Why Teenagers Can Make the Best Bible Teachers
4 Ways to Develop Teen Bible Teachers
I was struggling to help teenagers in my youth group dig into Scripture. I tried everything. Jokes. Skits. Stories. Lectures. Games. Prepackaged curriculum. For one lesson, I even tried creating a game using rubber chickens and finger rockets. Nothing worked.
Then one Sunday evening I began youth group as usual. I sat the kids in a circle and opened my Bible. But before reading the passage one teenage girl asked, “Hey Tim, would it be okay if I read the Bible tonight instead of you?”
She read the passage beautifully. And after that, conversation came easily. Then questions. Ideas. More conversation. More questions. Rabbit trails. That one simple request opened up the group and took us on an adventure, one that I could have never planned. I learned in that moment that I should have been including teens in the lesson all along, inviting them into as many stages of engaging Scripture as they were willing to join.
We can teach until we have sore throats and exhausted brains, but with some extra effort in preparation we can take a more effective approach and involve our teens in the process. One way to do this is to guide teens in how they can teach their peers God’s Word. We can ready them to study Scripture and present it well.
Here are some pointers to help you get started.
1. Affirm their gifts
I often hear teenagers say, “I’m not good enough,” or “I’m not smart enough.” I’ve realized that my leadership can either reinforce or disprove these beliefs. I can verbally affirm them, their abilities, and their callings. But I also need to give them opportunities to lead. I want to be great at telling kids they’re wonderful, and equally as great at giving them opportunities to show their greatness.
Before you ask teenagers to lead a Bible study, invest time in affirming them. Build their self-confidence by giving them your attention. Take them out for a latte and name specific things you’ve observed about their giftedness. The more specific you are, the more effective you will be. Once you’ve affirmed them, give them opportunities to serve. Invite them to pray before Bible study or lead singing. As they are given space to serve, they will begin proving to themselves that they are valuable and capable, and they will start seeing themselves as an important part of the group.
2. Teach them how to research
The teenagers in your group likely don’t know how to research biblical passages, historical contexts, or the underlying Greek or Hebrew words. As you prepare them to lead, set their expectations and begin to equip them with the skills they will need. This preparation is also a significant discipleship opportunity. You’re paving the road for lifelong Bible study.
One way to do this is by teaching students inductive Bible study methods. Have them practice close readings in their favorite Bible translation. Teach them to compare passages. Give them tools to do basic word studies. Point them to commentaries and online tools to find the historical contexts of passages. You will likely discover that teenagers in your group are already craving this knowledge, and by giving them these tools, you’re preparing them to make personal discoveries that they can then share with others.
3. Facilitate peer relationships
Give your students the chance to establish deeper relationships with their peers and learn to work together in ministry. Experiment with volunteer teaching teams so they can share the responsibilities. Assign a leader and specific duties to the team members. For example, you might have roles for research, presenting the information, and creating interactive presentation ideas. Depending on the group, you might allow your team members to choose their roles.
Once the groups have done their research and preparation, have them go through the lesson with you. Invite them to talk through their major points or present the lesson to you. Don’t miss this opportunity to affirm their abilities, probe deeper into their questions, and have fun together.
4. Unleash their creativity
Help your students engage their peers by having them think through their presentations. Have them ask questions like, “What can I use to capture people’s interest in this passage?” “Will people be able to follow my outline?” And, “What mood will the group need to be in to get my main point? What activities will help them get there?”
Ask them to think about the different learning styles they know. Challenge them to incorporate several into their teaching. Ask them if they want to create a handout about a word study or the outline of their presentation. Encourage your leaders to incorporate creative methods like drama, artwork, poetry, or rap.
Later, be sure to come back and debrief with them. Affirm their work, share what you learned yourself, and help them think through ways they can address areas for improvement.
Remember, you don’t have to teach the lesson every time, at every event. And when you empower teens to teach you’re preparing them for lifelong learning and service. You’re giving them the tools they need for effective personal Bible study. And most importantly, you are letting God speak through them. Just wait, you may learn something valuable.
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