What Should We Be Teaching: And what questions should we be asking?

I’m going to admit it, but then I don’t know if this is a bad thing to admit, but I’m a big fan of the Biggest Loser.  I am happy that a new season has begun, it’s just one of those shows that never ceases to inspire me.  I use to be 261 pounds myself and then I got down to 191 pounds doing Weight Watchers, but over the last year and a half I crept up to 212 pounds.  Why did I gain weight?  I forgot the basics of eating healthy and I love junk food.  So I’m back on the plan and losing weight again, but watching the show helps.  But I can’t help but find myself concerned about the future of each contestant and whether or not they keep the weight off.  I know it’s hard to do so and if you don’t continue to work at it, if you don’t learn about healthy living it’s going to come back.
Funny enough I was reviewing Philippians 2:12 with a student and a similar thought came to mind, “When students leave our student ministry, how sure am I that they’ve learned everything they need to know to maintain a healthy relationship with Christ?”
And that always leads to a second question:
Are we teaching them the right things?
I know this is a topic most youth ministers ask themselves (even if things are going well) more than once.  Whether your ministry is thriving or diving it’s always a good question to review because if you don’t think about what you are teaching, how do you know whether or not you are reaching your vision?  To determine whether or not you are teaching the right things you have to ask yourself?

  1. Is this something they can apply to their lives?  It’s easier to just give a student a Bible and tell them to read Leviticus then it is to explain to them how one verse applies to their life…but what will they learn?  Students are bored when they don’t get why you are teaching them a particular verse unless it has something to do with their lives.  If they can’t apply it, then it isn’t relevant, so should you be teaching it?
  2. Will this help them grow? If you want your students to grow you need to teach them habits.  There are dozens of great habits that will form a student into a follower of Christ, but you should only pick a few.  You teach too many it’ll be too hard to master them all, pick the ones you feel that your ministry can teach best.
  3. Will this challenge them? There is a lot of important truths out there; however, you’ll want to teach them truths that are going to open the flood gates of their creativity.  Give them a story that builds compassion.  Show them a situation that will inspire them.  What we teach isn’t just about importance it’s about movement.  After all that’s what the church is…a movement.
  4. Am I pressured to teach this?  If you are in a denomination chances are you feel pressured to teach a bazillion things.  Again there are a lot of important and challenging aspects of our faith that one should know; however, if you are teaching it because you feel like you have to, chances are it’s going to come off forced.  And when your heart isn’t behind something people (especially teenagers) know.  

We have to accept the fact that we can’t teach everything, but what we can teach is growth.  We want our teenagers to be motivated to grow on their own.  We want our teenagers to feel like they can rely on the skills that we give them.  We don’t want them comfortable with their faith, we want them inspired to go and grow and change the world.
I know my list is highly incomplete, so I ask you:
“What questions should we be asking?” and “What should we be teaching our students?”

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  • I ask, “What will impact them beyond these walls?” I’m realizing more and more that when I teach on a Bible passage, my goal should not just be to teach content and apply it, but to help create (or awaken?) a thirst in the students I work with for God and his Word.

  • Awesome question to ask yourself. Sometimes we forget who our audience is and we only focus on what’s impacted us…we aren’t the audience.

  • Paul says:

    After years of programming, I am in a rare situation now. I always have a plan walking into a meeting, but most of the time, after asking them what they want to talk about, I never get to it. I use about 10% of my lesson plans. The rest is responding to what they say they want to talk about. It’s rare but great.

  • Paul that’s so true I sometimes get frustrated when I don’t get to “my agenda” but then I remind myself that some conversations need to be driven by the Holy Spirit. I think another question to ask is, “Is this a part of God’s plan?”