In the Bible, James talks about how difficult it is to tame the tongue. This topic is especially pertinent for teens since they can easily become tempted to gossip with friends. Prepare questions and activities that will teach youth valuable lessons about self-control. Young people need to understand that speaking hurtful words can have devastating consequences, which can be avoided by speaking with restraint.
Give each teen a piece of chewing gum or candy. Instruct them to put it on their tongues without closing their mouths. Start reading Scripture about gossip, and watch as the task becomes difficult for the youth as their mouths begin to water. See who can go the longest without closing their mouth. Afterward, explain that resisting “mouth-watering” gossip is just as difficult. Another idea is to have each person write down the greatest struggle they have with gossip and to fold their papers so no one sees what they wrote. Say, “Imagine if you dropped your paper and someone read it. How would you feel?” Discuss the harmful effects of gossip.
James compares the tongue to a small spark that starts a big fire (James 3:5). Tell teens to put fires out rather than start them. The best way to stop a “gossip fire” is to refuse to listen to mean-spirited conversation. Play a game that challenges youth to quench gossip. Divide into two teams. One player from each team stands at the front of the room. Light a match between the two players and tell them a piece of gossip like, “Did you hear that Susie and Brad broke up?” The first person to think of a response that will quench the gossip blows out the match and keeps the burnt stick. Repeat until everyone has played a round. The team with the most sticks wins.
One of the best ways to get teens thinking about the subject is to let them struggle with challenging questions. One idea is to have teens talk in small groups about the most embarrassing or hurtful things they’ve ever said. Ask them to share the nicest thing anyone has ever said to them. Then ask, “Why do words carry so much power?” Another idea is to simply ask, “What is the difference between gossiping and talking? What is gained or lost by gossiping?” Let teens discuss their answers in small groups and report back to the class.
James warns that blessings and curses shouldn’t come out of the same mouth (James 3:10). Launch an ongoing activity that will make youth more aware of the good and bad things they say. Let the teens make wristbands, or buy wristbands for them to wear. Challenge them to wear the bands every day for one month. When they say something that displeases God, they have to switch the wristband to the other hand. Tell teens to count the number of hours or days between switches, trying to beat their record.
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