Did you know some churches have begun eliminating Bible classes for kids and teens? Others, who technically still provide Bible classes, are actually having a modified worship time instead. The reasons most often given have to do with a perceived lack of volunteers and/or lack of proven results.
The reality is with proper planning and training of volunteers, Bible classes for young people can help them with nine critical spiritual needs. Because most can’t articulate these needs or because our Bible classes are often so poorly conceived, we assume they can’t be met by traditional Bible classes for kids and teens.
By making decisions on curriculum, activities and training for volunteers with these needs in mind, however, they can be at least partially met in Bible classes. So what needs can a Bible class help meet if it is well planned and executed?
- Bible Knowledge – This need has taken a back seat in many Bible classes over the last few years. Most students attending church regularly are introduced to less than 10% of the content in the Bible. This knowledge gap leaves them vulnerable to those wanting them to reject Christianity, as well as false teachings within the Christian environment. Our young people need to know what is in the Bible and be encouraged in meaningful, helpful ways to continue studying the Bible independently.
- Bible Culture – Many things in the Bible lose the depth of their meaning because young people don’t understand some of the cultural aspects of Bible times. Knowing what an oil lamp is and how it works or the intimacy a good shepherd had with his sheep is what gives those stories their full meaning. Helping students understand the culture will help them more fully understand what God wants them to learn from the stories in the Bible. Culture is not an excuse to ignore any of God’s Commands as irrelevant for us, rather it helps students better understand those commands.
- Application Principles of Bible Stories – Probably the complaint I hear from young people the most is that they know their Bible stories (see the first point for a reality check), but have no idea what they “are supposed to do with them”. In some cases, application principles aren’t being taught. Most of the time though, we aren’t teaching application principles in ways that are meaningful to our young people. Which means those principles aren’t apparently even registering with them. They also need to be taught how to find the application principles in a Bible story for themselves.
- Christian Life Skills – Even when students understand the meaning of a command or godly principle, they may not know how to actually do what God is asking them to do. Many young people have no one in their lives taking the time to teach them the basic skills needed in a Christian Life. So, for example, they may know God wants them to handle conflicts in godly ways, but have no idea how to do that. We can take Bible class time to help them learn how to do the things God wants them to do in their lives.
- Gift Discovery, Development and Use – Often young people think they are useless to their church and to God. There are many reasons for that perception, but a big part of the problem is that we usually ignore the gifts God may have given young people. They need our help discovering the gifts they have, help with developing them and help finding ways to use those gifts to serve God now.
- Servant Leadership – Look at a struggling church and most likely you will find leaders who have no idea how to be the godly servant leaders God has called them to be. They are often using business management or parenting models that aren’t what God calls elders to use. Every Christian though, should be leading others to Christ or to be the Christians God has called them to be. Which means, we all need to learn better servant leadership skills – especially our kids and teens. It’s much easier to learn skills correctly the first time, than to have to change bad habits and learn more godly ones years later.
- Community – Many of today’s young people have never really experienced a healthy community of any sort. They don’t understand the value of the support and accountability a healthy community – especially a church – can provide. Most churches do little to encourage members to have the type of community seen in the early church. As a result, our young people are walking away from their churches filled with people they barely know. We need to help them develop the meaningful community within the church they need.
- Mentoring – Bible classes are great, but they are rather general by nature. At times students have specific problems for which they need godly advice. Many have no one to ask except their peers, who are often struggling with the same issue. Bible class teachers can serve in a mentoring role or help students find other godly mentors to help answer their questions and guide them.
- Family Spiritual Support, Encouragement and Accountability – Because most churches have lost true community, there is often no one mentoring parents. Parents need to know the best ways to teach their kids what God wants them to know. It is not a natural thing for even many Christian parents to do. They may also need encouragement to keep working with a child who is giving them difficulties or loving accountability to teach their kids what God wants them to know. Not every parent will be open to the resources provided by Bible class teachers, but many will.
The list sounds overwhelming, doesn’t it? Yet with careful planning and training of volunteers, Bible classes for children and teens can begin providing students with help in these areas in meaningful ways. Take a close look at your Bible classes. What changes can you make to help students begin meeting these nine critical spiritual needs?