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How To Help Your Young People Eat The Bible!

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“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.” [Jeremiah 15:16]

We gotta get our young people eating the Word – lapping it up like a McD Big Tasty with extra special sauce!

Here are six important posts that tackle this head on:

  1. www.youthworkhacks.com/opening-up-the-bible/ – Video cast on an easy interpretation & exegesis tool
  2. www.youthworkhacks.com/first-question-youth-bible-studies/ – Nailing the first question every time
  3. www.youthworkhacks.com/6-ways-train-teenagers-read-bibles/ – 6 killer ways to help them read it themselves
  4. www.youthworkhacks.com/youth-bible-study-techniques/ – Easy study techniques that make awesome studies that are out of the box
  5. www.youthworkhacks.com/youthworker-bible-walk-bar/ – Getting their hearts to burn for The Word
  6. www.youthworkhacks.com/bible-young-people-stephen-hale/ – Great quote to end!

 

Opening Up The Bible: Tips n’ Tricks

Opening Up The Bible: Tips n’ Tricks Part 1.

This is based off a bible reading tool I was taught at Bible College.

It is not a definitive way of reading the Bible – duh – but an easy way to get physical with understanding the text.

This is a relativity easy passage to do this with – if you’d like me to demonstrate the same technique with a different passage, let me know!

A Youthworker and a Bible Walk Into A Bar…

Culture and the Bible. These are the two indisputable pillars of effective youthwork. If you don’t get the former you can’t communicate the latter, if you can’t apply the latter you will make no difference to the former.

“There are two fundamental necessities in Christian Communication. One is that we take the world we live in seriously; and the other is that we take God’s revelation to us in the Bible seriously. If either is missing, the communication will be ineffective.” [Christian Youth Work, Mark Ashton & Phil Moon]

There is a youthwork culture in the UK that is really starting to push the envelop, dig deep and get innovative in cultural relevancy. This is absolutely fantastic! I fully embrace and stand by this.

I fear, however, that the Bible is taking more and more of a back seat.

The Famine of God’s Word in Youthwork Culture

I’ve been to almost every major, mainstream Christian youthwork gathering in the UK this year. These were amazing events with great people, and mostly solid, encouraging teaching. Most of all they were a showcase of good ideas to learn from! However they were also symptomatic of a serious famine of the Word of God.

I can count on one hand how many talks I’ve heard at Youthwork gatherings this year that genuinely opened up the Bible.

“Opening up the Bible means swimming around in its depths and drawing us into those hidden truths.”

This spills over to published materials too. Bible reading resources are driving further down the lane of ‘prooftext with reflection’ often without any discernible link between the passage and the attached thoughts.

If we don’t open up the Bible we lose perspective, focus, authority and foundations. What are we playing at?

We Don’t Know How To Open Up The Bible

Let me clarify what I mean by ‘opening up’ the Bible. Just reading a standalone verse and paraphrasing it a few different, interesting ways is not opening up the Bible. Reading a verse, picking a word from it and giving a talk on that word is also not opening up the Bible.

Opening up the Bible means swimming around in its depths and drawing us into those hidden truths. It means exegesis, context, study and clarity. It means bringing a passage to life by using the passage itself!

I’m becoming increasingly concerned that we don’t know how to do this.

My wife, an editor, is currently trying to re-write someones Bible Study that is trying to teach that David defeated Goliath because of his own prodigious experience and skill; not because he trusted in God despite his lack of experience and skill. How could we get a passage so dramatically wrong?

The Bible Makes Our Hearts Burn Within Us

Read Luke 24:13-35

How did Jesus reveal himself to the two followers walking to Emmaus? “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” v.27.

And how did they respond? They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” v.32.

“If you want young people’s hearts to burn within them in response to meeting with Jesus Christ, then you must, must, flippin’ must open up the Bible to them!”

If you want young people’s hearts to burn within them in response to meeting with Jesus Christ, then you must, must, flippin’ must open up the Bible to them! Yes, please be culturally relevant, but if you’re not going to bring God’s Word with you, you’re better off just staying at home!

If you want to communicate God’s heart, use His own words! There’s nothing wrong with the material – we must teach it until it burns within the hearts of this generation.

“However, if we have to err on one side or the other, we must not lose our hold on Christian truth. The simple message of God’s love for sinful humanity and of his forgiveness of our sins for the sake of his son has extraordinary and immense power: our incompetence as communicators is not able to destroy its ability to reach non-Christian young people.” [Christian Youthwork, Ashton & Moon]

Also See…

6 Ways to Train Teenagers to Read Their Bibles

Great Resource to Start Doing This…

  Dindexig Deeper: Tools for Understanding God’s World by
Andrew Sach & Nigel Beynon

A Youthworker and a Bible Walk Into A Bar…

Your First Question at Youth Bible Studies

So you’ve had some food, played a game, prayed and read your passage – now it’s time for the study. What do you do? What’s the first question? How do you start off in a way that sets a direction that will bring these young people on in their walk with God and their relationship with the Bible?

This first question should 1. draw them back into the passage not away from it, 2. leave room for misunderstanding and vulnerabilities, 3. give space for different opinions, 4. not be an excuse for the opening portion of a sermon and 5. simply get them talking as a group.

“This simple question is your chance to establish Bible, group, individuality and agenda – on their terms – in one swoop!”

My first question is always, without exception the same: “What did you notice?”

I might milk it a bit: “So what did you notice, anything at all, what did you like, not like, what sounds cool, what doesn’t make any sense … what jumped out at you, for any reason whatsoever?”

Starting with this question has often meant totally abandoning the rest as we have been jumping around the whole passage through what they noticed well into the evening.

There are some important followups that keep things moving and opening like: ‘why did that jump out?’ or ‘so what do you think that means?’ or ‘how would that look today?’ or ‘can you see anything else in there that points to that? And of course each time something is noticed, you can make it communal, ‘so everybody, what do you think that means?’ or ‘turn to someone else and explain that in your own words’ or ‘does anyone know the answer to that?

This simple question is your chance to establish Bible, group, individuality and agenda – on their terms – in one swoop. Don’t underestimate it’s power and always give it room. Youth Bible Studies are always worth it!

A Biblical Mandate For Youth Ministry

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If you’ve seen parts 1 & 2 you’ll know that I’m on a study week looking through the most resent, top scoring dissertations from probably the most academic, Bible-driven Bible College in the UK. Today I’m highlighting and summarizing the important argument in favour of Youth Ministry from the Bible in:

‘A Biblical Mandate For Youth Ministry’, by Andrew Cook.

This short thesis is broken into three parts:

1stan opening discussion of adolescence
2ndan outline of the argument against doing Youth Ministry
3rda Biblical defense of and model for Youth Ministry

I will go through each.

 

Adolescence

Andrew looks at both the sociological and Biblical approaches the adolescence question.

Sociologically Andrew points out, adolescence as a transition from childhood to adulthood has always existed in some form and is often referred to as ‘storm and stress.’ This term, coined by the largely discredited work of G. Stanley Hall has nevertheless been a useful term to describe this often tumultuous time of transition. The massive changes both socially and biologically during adolescence makes this transitional age group a very distinct people.

Although their is much disagreement, Andrew suggests a broad age group surrounding (just before, during and just after) puberty to be our focus.

Biblically, we find few places speaking directly to this transitional time, however historically they do exist. The Jewish education system celebrates times of transition for instance. Further, in passages such as 1 Chronicles 23 and Leviticus 27 we find that the age of 20 is a significant time for adult value and responsibility.

A category of ‘young men’ or ‘young adults’ also exist in places like Deuteronomy 32 and Jeremiah 6 – where such a group is seen as a sub-category of Children. In 1 John 2:12-14, categories include ‘children’, ‘young men’ and ‘fathers.’ ‘Youths’ is another term found many places such as Job 31 and 1 Timothy 4.

The adolescent ‘youth’ or ‘young adult’ stages of development Biblically are seen as time to grow away from youthful sin and temptations (1 Cor. 6; Prov. 5:3, 8; 1 Tim. 5:11; Prov. 1:10-19) and grow into wisdom and maturity (Prov. 1-9; 1 Kings 12:8; 14:30; 1 Pet. 5:5; 1 Tim. 5:1-2).

 

The Argument Against Youth Ministry

Instead of segregated youth ministry some say that we should look to integrated and inclusive whole family ministry.

Those supporting this argument (Andrew notes particularly the online film, ‘Divided’ by Philip Leclerc) say the crisis of young people leaving the church is largely the fault of what they call the ‘godless, pagan, Darwinian’ invention that is age segregated youth ministry. They note that only age-integrated worship is seen in Scripture where the youth-specific ministry and discipleship is given through parents alone.

They see age segregated youth ministry as undermining corporate worship and undermining parental ministry.

It’s worth saying, that even though the Biblical arguments presented by advocates of this argument are pretty weak they do raise some important challenges about integration and parenting.

 

The Biblical Basis For Youth Ministry

Andrew starts this section by helpfully saying:

“The argument against youth ministry cannot be supported biblically, but this does not in itself ratify all approaches to adolescent discipleship.

The spiritual poverty of some approaches is obvious: the gospel is not proclaimed, the Bible is not taught, young people are not included in the community of faith, there is little if any spiritual growth, and the only legacy seems likely to be some very high scores at Mario Kart and a few broken church windows.”

Andrew outlines (very basically) three of the most frequently used youth work models in the UK and their drawbacks:

Incarnational model – prefers sharing stories to preaching the gospel.
Worship model – encourages faith based on subjective, emotional experience not propositional truth.
Funnel model – prefers entertainment to Bible study and content.

This is a useful set of thoughts to have in the backs of our minds as we continue.

Andrew finds Biblical examples of ministry happening with adolescents outside the nuclear family but within the church family. For instance in Deuteronomy 29 there is a communal approach to sharing responsibility for each other – specifically the elders for the young people in the whole community. Also, in Nehemiah, Ezra groups people according to their ages in order to teach God’s word (Neh. 8). Further, in Proverbs there is a communal nature to teach wisdom to youths outside the nuclear family unit. Finally, in the New Testament there is a big push towards shared community life and specifically Andrew gives us Titus 2 as an example of the young being taught communally and Luke 2:41-52 where the 12 year old Jesus is sitting with the elders – away from his parents – discussing God’s word.

All this said, there is a prominent push in Andrew’s model to integrate young people into the church and support parents as much as possible – not exclusively (like the proponents against Youth Ministry might say), but heavily.

Andrew therefore goes on to find a prime but not sole responsibility on the parents to disciple young people (Deut. 6; Prov. 1-9; Eph. 6) and some age-specific applications of Biblical truth outside the sole parental structure (Eph. 6; Col. 3). Finally Andrew demonstrates how Church is family just as important as the nuclear family (Mark 3:31-35; Luke 14:26; 1 Tim. 5:1-2) and shows how special space is given to ‘youths’ (1 Cor. 12:21-26).

 

Concluding Thoughts

All this goes to show that youth ministry within a inclusive church family structure is a Biblical model for Youth Ministry. Youth Ministry should never be solely segregated, divided or exclusive – and the parents should not be undermined. However the growth of adolescence is the responsibility of the whole community with a Bible-driven passion for youth discipleship. This vital for the health of the whole church – and vital to the health of successful youth ministries.

Thank you Andrew! Lots of helpful things in here and a wonderful grasp of the Bible’s role in defining what youth ministry actually is.

I would love to see a longer thesis with room given for models of general discipleship, spiritual healing, sanctification and growth and how they would apply to this model – and I’d really value a look at culture differences and how these application might look in today’s unique world. Finally I’d also like to see what role Bible-drive, but culturally specific young people’s mission looks like in this church-integration model. My suspicion is it would struggle somewhat without some more cultural wiggle-room.

Well worth the time in the Word! Cheers.