No Holes in Our Feet

This series asks youth workers why teenagers don’t feel comfortable reading the Bible. Authors share observations from their experience and offer solutions to help students feel more comfortable opening the Scriptures.  

We have a strange but familiar idiom in the English language — don’t shoot yourself in the foot. While I can only imagine the pain and embarrassment of physically doing such a thing, the point of the phrase is simply this: whatever you are trying to accomplish, don’t be your own enemy. 

In youth ministry, one of the greatest and most perpetual challenges is getting teens to read the Bible. Though there are many practical helps in this fight for time with the Word of God, there is perhaps a major problem that we do not notice: our families and ministries are inadvertently undermining our efforts. We are shooting ourselves in the feet.

Most youth leaders and parents are quick to talk about the importance of the Bible and would love for their kids to be well versed in the Word.  And I genuinely believe them. But the reality is that we are communicating otherwise when we don’t evaluate our lives and ministries to see if they reflect the value for the Word of God that we profess with our mouths. It is quite easy to recite Psalm 119:11 or verse 105, but it is entirely different to put it into practice. 

Frankly speaking, we hope that families are doing a great job discipling at home. We want this to take root there. However, we don’t have much control over that. So while I would certainly apply these upcoming principles to the home, I want to specifically focus on our student ministries and those that lead them. These are three things I think we can do to help underline, and not undermine, the importance we place on getting the Word of God into the minds and hearts of our teens. We need to reflect our passion for the Word of God in our classrooms, in our conversations and in our counseling.

1. Classroom

Okay, I know a lot of you are thinking, “Duh!” Let me pull a Lee Corso and say, “Not so fast, my friend.” I have spent many years in student ministry, and I understand there is a strong temptation to make Bible study time about something other than the Bible. That can be a major pitfall if we buy into the idea that students might not want to talk about the Bible. We want to be “relevant” and talk about their lives. Trust me when I tell you this: Christian students like talking about the Bible. And God promises that all of it is relevant. 

The other major temptation in the classroom is to not prepare to the point where you love the passage you are teaching. In terms of importance, I’d say your heart for the passage might even outweigh your knowledge of it. Let the students see that you love God’s Word and love studying it. It will be contagious.

2. Conversations

We waste conversations. We talk about all sorts of stupid stuff and love it. Hey, I’m big into sports and movies and even the occasional Ebola conversation. But when I’m so excited about the Word of God that I would even take time in a conversation with a student to share about what God is doing in me through my time with it, don’t you think that might plant a seed of desire in the student to see that kind of spiritual growth? Be dedicated to talk about the Word. If it feels awkward, that’s okay. Do it anyway.  And then one day it won’t feel awkward. 

3. Counseling

When a student comes to us with any sort of issue, whether it’s relational, physical, spiritual or emotional, our first response has to be to take them to the Word. We have to show them how much we value the wisdom of the Lord. We also need to make sure we’re not just using the Bible as the “look up what I’m supposed to do in this situation” manual and really let it guide us into knowing the character of God, what kind of people He’s growing us into, and how we might be needing to change our very thought patterns. Make sure all of your leaders are on the same page and aren’t tempted to dole out pop-psychology as if it’s candy.

I believe that if we make a commitment to these things, we can stop unintentionally undermining our own efforts to get students passionate about the Word. Cultivate your passion and dependence on the Word, and your students will be much more inclined to follow.

Jay Beerley is the Associate Pastor for students and singles at GracePointe Church in Denton, Texas.  He has served in church ministry for 14 years, serving as a student pastor in Texas and Tennessee, as well as pastoring East Side Baptist Church in Haskell, TX, for a few years. He has been married to his wife Christi since 1999, and they have two children: Andrew and Anna.

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