Whether school starts for your Bible students next week or in a month, you can bet the new school year is on their minds. They’re probably thinking about grades, tests, classes, friends and extra curricular activities. What they may not have considered is how what happens at school impacts them spiritually or how they can impact others spiritually at school. Although some religious activities are banned in public schools, students actually have a lot more freedoms than most people realize. Educating them about their rights is great, but what if you could also encourage them to make use of their rights?
There’s a great activity you can do with Bible students to not only get them thinking about spiritual growth, but also make it much more likely they will take an active part in both becoming and helping others become who God created them to be. Start by discussing the clarity Jesus had in his ministry regarding his purpose and the things he needed to accomplish. Ask students how they think Jesus was able to be so clear in his plans and goals and so intentional in carrying them out as he went through his life.
Explain that often people let life happen to them rather than making any plans. While that can be fun for a bit, long term it’s not a strategy for a meaningful life. Have students share some of their goals for the coming school year. Most, if not all, will be secular. That’s fine at this point. Then ask students if they have ever thought about ways they could grow spiritually, even if they attend a secular school. Have them brainstorm ways they can focus on growing spiritually including things like character, prayer (silent internal prayer has never been banned), free reading, writing assignments and more.
Then ask students to choose one focus they want to have for their spiritual growth for this school year. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something they do during the school day, although that’s great if they can. They should choose something they either need to work on or something they need to do more of…like Bible reading, prayer or scripture memorization. Then have them write one very specific, measurable goal for that area of their spiritual life.
If they are choosing to eliminate a sin like lying, they may claim writing a goal is impossible. Get them to focus on zero tolerance for the sin of lying, but shift the time period. So for example, a pathological liar may have a goal to go an hour without telling a lie. Then they can increase the time they can go without lying, until they are successfully telling only the truth for days, weeks or months at a time.
To make it easier for them to achieve any spiritual goal, encourage them to make small commitments at first. So, for example, having a goal to read a verse of the Bible every day rather than five or six chapters daily. They should understand this goal is the minimum threshold for those really tough days. On those days, they can stop at one verse, but on good days, they should try to read a passage, a chapter or more. This keeps momentum going because they are able to achieve the goal on even the bad days and don’t give up.
It’s also important for them to give themselves cues to remember the goal. Setting the alarm on their phone reminds them to read the Bible or putting a Bible on the kitchen table where they eat breakfast so they see it. Often new habits fail because we forget about them until it’s too late in our minds to do it for that day. Also encourage them to try and tie the new habit to a specific event that happens every day. Maybe they practice the new Bible verse they are memorizing every time they brush their teeth or read the Bible every day with their after school snack.
After students have finished the process for a personal spiritual goal, encourage them to write a goal for how they will share their faith with classmates. They don’t necessarily have to proselytize every person, but they can figure out ways to help others take a step closer to God in some way. Encourage creativity, but consistency in their goal. (For example, they may make it a goal to invite one person to a ministry activity every week.)
Helping students be intentional about their spiritual growth, service and faith sharing in the coming school year can make it much more likely to actually happen. Don’t forget to check back in with them regularly to see how they are doing on their goals. Help them devise strategies to get past roadblocks and encourage ones who have forgotten or stopped to restart. Who knows? It may just be the best school year yet for your Bible students and your ministry!