When I ask young people what they wish they were getting in Bible classes (but aren’t), the same topic is mentioned. Students share with me that they believe they are getting plenty of exposure to Bible stories (They really aren’t, but that’s a separate topic.), but don’t believe they are being taught what God wants them to learn from those stories.
If you write Bible class curriculum or have taught for very long, you may think this must be shared by young people who rarely attend class. Or don’t pay attention in class. In reality, it is often shared by young people who are extremely interested in doing what God wants them to do and often even study the Bible independently outside of class.
We know application principles are mentioned in most Bible classes, so where is the disconnect? I believe it is in part because we have focused so much on the Bible story itself and the activities, that the application principles are somehow missed by students.
There are five things you can do to make the application principles from your Bible lessons have more of an impact on your students.
- Slow down the application part of your lesson. Sometimes, the application is almost mentioned as a quick aside to the lesson…”So what we learn from this Bible story is that God doesn’t want us to lie.” Or even more easily missed by students, “God says lying is a sin.” They may either miss hearing the one or two sentences given to the application principle or not really understand what that means for them personally. Allowing more time for the application, can help students have enough time to understand and process what they are supposed to learn from the Bible story. If it means one class extends into the next a bit, it’s a better option than teaching a Bible story and students walking away having no idea what they are supposed to do with it.
- Give plenty of real life examples to help them generalize the concept. Just because your students may understand the application principle that “lying is a sin and makes God unhappy”, doesn’t mean they understand withholding information can also be a lie. Give a lot of different examples of what the principle might look like in their worlds now and when they are older. If you don’t, many students will only obey God in situations that are exactly like the one in the Bible story.
- Give them activities with the lesson that will help them understand and practice the application principle. Some application principles may be difficult for your students to understand. Or they may be so different from how they currently are living their lives that they need practice using God’s way of doing things. Planning activities that can help them better understand and practice the application principles will make it more likely they will be able to obey God in those areas.
- Ask them to state the application principles in their own words. I will often ask children what lessons they think God wants us to learn from the Bible story, before I tell them the application principle I want them to learn from the lesson. This gives students practice in finding application principles independently – an essential skill for personal Bible study. It also helps students see that God often puts more than one application principle in a passage of scripture – which is why at different times in our lives different things will “jump out at us” from a familiar scripture.
- Challenge them to live the principle out in their lives before the next class. Then make sure and discuss what happened during your next class. A challenge will encourage some students to be more mindful of doing what God wants them to do in that area. For those who forget, discussing it again in the following class will give them more time to process and understand the principle.
Taking the extra time to make sure your students learn, understand and can use the application principle will help them better understand and use the Bible for instructions on how God wants them to live their lives. It is absolutely worth taking the extra time and effort to teach application principles in ways that will help young people know and understand that those concepts have actually been taught. At the moment, many of our young people honestly believe no one has taught them what “God wants them to do with all of those Bible stories”. We desperately need to change that impression!