In many ways, the most important foundation has been left to last. If we truly want to see our youth groups growing, then we cannot afford to overlook the essential place that the Bible has in our youth group meetings. Whether we are running a Christian discipleship group, or more of an outreach group, appropriate use of Scripture will make the difference between having a group that is growing spiritually and a group that is purely social.
Many churches get over anxious about what unchurched young people might feel about Christians. So we worry about whether anyone would come to an event hosted inside the church or church hall, we bend over backwards to not upset or offend, and we make sure that any ‘God slot’ is done as quickly and painlessly as possible, to avoid losing the ‘fun’ of the evening.
I don’t know about you, but I think it’s time for a change.
My experience has taught me that actually it is genuine relationship which makes the difference and so if the young people get on well with the leaders then they will be totally up for finding out a bit more about our faith. We need to make sure that we are not embarrassed to tell them.
The word of God is as relevant to today’s generation as it was two thousand years ago. We need to make sure that we help young people apply it to their lives and to learn how to interpret it correctly. Here are five points to make sure you don’t compromise your teaching:
1. Let the Bible teach It surprises me how often in a youth group ‘bible’ discussion it is more about sharing our own thoughts and ideas, rather than actually looking at what the Bible tells us. Let’s use the Word to teach us and to inspire and shape our thinking and to challenge the group where necessary. A good approach to a discussion would be to get people’s initial ideas, then look at what the Bible teaches, and then to return to the initial thoughts and to discuss how what the Bible says impacts those original ideas.
2. Don’t force feed If a group are not used to reading the Bible, it is unwise to start with whole chapters. Just like feeding a baby, if you give too much the baby will sick it all up, if we force feed too much Scripture too quickly, they will repulse from it and not learn anything. It is better to teach a couple of verses, which have a great impact and understanding, than to do a whole chapter sometimes. The purpose is for transformation to take place, not to tick off another Bible book read in our youth group meeting.
3. Let God speak We’ve all sat in Bible study meetings where the leader has asked leading questions, or asked questions which make the study feel more like an English comprehension from school rather than a life-changing discussion. Part of what we are doing when we are leading Bible studies is to teach the young people how to read the Bible for themselves. So open questions such as ‘what does this passage teach you about God’s character?’ or ‘what do you learn from this passage which you didn’t know before?’ might be more useful and more revealing to ask.
4. Memorising Scripture It’s out of fashion these days but I think there is a lot to be said for the old art of Scripture memorising. When Jesus was tempted in the desert, he resisted by quoting Scripture he had memorised. Ephesians 6 tells us that we need to be armed with the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Are we in danger of disarming a generation of Christian believers?
5. Leaders loving it Finally, how much do you love engaging with the Bible? What is your regular quiet time like? I fear that many leaders don’t regularly feast on the Bible and so we have lost the passion for it. If this is the case, how can we communicate anything different? We need to get back to basics for ourselves and allow God to reveal himself to us through our own regular devotion and nourishment. Don’t leave it any longer, stop now and go read if you need to!
That rounds off a series of blog posts looking at some of the foundations which might be necessary to enable a youth group to grow, both numerically and spiritually. Of course, it’s not an exhaustive list but hopefully it does start to raise vital questions we need to be asking ourselves and those we lead with, as we reflect on the ministry to which God calls us to be a part of.
What’s your experience of teaching the Bible to young people? What do you find works best? What do you struggle with? What one tip would you pass on to other youth leaders? Please leave a comment below.