We often talk about Jesus and the Apostles. We read their stories and talk about the conversations he had with them over the years of his ministry. As someone involved in children’s or youth ministry, have you ever looked at the ways Jesus taught them?
Although, there were many people who rejected the message of Jesus, eleven of the Apostles were successful students. Not at first perhaps, as they struggled to understand who Jesus was and what God wanted from them.
Yet over time, the changes in Peter and the others were absolutely amazing. Jesus was able to help them grow in ways that still impact us today. There was no official graduation ceremony, but we can tell from what happened in the rest of the New Testament. Jesus had taught the eleven how to be the Christians God wanted them to be.
So why was Jesus so effective with the Apostles? I really don’t believe it was because they were particularly bright or even necessarily ethical. I’m sure Jesus knew their hearts and potential – a benefit we don’t have. Had he not been an excellent teacher though, the Apostles potential would not have been reached. Jesus never forced anyone to change or grow.
So what tools did Jesus use in teaching that are also available for you to use with your students?
- Jesus told stories to help them understand God’s principles and commands. The parables he told helped them understand what God’s commands and principles looked like lived out in their lives. The stories also helped them understand some abstract concepts like Heaven, God’s Kingdom and others. You can use the parables of Jesus for the same purposes. Consider adding some stories from your life that also illustrate those same principles. Stories from you, your children or others when they were the age of your students are especially helpful.
- Jesus quoted scriptures. Jesus quoted scriptures not just to his Apostles, but in the sermons and conversations they also heard. Hearing scriptures over and over will begin to create memories in the minds of your students. Some will begin placing these scriptures on their hearts. It’s important your students hear direct quotes from God’s Word. They need to hear for themselves exactly what God wanted them to know.
- Jesus explained God’s commands to them. Sometimes, Jesus had conversations with his Apostles about what God wanted them to know. When they showed indications they weren’t quite getting what he was explaining, he kept working with them until they understood. If your students don’t understand your lesson, it won’t help change their lives. Take whatever time is needed to make sure they thoroughly understand what you are trying to teach them. It may take several years, like it did for the Apostles, but don’t stop trying to help them understand.
- Jesus focused on their hearts and not just their behaviors. Jesus knew that just because someone does the “right thing”, it doesn’t necessarily mean his or her heart is what God wants it to be. Jesus also knew that in spite of Peter’s impulsivity, he had the potential to become a godly servant leader. Yes, Jesus corrected their behaviors when necessary, but he put most of his focus on their hearts.
- Jesus pointed them to God. Yes, he was the Son of God. Jesus still took the time and energy to point the Apostles back to God at every opportunity. By doing that, Jesus constantly reminded them where they could always find the answers they needed in life.
- Jesus took the time to have a close relationship with them. Jesus spent an enormous amount of time with his Apostles. He didn’t just ignore them for whatever their society’s version of a screen was at the time. He talked to them, ate with them, traveled with them, had adventures with them. He got to know them and let them get to really know him. You can’t spend that much time with your students, but the closer your relationship becomes, the more influence you can have on them.
- Jesus mentored them and challenged them to grow. The Apostles knew they needed to grow to be more like Jesus. That was the entire point of being the disciple of someone in that culture – spending the time to learn everything that person had to teach you. Even disciples needed to be challenged at times to continue growing spiritually. Jesus mentored them, but he also challenged them in areas where they tended to be complacent.
- Jesus gave them guided practice in serving others and sharing their faith. If you look closely at scripture, the Apostles spent much of their time early in Jesus’s ministry watching and doing what he asked them to do. Eventually, Jesus sent them off on a paired mission to do what he had been doing in front of them. After Jesus returned to Heaven, the Apostles were ready (with the help of the Holy Spirit) to fully serve others and share their faith. Your students need opportunities to watch you and act as your helpers as you serve others and share your faith. At some point, you can give them more difficult and independent roles in the planning and execution of activities when your class serves others and shares their faith. The goal is for them to be able to eventually effectively minister to others and share their faith without someone having to micromanage them.
If you can incorporate these elements in your Bible classes for kids and teens, your teaching will be more effective. Your students will begin building stronger faith foundations and developing to their godly potential. It really is worth your time and effort to model your teaching after that of Jesus.