Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Building Bridges: A World Religions Program for 8th-9th Grades

Activity 1: Born Again

Activity time: 20 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Newsprint, markers, and tape
  • Optional: A Bible (Christian scripture), preferably the New Standard Revised Version
  • Optional: Participants' drawings from Welcoming and Entering

Preparation for Activity

  • Recall big and small ways you have experienced rebirth. Choose an appropriate example to briefly share.
  • Optional: If you wish to read from a Bible, mark the passage to read aloud (John 3:1-6).

Description of Activity

Participants learn the Evangelical meaning of being born again, and explore what being born again might mean for them.

Ask youth if they are familiar with the term "born again." If they are, ask them to share what they understand it to mean. Ask if any know someone who says they have been born again. Ask what they think has happened to people who say they are born again.

Tell the youth the term "born again" comes from Christian scripture. Read aloud John 3:1-6:

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God."

In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."

"How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"

Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth: No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

Share that Evangelical Christians consider the rebirth Jesus talks about in this passage to be the religious conversion experience. When a Christian says they are born again, they mean they have been suddenly filled with the Holy Spirit and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior.

Explain that the next step after conversion is baptism, using these words or your own:

A baptism ceremony makes someone "born of water and the Spirit;" Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist to shed his former life and begin his ministry. Baptism is very important in many Christian churches, and essential to Evangelicals: A person who is not baptized is not saved. In some churches, no one can be baptized unless they first have changed inside; the conversion experience is first, followed by the physical transformation of baptism.

Remind youth that being born again is a defining experience for an Evangelical Christian. Point out that a transformation that happens in a moment is familiar to almost everybody-and that is essentially what a religious conversion experience is, at a very deep level. Invite youth to consider these events, large and small, which can seem like rebirth:

  • You expect to get a horrible grade and you do not.
  • Someone gives you a second chance.
  • You or someone you love lives through a terrible accident or disease.
  • Weather that has kept you indoors changes to comfortable, beautiful weather.
  • Your family settles in a new home, after losing everything.
  • After a devastating heartbreak, a day comes when you feel happiness again.

Ask participants to take a moment and remember a rebirth they have experienced. If you wish, prompt by sharing from your own experience.

Invite a few volunteers to share briefly. Ask if anything they have experienced comes close to the feeling they think someone might have when, with a sudden rush of joy, they feel the Spirit of God within them, and realize this means their eternal soul is saved and they will not have to suffer the torments of Hell.

Explain that most Christians believe humans are born sinful and damned, because we are the descendants of Adam and Eve, who disobeyed God by eating the apple in the Garden of Eden. Christians believe Jesus died for human sin and, by dying, created a portal through which humans could attain heaven and spend eternity with God. People cannot achieve salvation, unless they accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior and become baptized.

Remind youth that Unitarian Universalists do not believe in original sin. We believe everyone is born innocent, with a capacity for goodness and evil. A UU might have a bumper sticker that says "Born OK the first time." Ask participants to share their opinion and beliefs about original sin. Ask:

  • How might believing people are born in sin affect one's view of the world?
  • How might believing in original sin make being "born again" attractive?
  • If you believed in original sin, and you experienced being "born again" as a Christian, might you feel compelled to share your experiences with other people? How badly would you want others to join your faith? Why?