What I Wish I Had Known When I First Started Teaching the Bible

In youth ministry, we have to be teaching students about the Bible. In Matthew 28, Jesus calls us to go out and make disciples and teach them. We have been called to the wonderful task of training up new disciples. However, it can be easy to become discouraged when we sense that teenagers only come to church to have fun with their friends or to play games. Though they may sometimes find rest in those things, we are also called to teach them how to read and understand the Bible. There are several things I wish I would have known when I first started in ministry about teaching the Bible to students.

I wish I had known to teach with enthusiasm.
I used to want to sit down to teach, read straight from my detailed notes, and talk quietly in a microphone to students. You probably could have guessed that this type of teaching didn’t last long in my ministry. If this type of teaching connects to your students, don’t change. For me, this type of teaching didn’t connect with my students and I wanted them to learn that the Bible can be fun.

From the moment that my students walk in the door, I hope they sense the enthusiasm that we have for Christ. I hope that they see that we passionately believe in engaging the Gospel in our everyday lives.

I hope that they see that following Christ isn’t always easy, but we can consider all of our struggles pure joy. Share with your students the passion that you and your volunteers have for Christ. Hopefully, they will take on some of your enthusiasm and choose for themselves to passionately follow Christ.

I wish I had known to use object lessons and real-life scenarios.
Most students in our ministries want more than games. They want tangible lessons that make the Bible come to life in front of their eyes. Many of our students want to connect with the Bible in a way that makes it more than just a holy book. We have the opportunity to teach students every week to see, hear, smell, taste, and feel the grace, love, and mercy that God has for the world. Spend time when you are developing your lessons asking how people would have truly experienced the Bible passage and share it with your students.

I wish I had known to give students the chance to respond in specific ways.
I haven’t always been bold enough to tell students what acting out a Biblical truth in their life could look like. However, it can be powerful for a student who is trying to learn what it means to follow a seemingly simple command like, honor your father and mother to have three practical ways to honor their parents throughout the week.

The passages that students won’t forget are the ones that they take to heart through their thoughts and actions. Engage your students with the Bible all week, not just when they sit in their chairs for youth group.

I wish I had known to give students space to ask the tough questions.
It is tempting as a youth leader to rush into small groups to ask students questions and to get students talking about the information that we want them to get from our lessons. Many times, students may be processing information in their own way and could have pressing questions about what is happening in a passage. Don’t be afraid to let the first question in your small group time ask about what the teens are thinking or what kinds of questions that they still have about the passage.

Sometimes, the best discipleship conversations can come out of the curiosity of the students and the things they deeply care about.

Most of all, I wish I had known that I didn’t have to try to teach the Bible alone.
If you have trouble teaching the Bible, don’t be afraid of collaboration. Don’t be afraid to use the curriculum that helps you most. Don’t be afraid to meet with other youth pastors to see what they are teaching. Don’t be afraid to craft lessons with other friends who may be leading youth groups. Youth leaders, we are in this together, we all want our students to learn the Bible and go on to be strong leaders of the faith. I used to be ashamed to ask for help but most recently I have found I am more creative when I collaborate and pray with others. Even Paul writes highly of those who supported him in the ministry. Don’t go it alone because you think that you have to.

However you teach the Bible, don’t forget to pray and have a personal devotional time of your own. If you don’t carve out time to spend with God, you will eventually find yourself burnt out and frustrated. Continue to learn in your own spiritual journey and lean into God when things get rough in ministry. Continue to allow God to teach you about the Bible even as you are teaching others.

Jen Willard