Made to Make a Difference | Max Lucado
Based on the Max Lucado book Outlive Your Life, Made to Make a Difference is meant to encourage teens and young adults to stop believing that they can only do good as an adult or be effective as a Christian when they’re older. Instead, the series says that there are big and bold things that teens can do right now to effect the world around them.
Like most videos from RightNow Media (formerly BluefishTV), each session begins with a short vignette. Most are humorous, but others are more serious, and all of them set the tone and present the main theme for the evening. Each video runs about twenty minutes, leaving forty minutes for icebreakers and discussion time in a sixty-minute lesson period.
Made to Make a Difference does an amazing job of transitioning from Lucado’s teaching to real-life interviews with teen difference makers who have impacted their communities in big and tangible ways. It’s a much better look than just having an old preacher (sorry Max!) lecture them about their need to do good. Most of the series is spent learning from teens what they have done and hopefully sparking some ideas in the hearts and minds of your own group.
Session 1: Our Generation
The first session begins with a vignette describing how long things last. The latest technology. Cars. Even humans. And all of them have an average expiration date. Everything breaks. Rust destroys. Moths eat. Everything returns to dust. The vignette concludes with asking the question of what will last? The good we do. The relationships we build. The word of God. The final conclusion: We were made to make a difference. We were made to outlive our lives.
After a brief introduction by Jenna Lucado, Max’s daughter, the session begins by telling Austin’s story. In 2004, Austin learned about the plight of AIDS in the world and started Hoops of Hope. He raised $3,000 his first year. The idea caught on. In six years, they’ve raised $2 million. In the interview with him, he said that above all he wanted to encourage teens that “They don’t have to wait until a certain age to make a difference.” The video cuts to Max Lucado, who compares this venture with the early church and our call to model them and their impact as changemakers.
From here, the video moves to discuss another teen-led group called One in a Million. They began with the goal of raising $1 million for missionaries and relief workers in one year. With little experience, they created a website and did different fundraising efforts and spoke about specific needs they were meeting.
After this, the video cuts back to Max, who has his first substantive time in the session. He discusses Acts 2 and the beginning of the church, particularly how God equipped many people with many different abilities to take the Gospel back into their specific contexts. God is asking you to speak the language of your community. We don’t feel equal burdens for the same situations, so focus on your fluency and your heart and you’ll find your area of service.
The video ends by telling Shaun King’s story, and his church’s use of social media to build awareness and raise money. Before their church had its first service, they raised $25,000 for a school. They got involved with Haiti and have built a massive social media platform that they’ve used in their pursuit of social justice.
This introductory video was a little light on Max’s teaching and heavy on the examples given. It’s great to show so many ministries, but it’s also a little overwhelming. Lucado serves as little more than a transition here, meaning that students may see what other teens are doing, but never really get the tools to go out there and do the same.
Session 2: Poverty is a Priority
The opening vignette is about a youth group that’s based on entertainment. They have a mascot. They do fun things. But their church doesn’t ever seem to wait to be engaged in service projects. It’s a ridiculous start that may hit close to home for some churches.
The charities and volunteer opportunities highlighted in this video are a bit more accessible than the created-from-scratch ministries in the first one. This session highlights both 30 Hour Famine and Habitat for Humanity. The latter is especially brought home through interviewing Jeremie, who was homeless as a child, was given a HfH house, and now serves a team leader for the organization.
Max Lucado preaches over Luke 4 and Jesus’s first public message. Lucado highlights how Jesus, in the only time we see him preaching a specific passage from the synagogue, focuses on injustice and poverty. And, in what deserves a longer discussion, Lucado brings us the Old Testament concept of Jubilee, a twice a century resetting of all debts and social systems to keep economic inequality from becoming too extreme. While it’s certainly biblical, this is quite the relevant and controversial topic to discuss.
Lucado continues 75% of the world’s resources go to 20% of the people. He is clear that the problem of poverty needs to engage everyone in the church, even if we are not affected by it. We should partner with smart people and get mad about the lack of justice that causes poverty. Jenna Lucado asks us to take a look at our privilege and see if that has kept us from helping the poor.
The video ends by transitioning to Ben and Katie’s story about living in Haiti during the earthquake that devastated it on January 12, 2010. They had been there for only a few weeks, intending to be teachers, but the earthquake soon threw them into missionary and disaster relief work.
Session 3: Blast the Walls
The opening vignette is about a superhero who only saves people sometimes. He’s a slightly selective superhero who will change the world and save the girl…if he feels like it and if they meet his criteria.
The theme of this session is the walls that separate us. Walls of race, culture, language, or socio-economic status. Anything that prevents us from helping those we should because they’re unfamiliar, difficult to understand, or simply not a part of our everyday experience. This session is about removing prejudices and seeing others as God sees them.
The first story is about a state school where all students are convicted criminals. They have a football team, but they weren’t that great and they never really got a lot of support. Think of it. Every team they play is an away game and every high school student there knows the other team is literally entirely comprised of juvenile felons.
Then one school gets an idea. They’re going to treat them like the home team. The cheerleaders line up at the locker room exit with a banner, letting them run through it. The crowd cheers. The video has interviews with some of the players talking about how, for the first time, they felt cared for and valued.
The video transitions to Max Lucado talking about the walls that separated the Samaritans and Jews: gender, social class, ethnicity. This was the big problem within the early church and they dealt with it. Max’s conclusion: You don’t need to look the same, just look in the same direction.
Other interviews and examples include Alex’s family and their involvement in a homeless ministry. Alex’s father talks about how he always looked down on the homeless but that God changed him through encouraging him to actually sit down and begin to know the people. The final example is Zach and his initiative that gathered loose change to free people from slavery and human trafficking.
Session 4: Do Good Quietly
The opening vignette of this last session is a series of scenes where people loudly and ostentatiously try to do good, even when the other person doesn’t want their help! The point? Don’t shout about your good works. This session is a good reminder that, amid everything we’ve said about doing good, and all the spotlight we’ve put on people trying to do good, we cannot do these things to get the spotlight.
The core biblical text from Max Lucado is Acts 4 and the sin of Ananias and Sapphira. He encourages teens to give in secret, to not expect any credit, and to not fake spirituality.
The volunteering opportunities here are not as prevalent—which fits with the session’s theme—but they are easily accessible to your teens. Sponsor a Compassion child. Volunteer at a nursing home or the Special Olympics. You don’t have to learn a special skill, just be obedient to the calling God has given you.
Jenna Lucado concludes the session by exhorting students to take what they’ve learned and discover their own passion, to not let the series end here but to follow the footsteps of the Good Samaritan and go and do likewise.
Discussion Guide for Made to Make a Difference
As with all BlueFish/RightNow materials, the study guide is well-written, easy to understand, and comprehensive. They break each session up like this:
Each session begins with an icebreaker game that hits upon that week’s theme. All of them are fun and creative and only take a little bit of setup. I highly recommend that you do not skip this section as important. If you’re like my group and have a fun time before class, this fun activity helps transition from play time to lesson time.
This session should take about ten minutes.
The next section gets straight into Scripture. I really this format because all too often, it’s video first and the Scripture comes as a part of the post-video discussion. Putting it before the video really helps you begin with the Bible and study it on its own apart from the video. Rather than the Bible being part of the video lesson, the video lesson becomes part of the Bible lesson.
This session should take about five to seven minutes.
This is the period of watching the video. For my group personally, I divided the viewing section and the discussion section into two, so that we watched about ten minutes of the video, paused for discussion, then watched the remainder of the video.
Each video runs from 17 to 22 minutes.
This time offers discussion questions based on what was talked about in the video. This section focuses on the vignettes and experiences and opens up discussion for students’ thoughts on each of the ministries that were discussed and challenges them to look within themselves to see if God is calling them to do something similar.
The session should take about 10-15 minutes.
This is an in-depth time of Bible study on the relevant portions of Scripture. The discussion guide, unfortunately, says you can skip this section if you’re short on time. I wouldn’t recommend that. Each lesson is quite comprehensive and covers the text that Lucado speaks about in each video. This is a very flexible session and can be adapted to the needs and level of your group.
If completed in fullness, this session should take about 20 minutes.
This closing activity gives the students a challenge for next week and encourages them to take practical steps toward living out the kind of life the series is promoting.
Altogether, depending on the nature of your group, the runtime for the entire lesson should be 60-90 minutes.
My only negative point on the discussion guide is that RightNow has not updated it since it was first released in 2011 under BlueFish.TV, with the end result that the free products mentioned in the front matter and some of the other online resources no longer exist.
Every time I use a resource from RightNow, students and leaders alike always comment about the quality of the production. By moving from fun vignettes to practical application to teaching, there’s something new and engaging every five or so minutes. It’s professionally filmed and produced. The interviews are engaging. The Bible teaching is informative. You really couldn’t ask for better.
This is one of those series that I’ve put into my annual rotation. It works especially well going into the summer months, when youth groups schedule most of their service projects and missions trips. It’s a perfect way to get your students to connect their faith with action and I heartily recommend it.