The Relationship Project: Episode and Lesson Summaries
Episode 1: Identity
Human beings, and youth in particular, are wrapped up in many different identities: male, female, daughter, son, friend, ethnic, athlete, musician, student, artist, pretty, popular, nerd, etc. In this Episode, teens are guided in understanding that their primary identity lies not in personality traits or activities that they excel in, but their primary identity is a child of God and an icon of Christ. Leaning into this foundational identity in Christ means we are valuable and loved in a way that cannot be altered. We grow more confident each day, we learn how to thrive in this world, and find our true selves by grounding ourselves and growing in Christ’s love.
- Lesson 1: Primary Identities — Lesson Summary: Teens tend to ground their identity in primary traits, characteristics, ethnicity, things they are good at, or roles that they play most commonly in their lives. Wrapped up in identities of “athlete”, “student”, “Greek”, “Arabic”, etc. it becomes easy to then measure self worth based on their success and failure at these roles. In this lesson, participants will explore the different ways they identify themselves. They will reflect on how they measure their own self worth based on these identities. They will then be challenged to consider if there is a greater reality, or identity, beyond the list they come up with.
- Lesson 2: Made in the Image and Likeness — Lesson Summary: The good news is there is a bigger picture. We are not reduced to the list of traits and roles that we came up with in the previous lesson, and our worth and value is not dependent on our success and failure in these identities. We were made in the image and likeness of God, made with inherent worth and out of an outpouring of love. Being made in His image and likeness, at our core, we are made up of the same qualities as God. This means that in order to “find ourselves” we have strive to become like the one who we were created to be like. We don’t have to be concerned with becoming the best athlete or student, we have to be concerned with striving to become more loving, more patient, more kind, and more forgiving. God put each of us on this earth with a purpose. He loves us and He values us. Because of this, nothing we can do can change how valuable we are or how loved we are.
- Lesson 3: Child of God — Lesson Summary: God revealed is not just our creator, but He is also our Father. This means God is deeply connected to us, He cares for us intensely, and He adores us profoundly, like a father does his child. Not only are we inherently valuable as human beings, we are also deeply loved by our Father. A huge part of understanding our identity, is believing and experiencing that we are cherished by God, our Father. Some of us know what this kind of relationship is like because we have a loving relationship with our fathers, but for some of us, our relationships with our dads come laced with conditions, stipulations, and expectations, and others of us do not have a father in our lives. It might be harder for those without a loving father in their lives, to understand what it means to be a child of God. Being a child of God means that He delights in us, embraces us, and there is nothing we can do to change that. We can turn away from it, we can hide from it, but we can never lessen it. We don’t do the right thing and obey God to earn his love; we do the right thing and obey His commandments to grow in that love. Nothing you do can change the intensity with which God accepts you and adores you.
- Lesson 4: Shifting Identities — Lesson Summary: Now that we are beginning to understand what it means to be a child of God and an icon of Christ, we have to figure out what it looks like to live out that reality. What does it look like to live each day grounding our identities in Christ? It can be difficult to walk in this reality especially when we live in a society where we can so easily contrive the reality we want to portray. It is often easier to put on masks and to ground ourselves in false identities. What is true? We are valuable and deeply loved, all the time, no matter what. And following Christ is how we really succeed. How do we grow in this truth? Stay close to God and to others who are close to Him. Open our hearts to His love through worship. Live our lives closely connected to His body, the Church. Talk to Him through prayer and get to know Him through the scriptures. Stay close to Him, grow with Him, and let all of the other pressures fall away. The more we focus first on our primary identity, and build our whole life on that solid foundation of being a child of God, the more we can grow and thrive through all the struggles, successes, and failures of life.
Episode 2: Intimacy
Youth will explore the meaning of intimacy, what an intimate relationship with another human being should look like, and why these relationships are so critical in order for us to thrive. It is important for youth to understand that intimacy is a deep knowing and loving of one another and that in its foundation, has nothing to do with meeting physical and sexual desires. We have a deep yearning to be known and loved by God and others, and that yearning is fulfilled through deep, supportive, nurturing, loving, intimate relationships. Youth will explore the barriers that make it hard for us to engage in true intimate and loving relationships and will leave with direction and inspiration to seek out and cultivate true intimate relationships.
- Lesson 1: Redefining Intimacy — Lesson Summary: Human beings are wired for connection. We were designed to be in relationships with God and others. But not just any kind of relationships, we are wired for intimate relationships. Intimacy is often associated with romantic connections but intimacy is actually more than just physical connection. Intimacy is, “into me you see”. It is about being deeply and fully known. We were created like God, and He exists in Trinity. God the Father is one with the Son and the Spirit. The very existence of God is a relationship. We were made like God, so we too were made to exist in relationships. We also know that God created Adam and Eve to live with each other and with God. God did not want humanity to do life alone, He gave us other humans to form deep connections with, to become intimate with. But, we often aren’t really good at cultivating intimacy. We spend a lot of time on social media “connecting” with people, but we may not have many people in our lives with whom we are truly intimate. Intimate relationships with God and others are the strongest foundation we can build our life on. We can only thrive as human beings when we are close to God and to others.
- Lesson 2: Unpack your Heart — Lesson Summary: You will only be truly happy if you are engaging in real and intimate relationships. Admitting our “realness” allows us to become the “real us”. But, in reality, many of us struggle to let people in. Letting people see our real self means taking our masks off, taking the filter off. But that makes us vulnerable. We might get hurt. And that freaks us out. Being vulnerable means putting the good, the bad, and the ugly out there on the table for someone to see. And that is scary. And that takes a ton of courage. It is important to find the courage to be vulnerable because when we let others see the real us, and they respond in love, we experience something life-changing: our insecure selves find confidence, we grow stronger, and we experience real happiness. We learn that we are loved for who we are, even though we are not perfect. And that kind of love is the most transformative thing we can experience. This is God’s love experienced on earth. When we avoid intimacy, when we refuse to let our guard down, we isolate ourselves. We may think we are safer living behind our masks, but it is far more painful to live isolated and lonely lives. Intimate relationships allow us to thrive as human beings. We push ourselves down the uncomfortable path of vulnerability because, when we take our masks off, erase our filters, and let others love our imperfect selves, we are totally transformed. We find real confidence and strength. We experience real happiness. It’s really the only way we can thrive.
- Lesson 3: Building Intimacy — Lesson Summary: We have been talking about the importance of intimacy and how having real and deep relationships are critical for our lives, but now we need to add a type of disclaimer. Everything inside of us needs to be known by someone, but not everyone needs to know everything inside of us. It’s actually not good to share everything inside of us with everyone we meet. It takes time to build an intimate relationship and we respect our hearts and ourselves by being selective about what we share with whom. The qualities of God’s love are what make up the best foundation for an intimate relationship. The people that treat us with these qualities are the people we can build intimacy with. And when we build a relationship, we do this slowly. We take time to get to know people and grow comfortable with them. We don’t share everything inside of us all at once to the first person who offers us a listening ear. When we’re treated disrespectfully it’s ok to take a step back and put up a boundary. If you are in a situation where you feel like someone is using you for their own benefit or if you feel controlled, this is not real love. And it’s a two-way street. We have to be respectful and supportive to those who open up to us. We have to resist the urge to criticize or judge others and we have to respect the things people share with us. We grow and thrive when others intimately know us and when we intimately know others in the context of Christ-like love.
- Lesson 4: Building Intimacy with God — Lesson Summary: As we build intimate relationships with people around us this actually helps us learn how to be intimate with God. It is hard to imagine being intimate with God when we can’t see or touch Him, but we know that God wants this intimacy with us. Of course he knows us deeply, He created us, but He wants us to invite Him in. We only truly thrive when we have deep relationships with others AND God. When we “unpack our hearts” and offer the stuff inside of us to God, our brokenness, our struggles and imperfections begin to heal. A lot of this connection with God happens through prayer and confession. We share our joy and gratitude and also our struggles, anger, and repentance with God. These are two of the many tools that Christ, through His Church, gives us to grow more intimately with Him. We don’t have to be perfect in order to be known or loved by God. He embraces us with our imperfections, loves us as we are, and offers us healing, growth, and transformation. We discover, or grow into, our true and primary identities as icons of Christ and children of God as we grow in relationships with God and others.