I currently have multiple sets of teaching curriculum in development, but I'm also open to crafting new themes into custom material for your group. My polished curriculum, ready to send right now, is from the book of James and covers how to tame our tongue. It contains 5 weeks of material and each week includes a short mainstage lesson, additional thoughts & questions for small group teaching times, and a closing prayer time. The large group and small group sections can easily be combined into one longer lesson if you aren't planning to break into small groups.
**Below this free sample is a form for requesting the James curriculum and a form if you're interested in custom made curriculum for your group.**
Here's a free lesson from the Watch Your Mouth curriculum that looks at the book of James and the power of our speech:
WEEK 1 Taming the Restless Evil
Overall Intro of Theme/Large Group Teaching:
Main Idea: Tight Rein on a Restless Evil
In 1st Corinthians 13, Paul writes about how we can move mountains with our faith, know all mysteries, and die as martyrs in flames, but if we don’t have love, we’re just loud noise. James, in his little book, writes about something similar, but instead of stressing our need to love in all we do, he points out something else we need to focus on…
Let me read you this verse from the first chapter of James:
Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves and their religion is worthless. (1:26)
James echoes the idea of Paul: that sometimes we can think we’re being an awesome Christian, doing a lot of great stuff, but because we’re missing something important, we may actually not be as spiritually healthy as we think. He writes about keeping a “tight rein” on our tongues, and if we don’t, we’re making our religion “worthless.” That’s why we’ve named this series, Watch Your Mouth.
When you hear the phrase “tight rein” what do you think of?
(Someone will mention riding a horse)
That’s right. James picks up his thoughts in the tongue in chapter 3. Let me read you a few more verses to get a better picture of how our tongues/speech can affect us.
Read James 3:3-8
3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by human beings, 8 but no one can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
The tongue is small but mighty according to this passage. It’s not only like a bit in the mouth of a huge horse, it’s also like a rudder that steers a giant ship…or the hot spark that can catch your whole life on fire…We’ll talk more about this in your small groups.
Before we break up though, I want to talk to you about how James calls our tongues a “restless evil.”
“Restless” Have you ever been unable to sleep? What happens? (describe what happens when you can’t sleep: the anxiety, the constant tossing and turning, the inability to lay still)
We call that feeling being “restless.” The tongue is sort of restless like that, except instead of being anxious and twitchy to sleep, it wants to just SAY WHAT IT WANTS TO SAY, and is looking for every opportunity to do so…just like our bodies get “antsy” when we can’t sleep, our tongues are “antsy” just to say whatever thoughts pop into our heads, whether they’re helpful or not.
Through this series, we hope to challenge you about the way you talk, and give you some practical advice so that you can follow Jesus by learning to tame the restless evil that lives in your mouth.
Small Group Discussion Scriptures & Questions:
Let’s first talk about some of the analogies James used when he was describing our tongues and the way we speak…
Have any of you ever ridden a horse? How did it go? Did you struggle getting it to go where you wanted?
Do any of you have experiences/stories about a time you were around a huge fire or fire that was out of control? How did it make you feel? Do you know what caused the fire?
Following up on the chapter 3 passage we read earlier, James not only calls the tongue a restless evil, but he also compares it to a wild animal, a wild animal that can’t be tamed. He says we’ve tamed all kinds of creatures but people won’t be able to tame this restless evil known as our tongues.
Do you think James is admitting defeat and literally saying that “there’s no way you’ll ever be able to control the way you talk?”
(Discuss for a few moments, and maybe play Devil’s advocate a bit with their answers)
Let’s look a little closer at what he’s perhaps saying by taking his analogy and applying it to what we know of wild beasts…
Picture yourself in the African Savannah, on a safari, you’re riding in a ________ (let them supply the vehicle) You’re sightseeing, not hunting, so there’s no guns. You see giraffes, hippos, and hyenas, and finally, you see what you’ve all been waiting for: lions. A whole pride of lions are on the prowl hunting gazelles, they walk stealthily, low to the ground, tails twitching…
But suddenly, your driver gets caught up in the action and isn’t paying attention, hits a rock and your vehicle flips over. The lions all turn at the sound and see you lying there dazed in the grass. They turn and begin to approach you, growling, with a predatory gaze that says they’ve just found an easier gazelle to kill…
How do you feel in that moment about these wild lions?
Now, imagine you’re at the zoo. Someone gave you free tickets and limitless gift cards to the food bar. You’re enjoying your ice cream cone as you stroll along the path checking out all the animals in their cages and enclosures.
You stop by the lion display and see them napping lazily in the afternoon sun.
How do you feel in this moment about the lions you see?
What’s the difference between how you feel about the savannah lions and the zoo lions?
What if you were picked up and tossed into the lion’s den at the zoo (ice cream cone and all)?
How would you feel then?
Scared of course. The same way you did in Africa. Why?
Because a lion is still a lion…and a lion will always be a lion.
The only thing that changes is the context the lion is in…
James isn’t saying we can’t control the way we talk or never have holy speech…he’s saying our tongue will always be a lion, but with the proper principles and help from the Scriptures, the Spirit, and our church community, we can keep the “lion” in the cage.
Second talking point in small group:
Let’s talk about an example of how the restless evil/wild animal of our tongue can get us in trouble.
Read James 1:19-20
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because our anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
Do you think most people live out this verse? Why/Why not?
You’re right, most of us do the opposite:
Slow to listen, quick to talk, quick to become angry.
And what kind of talk comes out of our mouths when we’re angry?
As James said: our anger doesn’t bring about the kind of life God wants us to live.
When we get angry, we tend to do the opposite of keep a tight rein on our tongues…instead we let go and huge beast goes stomping wherever it wants rather than where we lead it.
Think about the earlier analogy of our words being like small sparks that can set our whole worlds on fire… Do any of you have any experiences you’d like to share where the “small spark” of something you said created a “huge fire” of drama or hurt in your life?
So, what do you think are some ways we can “tame the lion of anger” and put it in its cage so we don’t say things we don’t mean or shouldn’t say?
Do any of you think there is any effect on the “holiness of our tongues” by the media that we consume? For example: do you think the way people talk in TV shows, movies, music, videos, etc. affects our speech patterns? Why/why not?
A great way to conquer temptations in our lives, especially concerning anger and speech, is to memorize Scripture. Can someone read Psalms 119:11 please?
We memorize Scriptures and recite it as we feel the urge to say things we shouldn’t, especially when we’re angry.
How about this one? Can someone read Ephesians 4:26?
Does Paul say it’s a sin to be angry?
What does he say then?
This is one you can quote in your head as you feel the anger coming on. Anger is a normal human emotion, and you’re always going to have waves of it in certain situations, but it is possible to watch your mouth and hold your tongue when you’re angry and not set your world on fire.
Does anyone have anything else they’d like to share?
Bonus Question/Thought (If extra time):
Following the concept of not speaking in anger, have someone read Ephesians 4:12.
Discuss speaking the truth in love rather than anger and how we can say things harshly rather than gently in love. Or in other words: we can say the RIGHT thing in the WRONG way. Our tongue is not helping anyone when it cares more about being RIGHT than being caring.
Psalm 119:11 (and Jesus when he was tempted) gives us a powerful principle when dealing with temptation: quoting Scripture and standing on its truth.
We already discussed two verses we can pray/memorize in regards to anger and our speech (James 1:19 and Ephesians 4:26) Let’s close today with 2 other great Scriptures for helping us with our speech:
Psalm 141:3 Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.
Proverbs 12:18 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
You can pray these in the morning or at night, or right before the class with that annoying person, or before the practice with the mean coach, or before a conversation with your parents that you know might lead to hot tempers…
And just like a lion that is in a zoo for a long time, the more we practice these principles and pray these scriptures the more we get our “restless tongues” under control…they’ll still be lions, but they’ll begin to get used to the cage of self-control and truth.
1. Does anyone have anything specific they’d like us to pray about that relates to what we talked about?
2. Does anyone have anything in general they’d like us to pray for?
**End together in prayer as you're led**
5 Week Curriculum Currently Available for Purchase:
WATCH YOUR MOUTH: Lessons on Speech from James Fill out form below and submit to receive payment details:
*I am also available to write original curriculum for a teaching series, either with a theme that you provide or an original series that I design. Please fill out the form below and I'll contact you to discuss details and feasibility:
**If you're looking for small group curriculum in general, I wrote a book called Questions of a Curious Nature which is specifically designed to foster conversations among church folk. It may be a little over the heads of middle schoolers, but it high school and up have found it stimulating. It's available here in Kindle and paperback. Read some early humorous reviews for the book here, some positive reviews that capture the heart of the book here and here and like the Facebook page here. And if that's not enough, read the first two chapters for free here.