After the recent departure of one of my students, I figured we as a class needed to talk about how to respond when people leave the church. This short lesson plan focuses on 3 relevant scriptures, and discussion points.
Students will understand that everyone is invited into God’s kingdom, that many do leave sometimes either temporarily or permanently, but that they are loved still and welcomed back at any time.
Materials: Bible with these verses bookmarked: Luke 14:15, Luke 15:11, and Romans 12:2
Have a student Read: Luke 14:15 When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him,“Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 16 But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 And at the time for the banquet hesent his servant[a] to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you,[b] none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”
Ask: summarize what just happened here? What do we know about the man who threw the banquet? What do we know about the people who were invited? The people who will ‘never taste the banquet,’ why won’t they?
Explain: This parable illustrates Heaven (the King’s Banquet), and it’s placeholder right now– our worship service. All people are invited, but some turn down the invitation, because of worldly concerns. If anyone does not taste the banquet, it is by their own choice.
Read: Luke 15:11-25
11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to[a] one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’[b] 22 But the father said to his servants,[c] ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
Ask: What happened in this parable? What if your brother did this to your family, cleaned out your bank account and went to Vegas, then came back as a bum, asking to be hired as the gardener? How would you feel? Would he be immediately welcomed with a party?
Explain: Even though the previous parable makes it clear that some people will “refuse the invitation” to church, any who leave will always always be welcomed back with much love.
Read: Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”
Ask: What does the bible mean by “the world”? Why shouldn’t we conform to that?
Explain: “The world” is not the same as the earth, or material existence. As Christians,we love everything God created, both physical and spiritual. “The world” refers to often-corrupt human institutions– cliques in the school cafeteria, advertisements trying to get you to buy stupid stuff, people competing to show off their expensive cars, pressure to get good grades and high test scores so that you can get a good job and make money, banks taking advantage of people, corrupt politicians, etc.
The people in the first parable were concerned with ‘the world’ — their farms, their investments, etc– and used it as an excuse or distraction. We are not to conform ourselves to those pressures, but focus instead on what is eternal and agape-love.
Wrap up: You know I will always respect your decisions, and I will always care about you and be here for you no matter what you do with your life. But, please come talk to me if you’re thinking of leaving the church.