“FREE TO WORK”
By Doug Ranck
BACKGROUND FOR THE LEADER
Colossians 3:23 says, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord
rather than for people.” (NLT) Paul encourages us to do our work excellently using the gifts, talents
and strength God has given us.
Work is a significant part of our lives. God considered the act of creating as work and rested on the
Sabbath. Before Adam and Eve gave into the temptation of sin God had assigned them the task of
caring for his creation. I can only imagine what work felt like in this perfect world. Work was not meant
to be drudgery or hard. It was supposed to be rewarding and a natural part of life.
When sin came, work became difficult. Sure, there are many who find great return for their labor but
no one would claim their job is perfect. We all have parts we would love to give away!
For millions around the world work is more than difficult. It is abusive and, in fact, it is slavery.
Workers in these situations are made to do tasks without meaning, dignity and little to no pay. The
problem is widespread. There are companies we support with our business who are sadly offering
unacceptable work environments for their employees, particularly out in the international sites.
This lesson is the fourth in a series of six lessons designed to help youth leaders/pastors all over the
world point youth to an understanding of their role as servants of God and followers of Christ to bring
freedom to the captive. Jesus proclaimed the words of Isaiah 61 when he said in Luke 4:18-19, ““The
Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent
me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set
free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” (NIV) We are called to do the same.
Today’s lesson focuses on the fourth step toward loving those who are or who have been or who
could be held captive. The fourth step is helping all of God’s children to find freedom in their work
through the supportive care of bosses, just pay and reasonable hours. We encourage this through our
purchases from businesses and companies who are giving their workers dignity in a healthy
As you prepare for this lesson spend time in prayer asking God how you can motivate yourself and
your group toward active participation in the principles supported by www.free2work.org. Pray for
wisdom in how this works for your youth, you and in your community.
Each of the six lessons is divided up into sections helping the leader to move students through a
sequence of engagement, reflection, learning and application. These sections are described below:
THE BIG IDEA describes the purpose of the lesson for the leader. For the leader this is one of the
most useful sections. Keeping this in mind during the course of the teaching event helps to keep the
focus of the group and allows flexibility. Translation: If you don’t like some of the ideas, try your
own but at least go for the main point!
MATERIALS YOU WILL NEED is a section simply describing what you will need to collect. Having your
things ready to go is good.
THE STARTING LINE is designed to get your group members interested in the topic or offer a way for
them to begin thinking about “The Big Idea.”
REFLECTION is a section created to help your youth not just do activities but think about the
significance and implications of the issues they have just uncovered. In our busy culture quiet and
reflection is becoming a lost art.
TRANSITION STATEMENTS are offered as an idea of what you might say to take students from one
part of the lesson to another. This benefits the flow and direction of the lesson.
INVESTIGATE is the section where you will guide students in opening their Bibles and encounter the
truths God has for them in any given passage. We want to let the scripture speak into the learner’s
life rather than coming in with a pre-conceived notion to be proven.
THE MEANING is where we practice “interpretation.” In this section your youth will have the
opportunity to look at the facts and more fully understand meaning for their lives today.
MAKING IT WORK is the portion giving youth the opportunity through case studies and other
activities to rehearse the application of a “real-life” principle.
THE BOTTOM LINE defines the time in which we make this lesson practical for real life. We want your
youth to leave with an “action point,” a strategy.
THE BIG IDEA
This lesson will explore the healthy definition of work, how we can create a healthy environment for
workers, how can we best prepare to work and what justice looks like in the workplace.
MATERIALS YOU WILL NEED
Open this lesson by dividing your group into “Design teams” of 3-4 people or whatever works for the
size of group you are leading. Encourage the teams to find a place where they can work well and
spend the next 10-15 minutes creating the perfect job from the perspective of an employee and with
just enough reality to actually be possible! Ask them to design a profile using the categories below:
WORK PLACE (where your job would be located, describe the place in as much detail as possible)
BOSS (describe the gender and character of your boss)
HOURS (tell how many you would be work . . . be realistic)
JOB DESCRIPTION (what would be your primary duties)
OTHER (add any other description to help us understand your dream job)
Follow this exercise with these questions designed to help the group begin considering the topic of
1) Why do people work?
2) When can work be fun? When can it be rewarding?
3) What makes work not fun? What makes it feel useless?
4) Describe one adult you know who loves their work. Why?
5) Describe one adult who dreads going to work or just doesn’t like it. Why?
Say something like, “The act of working is inevitable in the life of every person. As children our
parents begin teaching us about work as they assign us chores. Later on we may get a job in high
school to provide fun money and then maybe to save for college. If we graduate from a university we
may get a job for which we have prepared or maybe not. No matter what the setting, all of us will work
so we can live, eat and pay for the expenses of life. This lesson will explore the healthy definition of
work, how we can create a good environment for workers, how can we best prepare to work and what
justice looks like in the workplace.”
To begin looking at this topic have your group turn to the “Parable of the Workers” found in Matthew
20:1-16. Rather than have somebody just read this, recruit 7 people to help act out the passage as it
is being read. You will need a narrator to read, landowner, the foreman and one person each to
represent the workers hired at the 3rd hour, 6th hour, 9th hour and 11th hour. While the narrator is
enthusiastically reading the passage the others can pantomime the words. When the reading is
finished give your group about five minutes of “solo” time (working individually) to answer the
Describe the landowner
What were the workers doing when the landowner first found and hired them?
What was the happy part of this passage?
What was the problem in this passage?
What was Jesus’ answer?
Have the group come back together again and look at the meaning of this passage by asking the
1) If you were the worker hired first, how would you have felt at pay time?
2) If you were the worker hired last, how would you have felt at pay time?
3) Did the workers hired earlier in the day have any right to complain they were getting the same
wages as those hired later? Why or why not? (You may have some interesting discussion on
this but you can point your group back to the fact that the workers took the job, agreeing to the
wage they were offered.)
4) What does this passage teach us about God, the “landowner?”
5) What does it teach us about grace?
6) How might this principle apply in today’s work settings?
MAKING IT WORK
Make the transition to this section by saying something like, “It is God’s desire that all who work are
treated justly. Workers are to be hired by bosses and supervisors who have realistic expectations of
accomplishing the task and pay their workers a reasonable rate.”
Divide your group into smaller teams and tell them they are now the owners of a new company. Give
them 1 minute to come up with a name and then 1 minute to create their service or task. Time them
with these as it could easily take them much longer than you expect. After the name and task have
been created allow them 5-10 minutes and request they write down all the ways they could take good
care of their workers, including how many hours they will work per day, how many days per week,
breaks during the day, sick days, vacation days and other ways they will be cared for as a part of their
When the time is finished have the group come back together and give each team a short time to
present their work.
Begin this part of the lesson by saying something like, “Sadly there are millions of workers all over the
world who are treated unjustly. They are under-paid or not paid at all. They work long hours with no
hope of a day off or day to be sick or vacation days. What can we do to help? We will finish this
lesson by looking at a few ways we all can get involved.”
Remind your group there are over 30 million slaves in the world today and we want to do all we can to
be sure we are not supporting practices or companies keeping them in bondage.
If you access to a computer and can, in any way, display the below website, this will be helpful to the
If accessing the website is not possible during this session, print a few key pages to support the
Offer your group the following strategies toward doing their part to not support unfair work practices
around the world:
1) Go to the free2work.org website and read some of the blogs describing the relationship
between the products we buy and the treatment of workers.
2) If you have a “smart” phone, download the Free2work app and use it when you shop for food
3) On the website, click on the industry of your choice and do a brand comparison.
4) Support the industries with good grades and do not support those with bad grades.
5) Understand a boycott, only, of a product will be less effective if you are not also willing to write
a letter to the offending company explaining your reasons for not purchasing. These
companies all have websites and there are places where you can file a complaint or make
comments. Take action.
6) Educate your friends and family on the information you find on the website.
7) Pray for workers around the world who are being mistreated today.