As you read this on Sunday, we are finishing up our Sr. High retreat in New Hampshire. I thought this post was an appropriate one as a wrap up to a retreat because every year students return from retreat with some new-found urgency to read their Bibles. This urgency doesn’t generally last very long, though. What does it take for the Word of God to actually seem important to teens? That is a question continues to rattle around in my head. So many times I hear teens tell me that they want to read their Bibles, but are too busy. Of course, I wonder what that actually means. There seems to be enough time for other things, even things that they don’t like all that much, like homework. It would stand to reason that if there was something that they really wanted to do, they would find time for it. I know I can be very busy and still find time to watch a football game or play outside with my kids.
There is an urgency in youth ministry as it relates to sharing the Word . God’s Word is absolutely essential! Proverbs says, “Keep my commands and you will live.” (Proverbs 7:2) Youth ministry has a very important task to share that essential truth with teens; helping them to see their need for it. What do we do in order to make the most impact?
1- Pray…prepare…pray again — As I see it, the only real way that they are going to actually be obedient to the Word is if the Holy Spirit does some prior work in their hearts. At the same time, we must prepare to handle the Word of God correctly by spending time with God ourselves. Too much can be put on the presentation of the message. Sure, it is important to show some energy when speaking, but a clever presentation doesn’t change lives. Presentation doesn’t make me care about something. It might make me listen, but it doesn’t ultimately make me want to do anything different with my life. Conversely, there can be a very boring presentation on something I care about and I will listen to it and enjoy it. It is important to realize what we are doing (teaching God’s Word) and who we are dealing with (His children). God is concerned for them and has invested far more than I have in them. (remember Jesus?) Therefore I must pray, pray and then pray some more for that work to be done in their hearts.
2- Don’t give up on the Word –– Too many youth speakers have gone too far in the presentation side. They build entire talks around videos, pictures and stories, only throwing in a few random verses at the end. Our starting point needs to be the Word! Help them see that there are important truths to be discovered there. Sure teens enjoy media, but that doesn’t mean that they need to be entertained at every waking moment.
3- Open the Bible up — I find that many of the students don’t ever open their Bibles up. If they bring their Bible to youth group and open it up there, that might be the only time they open it all week. Help them see, with their eyes, that what you are talking about is actually in there. Parents should do the same in the home.
4- Testimony — Find ways to have people share their story. What is God doing in their life? Where have they seen God work? What has God been teaching them? When they see it lived out, it starts to make a lot more sense.
5- Keep encouraging them — There seem to be seasons where teens will read their Bibles and also seasons where they don’t. We must keep encouraging them to do it as an important spiritual discipline. Help them learn how to use their Bibles and how to keep that time with God.
The excuses will likely continue. The busy schedules will not get any less busy. At the same time, God’s Word doesn’t get any less important. Let’s use all the influence that God has given us to make the time we have with each teen around the Word of God the most valuable it can possibly be. And adults, let’s do our part to model it to the young people around us.