Check out our Old Testament Foundations curriculum covering Genesis and Exodus on Rooted Reservoir.
When I initially accepted my current job as a Bible teacher at a Christian school, I asked the department head what I would be teaching. He responded, “The 9th and 10th graders will study the New Testament and Genesis this year,” he responded.
‘Genesis?’ I thought. How strange. I would probably never have picked teaching Genesis on my own, which is likely true for the average youth minister as well. Now, years later, after teaching through Genesis 5 times, I’ve come to appreciate why teenagers actually need this book.
Here are 3 reasons I think you should consider teaching the first book of the Bible:
1. Genesis provides an opportunity to lay doctrinal foundations.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Even in Genesis 1:1 there are questions that could be unpacked – and while the questions initially seem big, they go down into the intensely practical and personal. Who is God? What is He like? Why did He create? How did He create? What about when the Bible seems to conflict with science? What about the nature and purpose of man? Why do we do evil deeds?
The answers to these questions are the foundation upon which faith can either stand or crumble, and going through Genesis expositionally provides opportunity for these (and other) questions to arise naturally. I begin my Genesis class with a lesson on misconceptions about the character of God, which has proven to be a great opener to have the students really examine what they believe about God and why.
2. Genesis is a surprisingly “modern” book.
I have students whose biggest sin issue (in their minds) is gossip, and others who might Snapchat the whole school a friend’s drunken escapades from the most recent party. Both kids need to hear the story of Ham uncovering his father’s shame, and how contrary that is to the heart of God revealed in Genesis 3. I have students who struggle to love their families, who need to see God’s faithfulness despite their family’s dysfunction. I have students who want to follow Jesus but don’t know how to handle their sexual sin. They need to learn the story of Judah and Tamar in Genesis 38 and see that, even though sexual brokenness doesn’t exclude you from being used by God, it doesn’t give you permission to continue in that sexual sin. Whether it’s Adam and Eve shifting blame in the garden or Jacob, desperate to receive the approval and blessing of his father, these characters would find themselves right at home among my students. When you begin to teach Genesis, you’ll find that there are an abundance of connection points with teenagers today.
3. Teaching narrative requires reliance on the Holy Spirit.
Obviously teaching any scripture requires reliance on the Holy Spirit, but teaching narrative specifically is often terrifying to most youth ministers I talk to. How do you elicit meaning from these stories? Are they examples to follow or to avoid? How much historical context do you give your students? How do you pull application from truth that is already applied? And how in the world does one explain Melchizedek?! (Helpful hint of the day: Melchizedek is hard for everyone) Perhaps you are reading this and thinking, ‘Exactly. I try to teach narrative and I’m just so bad at it. I even try to bring it to Jesus and it just ends up a mess, so why bother?’
Might I offer some words of encouragement? That place of inadequacy and helplessness is absolutely, totally, and completely beautiful – and it is exactly where the Spirit longs to help you. I know two things: the Spirit loves the Word (he wrote it!), and he loves my students. If I keep those two truths in mind, I find myself approaching difficult scripture with hope rather than defeat. I find myself stopping my frantic and panicked studying and coming to God with this plea: ‘Father, all Scripture is breathed out by You and is useful for my students, to fully equip them for every good work. Help. Give me insight I lack. Give me application that seems far off. Help this connect to these students and help Your word change their lives.’ Every single time I pray that prayer, I find the Lord is always faithful.
If you’re feeling stuck in a rut of teaching, try going back to the basics. I’m sure, if you do, you’ll find that it is worth it.