Small Groups are the Win

People tend to remember people way more than they will ever remember presentations. If you were to ask me the things I remember the most in my short 30 year life, it would be the people who have loved me, cared for me, and taught me life lessons. The people who still do that to this day. This is the very reason biblical, healthy, small groups are so important in the life of the local church. Simply put, the win is in building healthy small groups that will reproduce. Why? Most the time this is the place people are known, come to Jesus, and are discipled. Can you experience life change in pews? Sure you can. Are you more likely to experience life change in a community of people who are loving and praying along side you? Absolutely.

No matter the size of the church people attend or are a member at, we still have the desire to feel connected. Even those who are unsure about where their relationship with God is and have no desire to be a part of a local church, have a desire to be connected. Typically this is centered around common interest, beliefs, or hobbies.

With this in mind, allow me to give you three reasons I believe small groups are the win within the context of the local church. On the front end we must remember that small groups must be within the context of the local church. Why is this so important? Because Jesus established the local church for a reason.

Biblical small groups are built on relationships; you are known, loved, and ministered too. The key here is COMMUNITY. Living in the digital age that we currently live in, it “seems” as if everyone is “connected” in some shape or form. This is really not the case. Just because people seem as if they are really busy texting all the time or updating a social media status, does not mean they have a group of people they are doing life with. God created us to be relational beings that speak with one another and live in community. It is the very reason God says in the second chapter of the Bible, “It is not good for the man to be alone…” (Genesis 2:18 HCSB). Think about it this way… when life throws you an excellent surprise (job promotion, your child excels in an area and is recognized, etc.) who are you going to tell first? Your closest friends and family. The people you do life with. When life throws you a curve ball and an unexpected hurt comes along, who are you going to pick up the phone and call? Your closest friends and family. The people you do life with. We can fight it all day long, put in under the label of “I’m an introvert,” but at the end of the day we thrive on relationships.

Biblical small groups are centered on the reading, studying, and applying of God’s Word. If the Word of God is not the center piece of the small group, then it is not a biblical small group. It is a social club. While it is very appropriate for small groups to fellowship with one another, we must center them on the Word of God. It is impossible to grow as a believer in Jesus Christ without the Word of God. Furthermore, it is impossible to know who Jesus is, His mission, and His purpose a part from the Word of God. The key here is not only Bible intake but also to know what to do with what you have read. This is where being in a small group is vital. People doing life together and growing in their faith together. I also believe that curriculum can greatly aid in this process. Curriculum helps guide conversation, keeps groups on track, and measures growth in the life of a believer. While some weeks it is appropriate to only discuss what is going on in life, we must remember that growth doesn’t typically occur in randomness. Start off your weekly time together discussing life, praying for and over one another, and then dive into God’s Word with the heart of, “…Speak, for Your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10 HCSB)

Biblical small groups create an atmosphere of accountability. Accountability is scary for most. This is the case because we have to do three things that are not easy. Ask hard questions, be truthful where we are at, and practice humility. However, accountability is where it is at. It is a must in terms of growth and leadership. If we are not honest with the people we are doing life with then we are cheating ourselves and really missing the point all together. The book of Proverbs speaks to this when it says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17 HCSB)  Remember the people who are keeping you accountable genuinely care for you or they would not be asking you hard questions. You may be the one asking the hard questions but you must also be sure you are the one answering questions as well.

Hopefully from this blog post you come to a deeper understanding of the importance of being in biblical small group within the context of the local church. This week, I received a phone call from someone asking me if I knew of a solid church in a certain city. Why were they asking? They knew a person that was really having a hard time and needed a small group of people to be the church to them. 

May we live in community together and live on mission together for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom.

 

 

Teaching Our Kids to Pray

Prayer, one of the most powerful aspects of the Christian life. It is an amazing thought that we have the opportunity to communicate with the God of the universe. The key is communication. Effective communication involves both talking and listening.

Almost a year ago, I received a new title. Dad. Let me tell you how awesome it is. Sure it has its ups and downs but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Recently, I also moved into a new role in church ministry. I’m now a Next Generation Pastor. This means I still work with students and families but I now also oversee the Preschool and Children’s Ministries. I LOVE family ministry. Sharing Jesus with mom and dad, their 8-year-old, and 14-year-old, excites me. It wakes me up and keeps me up.

This month our pastor has been doing a series on prayer. Prayer is one of those things I have always tried to teach on, model, and be a major part of any ministry I have been blessed to lead. With that being said, in my own life, I have experienced seasons in which frankly, it has been hard. Not so much because I didn’t know what to say or how to say it, but rather that I didn’t make it a priority. I got busy doing a lot of “Christian” things and I allowed my prayer life to slip.

So how do we teach our kids to pray? As a new dad and a pastor of almost seven years here are my thoughts…

1. We must first model it. In the Gospels, the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray (Luke 11). He not only gave them a model prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), He modeled it Himself (Mark 1:35, John 17). As parents and ministry leaders we have to do more than use the phrase, “I’m praying for you.” I have had many people send me text messages saying, “I’m praying for you today.” I have had very few of those people actually pray with me. Don’t hear me wrong, telling people you are praying for them is great. Send them that text message every time, it is definitely worth it. After you send that text message, take the next step, follow up. Maybe pray with them the following Sunday. The more times we do things like this, the more our kids will realize prayer is more than something we do before a meal.

2. We must teach the “why” before the “how” or “what.” There is great power in understanding why we do the things we do. Teaching our kids why we pray is no different. Have conversations like, “What does it mean to pray to God?” “What or who are somethings we should be praying for as a family?” “Son/Daughter, how can I be praying for you?” “Will you pray with me about this?”  Once families have a deeper understanding of the “why” it will make the “how” and the “what” much more significant. Why do we pray? We pray because we are Biblically commanded to but also because Jesus desires to have a relationship with us. Think about your best friend(s). I bet you don’t go very long without communicating with them either over the phone, email, or social media. Why do you do this? Because we value what they have to say. You desire to know and grow in your relationship with them.

3. We must make prayer more than a “wish list.” For many Christ followers, prayer becomes nothing more than a “what I can get out of it” outlet. “God bless me, take care of this need, and oh yes, thank you for this day.” Read Jesus’ prayers to the Father. Take a look at John 17.

John 17:1 (HCSB), “Jesus spoke these things, looked up to heaven, and said: Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son so that the Son may glorify You…”

This prayer was not about Jesus. It was about the glory of the Father. We must teach our kids that it is okay to ask God to bless us and take care of needs. However, our prayers and our Christmas gift list should not sound very similar.

There are two things I try to pray for often. First, are the lost people I’m in direct contact with. I pray that I would be a faithful example of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that they so desperately need. Second, is the nations. This includes the people groups where the spreading of the Gospel is limited and missionaries are in difficult settings.

Practical Advice for Praying as a Family Unit:

1. Prayer before a meal. Traditionally, if Christian influenced homes don’t do much praying at all they tend to bless their meals, even if it’s every once in a while. Next time you sit down as a family for a meal, go to the table 10 minutes early before you start eating your meal. Spend that 10 minutes praying as a family unit. Pray for each other.

2. Prayer for a missionary and/or church planter and their family. Place a picture of a missionary/church planter and their family somewhere visible in your home. Encourage each family member to pray for the missionary/church planter and their family once a week. Having a visual will be a great reminder. Pray for their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

3. Prayer for your circle of influence. Have each family member write down two people in their circle of influence (friends, teachers, pastors, coaches, etc.) that they can lift up in prayer. Allow each family member to voice these prayers aloud.

4. Parents, pray over your children. Mom and dads, don’t miss this. When your kids go to sleep, spend time with your spouse praying for your kids. Pray that they would fall in love with Jesus and love Him more than anything else. Pray that the decisions they make in life would honor and glorify God. Pray for their future spouse.

Connecting Church and Home

When I’m thinking about and praying over families I immediately think of Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Parents of kids and teenagers, if you have never dug into this text I encourage you too; read it, highlight it, tweet it, memorize it… live it. The words found in this passage speaks to loving God first and foremost and then how we live this out with our kids in everyday life. Historically, this was written to the Israelites. God wanted them to “bear witness to the truth that God is the only true God. They were to love Him supremely and keep His Word. The commandments of the LORD were to be taught diligently to their children.”  (*Reference: Believer’s Bible Commentary by William MacDonald)

Here are some thoughts I have when reading this passage…

1. It’s ultimately a Lordship issue. (Verses 4-6)
What do you love more than anything? If we are loving the Lord with everything we are, our kids will see this. If someone were to ask our kids, “What is the most important to thing to mom and dad…” how would they respond? Even if our kids are far from Jesus, love Christ supremely and allow the Holy Spirit to work on their heart. In this passage, we see a very important reminder that it begins with our personal relationship with Jesus. Are we growing in this or is this the first thing to go in the business of life?

2. Spiritual conversations in the home should come naturally not forced. (Verse 7)
Do spiritual conversations seem “awkward” in your household? When we are taking our kids to baseball practice, a dance recital, or piano lessons, why not talk about the pastor’s sermon from the previous Sunday? The key here is to look for teachable moments. They will come “when you walk by the way.” What do we do with these moments? If the only time we pray with our kids is at meal time, we probably aren’t loving Christ first and foremost. This is much easier to type than to live but my prayer is that we, as parents, have consistent communication about faith in our homes.

3. Our outward expressions should be a direct reflection of the heart. (Verses 8-9)
Did you notice that verses 8-9 came after verses 4-7? Here is what I’m getting at… the Bible verse hanging up in your bedroom should be one of the results of loving Christ supremely. We have it out-of-order when we hang up the Bible verse because “we always have” or “because it looks nice” then we think and reflect on our relationship with Jesus. I’m not bashing hanging up Bible verses in our homes or drinking out of a coffee mug with a Bible verse on it… I just wonder if we have ever taken the time to read the entire chapter of Scripture that particular verse is found in? People, our kids, our neighbors, will know what is most important to us. They won’t have to look very long or hard to “find it.”

Again, I know these things are hard to live out at times. Life can be tough and beat us up at times. Continue in your personal pursuit of Jesus. He knows our heart and where we are most passionate. If you are a parent and are reading this, know I’m praying for you.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (ESV), “{4} Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. {5} You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. {6} And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. {7} You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. {8} You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. {9} You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Write it Down

Twenty-four hours would seem like a long time if you were to sit still for that entire time period. In our fast-paced, quick fix, want it now culture, twenty-four hours goes by fairly quickly for most. We always seem to not get something done in the day we were hoping to get done. Sometimes, even if we do get the project finished we were really wanting to finish that day, we half way do it and then quickly move on. I have always been a firm believer in whatever is the most important to you is what you will spend the most time invested in.

There are multiple things I use everyday of my life. If you were to ask my closest friends they would probably tell you I couldn’t go a day without my iPhone, iPad, or MacBook. With that said, there are three things that I need and especially use everyday of my life. What are they?…

My Bible. An ink pen. My journal.

A mentor friend of mine once asked me this question, “Do you keep a journal of what God is teaching you?” My immediate reaction was one of surprise mixed with a little confusion. Why would he ask this? To be honest the only time I had really written down what God had taught me was at summer youth camp when they gave me a quiet time guide for the week. The more I thought about this, the more I realized the importance of consistently practicing this discipline. For the Christ follower, it is through this you can take a look back and see where God has stretched you, grown you, and challenged you. Even in the hard times, it is awesome to look back and see how God clearly revealed Himself and worked in and through situations. Now, during my daily quiet time, I journal. Through the lenses of God’s Word, what do I write down?

1. Prayers. I write out personal prayers and people/situations I’m praying for. I also write out prayers based on the Scripture text I’m reading that particular day. If you have never written out prayers before, I strongly encourage you too… it is very powerful.

2. Life’s victories and struggles. This is a big one for me and where I’m brutally honest. I write down where I’m struggling to lead well or where I’m not fully trusting God. I write down things I’m worried about. I also write down where God has/is blessing and things are going well. When you write down life’s victories and struggles, one of the things you will you clearly see is where the flesh is at war with the Holy Spirit. It’s actually quite convicting.

3. Praises to and about God. This may sound fairly basic but it is so important to remember. I believe in different seasons of life God reveals different aspects about His character to us. Anytime you read Scripture it is always important to ask and answer this question, “What does this passage of Scripture teach me about God?” While personal application of Scripture is definitely necessary, I believe in first asking what the passage teaches us about God.

If you have never consistently kept a journal it will probably take some time to develop it as a habit, it did for me anyway. However, I strongly encourage you to write it down. Write down what God is teaching you and how He is shaping you. The key is to do this through the lens of God’s Word. If you put anything down, put down the journal not your Bible. This is and always has been where we clearly know God and His mission.

1 John 1:4 (NASB), “These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.”

Love or Obligation?

Why do we do the things we do? Is it because we feel like we have to do certain things? Is it because we feel like we would let someone down that we really looked up to or want to please if we didn’t? When I was in middle school I started to play the trumpet in the school band because my grandfather played the trumpet when he was a kid. I played trumpet because I wanted to, not because I had too. I played baseball from the time I could throw a baseball all the way through high school because I really like the game of baseball. My other grandfather played college baseball, all my brothers played baseball, and like most my friends, even had a favorite major league baseball player. I follow the game of baseball because I have a passion for it.

As Christ followers why do we do the things that we do? Think about the last time you went to church. Did you go because you felt like you had to or because you wanted to experience Christ with a body of believers? Do we read the Bible to get to know the nature and character of God or because we feel like we have to because that is just what Christians are supposed to do? Do we pray at meal time, around the table with our kids, because it’s what we have always done growing up or because we know God listens to the prayers of the righteous?

For years now I have wrestled with why Christians do the things that we do. At times I ask myself some of these same questions. It’s so easy to get into routines and lose the heartbeat behind the mission of it all. Jesus commanded believers to make His name famous and to make disciples of all nations. My prayer is that we obey the commands of Jesus because we love Him, not because we feel like we have too or Jesus will be mad at us. I have to admit this is much easier said than done. Life gets busy, work can be overwhelming at times, and 24 hours seems to little for all we have to do in a day. In the midst of all this is the why and how behind the what. I believe we tend to focus on the what more and God focuses on the why and how. We look more at the external and God looks more at the heart. Jesus said in Matthew 6:21 (HCSB), “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

As a Christ follower, what drives us is the power of the Gospel that transforms lives. This is the difference in love and obligation. Love comes from a heart of desire and passion. Obligation comes from a heart of rules and regulations.

When we love Christ, His bride, and His mission…

1. We desire to know God more each and every day through His Word.

2. Serving others flows naturally from the heart.

3. We pray for others more than ourselves.

4. Leaders are equipped and resourced to make a difference.

 

When we have the tendency to feel “obligated”…

1. We “find” our Bibles only on Sundays.

2. We think of our own needs first.

3. For the most part, we pray selfishly.

4. We think more internally instead of externally.

 

My prayer is that we as the local church will grow in our love for Christ and His mission.

 

Life is a Journey

Life is a journey. In this journey we call life, there are ups and downs, mountain top experiences and valleys.  While we may never know “why” things happen the way they do, what doesn’t change is Jesus and His mission. Jesus is exactly who He said He is and we, as Christ followers, build our lives  on this foundational truth. In this journey we call life there are three things that I’m constantly reminding myself of, whether we are in a good season or a tough season.

1. God is sovereign and in complete control. No matter the circumstances, we must allow God to be God and not us. If things are going well, we can have the tendency to become prideful and think higher of ourselves than we ought too. If things are not going well we tend to get angry and play the blame game. Underneath it all, our natural sinful hearts love control. We want to know every little detail when it happens and how its going to happen. This is God’s job not mans. God is sovereign not man. God is holy, righteous, and pure, not man. Our pursuit should be one of Proverbs 3:5-6. We must trust in Him and not lean on our own understanding.

2. Find confidence and assurance in the fact you were created in the very image of God. Situations can change, life can change, and we can be left with many unanswered questions. What will never change for Christ followers is who we are in Christ. In the first chapter of the Bible (Genesis 1:27) we find a very powerful truth: we were created in the very image of God. We were created to display the image of God and reflect His glory. While your earthly circumstances may change, if you are in Christ, your ultimate perspective will never change.

3. Read the Word of God now, more than ever. In the Word of God we find absolute truth. We find out exactly who Jesus is and how He dealt with praise from man and hardships from man. We see how He talked with people, ministered to people, and helped people see Him and His mission. I love the Word of God because every time I read it, it speaks to me. When reading God’s Word you will be convicted of sin, charged with a mission that is greater than you, and you will see the deep, deep love Jesus has for you. Whatever season of life you are in, read the Word of God now, more than ever. If you have never really read the Word of God on any consistent basis, start with the book of Mark. This is the shortest account we have of the life of Jesus and this Gospel was written to show Jesus as the Son of Man, the Suffering Servant. Next, take whatever day of the week it is and read the congruent Proverb. For example if its May 16th, read Proverbs 16.

The Greatest Life Decision… The most important decision you can make in this journey we call life is to accept Jesus Christ as your personal LORD and Savior. Through His death and resurrection we can have eternal life. The Bible teaches us in Romans 10:9 (HCSB), “If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  The Gospel in four short statements is God Loves – Sin Separates – Jesus Saves – We Receive. Accepting Jesus as your LORD and Savior is the greatest decision you will ever make. Allow Jesus and His message to transform you.

 

 

What College Football Teaches Us About People (And Ministry Implications)

I love college football. The atmosphere, the hype, the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat, it’s all incredible. My ESPN app and I have a pretty good relationship from August to January. It causes you to be happy when things are going well or a bear to be around when things don’t turn out how you had hoped they would. There are always surprises in the season and it usually never ends the way you thought it would. I love the student section of stadiums full of college students with their faces painted. I love the marching band playing the fight song as their team comes running out of the tunnel. I love it.

I also love the local church. It never gets old seeing people come to a saving faith only found in Jesus Christ. My heart is full when worshiping along side passionate followers of Jesus. I rejoice seeing one minister to a family in need in the name of Jesus. It makes my day seeing someone give their life to Jesus and then publicly sharing their decision through believer’s baptism.

In both of these “arenas” I love seeing the next generation lead out.

Here is the all too often sad reality… people are way more passionate about things that won’t last or that don’t have any eternal significance. I believe we can learn a lot about people from observing the college football environment. Some of the same fans that are screaming for their team to go for it on 4th and 1… come in our doors Sunday morning for church. They lead small group bible studies, hold babies in the nursery, volunteer in student ministry, or serve as deacons. Therefore this leads me to this conclusion: It’s not a lack of passion its a lack of priority.

Allow me to explain…

1. People are full of passion.

Ministry Implication: People are full of passion; we must capitalize on this. If people are passionate about their team scoring a touchdown then they can be just as passionate about making the name of Jesus famous. What makes people passionate? I believe it’s the idea that they are a part of something bigger than themselves. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is 100% true and 100% bigger than anything we could ever do on our own. Jesus is that amazing. Jesus and His message are worth it.

2. People love community.

Ministry Implication: If people can gather around a common goal outside the walls of the church then why can’t they do the same within the walls of the church. Then, as a community of believers, make a difference in the world. Scripture teaches us where two or more are gathered He, Jesus, will be there also. He will be their to lead, guide, and direct us. He is the focus every single time we gather. Whether its gathering to worship or gathering in small group bible study, people love community.

3. People will spend time, energy, and resources on what they love.

Ministry Implication: More times than not, the issue is not money or time, it’s priority. Here is what I have learned about people since I have been on staff at a church, people will always make the time for what means the most. I even see this within leadership. I asked a pastor one time what his response would be if I told him, “I don’t have time for ‘that’ right now.” He responded with, “That tells me ‘it’ is not important to you.” Whatever we are most passionate about, we will run the hardest after.

4. People have the potential to be committed to something long-term.

Ministry Implication: Someone once told me, “The only thing this generation is committed to is being uncommitted.” While I understand the thought here and there is probably a lot of truth in this statement, I don’t fully agree. I, again, think they are just selectively committed on what really matters the most to them. A true, born and bred, devoted college football follower stays committed to their team no matter what. They just don’t show up on Saturday, they talk about it during the week and usually with others.

The bottom line…

I love the passion in college football fans. Again, I’m one of them. I love the fact that they put their all into it. What bothers me is when the same people who are “Christ followers” are too tired to go to church the next day. They say they don’t have the time to serve a family in need. After all… whatever we are most passionate about, we will run the hardest after.

Acts 20:24 (HCSB), “But I count my life of no value to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.”

Dear Christ Following College Student…

Dear Christ Following College Student,

I want you to know that as your brother in Christ I’m praying for you. The season of life you’re in right now is so crucial to the upcoming years of your life. It probably seems that every time you turn the corner there is another decision to be made. It probably also seems there is another temptation knocking at your door. Remember, as a Christ follower the Holy Spirit resides in you. Don’t lose sight of this, lean on this, and fully embrace this. He, being fully God, resides in you to bring about conviction, discernment, and encouragement. He loves you.

You may be thinking right now, “I’m not sure what to do. This all seems like so much at once.” Rest easy in Proverbs 2:6 which teaches that wisdom comes from the LORD. He gives us understanding.  A wise person once told me that sometimes it’s what you don’t do that makes the difference. Share your faith with that classmate that you know is lost. Be the vessel Christ created you to be.

As a college pastor I hear stories from lots of university students. Some of them make me laugh, some of them break my heart. In this season of life it’s so important that you find time to be in the Word every day. Maybe this is a struggle for you with everything else going on right now. In Scripture you find the God that created you and what He is like. You will find exactly who He is and how He dealt with situations and people. You will find how He resisted temptation. You will find stories of other Christ followers. Some that made great decisions and some that made poor decisions. So much clarity can come from these times in the Word. Please don’t replace intimate time with Jesus each and every day. When you are reading Scripture pray this simple prayer, “Speak LORD, your servant is listening.”

My desire is that you will earnestly pray through decisions and worship and serve with a local body of believers. You need to be a part of the local church now, more than ever. Christ instituted the church for a reason. Don’t only be a part of the local church, be the local church.

Remember, you’re not always going to “get it right” but keep on in your pursuit of holiness. Hebrews 13:5 teaches us that Jesus will never leave us or forsake us. I end this letter to you with the words of Proverbs 3:5-6 (HCSB), “{5} Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; {6} think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.”

Your Brother in Christ.

A Word for Graduated Seniors

Recently, high school seniors all over the nation graduated and began the journey towards life’s next step. Their name was called from a podium, they walked across a stage, accepted a diploma, and then smiled at their family and friends. For some this day could not come quick enough. For others, this day might have come to quickly with the unknown of what’s next leaving them a little uneasy. From a student minister’s perspective we pray along side parents, Sunday school teachers, and small group leaders, that the years spent in student ministry have made an eternal impact. We pray you have cultivated a love and hunger for the Word of God. We pray you have a strong desire to see lost souls come to know Christ. We pray you can clearly articulate why you believe what you believe.

Three passages of Scripture regularly come to mind when I pray for a senior class. Within these Scripture texts we see these key ideas: fixing our desires on Christ, the faithfulness of Christ, and the importance of faith.

Hebrews 12:2, “…keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the
right hand of God’s throne.”

Philippians 1:6, “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

2 Corinthians 5:7, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

To high school seniors who have just graduated… we want to see you do well. Not only in life but more importantly in faith. Continue to allow God to mold and shape you into the man or woman of God you can be but also should be. Don’t let this world have your heart- let the mission of Christ compel you to do great things for the Kingdom. Study/work hard, laugh often, and remember the lessons you have learned over these past years. Most importantly, do everything for the glory of God.

*Scripture texts taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

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.