I have been blessed to be in youth ministry for over a decade now. In that time, I have been able to teach hundreds of lessons to students, and some haven’t gone quite as well as I wanted them to.
However, other messages have been effective, and I still have students or their parents remind me about them. They might not remember every part of the message, but they do remember the keys points.
After a few years, I realized that there were some specific keys to teaching students in a way that made the lesson and the biblical principles stick. Here are a few.
1. We must engage the students from the very first word of the lesson.
I used to think that students came to church ready and wanting to learn. While some students do come ready to learn, most come the same way adults come to church: They have a ton of issues in their lives and things on their mind.
If you want to make sure your students understanding the message and take it to heart, you must engage them. How are you grabbing their attention from the first few moments? Are you using a video or song that they know? Is there a game or icebreaker that can be used as a link to the message? You must engage them.
2. We must enlighten our students as we teach them.
Another thing I have learned in the past few years is that once students are engaged, they really do want to learn. They want to grow in their faith.
I have often observed youth pastors and ministry leaders stick to just well-known Bible studies and “easy” lessons when teaching their students. They do this in order to keep it simple and easy for the students to understand.
However, teaching students the Bible is a lot like going to the gym and lifting weights. If you don’t push yourself, you won’t develop and grow as much as you should. There is a rule in teaching that states you should teach to the oldest or wisest person in the room, not the youngest. If you teach “up,” you will train your students to expect more in their growth.
When is the last time you taught your students the Greek or Hebrew based on a word in the text? How often have you dealt with the Old Testament Minor Prophets? You must enlighten the students as you teach them.
3. We must encourage our students.
Last but not least, as we teach, we must encourage our students. Each message should leave them encouraged to do more, to be more, or to go further than they have ever gone before. As previously mentioned, students come to church with distractions and heavy weights on their heart. Our teaching and lessons should give them some level of relief from those issues and inspire them to trust in God.
I do this by thinking about the “end” as I create the lesson. How can I encourage my students from where they are to where God wants them to be? How do you encourage your students?
How are you teaching your students so that the lesson sticks? What would you add?
Russell St. Bernard (@PastorRuss09) is the youth minister at Reid Temple AME Church’s north campus in Glenn Dale, Maryland, and the founder of After the Music Stops, a full-service youth ministry resource company dedicated to assisting leaders and parents as they serve their students.