What Is the Place of Bible Study in a Youth Ministry?

One of the things that I enjoy most in life is sitting down with a group of high schoolers on Sunday nights and teaching them God’s Word in a way that is faithful to the meaning while helping them apply it to their lives.  We are currently studying the book of Philippians, and I love the challenge of studying the meaning of the text, seeing the universal principles in it that God is teaching, and then helping teenagers apply it.  We have a small group time after our time of Bible study, and I get energized hearing them wrestle with how what they have heard applies on the baseball field, in their high school hallway the next morning, or in their relationship with their parents when they get home.

Brian Cosby has written a helpful book, Giving Up Gimmicks: Reclaiming Youth Ministry fron an Entertainment Culture that reminds us of the importance of having Bibgiving up gimmicksle-saturated, Gospel-centered Youth Ministry that takes the Bible seriously.  Cosby writes:

Doctrine should never be separated from worship and the “so what?” question.  Doctrine should inform students why they should do well in school, and how they can fight the temptation to gossip about another teen…indeed, the truths of God’s Word should be the lens through which they view all of life–from homework to movies, from dating to parents. — pp. 99-100

I can’t imagine having an opportunity for teens to regularly gather together and not encouraging them to believe the gospel and live the gospel through taking time to teach God’s Word.  Youth Ministries are never more fulfilling their mission than when they support Christian parents by supplementing what their teens are already being taught at home, while also reaching out to those who come from unbelieving homes by consistently, passionately teaching what it means to know and follow Jesus from the Bible.  Anything less is subliminally teaching them that it’s OK to build their lives on sinking sand (Matt. 7:24-27)!

Often when the importance of the Word of God in Youth Ministry is brought up, there is a concern about the place of games.  I heartily believe that both have a place in Youth Ministry.  In our context, our Middle Schoolers and High Schoolers enjoy free time over ping pong, pool, and foosball before we begin each Sunday night, and an organized game after worship in singing, Bible Study, and small groups (including prayer).  In fact, I have told our Children’s Ministry workers, “You must have fun if you work with children,” and the same goes for Youth Ministry.  Teenagers love to have fun together, which is part of fellowship for them.  But there does not need to be a dichotomy between having fun together and taking the Bible seriously!

Peter confessed to Christ, “You have the words of eternal life…” (John 6:68)  In order to have a Family Ministry that has an eternal impact, we need to study those words of eternal life together regularly.  Twelve year olds and eighteen year olds need this Word just as much as everyone else.

Teach Them Diligently: Eight Principles to Help You Teach Your Children According to Deuteronomy 6

picture of familyLast weekend my wife was at a Women’s Retreat and I watched our three young children on Friday night, and the two oldest again on Saturday.  I made several plans of things to do with them, but those plans quickly became a trip to the store and a trip to the park between changing diapers, cleaning up meals, hugging away boo-boos and realizing that pig tails are way harder to make than they look–in fact, impossible for me.  Having this concentrated time with the kids and without my wife not only reminded me afresh of all of the ways she works so hard as a mom for our family, but it also made me contemplate the importance of knowing our parenting goals.

We don’t want to wake up 18 years from now and realize that we changed diapers, cleaned up meals, and shuttled kids to sports but missed the most important thing.  More than anything, my wife and I want our kids to know and love Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  Sometimes we simply need to be reminded of some of the basics towards that eternally significant goal.  Deuteronomy 6:4-15 clearly lays out 8 things God expects us to be teaching our children.  We teach these things not only when we read a Children’s Bible before bedtime, but also when we are going to the store or enjoying God’s creation at the park:  “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

  • Teach your children that your family is part of the larger body of Christ (Deut. 6:4).  Deuteronomy 6 is given to Israel corporately, even though the parents have to apply it individually.
  • Teach your children about God (Deut. 6:4)  You hear theology in this verse; children are sponges, soaking in information about not only the world but also about God.
  • Teach your children to love God (Deut. 6:5)  Jesus said this was the greatest commandment.
  • Teach your children to obey God from the heart (Deut. 6:6-7)  If it comes from their heart because they love God, they will want to obey Him even when you’re not looking.
  • Teach your children to follow your example (Deut. 6:6-7)  This implies that you are believing the gospel and following hard after Christ yourself.
  • Teach your children at every God-given moment during the day (Deut. 6:6-7)  Every day, all day.  God gives a countless number of teachable moments each day.  Teach them diligently!
  • Teach your children the Bible and how it interacts with their lives (Deut. 6:7-9)  If you’re giving them a solid foundation of God’s Word, you will be able to pull from it as situations come up each day and they will see that the Bible applies to them.
  • Teach your children to love God, not the world (Deut. 6:10-15)  Everything can become an idol.  Teach them to be in the world but not of it.
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