In many church teen environments, young people are exposed to set Bible classes and activities. Many are planned based on the preferences of the minister, parents or, at times, the majority of the teens. If a teen isn’t particular interested in those topics or experiences, he or she begins to believe “church” is boring and has no meaning. We know God created each individual with certain gifts, talents, preferences, personality traits and interests. He uses those to prepare each person for the opportunities He will give him or her to serve Him during his or her lifetime. Since each teen’s ministry may be slightly or greatly different, shouldn’t some of that preparation we attempt to provide be individualized as well?
Differentiating curriculum is a skill set of master teachers. They understand each student is different and to help each one reach his or her full potential, the teacher may need to provide different methods and experiences. While it takes extra time and effort, it enhances learning for any student given those tailored opportunities.
One of the ways to differentiate what we do as we minister to teens is to encourage them to explore specific areas of Christianity that interest them. These topics and ideas may be passing fancies, a way to prepare for something else or the beginning of a lifelong ministry. There are some relatively simple things you can do to encourage teens to explore their areas of interest.
- Ask. So simple, yet we so rarely do it. Ask teens what they would like to study in the Bible, what types of people they feel most drawn to serve or what intrigues them about the Christian life. Having this information will make is easier to provide at least a few opportunities that will truly captivate each of your students.
- Divide into smaller groups. We already do this at times when we provide separate opportunities based on gender or age. Why not expand it a little? Have a mentoring group for students interested in the arts or a special service opportunity for teens who are passionate about serving in a specific way. The one thing to watch for with this method is to make sure every student fits into a smaller group. If you aren’t intentional, you may leave one or more teens believing as they do now….that there really isn’t a place for them in church.
- Project based learning. Projects are a great way for Bible students to explore areas of interest and then educate peers on topics that they may find also interest them. Projects can be done individually, in pairs or in small groups. The finished project can be presented to peers or to the church at large in some way. The more you allow teens to frame both the project and the presentation, the more engaged they will be.
- Providing special resources. Read a great book on Christians who are working to be good stewards of God’s creation? Sharing it with a teen passionate about the environment can help them connect their passions to serving God while also giving you opportunities to forge a relationship by discussing what you both read. Once again, knowing the interests of all of your students can help you identify great resources to share with them. You don’t always have to spend money. Sometimes a great connection can be made by texting a link to an article or website.
Taking the time to help your students explore the topics that interest them in scripture or serve those whom they are most passionate about serving can help them see the relevance of their faith, help engage them in learning more scripture and help them discover their talents and personal ministry opportunities. It is worth taking a little extra time and effort to create these opportunities for them.