How do you choose what to teach in your youth ministry? In some circles, it’s a heavily defended and debated process. Some say you should teach verse by verse through the Bible so you teach the whole counsel of the Word of God. Others claim that good teaching understands its audience first and then seeks to help them understand the Scriptures, often implementing a more topical method of teaching. Still others are tied to the traditions of their church or denomination, and find security in teaching not what they feel is right, but rather what a larger body of believers throughout church history has said is best, teaching the next message or text in their church lectern.
There is nothing wrong with any of those methods, and I won’t take the time to defend one over another. But this question comes up a lot in my world, so for what it’s worth, here’s my top two thoughts on how I do it.
I ROTATE BETWEEN A FELT NEED AND A SPIRIT LED.
About half of what I teach on a weekend I label as a “felt need” teaching. These are things where I could simply say to a student that this weekend we’re talking about “________“ and they would say, “Sweet, I’ll can’t wait and I’m bringing my friend.” These are subjects like sex, dating, stress, parents, friends, forgiveness, end times, depression, anger, etc. I strategically place these series at the moments in the calendar when we are kicking things off, like the start of the school year, after winter break, and after Easter.
Then, I follow this with a teaching series that I call “Spirit led.” It’s something that I know I need to teach students but that they are not asking for at the time. My goal here is to have a student walk out and say, “I didn’t think I needed to hear that, but I’m really glad I did.” It’s usually labeled with a catchy title, one that’s not so obvious and gives away the topic. Subjects like a series on a Bible character, the non-transferrable attributes of God, the fruits of the Spirit, or a series on Paul’s letters to Timothy would all fall into this category.
I KEEP MY EARS AND EYES OPEN.
I admit it. I steal. I borrow. I tweak. I do so from lots of different sources—both in my Bible and in the world around me. Here are some topics I’m waiting to use that you can steal, borrow or tweak if you want:
- IDK: This is a series that answers questions to which the average student would respond, “I don’t know”.
- I’M NOT GONNA LIE: It seems like I hear students say this every day. I always thank them for the comments that follow, and then ask if the other sentences they didn’t begin with this phrase were lies (but that’s another story). However, I think this would be a sweet series on the power of words.
- INDIGNANT: This is a cool word. We have it slated as a Spirit led series that will be about things that anger God, like selfishness, hypocrisy, ignoring the poor, division in the body, etc.
- IT IS WHAT IT IS: This is another phrase I hear almost every day. I think it’s begging to be a series about trusting God and dealing with situations and circumstances that are way beyond our control.