Nothing strikes fear in the hearts of many adults like being asked to teach a teen Bible class. I’m not sure what people are afraid will happen, but it’s actually one of my favorite ages to teach. If you have recently agreed to teach a teen class for the first time or are just substituting, remembering these few tips will help ease your journey and your anxiety level.
- Pray. I know that seems like the standard response to anything, but when teaching teens this is especially vital. Pray specifically that God gives them the courage to reveal their hearts to you and you have the courage to teach them what they need to grow closer to God.
- Get to know your students. I don’t mean be able to discuss the most recent sporting event (although it’s a good starting place with some teens). Ask them a lot of respectful questions. Find out their hopes and dreams. What scares or worries them? What excites them about becoming an adult? What is their relationship with God? The better you get to know your students, the more likely you will be to know what to teach them from God’s word to help them reach their God-given potential.
- Respect your students. I am not sure what causes it, but some adults believe it is acceptable and even “cool” to be downright mean to teens. I have heard them say ugly things, tease in ways that mortify and in dozens of other ways show disrespect. One of the most disrespectful things I see consistently is teachers of teens who show up fifteen or even twenty minutes into the class period. Respect your student’s time and use all of it to help them grow. Don’t talk down to your students or accept common stereotypes about teens. Treat them as individuals worthy of respect. When your students realize you respect them, they will begin to respect you also.
- Don’t buy into the myth of “building relationships” free time. Huge amounts of valuable teaching time are lost in an effort to give teens time to “bond”. Trust me, there are plenty of more productive ways of helping your teens bond than giving them half of your class period as free time or in playing meaningless games. Create opportunities outside of class for that sort of bonding. Use class time to bond visitors in meaningful ways, do an activity during class to make your students think about the topic you are about to discuss and spend as much time as possible in discussion of God’s words, principles and how to put them into practice.
- Think dialogue, not lecture. Yes, there will be parts of the lesson when you share God’s wisdom with them, but at least half to ¾ of your class should be spent in asking meaningful questions and listening to student responses.
- Don’t let a student’s misunderstanding go uncorrected. Don’t get me wrong. You should try to never embarrass a student in your class. On the other hand, you cannot let their well-intentioned but naive ideas go uncorrected. Use a combination of scripture and practical life experiences to highlight the correction. Better yet, challenge your students to offer alternative viewpoints – preferably with scriptures and Bible stories to back their ideas.
- Always point them back to the Bible. Very soon Teach One Reach One will have free teen lessons you can use. We try to make them as heavy in scripture as possible. Ultimately, your goal is to teach your students to always go to God for their advice and counsel. Do whatever you can to get them reading their Bibles independently and regularly.
- Be yourself. Nothing freaks out teens more than an adult trying to act “cool”. Think back to your teen years and you will know exactly what I mean. Don’t be afraid to admit they have something to teach you, too. If you enjoy listening to current music, that’s fine – because that is who you are. Kids respect the adults who are comfortable in their own skin more than adults trying too hard to be “cool”.
- Demand absolute honesty. When I teach teens, I remind them constantly I want to hear their complete truth and not what they think I want to hear. You can’t reach a teen’s heart if he isn’t showing you his real one.
Watch our Teach One Reach One Facebook page for the announcement of when our first free teen lessons are available on the website. In the meantime, start practicing these tips. They will give you a classroom atmosphere so students will be ready to learn and grow.