Socrates said: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Likewise, our unexamined study-prep rituals can lead to teaching that isn’t worth delivering.
The back-to-school season gives us a good excuse to revisit them. That’s what Ralph Paige, a veteran youth pastor, does every year. Ralph keeps a “tip sheet” that helps him to refresh and recalibrate the way he prepares his teaching times. Those tips include…
1. Get alone with Jesus. We have so much going on in ministry that it’s easy to blow past the “gas stations” along our superhighway. We’re running on fumes, spiritually speaking, and our engine is sputtering. Quiet, restful, expectant time with Jesus is a necessity—that’s where depth and relevance in our teaching come from.
2. Tap into what Jesus is doing in your life. Out of the overflow of our own pursuit of Jesus comes the “living water” our teenagers need most. Because you are called to the ministry you serve, your life is the well Jesus wants to dip into—so “notice what you notice” about what He’s stirring in you.
3. Keep a whiteboard or journal record of the sparks and insights Jesus shares with you. The Spirit of Jesus, we know, is like the wind, which “blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going” (John 3:8). Well, a whiteboard or journal is like a sail that can catch and direct that “wind.” Make sure you have a habitual way of capturing what Jesus is sharing with you.
Out of the overflow of our own pursuit of Jesus comes the “living water” our teenagers need most.Click to tweet
4. Invite teenagers into the process. Once a month, Ralph invites ministry-minded students into his teaching-prep time. In these gatherings, he’s exposed to disparate points of view and benefits from creative approaches he’d never come up with on his own. The effect is powerful on the teenagers he’s invited—they feel trusted and respected and valued. And, sometimes, they end up planning and leading the teaching themselves.
5. Map out a teaching path. Because we’re teaching all the time, it’s easy to repeat or over-focus on certain themes. So, in close consultation with Jesus, Ralph maps out his teaching topics for the whole year.
6. Designate regular prep time during the week. Ralph makes sure everyone in his church office knows his “teaching-prep windows” during the week—time when he’s not to be interrupted unless it’s an emergency.
7. Run it by your pastor. Every year, during the back-to-school season, Ralph schedules time with his pastor so he can coordinate his teaching with the series and emphases the whole church will be experiencing. It’s clear to communicate his accountability and “team” mentality.