Teaching Teenagers the Scriptures

One of my favorite aspects of ministry is teaching the Scriptures, especially to teenagers. I’m currently in my 6th year of experience in teaching students the Bible. I have loved every minute of it. I look back at some of my notes from the very beginning and they are rather comical. As a communicator I’m continuously growing. I have learned several things to do and things not to do. I’m still learning things to do and not to do. My hope and prayer is that this blog post will help those who find themselves teaching students the Bible on regular basis. Whether you are a student pastor who teaches on Wednesday nights or a small group leader preparing a Bible study lesson, I hope the following 7 ideas help. Side note: I use the phrase “talk” through out this blog post. This can refer to a sermon by a student pastor or a small group Bible study/Sunday school lesson given by a student ministry volunteer. 

1. Know your key text(s) really well.

  • Put your main passage of Scripture in context; in order to do this read the verses before and after your main passage.
  • Read your main passage and subtext(s) completely through at least 3 times before you communicate it.
  • If applicable, identify the key characters in your main passage and what they are going through or what God is teaching them. Draw applications from this.
  • Write down any questions or confusing parts that the passage of Scripture may raise with you. Then seek commentaries or other helps in identifying answers to these questions. Chances are if you as the communicator have questions so will the students you teach.

2. Create one big idea and build your entire talk around it.

  • Students have a hard time remembering “seven keys to…” or “four ideas about…”  However, if you create one big idea for your talk, students are far more likely to remember it.
  • Make your big idea short but deep/thought-provoking at the same time. Remember to reiterate your big idea several times in your talk.
  • Build your entire outline off of your big idea.

3. Have lots application but don’t make your entire talk application.

  • Too many people who teach students the Bible do this: they start off with reading a passage of Scripture and then they jump straight to what to do and not to do in life. I have found that, more times than not, these talks are very shallow in content and have a moral “do and don’t” feel to them.
  • With that being said, students do need tangible life lessons based off of Scripture to take with them.
  • Application will help students answer this question: “How do I live this passage of Scripture out in my everyday life?”

4. Use contemporary stories and illustrations. 

  • Students (and adults for that matter) are saturated with different worldviews, concepts, and messages from our world today. From the music they download, to the movies they watch, to the revolution of social media, the world’s “messages” surround them. Students need to know what the Bible says about these “ideas.”  
  • I’m not saying you have to listen to all the top 40 songs but by using contemporary illustrations this give students an easy avenue to connect with you.

5. When appropriate, give students resources to take with them. 

  • More times than not students will forget many things they hear. If you don’t believe me talk to a parent of a teenager.
  • Examples of resources: Outlines; notes with fill in the blanks; small cards with key applications or verses on it. These are examples of things I have used in past.
  • The point of these resources is to give students something to refer to later.
  • Don’t overkill these aspects but I do encourage you to use them.

6. Be authentic.

  • Students desperately need this. Students need loving, caring adults and leaders who will be real with them. They need to see communicators who have victories and struggles in their own life.
  • If students don’t read a person as authentic, there is a high possibility they will tune everything they are communicating out.

7. Point everything to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • The Gospel changes lives. Not human intelligence or philosophy, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • At some point in your talk identity how what your teaching points to the Gospel message.
  • Remember there is a great chance that every time you open the Scriptures with students, lost students are listening.