by Reed Swindle
“No thank you! ” (prefaced with laughter) “Oh, I used to do that but my kids are out of the youth group. I have served my time. Maybe you should get some of these parents of the younger kids involved. ” Or maybe you get “Between me and you, I just don’t like the middle school aged ones that much”.
Whatever the case, you may have a hard time finding teachers for the greatest youth group on the planet—yours! A person can also find themselves on the opposite extreme and feel they are the only ones that can handle this group that “I have built”. Either way, teaching teenagers is a complete honor and an extremely overlooked responsibility.
Set The Pace Early
Were you a teenager once? You remember the teachers you respected and it had something to do with their presence. When they walked in the room you could tell if they were ready and excited about teaching this topic. Be that way.
Spend a little time at the first of class teasing and goofing off. Try to recognize everyone in the room. Try to meet the visitors and pay special attention to the ones who brought them. They have stuck their neck out to bring someone into your class and they need for their friend to see them interact well with you.
Don’t allow the significance of the message you are presenting be overshadowed by misbehavior. Acknowledge as you go the ones causing disruption. Maybe you need a cell phone box at the door for when they walk in or a jail cell in the back for the ones you want to walk out. Either way, don’t allow the sowing to be tossed aside by the wind.
Teach For the Future
Our young people walk around in a post modern society and the religion they encounter through others is sprayed with emerging church concepts. Some will say with fist held high “these young people are not the church of tomorrow, they are the church of today! ”. In part, I agree; however, there is a reason they are not condoned by holy inspiration to be Elders or Deacons. We would not hand a pulpit or treasury book over to them. They are young, hard headed, immature people who, for the most part, respect what you are going to tell them. While that may sound negative, it is really a great situation in which to be a teacher. If you can prove it to them, they will believe it and defend it. While you do not have leaders of the church in your classroom, you do have potential leaders for the church sitting in front of you. Have that in mind.
As you prepare your classes make sure you are not only helping them understand what you are teaching but try to teach them something that will help them understand sermons for the rest of their lives. Spend time teaching on words like reconciliation, glorification and redemption. We have a responsibility to not only help them survive the halls of high school, but also to make our preachers make more sense to them. Our preachers are to be held in the highest respect for their complicated job of creating and delivering lessons that reach across the boundaries of culture, social class, marital situations, parenting problems and AGE. Everyone is aware of the “teach a man to fish” concept and it can be no more clearly exemplified than in our attempts to help our young people know enough to feast from the buffet our great preachers are serving.
Don’t Put Too Much Syrup on the Pancakes
Please do not underestimate their interest in scripture and what they need to know. The key, as in most things, falls on the balance you have. “Open Mic Night” discussions may get them talking and provide for some perceived strength because some of them had good answers or even a tear or two was shed. Just like in preaching, teaching about things relevant to their every day lives is crucial, our young people need to be encouraged by the fact that the church is the greatest team to be a part of, Jesus is the greatest friend a person can have, worship done correctly can make other things easier, men and woman have separate distinctive roles in the church and service does not out weigh or take the place of worship. When are our young people going to learn doctrinal issues unless you help them understand them?
What about their understanding of basic Bible narratives and people? Most of our young people, and probably a lot of our older ones, have a “VBS” understanding of Abraham, Noah, Moses and even Paul. Do they know there was no apple in the garden, David wasn’t 12 and Jonah was upset that God saved Ninevah? Teenagers are always fascinated when they discover something, especially if they always thought it was different.
Grow Without Overshadowing
I had prided myself for teaching on a “deeper level” to our teenagers. I was growing in my knowledge and enjoying studying the scriptures for myself and was eager to share my discoveries. One day in class as I was (ah hum hum) “educating these youguns”, and in my lesson, I said “Like Jesus said ‘let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and ______________’”. As I stood their in front of a group of talented, smart, witty, outgoing, loving teenagers, it occurred to me that they knew what a type / antitype relationship was but couldn’t finish this simple verse. I walked into my office on Monday, pulled out my color coordinated, 7 year rotating curriculum and placed it in a drawer. A healthy 3 quarters of “Verses Every Christian Should Know” followed. I grew but I had blocked the sun from the garden in my class. Do they know that doing all things “through Christ who strengthens me” has nothing to do with a football game? Are they aware that 2 or 3 gathering in Jesus name really isn’t talking about worship? Keep your personal studies moving forward, but keep in mind the revolving door of middle school and high school students in front of you.
The teenagers in your congregation need you to teach them the truth. The more they know about the Bible, the better they feel about their Christianity. A stronger faith leads to a lasting commitment to God. We are not trying to make ourselves look cool to them, we are trying to make God look amazing!
Reed Swindle serves as the youth minister for the Lewisville Church of Christ in Lewisville, TX. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.