The teens left their Bible classroom in little clumps of two or three. Some appeared rushed as if lunch or schoolwork was already occupying their thoughts. Others looked as if they had been freed from an hour of sheer boredom.
When asked about class, the response was the same. “The teacher keeps talking about cyber bullying week after week. I haven’t been bullied and don’t know anyone who has. None of us does. Why don’t they talk about something we are really needing?”
This was a real scene a few years ago. It represents what happens in teen Bible classes all too often. Someone has seen a segment on a show or read an article on some aspect of “current” teen culture. Automatically assuming it applies to every teen, materials are purchased or lessons written to talk about the topic for weeks.
Unfortunately, in most cases, no one actually talks with the teens they are teaching to find out the realities of their world. While some things are common to almost every teen – probably since the world began – culture is tricky. By the time adults in media do segments on a teen “trend”, older teens are already moving on and the adults are far behind the curve.
But that’s not the only issue. Every town, every school, every church, every home, every teen has things that are unique about them. It may be experiences or trials or even talents and successes. Those little bits of uniqueness can mean your “culturally relevant” Bible lessons sound to your students as if you are talking about life on another planet. They may have no real connection to the life your teen students live every day.
If you hear or see something that concerns you, talk to your students. Ask them questions. Reassure them you want to hear the truth. Ask them about the things with which they struggle. Their struggles may never reach the ears of the media or those who write and sell teen Bible lessons.
The Bible was written to be as relevant for teens in the time of Moses as it was to teens in the time of Jesus or teens today. The scenes may be different, but the underlying truths will always be relevant. Trying to slap someone else’s idea of popular culture onto Bible truths isn’t necessarily wrong. It just may not help your students if it isn’t the culture they experience every day.
So talk to your students. Don’t omit lessons with Bible truths. Just be sure the way you tie those truths to their world is truly a reflection of their world. Otherwise, they may dismiss what they need to be learning from God as irrelevant.