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KurtJohnston

Kurt Johnston has been a youth pastor since 1988 and currently leads the student ministries team at Saddleback Church in Southern California. Widely regarded as one of the most trusted voices in youth ministry, Kurt loves to encourage other youth workers and has written and created over 50 books and resources with that goal in mind. In his free time, Kurt enjoys surfing and riding dirt bikes in the desert with his wife and two children.

If you are like most youth workers, you probably find yourself in some sort of teaching environment once or twice a week! Let that settle in for a second; a couple of times a week you are responsible for creating learning environments in which the members of your youth group are exposed to, and wrestle through, some of life’s most crucial topics. No pressure there; none at all.

This month, I’m going to dedicate my Wednesday articles to the art of teaching/communicating to/creating learning environments for teenagers.

The most important thing to consider is that it’s not about you; that lessons are for the learners!

So…

  • Consider creating a list of things your students WANT to learn and things they NEED to learn.
  • Avoid, at all costs, the temptation to speak to your youth group about “What God’s been teaching me lately.” Chances are high that what God’s been teaching you has very little in common with what he wants to teach 14-year-olds.
  • Don’t use lessons as an opportunity to prove how smart you are. Or how spiritual you are. Or how much you know about Mosaic law.
  • Spend most of your early prep time asking yourself, “What do my students want/need to learn?”  instead of “What do I want to say to them?”
  • Keep is short. In 25 years of youth ministry, I’ve never heard a student say, “That lesson was too short…can you please make it way longer next time?”
  • Be a constant student of youth culture and current events that they care about. If talking about conflict, an illustration about Selena Gomez and Taylor Swift may work better than one about Russia and Ukraine.
  • I know you’re tired of teaching “Friendship 101,” “How to Get Along With Your Parents,” and “Basics of the Faith” once a year. But it isn’t about you. Your students need those lessons, and they probably need them quite often.
  • Students like to laugh. So don’t take yourself too seriously. Sprinkle some fun into the lesson. Smile.
  • Students like interaction and active learning. Object lessons, role-playing, and active learning may not come naturally to you, but your audience loves that stuff.

Creating learning environments for teenagers is tough stuff…wimps need not apply! But if you’ll make it a point to make students the point of your lessons, I think you’ll be off to a great start!

Kurt

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