I recently crossed paths with a student who had moved away and was attending a new student ministry. I asked him how he liked his new youth pastor and he gave me an interesting answer. “I like him a lot but he’s not like you. He doesn’t make us KNOW the Bible.” I found that strange. What youth worker wouldn’t want you to know the Bible? He said, “You know, he doesn’t make us know where Scriptures are and make us look it up like you do.” My shock made it impossible to contain my next question, “You miss that?” “Well, yeah.”
You see, I have a policy that I spout every time I stand in front of a group of students to teach the Bible.
1) Everyone MUST have a Bible to do Bible study.
If you don’t have one, we will give you one right now. And then, I don’t start anything until everyone in the entire room has some form of a Bible in their hand. After a few weeks, the students either download a Bible app, start bringing a Bible (sometimes even the big dusty one they found on their parents’ bookshelf), or pick one up from our ministry stash on the way into the room. I don’t care if every verse I use is beautifully written out on my cool, moving-background PowerPoint, I want everyone in that room to have a tangible Bible in their hand. You see, I’m not so arrogant as to think that God can only use the verses I’m teaching to speak to these students. This may be the one time this week or this lifetime that this kid has a Bible in his hands and I want to give him every chance I can to feel the Spirit’s prompting through God’s powerful Word even if he’s choosing to read the Song of Solomon instead of listening to what I have to say. I know that God’s Word never returns void.
2) Everyone is allowed to challenge what I teach as long as it can be backed up with Scripture.
In the beginning, students are mostly annoyed with me stopping their well-thought-out opinion with the question, “And where can I find that in the Bible?” “Uh, it’s in there; I heard the preacher say it.” “You don’t know where? Then I don’t have to believe what you say is true. In Bible study, the Bible is the only truth.” A few of these confrontations and students start coming to Bible study armed for battle. They know that I am going to challenge everything they say, so they come ready to back up their opinions with Scripture. They search for discrepancies in what I’m teaching; they want to catch me taking something out of context; they follow their natural instinct to prove the grown-up wrong; and God takes them on a journey that transforms some of them into Bible scholars who know how to find what they need.
So don’t let your students get away with sitting in the back of the room enduring the reading of Scripture every week. Give them a Bible and design your times together in a way that forces them to participate. My teenage friend confirmed what I have believed for years: Students want to think. They want to figure it out, they want to decide if this Jesus stuff is true, and they want to be challenged.
I don’t apologize for ignoring the laments of countless students (and some youth workers) when I refuse to start teaching until I know everyone has a Bible. The reward comes on the days when a student looks me in the eye and quotes a verse that adds to or contests what I am teaching. It confirms to me that a student’s life will forever be changed by the knowledge of God’s Word.