Most youth workers I know can deeply relate to the discouraging words found in Ezekiel 33.
“My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice… Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice…” Ezekiel 33:31–32
Apparently the frustrations we often face on youth nights haven’t changed much in thousands of years.
You want the Scripture to make a practical difference in the lives of your students. If it’s not, you’re wasting your breath.
So what do you do?
When I first began in youth ministry I learned a simple framework that has shaped my responsibilities as a BIble teacher ever since.
Get their attention.
When kids show up, their heads are all in different places.
One of them argued with their mom in the car the whole way over.
One of them just found out they didn’t make the team.
One of them just got dumped by her boyfriend.
One of them is only here at all because of the crush he has on the cute girl across the room.
One of them has started exploring Buddhism as an alternative way to find peace.
One of them is only here because she got grounded for two weeks and this and school are the only places she is allowed to be other than her room.
One of them forgot to take their meds this morning and is vibrating with anxiety.
The purpose of the “attention-getting“ phase of your teaching is to let kids know that you are going to be answering a question they are asking… scratching them where they are itching… about to point them in a direction that will improve their lives.
You are setting them up for the “So what, now what“ right from the beginning! You are starting by setting the stage for application.
Get them into the Word.
Obviously, if students are not having a direct interaction with the Bible, it can have no impact on the way they live their lives.
Find creative, engaging ways to let them
Make sure your teaching methods are active and participatory. Always remember that you have multiple learning styles represented in your group.
Ask good questions. Allow students to discuss the passage.
Trust God‘s word to be the living, active, nourishing, transforming, powerful, exposing, life-giving truth it claims to be.
Get it into their lives.
Here’s where every encounter with biblical truth must land.
How will God’s word change the attitudes, priorities, behaviors, relationships, choices, and patterns of our lives. Here’s where we must help students apply God‘s word to the practical realities of everyday living.
Think about the contexts in which students live their lives.
A part-time job.
Sports teams or artistic groups.
Help them think through how life would change in one or more of those arenas if they were to respond to and obey what they find in the Word.
Now let’s take it down one more level.
Paul reminds Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16 that the Bible is useful (practical and applicable) in some specific ways. He tells us that “All Scripture is God- breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”
As you prepare your biblical teaching ask yourself (and of course your students) some of these questions under each of these categories of biblical application.
1. Is this passage exposing me to new information that will change the way I live my life if it is true?
2. Have I developed a new level of understanding or insight that will change my experience of joy or freedom if I choose to live by it?
3. What does this passage teach me about the nature of God that will change my understanding of who he is and the quality of my relationship with him?
4. What personally or relationally destructive pattern is this passage exposing in my life that I must pay attention to?
5. How are my current lifestyle and behavioral choices misaligned with God’s plan or purpose for my life?
6. What am I being asked to turn from and turn to in repentance?
7. What are some behaviors I need to stop or relationships I need to terminate (or redefine) if I want to experience God’s best for me?
8. What are some immediate steps I could take to realign my life with God‘s plan and purpose?
9. What are some changes I could make to my attitude, priorities or behaviors that would result in better relationships and healthier emotions?
10. I realize that my life is heading down the wrong path. What does God’s word tell me I need to do to get on the right path?
Training in Righteousness
11. If I want the overall rhythms of my life to reflect God’s character what are some new patterns I can put in place that will have a long-term positive effect?
12. What are some disciplines I could put in place and turn into habits of the heart that would create a life defined by righteousness?
13. As I observe some of the characters in biblical stories, what can I learn from observing their successes and failures when it comes to long-term growth in my spiritual life?
And by the way… let’s be very careful not to ask our students to apply truth that hasn’t been applied in our own lives.
There is nothing that feels more disingenuous than trafficking in unapplied truth.
Let’s always make sure we have allowed the penetrating exposing sword of God’s word to uncover our own hearts and bring about change, before we preach it to others.
The “mirror analogy“ that James uses is a great place for us to conclude this discussion.
Imagine looking into a mirror and seeing a bright green string of broccoli stuck in your front teeth, a dribble of ketchup running down your chin, and that crusty thing that happens in the corner of your eye – and walking away without doing anything about it.
Of course not!
“Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.(James 1:23-25)
Let’s make sure that God’s word is making a practical and immediate difference in our lives and in the lives of the students we are privileged to teach.
Do you find it difficult to help teenagers make Scripture a priority in their own lives? How can you inspire them to make daily Bible reading a routine? And once they are reading, how should you guide them to process what they are reading?
Access on-demand replay of the webinar to get those questions answered! You’ll also find a link to the 10 minute video curriculum that will teach you, your volunteer team, and your students how to do an inductive study of any Scripture at the end of the webinar.
Interested in exploring your faith more and understanding the background and inspiration of the Bible, its history and composition, the overarching themes and message?
Rocky Mountain College is offering a FREE university level course where you’ll explore all 66 books of the Bible and understand the context in and the purpose for which they were written. You will also gain an understanding of how the various types of literary forms in which the Bible was written can legitimately be interpreted so you can better understand the message of all parts of the Bible.
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