Friends Study Guide: Encouraging Each Other

Friends Study Guide: Encouraging Each Other

by John Townsend, Dee Eastman


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In this four-session video-based Bible study (DVD/digital video sold separately), The Daniel Plan team explores both the spiritual and the health benefits of following a healthy lifestyle by focusing on the fifth and final essential of The Daniel Plan: Friends.

Sessions include:

  1. The Power to Transform
  2. Honesty: The Real Deal
  3. Moving through Grief and Loss
  4. God's Purpose for Living

Each session will highlight testimony from those who have incorporated The Daniel Plan into their everyday lifestyle, plus tips on getting started and medically based information on maintaining a healthy lifestyle by following The Daniel Plan. Each of the other DVD/Study guides will focus on another essential: Faith, Food, Fitness, and Focus.

Designed for use with the Friends Video Study (sold separately).

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310823483
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 08/04/2015
Series: The Daniel Plan Essentials Series Series
Pages: 112
Product dimensions: 7.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Dr. John Townsend is a nationally-known leadership consultant, psychologist, and New York Times bestselling author. John is the founder of the Townsend Institute for Leadership and Counseling, and the Townsend Leadership Program, which is a nationwide system of leadership training groups. He developed the online digital platform Townsend NOW, and the online assessment tool TPRAT. Dr. Townsend travels extensively for corporate consulting, speaking, and helping develop leaders, their teams and their families. He and his wife, Barbi, live in Newport Beach, California, and have two sons, Ricky and Benny. Visit Dr

Dee Eastman is the co-director of the women’s Bible study at Saddleback Church called “The Journey.”

Read an Excerpt

Friends Study Guide

Encouraging Each Other

By John Townsend, Dee Eastman


Copyright © 2015 The Daniel Plan
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-310-82348-3


The power to Transform

Have you ever started a diet or exercise plan but then ran out of willpower after a few months? This story is all too common. The truth is, we aren't designed to change by willpower alone. God created us to live in relationship with others, and his power to transform often comes to us through other people. That's why friends are the secret superfood of The Daniel Plan. We need people in our lives who will offer us essential nutrients like support and feedback.

In this study on Friends, we'll learn about the kinds of relationships that support lasting change. We'll begin in this session by looking at the first fundamental ingredient in a healthy relationship: the freedom to be vulnerable.


If this is your first time meeting together as a group, take a moment to introduce yourself.

Also, pass around a sheet of paper on which each person can write his or her name, address, phone number, and email address. Ask for a volunteer to type up the list and email it to everyone else this week.

Finally, you'll need some simple group guidelines that outline values and expectations. See the sample in the Appendix and make sure that everyone agrees with and understands those expectations.

When you're finished with these introductory activities, give everyone a chance to respond to this icebreaker question:

» Share about a time when a friend helped you accomplish a task or reach a goal. What happened? What did he or she do to help? How did the experience affect your friendship?



Play the video segment for Session 1. As you watch, use the outline provided to follow along or to take additional notes on anything that stands out to you.

» Friends are essential because:

• Real friends go deep with each other by offering grace and truth.

• People with real friends live longer.

• God created us as relational beings.

» The grace of God often comes to us through the body of Christ — his people.

» Real friends give us nutrients like eye contact, listening, support, validation, comfort, enthusiasm, identification with pain, wisdom, and feedback.

» We need to be intentional in choosing our friends. We need to identify those people who have the character qualities that will make us better people. We need people who will give to us and who will let us give to them.

» We need to be vulnerable to friends, not just to God and our spouse. We need to open up about our weakness (brokenness) and need (for care and support).

» Shame makes us fear being vulnerable, but vulnerability should become our new normal.

» To find out if someone deserves to be trusted as a real friend, we can say, "Sometimes I struggle with _______________." They will either:

• Change the subject.

• Give advice.

• Move toward us by giving eye contact and saying, "Tell me more" and "Me too."

» Community helps us change by creating new norms. Every community creates norms. If the people we surround ourselves with don't want to be real or change, we'll norm there. If they do want to be real and change, we'll norm there.


Discuss what you learned from the video. Don't feel obliged to answer every question. Select those that most resonate with your group.

(1) A norm is a way of doing something that is common or expected. It's what feels normal. How have the people in your life — both in the past and in the present — created the norms of the way you ...

» eat?

» exercise?

» conduct your spiritual life?

(2) Norms grow when we follow someone's example. What norms would you like your friends to have with regard to ...

» eating?

» exercise?

» relating to God?

» relating to others?

(3) When someone shares a weakness or a need, why is it more helpful to say, "Tell me more" than to give advice? How are these two responses different?

(4) Why, according to Scriptures such as John 13:34 and Galatians 6:2, do we need to open up to our friends about our needs and weaknesses?

"Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."

John 13:34

"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."

Galatians 6:2

(5) How can we support a friend who chooses to be vulnerable to us? How might we better live out the words of the following New Testament passage?

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."

1 Thessalonians

(6) What is one of your areas of weakness or need? Or what is one area you'd like support in?

(7) Give each person a chance to complete one or more of the following sentences. As each person responds, use the twopage chart that follows to write down how you can be a good friend to that person.

» I feel more comfortable opening up to people when ...

» I tend to withdraw or feel anxious when ...

» The main thing I'm hoping to get out of this discussion of Friends is ...

» You can help me lead a healthier life by ...

What I Wantto Remember

Complete this activity on your own.

» Briefly review the video outline and any notes you took. Review also any notes from the discussion.

» In the space below, write down the most significant thing you gained from this session — from the video or the discussion. You can share it with the group if you wish.


Now that you've talked about some great ideas, let's get practical — and put what you're learning into action. The Daniel Plan centers around five essential areas of health. In this study you're exploring Friends, so you can begin by identifying one or two steps you can take to deepen your relationships. Then check out the Food Tip of the Week and the Fitness Move of the Week for some fresh ideas to enrich your journey toward health in those areas. There are also many tips and tools on the website so you can keep growing in all of the Essentials while doing this study. Use or adapt whatever is helpful to you!


Next Steps

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds."

Hebrews 10:24

Here are a few suggested activities to help you move forward into deeper friendships. Check one or two boxes next to the options you'd like to try — choose what works for you.

[] Plan a meal with your group, as described in the Food Tip of the Week. It could be a soup and salad bar, a taco night, a pizza night, or a potluck. The Daniel Plan Cookbook has recipes for healthy pizza crust, as well as ideas for healthy toppings. It also has recipes for fish tacos, chicken tacos, veggie tacos, and fajitas. The Daniel Plan book has recipes for salad dressing and black bean soup. Ask for a volunteer to plan and tell each person what to bring to the meal.

[] Find a buddy who will partner with you in getting healthy. This could be a friend to exercise with, a friend to shop with, or someone to check in with for encouragement. It might be someone in your small group. It might be a coworker — you could meet for lunch once a week to share healthy food, use your lunch hour to walk, or meet at the gym before or after work. It might be a neighbor, the parent of one of your children's classmates, or someone you know from your child's sports league.

[] Ask a friend to go for a hike, a bike ride, a workout, or a walk.

[] Find a friend you can trust to open up to about an area of weakness or need. Maybe you don't have any big problems in your life right now, but you could use someone who wants to know the real you. Maybe you have a need for support, validation, comfort, enthusiasm, identification with pain, wisdom, or feedback. Who do you know who might have the character qualities of a trustworthy friend? Remember, you don't have to share everything with them right away. All you have to do is initiate a time to take a walk or share a meal and then at some point mention, "Sometimes I struggle with _______________" or "When I think about getting healthier in my life, what I really need is ________________." Then see what they do with that information.

[] Have a conversation with your spouse, family members, or others you share meals with about eating healthier food. What are your hopes? Their hopes? Your concerns? Their concerns? If you've already been trying this for a while, what is working? What would you like to change? How does your spouse feel about it? Remember that eye contact, listening, and saying, "Tell me more" are vital parts of being a good friend to your spouse. Try to listen with an open heart more than you talk. When it's your turn to share, aim for vulnerability rather than control by saying things like, "I long for ______________," "I need _____________," and "I am struggling with ______________."

[] Send a text of thanks or appreciation to someone. It could be someone who is encouraging you to get healthier, or it could be someone who has supported you in some other way. Maybe it's someone in your small group.

[] Do you find it hard to be vulnerable with others? Read "If It's Hard for You to Be Vulnerable" in the Appendix. Spend some time reflecting on whether shame is a barrier for you in relationships. If it is, you may be embarrassed to talk with someone about it, but you need to break the habit of isolation. Identify someone in your group or your church who is likely to be a safe person to open up to. Try inviting them to join you for a meal, and when you get together, show an interest in the other person's life, but also decide to be honest about your response to this session's teaching on vulnerability. See if they show an interest in hearing more, and if they do, you can follow up.

Food Tipof the Week

The "secret sauce" of The Daniel Plan is not a recipe in the cookbook but the joy of sharing a meal — and our journey — with friends. Eating together lifts our spirits and gives us a sense of well-being. This week's tip will help you plan a healthy meal for a group. Just click the Food Tip of the Week on your video screen (3 minutes), scan the QR code, or go to

Fitness Moveof the Week

Does your gluteus maximus need a lift? Of course it does! Learn how by clicking the Fitness Move of the Week on your video screen (1 minute), use the QR code, or go to fitnessmove.


Because everything we do in our journey toward health depends on God's power, we end each meeting with prayer and encourage group members to pray for each other during the week.

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

1 Thessalonians 5:16–18

This week, offer a prayer of gratitude to God. Thank him for friends in your group and outside the group who support your efforts to be healthy. Let group members pray one- or two-sentence prayers of gratitude for friends.

Pray also for those in your group who shared an area of weakness or need. Ask God to strengthen them and surround them with his love, and ask him if there is anything you can do to support them. You can pray as simply as, "Lord, thank you for [Name]. Please give him/her __________."

Have someone close with this prayer:

Thank you, Lord, for this group and for all of our friends. We long to become people who love you with all our hearts and who love each other as you have loved us. We long to learn how to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Help us to become people who love more deeply, more genuinely. Give us the courage to open up to others and be vulnerable. Give us the patience and care for others that will make us good listeners. Make us people others can trust with their areas of need. Thank you for what you are doing in our group. I pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.


Excerpted from Friends Study Guide by John Townsend, Dee Eastman. Copyright © 2015 The Daniel Plan. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Welcome Letter 6

How to Use This Guide 7

Session 1 The Power to Transform 11

Session 2 Honesty: The Real Deal 29

Session 3 Moving through Grief and Loss 47

Session 4 God's Purpose for Living 63


If It's Hard for You to Be Vulnerable 81

Choosing Safe People 84

Group Guidelines 86

Leadership 101 88

Memory Verses 91

About the Contributors 93

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