Heart of Friendship. Proverbs 17:17

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2 Heart of Friendship A Friend Loves at All Times. Proverbs 17:17

3 PREFACE Welcome to your first gathering of First Friday Friends! I m so excited for you. You are at the beginning of growing and building great relationships. My daughter and I are still friends with many of our First Friday Friends. The foundation of First Friday Friends is a personal relationship with God. That does not mean that everyone who joins in with your First Friday Friends group must know and believe in God. In fact, I think First Friday Friends is a great way to welcome and invite believers and non-believers into community. Because each group is unique, please prayerfully decide when to share the following information about how to become friends with God. Maybe it is tonight before you play the game, or maybe it is after the Doug Bender story that is shared this evening. Maybe it is sometime later in the year, such as, the last gathering when the topic is on Heart of Grace. Please read through this unit and listen to the story on our website at and see how God leads you to share this foundational material. INTRODUCTION How do you become a friend with God? Let s listen to the story of my friend, Jim, and how he learned about grace and the gift of friendship with God. : Key to Success: I have a recorded version of the story, The Undeserved Gift, available for you. With a few words of transition, you can move straight from the video to the recording. However, you may choose to share it yourself. If you choose to share the Gospel at the end, please take time to know it deeply and share it from your heart. Ask God to give you His vision and His heart for this story as it is the most important message you will share this entire year. Transcript of The Undeserved Gift When my mom was a little girl, instead of TV, they used to gather around the radio and listen to stories and music for evening entertainment. They would turn the tuner dial around until they could get a clear sound. So tonight, I invite you to get comfortable and gather around and hear a story of incredibly Good News the story of the Gospel the story of God s love for us. I love this quote by Doug Bender: He cares about me. He hears me. He likes me even in all my awkwardness.... God is that person. God is my friend. Friends with God... awesome to imagine. But it is true. All through history, God has woven His story of love; His invitation to know Him... not just know about Him, but know Him as a friend, as a Father, as Savior. 24 HEART TO HEART: LEADER GUIDE

4 God s love story begins with creation when He created a beautiful world with thousands of gifts for us to enjoy, and it crescendos at the Cross the place where grace an undeserved gift of forgiveness and love is offered. Grace... an undeserved gift. Years ago, when my friend Jim was a junior in High School, he received grace, and it was a turning point in his life. Grace will do that to you. Jim was a good kid, but this time, Jim missed the mark. It was time for mid-term progress reports to go home, and Jim received one from his History teacher, Mr. McSwain. Jim opened up the pink slip that he was to take home and have his parents sign. At the bottom was written a giant letter F. Failing! Jim s heart sank. How could that be? Something had to be wrong! He had always received good grades before. After class, Jim went up to talk to Mr. McSwain about his grade. The teacher pulled out his grade book and took a look at all the grades with Jim. Well, it looks like you made some good grades over here, but then you have a zero here, here, and here for homework that you didn t turn in, said Mr. McSwain. Now Jim knew Mr. McSwain was right, but he also knew he was in big trouble, and Jim was looking for a way out. So Jim lied saying, That s not right. I know I turned in those homework assignments. Mr. McSwain calmly replied, Well, I ve made mistakes before. Go find the missing assignments and bring them to me and I ll correct your grade. Jim went to his locker and shuffled through his papers for about 15 minutes. He knew the homework assignments were not in his locker, and the gravity of the situation was beginning to settle in. He went back to Mr. McSwain and said, I can t find the papers. As he and Mr. McSwain began chatting about the situation, fear began to rise up in Jim. Jim began to picture going home and telling his mom and dad about his failing grade. It was news that would not be taken well at home. Seeing the fear in Jim s eyes, Mr. McSwain said, Jim, give me your progress report back, and tell your parents that I didn t have your progress report ready today. I ll have it for you tomorrow. After class the next day, knees knocking, Jim anxiously went up to see Mr. McSwain. Mr. McSwain gave Jim his progress report. Jim s heart beat wildly as he opened up the progress report. At the bottom, written in bold, was the letter C. A C! Jim had received a passing grade! Rocked with disbelief, Jim asked Mr. McSwain what he needed to do to make up the work. Can I complete the missed homework and turn it in? he asked. Mr. McSwain simply replied, No. The six weeks are closed to turning in work. Your grade is a C. Jim, wanting to justify the grade, then looked for other ways to earn the grade. He asked if there were extra credit assignments or projects he could complete. Mr. McSwain paused, and he said, Jim, the C is a gift. There is nothing you can do to earn the C at this point. The books are closed. All Jim could do, all he had to do, was receive it. HEART OF FRIENDSHIP 25

5 Grace, an undeserved gift, is what Jim received from Mr. McSwain. It was a turning point in Jim s life. A few months later, Jim received God s unending gift of grace he became a child of God, and you can too. You see, like Jim, we ve all missed the mark. None of us have lived a perfectly pure life. And God, He is holy. He is perfectly pure, and our failings, our sins, keep us from having a right relationship with Him. But God has provided us a way to know Him as Father, as Savior, as Friend. And that is through the gift of grace offered through Jesus, and what Jesus did for each of us on the cross. When I picture the cross and Jesus s outstretched arms, it says to me... I LOVE YOU THIS MUCH. When my children were preschoolers, I used to sit them on the edge of the kitchen counter, and I would ask them, How much does Mommy love you? and they would stretch out their arms and say, This much! And I would ask again, How much? and they would stretch a little wider, and would say, This much! I would ask them one more time, How much? and they would stretch their little arms as wide as they could go, and say, This much, Mommy! And I would swoop them in my arms and fly them in a circle and say, Oh yes, I love you that much and more! And so, when I picture Jesus, God s Son, on the cross, it s as if He is saying, I LOVE YOU THIS MUCH! I ll exchange my life for yours. If you ll freely admit your sins, I ll take them, I ll forgive you and make you perfectly clean, and you ll be welcomed as a child of God I LOVE YOU THIS MUCH! If you ve never done that and that is what you desire, then just tell God that. God hears you when you pray. And like my friend Jim, you ll receive an undeserved gift of grace you ll be welcomed as a child of God. GOOD NEWS FRIENDSHIP WITH GOD The first step is to believe. You must believe that God exists and believe that Jesus is God s Son. This takes a step of faith. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6) The second step to knowing God is acknowledging that we have fallen short of living a perfect life. You see, God is holy and perfectly pure. When we sin, our relationship is broken. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God s glorious standard. (Romans 3:23) What is sin? Very simply, it s disobeying God. God has given us rules for living life such as don t steal, don t lie, honor your mom and dad, etc. When we disobey, we dishonor God and we sin. But listen to this promise: But if we freely admit that we have sinned, we find God utterly reliable and straightforward he forgives our sins and makes us thoroughly clean from all that is evil. (1 John 1:9) 26 HEART TO HEART: LEADER GUIDE

6 I call this the GREAT EXCHANGE. Through belief in Jesus and confession of our sins, it s as though we re handing all of our sins over to God in exchange for forgiveness and eternal, abundant life... friendship with God. Picture yourself seated in a courtroom where you ve been convicted of a terrible crime. The punishment for your crime is death! But, all of a sudden, Jesus walks in and says to the judge, I ll take her punishment. I ll take the death sentence, and she can go free. You get up, take off your prison clothes, and hand them to Jesus. In return, you re clothed in beautiful, clean clothes and head out the door to freedom. It s as if God, the King of kings, is holding out His hand with an invitation for us to become His child a child of royalty. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12) See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! (1 John 3:1) Salvation is a gift. It can t be earned, nor is it deserved. It s by grace an undeserved gift that we re saved. Believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and you become a child of God! You are now a child of the King of kings a child of Royalty. If you ve never done that and that is what you desire, then just tell God that. Just like in Doug Bender s story, God hears you when you pray. If you want to be friends with God, simply tell Him that. And like my friend Jim, you ll receive an undeserved gift of grace friendship with God. Key to Success: Leaders, please take time to pray about this most important decision. You may present the information above and, for your group, it might be best to simply say, If you want to talk more about this, then come talk to me or your mom later tonight. However, if you feel that this is the right time to tell them how to talk to God about this, then I have a guide for that below. PRAYER OF SALVATION When you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, you re saved from your sins and you become a child of God! If you would like to invite Jesus to be your Savior and your friend, you simply need to tell him that. You could even pray the following prayer: God, I believe You love me and that You want a personal relationship with me. You provided a way for me through Your Son, Jesus. I know I have sinned. I ve done things my way instead of Yours. I m sorry. Will You please forgive me? I accept Your gift Your offer to be my Father, my Savior, and my Friend. I want to follow You all the days of my life. HEART OF FRIENDSHIP 27

7 If you prayed that prayer, you are now on a journey to knowing God. It s the most amazing experience in life! It is fun to make new friends, and even richer to keep them for years. Enjoy the journey of getting to know the God who created you. There is truly nothing more exciting! 5 MINUTES FIRST FRIDAY FRIENDS WHAT IS THIS ALL ABOUT? We re created for community. We re created for friendship with each other and with a living, loving God. That s First Friday Friends in a nutshell. That s where we re going to start today. We re going to talk about friendship: friendship with each other and friendship with God. Let s get started by getting to know each other better. Some of you may know each other very well. Others, maybe just by name or you may have just met this evening. Let s play a game to learn a few of the secret details of each other s lives MINUTES WHO S THAT GIRL? Part of becoming friends is spending time together and getting to know each other more. This is a game where you get to learn fun, new things about each other by sharing funny stories and fun facts about each mom and daughter and then everyone guesses who the facts are about. Supplies: 5x7 Note Cards. One for each mom and daughter. Pens 28 HEART TO HEART: LEADER GUIDE

8 How to play: Give one 5x7 note card for each mom and daughter. If a mother has more than one daughter at the gathering, then give her a card for each daughter present. Ask each mom to write her daughter s name on the card along with three things about her daughter that others present don t know. Also, ask each daughter to write her mom s name on the card and three things about her mother that the other people in the room may not know. Instruct them not to let anyone see what they re writing on their card. Also, it s important to encourage moms and daughters to select stories and facts that are not embarrassing. Some examples of fun facts could be: a. A funny family story about that mom or daughter b. Her favorite book c. Her favorite television show d. Her favorite color e. Finish the sentence: When she was a baby. The game leader then picks up the cards from each mom and daughter. Gather everyone in a circle and have the game leader read each card aloud, one at a time. After the card is read, the group then guesses who each of the fun facts were about. Key to Success: It s important to keep the energy up in this game. Have a mom read the cards and give the group three guesses. Then share the name on the card and keep moving. It makes it much livelier and keeps everyone engaged. 5 MINUTES First Friday Friends is all about building community and friendships between mothers and daughters as well as with Jesus, who calls us friend. It s also about having a safe place to talk about life and wrestle through issues to find the best way to live life in a world that often discourages us from living according to what Scripture says. I remember telling my daughter that in this world, she d often need to be like a salmon. Before they lay their eggs, salmon have to swim upstream. That means they are swimming against the current and it s tough going! In today s world, that s what we must be willing to do. We have to be willing to go against the current voices, cultural values, and mindsets of the day. But I know that it s easier if you have others to swim upstream with you, and so that s what First Friday Friends is designed to do. It exists to help you develop those friendships that will be there to encourage you to be your true self and leave a mark on the world, even if that is going against the current together. HEART OF FRIENDSHIP 29

9 17-20 MINUTES Let s start tonight by listening to the story of Doug Bender and his journey to discovering true friendship. The video is accessible through a link on the First Friday Friends website. Doug also provided us with a transcript of his story in the event that you don t have the ability to watch it online. : Key to Success: Doug Bender and I Am Second do an excellent job of sharing this story. It s worth the effort to learn how you can broadcast his story during your FFF gathering. It s best if you have this set up, tested, and ready to go before moms and daughters begin to arrive. Transcript of Doug Bender s Story I used to cry myself to sleep every night and just beg God. I said, God, I just want one good friend. Wishing that I had one good friend, it s all I m asking for. I was just convinced I didn t have any. I looked at other people who had friends, and I was just so jealous. I began to hate myself. I hated everything about me. I hated the way I talked. I used to think I had a really fat bottom lip, so I like, sucked in my lip. I d walk around school and was just sucking my lip because I thought I had a big lip. I thought I walked funny. I thought I looked funny and because I lacked so much confidence, because I hated myself so much, I was always awkward. These negative thoughts I had in my head, I thought everybody had that in their mind about me. And so every time I saw somebody, I just knew that s what they re thinking. I knew they were looking at me and saying, Oh, hey, look at that kid. He looks so weird. Or look at him, he s so uncool. In the fifth grade, my parents told us that we were going to move to Virginia. The summer before we left, it was going to be my 12th birthday party. My mom had bought the pizza, and we had games ready and balloons and all sorts of things. And I think the party was going to be at 3:30 or something like that. And 3:30 comes around, and nobody was there. And a half hour goes by, an hour goes by, and nobody comes. Inside of me, I was just dying. I was just thinking, what is wrong? What s wrong? Why isn t anybody coming? On that day, I just felt like nobody loved me. That s what I felt. After that 12th birthday party, I decided I was never going to have another party again. I was sad and I was terrified. I believed in God. And I believed that Jesus died for me. And I went to church and all that. But there was something I guess, there was something still missing in the fact that I didn t quite understand that God loved me. I just wondered... because, I didn t love me. So we moved to Virginia, and I was nervous and didn t know how it was going to go. But then I had this baggage of this 12th birthday party that nobody showed up to. And I thought maybe 30 HEART TO HEART: LEADER GUIDE

10 there s something wrong with me. Socially, everything felt awkward. It s like I didn t know what to do with myself. Most people, they d come up to me and they d say, Hi, and I d be so nervous, I d walk away. Or, I d find excuse to go to the water fountain. But I remember this one guy named Daniel was persistent. He seemed convinced that he wanted to be my friend. And it felt really weird to me because I looked up to this guy as a hero. I was almost jealous of him. I thought that Daniel was a cool person, and the fact that he was trying to be friends with me, it was almost confusing to me. I almost didn t believe it. He would call me, and he d come over to my house. He saw that I was somebody worth being a friend with, and he invited me in, and we became friends. As my 16th birthday rolled around, my mom insisted that I was going to have a party, even though I hadn t had one since I was 12. And I was super nervous. I was nervous that nobody would come. I invited Daniel. I invited a couple of other people. But I waited till the very last day to invite them acting like it wasn t a big deal. But it was. It s a huge deal to me. The closer to the time of the party it got, the more nervous I got. I just didn t know what was going to happen. But sure enough, Daniel came over. And my other friends came over. And it was like 30 people that came. People that I didn t even know. Everybody just came. When the people came to that birthday party, I realized that I had friends. But bigger than that, I realized that the small prayer that I had as a kid was something that God heard. All these years I had prayed, I said, God, I just want one good friend. I want one person that cares about me. I want one person that hears me when I talk, that knows me in all of my awkwardness and still likes me. That s all I want, one person that likes me. And that day, I finally realized that God was that person. God was my friend. Doug Bender, I Am Second (1) I love the way Doug ended his story. Not only had God provided him with Daniel, his one good friend, but Doug realized that he had been given many friends. Most of all, he realized that God was his ultimate friend. HEART OF FRIENDSHIP 31

11 7-10 MINUTES Memory Verse: A Friend Loves at All Times. Proverbs 17:17 Key to Success: Choose three or four questions below that speak to you and that you d like to lead out in discussion. If the discussion is going well, feel free to do more, but if you have covered the key points with three or four of the questions, then feel free to move to the next section of the Good News and share how to become a friend with God. Doug tells his story of a painful journey from being an awkward 12-year-old boy to eventually gaining friends and realizing that God was his friend all along. What does it take to become a friend? What does it take to keep growing a friendship? What is difficult about friendships? What are the benefits of close friends? How do you choose good friends? What are the qualities of a good friend? How do your friends encourage you to be a better person? Have you ever noticed someone like Doug at your school who was a bit awkward and needed a friend? What did you do? What can you do to make someone like Doug feel more included? Our memory verse is Proverbs 17:17, A friend loves at all times. Loving at all times reveals a heart of devotion. How has a friend demonstrated devotion to you? How have you been a devoted friend? Our memory verse is, A friend loves at all times. (Proverbs 17:17) This doesn t mean that we can control what happens, but it does mean that we can control how we respond to the situation. This verse encourages us to be loving and kind even when our friend isn t acting with kindness. Love isn t haughty, selfish, or rude. Rather it hopes the best and prays for others with a heart of love and devotion even when failed by a friend. 5 MINUTES Close in prayer by asking God to seal His word on each heart present. 32 HEART TO HEART: LEADER GUIDE

12 30-45 MINUTES FRIENDSHIP BRACELETS Tonight we re going to make friendship bracelets. These bracelets will be unique to this group of First Friday Friends. Each girl will share their birthday colored beads with every other girl in the group. They ll also get one charm or crystal bead to represent God as their friend. Then they ll string your beads to create a unique friendship bracelet. Key to Success: The key to success in this craft is to know well in advance who will be present the first night of FFF and the birth month of each girl. The craft person needs this information far enough in advance so that the correct number and color of beads can be purchased. Supplies: Colored beads from the girl s birth month Wire. elastic, or leather band to string the beads on Clasp for each girl s bracelet if using wire A crystal bead or a cross charm to represent Jesus Optional: depending on the size of your group, you may want decorative spacer beads so that the bracelet will be long enough to fit their wrists. This also allows the girls to create patterns as they string their beads. How to Create : 1. Before you gather the first night, get the birth month for each girl in the group. Have one mom buy colored beads for each girl in the group according to their birth month. Buy enough so that each girl can trade their beads with each other at the meeting. For example, if you have 12 girls in your group, buy 12 beads for each girl in their birth month color. Please note: If some extra girls show up at the last minute, you don t want to leave them out of this craft. Either buy some extra beads that are unique for them to use or have the mother and daughter bring enough beads with them to trade that evening. 2. Buy one charm or bead that represents Jesus. You ll give each girl the same charm to add to the bracelet. 3. Set up tables with all the supplies needed to build the bracelets. You can make the bracelets using a heavy elastic band, leather, or you can use a wire with a clasp at the end. Craft stores will have the various supplies. Also, have a variety of decorative spacer beads so that each girl can build their own unique bracelet. The spacer beads will also be needed to increase the length of the bracelet to fit their wrist. HEART OF FRIENDSHIP 33

13 4. Give each girl beads in their birth month color. Give each girl enough beads so that they have one bead for each girl present. They re getting beads in their birth month color ONLY then they trade beads with every other girl. 5. Have the girls go around to every other girl and trade their beads with one another. You may want to give them each a small bag to carry their beads in so that they are not dropped or lost while traded. 6. Give each girl one bead or charm to represent friendship with Jesus. 7. Create and make the bracelet. Each girl can make a unique bracelet by creating their own patterns and using different spacers or stringing material. Some may use elastic while others use leather. The bracelets can be as unique as each girl and is a representation of friendships. You now have a unique First Friday Friends friendship bracelet! MINUTES As girls finish their bracelet, hand out snacks and gather everyone one last time to explain Girl Time. 34 HEART TO HEART: LEADER GUIDE

14 AN EXPLANATION Key to Success: It s important that you don t read this aloud, but rather have read the message over several times and internalized it. Present it from your heart, your way. As a leader, be sure and encourage the moms and daughters in the importance of this weekly date time, and then explain to them that instructions are in the front of their Girl Time Guide. Girl Time is designed to be a date between mom and daughter once each week. It s intentional time to talk about topics related to the lesson at First Friday Friends each month. This month during Girl Time you ll visit about friendships: how to be a good friend, how to choose good friends, and how to be a friend of God. Girl Times are designed to be about 30 minutes long, but on weeks that you can allow more time, you ll find this only enriches the experience. A fun way to make this happen is to go get lemonade together, have an ice cream date, or spend 30 minutes together visiting and having a cup of hot chocolate before bed time. Simply find a time each week to protect for your Girl Time date. Moms, if I can encourage you all in one thing, it s to create space and make time for Girl Time. Long after the discussions are over, the memory of the intimate talks and the intentional time together will remain in both of your hearts and minds. While the First Friday Friend gatherings are fun and important, this one-on-one time is long cherished. As a mom who has gone before you, I can tell you that years from now you and your daughter will remember this time together with fondness. My final word of encouragement is to be authentic with each other. Don t feel any pressure to give the right answer; just be honest with each other and with God. You ll find this time to be worth the effort to make it happen! HEART OF FRIENDSHIP 35

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