"For Those Who Are Passionate About Reaching The Younger Generation"

Youth Ministry Topics Teaching Students

Teaching the Word in Different Cultures

Dave Livermore

As you may recall, this priority refers to encountering the living Word of God and allowing the Spirit to mold us. Clearly this is a natural outgrowth of the Great Commandment value of God's Word in our lives as shepherds and in the lives of our sheep. There is a time, however, for communicating the Word to the group collectively - encouraging personal Bible study is not enough.

Effective communication of God's Word depends less on communication ability and more on:

1. Developing strong habits of personal Bible study

Read the Bible as a Story and see how the passage you are studying fits in with the broader Story. Look for the original intent of the passage. What does it tell you about God? About yourself? How will you respond to what you understand?

2. Allowing teaching to flow from personal study

3. Integrating truth and life in your teaching. A helpful outline for making your teaching connect with believers' lives is Hook, Book, Look, Took (1):

Hook: How will this lesson be relevant to my class? Why should they listen? How can I get them interested in this lesson?

Book: What does the Bible say? What was the original intent? Are students in the Word? How will I get them to explore the Word? Am I lecturing again?

Look: What are the implications of this passage? How does this passage help us understand who God is and what he has done for us?

Took: How will I challenge people to personally respond? How will I ask the Spirit to work in lives?

4. Common Mistakes in Handling God's Word:

  • Talking a lot about the Bible without actually studying the Bible
  • Overuse of favorite subjects
  • Lack of creativity in teaching methods
  • Wandering through a random collection of verses or ideas
  • Being guided by curriculum rather than using it as a tool to help you.
  • Failing to see the overall Story of the Bible as you study and teach it.
  • Failing to acknowledge the baggage your context brings to your understanding and teaching of the Word.
  • Worshiping the Word in itself rather than using it as a means to the real end - Jesus!
  • Discounting people's interest in the Word.
  • Failure to see God's Word for what it is first and foremost - unfolding of who God is and accounts of how humanity interacts with him.

Ask yourself:

  • Are people in your ministry growing in their ability to relate the Word to their lives?
  • When your ministry gathers, do people interact with the Scriptures and with each other?

A few years ago, I became frustrated when I met with a small group in our youth ministry. No one came prepared. I challenged them with the importance of studying the passage before our weekly meeting, having allowed the passage to penetrate their own lives. Some of the more aggressive members spoke up. "Dave, try to see how impossible this feels to us! On Sunday mornings, we go to youth group time and you teach us from one topic. Then we go to Sunday morning worship and Pastor Rudd teaches us something else. Then we come back to church Sunday evening and hear another message. Several of us are trying to do personal devotions every day and some of us are involved in Bible studies at school. A few of us are on the ministry team, where you have us doing additional work, and then there's this Bible study. Many of our families do family devotions. Those of us who attend Christian school have Bible class every day, chapel regularly, devotions before sports practices and on it goes. And you wonder why we aren't prepared?!"

I was speechless. I knew they had made a valid point. We had made it nearly impossible for them to dig deeply into the Word. That challenged us to communicate the Word differently. Our congregation was beginning to study the book of James. In response, we decided to make James our sole focus as a youth ministry for the next year. I wrote a daily journal that our youth used throughout the week to study the passage of Scripture that would be taught the following Sunday. We would hear a message about the passage with the whole congregation, and then talk about age-appropriate applications in youth group. In small groups, we shared the personal implications of the passage for us. On our weekend retreats and other activities, James and its many topics became the common thread. I learned the hard way that communicating the Word is more than simply preparing a thirty-minute lesson. I need to help the believers in my ministry use the Word as their lifeline to God.

Don't forget the importance of Spirit-dependence through prayer and your attitude as you prepare and teach. Ultimately, the Spirit will bring about the right application!

Disciplemaking Around the World

Australia: St. Martin's Church in Australia, targeting Irish immigrants, features clear and relevant teaching of the Word during services. The Word is communicated in a way that faces daily issues as well as the ultimate issues in life. Teaching features storytelling because of the way that Irish souls are deeply engaged by stories.(2)

Chicago: Each Sunday when I attend my church (Christ Community Church in St. Charles, Illinois), I receive not only a sermon outline allowing me to take notes, but also a couple of pages of study questions for my own follow-up. Rather than limit the teaching of the passage of the week to the thirty-minute Sunday sermon, we are encouraged to do the follow-up study in same form-personal devotions, family devotions, accountability partners, cell groups, etc.

Gabon: On the Western Coast of Africa, Gabonese youth workers take their young people through TEE (Theological Education by Extension) courses. While the youth workers were initially told the material would be too intense and deep for the youth in their ministries, the youth proved otherwise. The youth meet in one another's homes mid-week to share the few copies of the studies that exist and prepare for their weekly cell group meetings. They look forward to getting together to learn from God as a group.

Indonesia: Because of the sparse number of people in churches to work with youth in Indonesia, many churches share a youth worker - even if they are located several hours apart. The youth take turns traveling to one another's locations so that they can study the Word together. Several travel by foot for many hours on a regular basis and then spend the night with their peers in another village just for this reason. Because of the strong commitment that is demanded, the time these youth share together is deep and powerful.

Northern Ireland: One of our ministry partners has strongly encouraged Scripture memorization in the cell groups of her ministry. Everyone memorizes at least one verse in their group each week, and they hold one another accountable for it. Youth are also encouraged to express that verse in a creative way. Some write poems or songs reflecting the meaning of the verse. Others paint pictures, create videos or write stories. The verses become much more than syllables locked away in their minds - they transform one another's lives. 

Singapore: Youth often lead large group Bible studies in some Singaporean youth ministries. Drama is often used to help youth interact with the Word instead of simply talking about it. Sometimes drama is prepared ahead of time, but other times the youth are broken into groups and randomly assigned a passage of Scripture to act out. Sometimes everyone acts out the same passage and other times each person has a unique one. After fifteen minutes to study the passage and develop an idea, youth act out their passages for each other. Groups finish by debriefing within their drama groups or with the whole group to talk about the application of the passage.

Action Plan for the Word in Your Ministry

? What are the highs and lows of this priority in your ministry?

? What ideas do you have for strengthening this priority?

? What needs to happen first?


This article comes from pages 105-109 of Connecting Your Journey With the Story of God: Disciplemaking in Diverse Contexts, by Dave Livermore. Copyright 2001 by Sonlife Ministries, all rights reserved. Used by permission.

Dave serves as international director of Sonlife Ministries in Elburn, Illinois.

In this book he asks the question, "If Jesus were in my shoes, with my experiences, in this community, how would he make disciples?"  It helps us to think through the process of disciplemaking, based on the life of Jesus, and helps us discover how this process applies to our own unique cultural context. Order it from Sonlife Ministries at www.sonlife.com.