Imagine for a moment that you are a piano teacher or a basketball coach. The kids or teens, with whom you work, come to you regularly for instruction on certain skills required to play the piano or basketball well. Your lessons may last only an hour, but what do you remind your students as they leave your instruction space? “Practice!” In fact, most coaches and piano teachers require their students to practice daily for thirty minutes or more.
But you are reading this because you are a Bible class teacher of children or teens. Instead of teaching them a skill, we view Bible classes as more of an intellectual exercise, like math or English. Think back to your days in school, though. What did most teachers give you? Homework to be done in your free time…the academic version of practice.
Now we’re not suggesting ministry sponsored Bible classes in churches start demanding their students “practice” acting like a Christian thirty minutes a day or write essays on their favorite Bible passage. There is great value, however, in finding ways to encourage them to practice what they learn God wants them to do. Paul wrote, in Philippians 4:9, “What you have learned, received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Paul knew that someone who had just become a Christian wouldn’t magically switch from being a pathological liar to a teller of only truth after baptism. Even with the help of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, these new Christians had to be intentional in practicing the behaviors and attitudes God required of them.
It’s no different for your Bible students – even those being raised in Christian homes. In the book, “Peak”, the authors found that not only practice, but the time devoted to practice – especially guided practice (where someone periodically suggests ways to improve) – meant the difference between top and average performers. Even those with a natural talent needed hours of practice to fully develop it. Without that practice someone without the same extreme natural talent, but who practiced much more would eventually surpass them in achievement.
Your Bible students will not reach the full potential God gave them without intentionally practicing the characteristics and attitudes God requires of His people. They can’t just read about it or listen to a lecture on it. In fact, this is one of the reasons we developed the Living the Christian Life curriculum for teens (it can be adapted for older children). You can teach about biblical concepts like godly conflict resolution, but unless they have been taught how to do it, your Bible students are more likely to copy the ungodly ways they see used around them. We need to teach them Christian Life Skills and give them plenty of guided practice if we expect them to actually become who God wants them to be.
Sound like mentoring or discipling? That’s because it is – only in a group format. Taking the time to teach them the specifics of how to do the things required to obey God and then giving them guided practice could revolutionize ministry to children and teens. We can’t expect great results when they aren’t given the tools to practice outside of class. Just ask any piano student who forgot their music at school if they were able to practice at home. Not sure where to begin? Check out our Living the Christian Life curriculum. It’s free and although the lessons take more time than an average Bible class, you will actually be giving young Bible students guided practice and the tools to practice what God wants them to do outside of class.