Let teens teach

In a recent blog post, Andy Blanks offers 20 ways to spruce up your Bible study. His suggestions are good and well worth a read.

That said, I struggled with one of them.

“Let students teach--Adapt your lesson so students are teaching each other, whether in groups or as individuals.”

Now, to be clear I absolutely believe that as youth workers, we need to let students teach.

I just think we need to go beyond what Andy suggests here.

Letting students teach requires more than just adapting our lessons so teens can teach others.

You see, when we only do that, our lessons are still about us.

Truly letting students teach means letting them choose the topic they'd like to teach, equipping them with resources to help them write the lesson, asking them to create a talk or discussion questions, and then helping them to edit and refine their lesson, all the while equipping them to actually deliver their talk or facilitate their discussion.

This is NOT easy and it never happens accidentally.

In fact, if you want to know the truth, it takes me about three times as long to help a student prepare a lesson than it would take me to just write it myself.

But discipleship isn't about doing what's easy. It's about cultivating followers of Jesus.

And that always, always takes time and effort.

Truly letting students teach also means that we have to relinquish control over what and how we teach. Teens' ideas will not necessarily be our ideas.

For example, I'm currently helping a teen prepare a discussion on Biblical geography.

To be honest, this topic sounds deadly dull to me.

But this particular teen is fascinated by all things related to geography. (This is a kid who, on our summer mission trip to Rwanda, sat on the plane riveted to the screen that mapped where we were in real time.) Since he's fascinated by geography, I have no doubt that his exploration of the Middle East in Jesus' time will fascinate other teens as well.


Because passion is contagious.

What's more, allowing this teen to teach on Biblical geography ensures that we cover a topic that I never in a million years would have addressed. When we allow teens to not only teach, but to teach about topics that uniquely interest them, we increase the breadth and scope of our ministry, something that definitely “spruces up your Bible study”.

Beyond that, what I love most about this teen's willingness to teach is the way this process is deepening his own faith.

He opted to teach on the Middle East in Jesus' time.

So to prepare for this, this teens is reading, studying, and mapping the entire Gospel of Mark.

In the process, he's learning new things that will enliven and embolden his faith.

And isn't that really the point of Bible study? Whether it's one we lead or one teens lead?

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the Minister of Youth and Family at Atonement Lutheran Church in Barrington, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

More about Jen

Jen's Books

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A Mission That Matters: How To Do Short-Term Missions Without Long-Term Harm

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Unleashing the Hidden Potential of your Student Leaders

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The Real Jesus

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The Jesus Gap

What Teens Actually Believe About Jesus

Based on National Research

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