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3 Creative Ways to Honor MLK Day

As we prepare to celebrate MLK Day, we’ll see plenty of “greatest hits” quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr.

So much of what he said about social justice and racial equality is still relevant today. But Dr. King said a lot of powerful stuff that will never make it onto a meme. Specifically, three of his lesser-known quotes work great in a youth ministry setting.

I’ve paired the three MLK quotes with relevant Scripture passages and discussion questions—each one can be a stand-alone teaching or small-group lesson. Or you can use all three together for a full-scale program plan. Celebrate the holiday by inviting Dr. King to be the “guest leader” of your ministry this week. (Don’t forget, February is Black History Month.)

Jesus Beyond Religion

Intro: We’ve all heard some of Dr. Martin Luther King’s legendary quotes—for example: “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” But he said many things most people have never heard before. For example, in 1967, embedded in one of Dr. King’s sermons,  he said: I discovered…that religion had to become real to me and I had to know God for myself…”

Dive Deep: Get kids in pairs or trios, give them the following three Scripture passages to read first, then have them answer the discussion questions. Gather back together and ask pairs or trios to report on how they answered the questions.

  • Deuteronomy 10:12: “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? He requires only that you fear the Lord your God, and live in a way that pleases him, and love him and serve him with all your heart and soul.
  • James 1:27: “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”
  • Mark 12:33-34: “And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law. Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.”

Questions: What exactly causes a person’s faith to “become real”? When and how did your faith become real to you? What’s the difference between following a religion and following Jesus?

Love the Lord With All Your Mind

Intro: What’s the difference between learning and thinking? In our relationship with Jesus, we can ask the same question—what’s the difference between learning about Him and simply thinking about Him? Dr. King once said: “Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”

Dive Deep: Get kids in pairs or trios, give them the following three Scripture passages to read first, then have them answer the discussion questions. Gather back together and ask pairs or trios to report on how they answered the questions.

  • Matthew 22:35-39: “One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?’ Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’”
  • Romans 12:2: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
  • Philippians 4:8: “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

Questions: We know we’re to love Jesus with all our hearts, but what does it mean to love Him with all our mind?  How has your relationship with Jesus helped to change the way you think? What does it mean to “fix our thoughts” on “things that are excellent”? How do you do this in your life?

Serving In Action and Attitude

Intro: Two of Dr. King’s quotes have a direct connection to our life following Jesus: 1)  “Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” And 2) “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”

Dive Deep: Get kids in pairs or trios, give them the following three Scripture passages to read first, then have them answer the discussion questions. Gather back together and ask pairs or trios to report on how they answered the questions.

  • Luke 22:25-27: “Jesus told them, ‘In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called “friends of the people.” But among you, it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.’”
  • Philippians 2:1-3: “Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”
  • Philippians 2:4-8: “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”

Questions: Why does Jesus make such a big deal about serving others? How has serving others has changed you, specifically? What do you know about the heart of Jesus, based on His insistence that we learn to serve? 

 

Photo by Brian Kraus on Unsplash

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3 Creative Ways to Honor MLK Day

Get free weekly resources from us!
Get free weekly resources from us!
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