This article has been designed with two audiences in mind: (1) a teacher of youth students; and (2) parents of youth desiring to learn more about how youth learn. Reader, you have been given a mighty and high calling in helping to pass the Gospel message to the next generation. There is a youth in your realm of influence that is looking to you for answers to life and entrust you to be able to guide them through the transition from childhood to adulthood in a way that will prepare them to be valued adults that contribute to society.
With this in mind, in addition to keeping Scripture and the Gospel as the main focal point of this relationship, there are two factors that should established through the learning process: (1) know your stuff; and (2) keep their attention.
Know Your Stuff
When teaching the Bible to youth, be sure to “present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:14). Paul encourages Timothy in the very next verse to “avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene” (2 Timothy 2:15-16). This is extremely important in this formative season of a person’s life. It is the teacher’s responsibility to lead well: know the students, know what they need from their time with you, allow them to express their personalities without chasing rabbits away from the purpose of the gathering.
The student is going to be watching the teacher, not just as their teacher but as an individual. Are you currently living a life worthy of being followed? If not, what can you do or work on to make yourself a positive role model in the lives of your students? Gary Bredfeldt mentions in Creative Bible Teaching, “…a superior teaching style will never substitute for being the person you are teaching your students to be” (p. 262). One of the most influential ways you can influence the next generation is living as one striving to follow Christ in all areas of your life and sharing that intention and purpose with the youth within your area of influence.
Keep Their Attention
Keeping the attention of the youth can be quite the challenge. Like you, each of the students has been made in the image of God, and therefore possesses significant value. Each student has unique qualities and strengths within them that point to the infinite nature of our God. But that also means they will be different both in how they learn and what interests them. However, that does not mean you cannot identify a few thing to keep in mind as you attempt to teach one or more youth. The Gospel message must be central and the driving force of why a Christian gathering takes place. So how do you make sure the youth are learning that message as you teach it to them? Learn more about how they learn.
Youth learn: (1) experientially, (2) they prefer to connect with a lesson when they can identify the relevance of the topic to their life, and (3) tend to prefer to be active in the learning process.
Challenge yourself to learn new ways to transform the student with Gospel truth. Whatever your preference for teaching, and the preference for learning style of the student, make sure to use a variety of methods. Don’t be predictable! Keep the student excited to return and find out how they will learn and what they will learn next time!
If you have a position of influence over youth, encourage them to engage in small group Bible study. This will get them involved in learning the Bible, engaged with their peers, and hopefully learning from an adult that will carry a level of influence over their lives. Challenge them to become an expert on a particular topic and have them teach the class, or their peers about what they have learned.
Remember, we are not just training the next generation to learn the Gospel. We are training the next generation to be transformed by the renewing of their mind, that by testing they may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect, that they might make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that He has commanded.