Engaging young people with scripture needs to begin with the end in mind, and that happens best when you ask good questions in your planning.
Id just finished speaking to a group of youth leaders about what’s shaping and influencing young people, and how to engage them with scripture, when a young leader approached me with a mix of concern and expectation written across his face. ‘That was really good’, he said, ‘but can you tell me what people are doing that’s working out there – what’s the really cool thing that’s getting kids into the Bible’.
I disappointed him.
‘Mate, I’m sorry, but there’s no ‘one brilliant idea’ that I can honestly say is working for everyone – its not as easy as that’ I replied. ‘But – you must have something that you can tell me to do with my kids!’ he implored.
I had a long conversation with him, and talked through a number of principles that are shaping effective youth bible engagement, and I suggested these 6 reflection questions that he could keep in mind as he planned his youth bible studies.
I thought I’d share them with you, and I’d love to hear if you find them helpful as well….
- Is the approach giving my young people a voice?
How does it allow and encourage them to contribute? How does it enable and encourage them to ask questions, to give their opinion, to disagree respectfully with others, and to really listen to each other? How are they involved in the thinking, planning and running of this program/study?
- Is the approach respecting the context of my young people?
How does the bible passage or story connect with their own stories and experiences? How well do I know the ups and downs my young people are facing, in order to engage them with characters and stories from scripture that they can relate to?
- Is the approach making use of other people and resources?
How does it draw on the rich experience, resources and knowledge of academics, teachers, pastors and parents? How am I ensuring that I’m constantly learning and reflecting?
- Is the approach encouraging authenticity?
How does it ‘create the itch’, not scratch it? In what ways is it not simply asking questions for which there are easy answers? How is it encouraging open and honest questions, with robust investigation and discussion? Am I ok with the tension of ‘unanswered questions’ that often is a hallmark of a great bible study?
- Is the approach incorporating different learning styles and physical locations?
How does it enable the bible to ‘come to life’, by taking the bible study outside, and reading it in different locations? How does this approach connect with my young people who don’t like reading (or are illiterate)? What about those who are visual or kinesthetic learners?
- Is the approach encouraging transformation at an individual and community level?
How does it enable my young people to hear from God through scripture, and to be deeply impacted and changed in ways that are more than just ‘behavioral’? And, what does transformation look like for my young people and my local community?
What shaping questions have you found helpful as you’ve planned your bible study sessions? What approach do you use as you think through bible engagement with your young people? Id love to hear whats working for you.