Did you know that 40-60% of teens aren’t engaged in their secular education? You may have thought they were just tuning out in Bible class, but they are just as disengaged during the school day. Fortunately, studies have also discovered what gets teens to re-engage with curriculum. Although the study focused on secular subjects, we believe the principles apply to spiritual education in Bible classes as well.
So what do the teens in your Bible class need in their curriculum to help keep them engaged with the material?
- Tying what they are learning from the Bible to their gifts and passions. The parable of the talents, for example can seem rather abstract to the average teen. Tell the teen who loves playing basketball specific ways he or she can use that talent to serve God and share their faith and suddenly the interest in the topic rises. Who wouldn’t want to teach kids about basketball and Jesus as a way to use those bball talents rather than burying them in the sand?
- Making connections to their every day lives. A couple in the book of Acts being struck dead by God for lying may capture their interest for a second or two, but that doesn’t mean there is engagement. Talking about the supposedly “innocent lies” told today that are like those the couple in Acts thought they were telling will, on the other hand, generate a lively discussion on honesty, lying and what God really wants.
- Discussing how what they are learning in the Bible can help them live a life of meaning and purpose, rather than a life filled with meaningless pursuits. Even the most disengaged teen secretly wants to live a life of meaning and purpose. Something promoted by their parents and other “old” people may not seem at first glance to offer anything other than a lack of fun. Helping teens understand how the Christian life can deliver the meaning and purpose a selfishly lived life will never provide can encourage them to become more engaged in learning how to live the Christian life.
When you don’t use these meaningful ways to engage teens in Bible classes, you will be forced to rely on their emotions and entertainment. As anyone in the entertainment industry can tell you, trying to keep someone on a constant emotional high or perpetually entertained is difficult and exhausting. Stop trying to juggle or sing your Bible class students into engagement with your lessons. Give them what they really need to engage with the material in your class and for the rest of their lives.