summer moment from your week. OR Describe a change. You may wish to include the “Mental Health Moment” supplement in this section.
During this section of your time together, participants will be invited to go around the group and share a check in. Trees go through many seasons, as do we. God is at work in all seasons and equips us to be resilient amidst the changes. During check in participants can choose a “season” that best represents how they are currently feeling. Are you experiencing a lot of change, like the Fall leaves? Do you feel empty, struggling to get through harsh realities around you, like winter trees with their empty branches? Are new things happening in your life, like the spring buds? Are you thriving, enjoying “sunshiny” moments like a lush green tree in the summer? Participants can be creative in their interpretation and sharing. Their check in could simply share a summer and winter moment (high and low) from their week. Or they may choose to share something that has “changed” for them since your last gathering? How are they adapting to the change? Do they feel resilient? This section provides for relational listening, connection and care.
Session Five: “Grounded in Community”
Image: Trees standing together in a forest
Action: Group builder/supporting one another
This section will provide a group builder activity, adaptable for in-person or Zoom gatherings. A tree does not stand alone in the forest, but is surrounded and supported by other trees. Because they stand together they are more able to weather the changing seasons and unexpected storms. Likewise, we do not stand alone but are grounded in community to support one another.
Session Six: “Nourished by the Living God”
Action: Bible reading, journaling, reflection
This section will engage different Bible texts. Just as a tree is planted in and nourished by the soil, we are nourished by and live in the Word. Each session will invite participants into a different experience of hearing and responding to a scripture text.
Session Seven: “Free to Struggle, Grow and Expand”
Image: Rings on the tree
Action: Asking questions, wondering aloud
When you look at the trunk of a tree, you can see rings expanding out with each year of growth. You can see in the rings evidence of struggle and times of expansion. This section will invite participants to struggle with and expand their wonderings about the text they have heard and God at work in the world, encouraging questions and imagination about what God may be speaking through the text today.
Session Eight: “Compelled to Reach Out in Response”
Action: Call to Action
REACHING OUT TO GOD: Prayer Practice
REACHING OUT TO OTHERS: Call to Action
You may wish to include the “Leadership Development” supplement in this section.
Deeply rooted, a tree grows branches that reach out in all directions from the trunk. Rooted in Christ, in response to the good news, we reach out to God and others. This section will engage participants in a prayer practice, reaching out to God. It will also include a “call to action”, an opportunity to reach out to others.
Session Nine: “Renewed in Hope Each Day”
Each session will end with a closing blessing time. The rains come and water the earth, providing for the trees. The clouds clear and the sun comes out, bringing light and new life. Marked with the waters of baptism, finding hope in the Son, we are blessed and sent forth in and for the world God loves.
Creed Images Credit: Mr. Kevin Olson, Brainerd, MN
Permission is granted to reproduce the Creed Images for non-commercial use in a congregation, ministry or personal setting.