There is no perfect Bible class curriculum for kids or teens. I don’t care how much time and money have been invested. It doesn’t matter how much research was done. It doesn’t even matter if it was created in-house a few years ago. It’s not perfect. Why? Because it was written with a specific group of young people in mind. If it’s purchased curriculum, then most likely that group is some “average” or normative group. If written in-house, it most likely was literally written for a specific group of young people.
The problem is that your Bible class of young people may be slightly or greatly different from the group for whom it was written. Which means, that in some parts of the lesson, the original group may have responded as desired, while the next group doesn’t respond at all or actually responds negatively to the exact same things.
One area where this problem can occur is when modern day examples are given – usually for the application portion of the lesson. It only makes sense that an example created with a child living in a two parent home in suburban Indiana, might not resonate with a child living with a single mom in NYC or a child living with grandparents in rural Alaska. And when an example doesn’t resonate, the teaching point is often not understood or quickly forgotten.
There are six times in particular when you may want to consider changing an example provided with the Bible curriculum you are using.
- When it’s out of date. The world around us is changing rapidly. What might have been a great example even a year ago may mean nothing to young people currently in that age group. What makes it even trickier is that often by the time something cultural amongst young people makes it to adult awareness, it’s already out of date with kids and especially teens. If you suspect an example is out of date, ask someone that age what would be a better example. If you don’t have easy access to a young person, ask your class. Carefully explain the point the older example was supposed to make and ask them to provide a more current example of the same principle.
- When it doesn’t apply. Assumptions are made when real world examples are created. Those assumptions may not apply to your Bible students at all. In fact, they may be so far from their own experience that the example is virtually useless. Think carefully about the lives and experiences of your students. Does the example describe their lives? If not, you may need to adapt or change it to something more relatable.
- When the theology is wrong. Who wrote the curriculum you are using? What are their personal theological beliefs? Do they match scripture? You would be shocked how many times teachers in Bible classes are giving examples that actually undermine biblical theology. Then church leaders struggle to understand why a decade later members no longer believe what the Bible teaches.
- When it’s boring. This is a little more difficult, because each individual’s idea of what is boring can vary. In general, try to think like your students. If the example is too long or complex or too simple…your students may not even pay attention to it. What will interest your students? Those are the examples you need. Not to entertain, but to engage their minds.
- When it’s repetitive. Sometimes curricula tend to go back to the same examples over and over. While repetition can play a role in memory, part of the purpose of examples is for students to begin to take a basic biblical principle and apply it to dozens of different things that can happen in real life. Constantly giving them the same example doesn’t allow students to understand the breadth of how a biblical command or principle needs to be applied in real life.
- When it doesn’t match their interests. There’s a congregation I’m aware of that has tons of young adults interested im sci-if. Their minister is great about applying biblical principles to sci-if characters and books he knows they all enjoy. If he chose examples in some area about which they had no knowledge or interest, they would probably not even pay attention to what he was saying. Your Bible students probably have a variety of interests, but there may be several clusters. Can you find examples that will resonate with them using their interests? Those may be remembered the best.
Evaluating and changing examples takes extra time and effort. When we neglect to do so, however, some or all of our students may miss learning, understanding and knowing how to apply key application principles. It’s worth taking a little extra time and effort to make sure your lesson includes the most effective examples for your Bible students.