Wondering What to Teach at Youth Group? Give Teenagers God’s Word.

You’re sitting in your office on Wednesday morning. The clock is ticking until your midweek gathering begins, and you don’t know what you’re going to talk about. There are a million things jumping around in your head. 

What is relevant to my students? How can I be helpful to my students’ faith? What is going to keep their attention?

To start, please don’t wait until Wednesday morning to make this decision! But regardless of when you are deciding what to teach, give teenagers God’s Word. Possibly the most important decision you can make as a youth minister is the relationship your ministry has with God’s Word. You’ll need to decide whether you’ll sprinkle in God’s Word as supporting citations to your well-formed opinions, or let God’s Word be central to all you do and teach.

Here are a few key reasons you should base your ministry on the faithful teaching of God’s Word.

Transforms Hearts

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

The most fundamental reason that people in youth ministry should commit themselves to teaching Scripture to students is because it is the only thing that has the power to actually transform their lives and hearts. 

If you are sitting in your office wondering “What should I say to my students this week?” I have good news for you. When you put Scripture at the center of the message you teach, you are bringing God’s living, active, piercing Word to students! Our clever ideas don’t have that power, but God’s Word does. God’s Word can convict us of sin, awaken our hearts to the gospel, and mold us into the image of Jesus. 

Not only is God’s Word effective, it is guaranteed to accomplish its purpose. Isaiah 55:11 says that God’s Word doesn’t return to us void, but accomplishes exactly what God intends. When you teach God’s Word—even if you bomb it—something happens that is beyond you. 

Should we seek to become better at our communication skills? Yes! Should we try to be better at providing illustrations that help our students better grasp biblical truths? Absolutely! But when you stand up and teach faithfully from God’s Word, you enter into his promise that he will work in the lives of the teenagers who hear. His Word, along with the work of the Holy Spirit, can take the message of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, and cause students to be born again. 

Models Good Bible Reading

Ministers of the gospel are called to “rightly handle the Word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). In other words we teach not what we think, but what God’s Word says. When we open the Bible to our students and teach from the text, we don’t just have the advantage of God’s promise to perform a work, but also an opportunity to help students see how to read God’s Word for themselves. In exposing teenagers to good Bible teaching, we train them how to find the meaning of the text without our help. 

When your teaching points come from the text and not just your own head, when you show how the historical context helps us understand the author’s original intent, when you show the unified story of God’s covenant people, and the redemption he provides for them through his Son, and when you apply the truths of the passage faithfully to real life, you are not only teaching—you are modeling. The skills of a good Bible teacher become the skills of a good Bible reader. Even if you don’t periodically teach a class on how to study the Bible, students will start to pick up on how to read the Bible for themselves as they observe you doing it. This will serve them well in their own devotional time, and it will also help them to sniff out bad teaching when they encounter it. 

Stores Up the Truth for When Trials Come

When you spend six to seven years of a teenager’s youth ministry experience teaching through different parts of the Bible, there is something else that happens. You are helping students assemble a belief system. Not every teenager will feel a need for the truth of God’s sovereignty, or his mercy, or his omnipotence at the particular moment you are teaching those doctrines. But when students do need to lean on those truths, the doctrines will be waiting to help. 

In spy movies, often the spy pulls a book on the bookshelf, and an arsenal spins around from behind the wall, revealing all of the weapons and gear needed for his mission. Every time we teach biblical truth to our students, they are given the tools they need to live their lives as followers of Christ. They may not see the need for it immediately, but a time will come when that truth, straight out of God’s Word, will be a treasure to them, and they will be thankful to have it. 

When your students go to college and struggle, they will know in their hearts that God is always with them (omnipotence), they will know that he is in control of their future, even if it isn’t turning out the way they hoped (sovereignty). When they fail, they will know that the gospel of Jesus shows them a Savior who died in their place, and who doesn’t require their perfect performance in order to have his love and forgiveness (mercy). Their long years spent digging into God’s Word with you will offer hope in their difficulties. 

Give Them God’s Word

When you start with God’s Word, and teach it faithfully, you give your students a gift. This gift has power. Power for the present, to transform their hearts and conform them to the image of Jesus, and power for the future, to strengthen and encourage them in times of need. Thankfully, your deep thoughts and ideas don’t have to carry that kind of power. Give them God’s powerful Word.

If you’re looking for encouragement and resources for gospel-centered youth ministry, we hope you’ll join us at the 2024 Rooted Conference in Dallas, Texas, October 24-26!

Josh Hussung is the Pastor of Youth and Families at Grace Community Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and has been in youth ministry for over 18 years. He holds an Mdiv in Pastor Studies from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Josh and his wife, Laura, have been married since 2005 and have four children – Isaac, Eliana, Asa, and Asher. Josh seeks to equip students to grow as disciples of Christ by pointing them to the word of God, the church, and ministry. In addition to serving as a Rooted mentor, Josh's writing has been published on the Rooted blog and ERLC.com.  

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