Bible classes in childhood usually focus on a particular Bible story. Any application principles are often an addition to the facts of the Bible story.
When young people enter a youth group in their teens years, they often hear lessons much different from those they have heard in Bible class until now. Many teen Bible lessons tend to focus on a particular topic, pulling in scriptures that address the topic. Bible stories may be referred to in passing, but are rarely the main focus of the lesson.
While there are pros and cons to topical versus story based Bible studies for teens, topical studies are a great tool for clearly addressing specific issues your students are facing.
It’s important though to keep these tips in mind.
- Make sure the topic is actually relevant to your specific teens. If the topic isn’t something they are currently experiencing or can realistically expect to face in the future, they may dismiss you and the entire curriculum as out of touch and tune out from the lessons.
- Give teens a voice in what they want to study. You don’t necessarily have to take every suggestion, but if several of your teens suggest the same subject, there’s a good chance most of them are struggling with the topic.
- Participatory, active lessons work best. Yes, they may be getting lectures in school classes, but most lectures are just an invitation for students to think about other things. You may be able to take away their phones (not something we suggest unless absolutely necessary), but you can’t force them to pay attention.
- Remember, teens may still have significant gaps in their exposure to the stories in the Bible. Most teens who aren’t taught Bible at home often get exposed to only about 20% of the over 200 Bible stories. They need to learn from the other 80% and many will still need to hear the basic 20% of Bible stories.
- Make sure you aren’t grabbing scriptures out of context. Quoting Job’s friends as wisdom? Don’t forget God became angry with them for all of the things they said to Job. Make sure you are accurately representing the verses you quote.
- Encourage deeper thinking by asking deeper reflection questions. These can take time, but force students to process the information in the Bible on a deeper level than just memorizing a bunch of facts.
- Emphasize application principles clearly. Teens seem to think they aren’t told how Bible stories apply to their lives, when curricula writers and teachers think they have taught those principles. Use clear phrases like “learn from this story” “why do you think God wanted this story in the Bible” “application principle”.
- Don’t be afraid of “taboo” topics like purity. Keep parents informed, but teens need to know what God has to say on topics like sex. If they don’t get their information at home (and the vast majority don’t) or church, they will get their information and attitudes from the world.
- Include Christian life skills. Just because your teens intellectually understand a biblical concept, doesn’t mean they actually know how to do what God wants them to do. Someone needs to intentionally teach them how to be a good steward of money, resolve conflicts in godly ways and more.
Keeping these tips in mind as you plan teen topical Bible studies can help your students learn the things they need to live a more godly life. It’s worth the extra time and effort!