Youth Ministry 101: Let’s Talk About What We Should Talk About
Pretend a junior higher comes to youth group every week without fail. In two years she will sit through about 100 lessons. A committed high schooler will get about 200. So the teenager who attends your youth ministry faithfully for six years will be exposed to approximately 300 bible studies/youth group lessons. And while that may seem like more than enough time to cover a wide variety of topics, the perspective changes when you think about the fact that there 613 Mosaic laws in the Old Testament alone…so you can’t even cover HALF of those!
Wanna study every book in the Bible? That’ll take you 66 weeks….73 if you’re Catholic. Fruits of the spirit? 9 weeks. Ten Commandments? 10 weeks. Dumb stuff junior high boys say that gets them in trouble? 78 weeks.
My point is this: Youth group lesson slots actually fill up a lot quicker than we realize! If you’ve ever felt like you simply don’t have time to cover everything you want to you aren’t alone; that feeling of urgency is a common one.
Many youth groups use a pre-published scope and sequence that has done a lot of the hard work of “topic selection” for you. On one hand this is great because you simply follow the plan and can be fairly confident your students are getting a well balanced diet of biblical education. But on the other hand, being locked into a structured strategy doesn’t allow the flexibility so many youth workers want, and teenagers need.
If you have the freedom to chart your own course, I’d recommend you do so. My recommendation is that you plan ahead, but build some flexibility into your calendar. I like the idea of “Teaching in Thirds.” Here’s what I mean:
Over the course of the year, rotate your lessons around three primary themes:
This is where you teach the good stuff! Book studies, your denominational doctrine, the life of Jesus, the Parables, the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, etc.
Teenage Life Skills
This is where you cover topics that teenagers are dealing with on a day-to-day basis and discover how God’s word speaks to their daily journey. Some topics may include friendship 101, peer-pressure, making wise choices, being part of a family, temptation, how to handle failure, sex and dating, and the list goes on.
In this category, you reserve an entire third of your teaching calendar to address current events, issues that have bubbled up in your ministry, something significant that has happened in your community, etc.
Finally, as you add topics into your “thirds” each year, be sure to include what I like to call the “repeat offenders,” those subjects that you want to make sure to cover on a regular basis. In our setting these would include lessons about the life of Jesus, sex and dating, apologetics and a few others.
Teaching in “Thirds”…it’s worth thinking about!