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The Teaching Plan

“What is the best material that I can use to teach my youth group?”

In one form or another, I’ve been asked this question by many youth leaders. Now the world has gotten more connected that even youth leaders in the far islands of the Pacific (just like me) can avail the latest and the best from areas where youth ministry is exploding all over the world. But perhaps the question needs to change. Like the story of the man who gets what he wants but is not satisfied, perhaps getting a really great material from somewhere else may not be that satisfying for you or your ministry.

If I would compare it to food, you’ve probably heard of this wonderful, tasty dish that unfortunately is miles away and very expensive. You may have the means to get it but who knows if it will get to you fresh? And will your family and friends love all the exotic ingredients?

But what if you could know the recipe to make a similar dish, which would be just as good, not as expensive and perfectly suited to your loved ones because it is you who knows them and prepared the meal?

So instead of looking for the best material elsewhere, the question should be, “How can I prepare the best material for my youth?” Or to use another food comparison, instead of just giving you a delicious meal let me give you instructions on how to prepare the best selection of food for your youth.

Getting Ready:

To do that let us begin with the end in mind. That end, drawing from Scripture, can be found in these words: “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” Acts 20:26-27

These were the closing words of the Apostle Paul, to those he helped to grow in their faith on the day he was sure he would not see them face-to-face again.  Like Paul, if that day comes with our youth, would we be able to say the same?

I treasure my time with young people now more than ever because I know my time is limited. In youth ministry you may have four years or even less to be with young people. Youth are always in transition. A change in family or school status, and that youth that you thought would be with you for a long time will suddenly be unreachable. There are also emotional and social changes in their life or family that could keep them from your youth group. There may be a time when though they are still near, they may no longer be as receptive to what you have to say. Your time with them is finite and knowing that is essential to what you will teach them.

Despite that we still need to declare “the whole counsel of God” to our young people.

 

The Ingredients:

What would that whole counsel be? The world itself would not be able to contain everything that could be taught about Jesus but still there are things of first importance (Consider Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 15:3). Now the things that are important could very well vary from culture to culture, and depend on your view on certain things too.  Pause for a moment and reflect on this question, “What are the things of first importance for my young people?

For my part, if we are to declare the big story of God to our teens, then the recipe should be:

1 Bible + a variety of spices

The Bible should be the main meat of every teaching. And not just a focus on hot topics or selected stories of the Bible but in the course of our teaching the aim should be to give our youth the grand story of the Bible—the story of God’s creating the world, the rebellion of man, the plan of salvation through Jesus, to the end of the present world.

Below are other ways to be strategic in teaching the youth:

An easy one is to use the parts of the Navigator’s Wheel as the key essentials to teach to your young people (this can be found in the GYMN Level 1 manual, p.21). The main summary of that is developing our relationship with God through prayer and the Word, and developing our relationship with others through fellowship and evangelism).

A more time-intensive but very strategic option would be to sit down by yourself or with your leadership team to discuss what from the Bible would these main things be to teach your youth. It will also help to consult people in your church who have much wisdom in this area, especially your pastor. I would recommend that you also consult GYMN’s Basic Training Discipleship resource, it covers the key areas of theology (the foundational Biblical truths) as well as practical theology, how to put your faith into action. See a sample here.

You can also make use of the List of Disciples According to the New Testament table we have in our Level 1 manual (pages 22-23) or teaching materials developed by others (see teaching plans below).

Doing any of these should give you the big picture of what you are going to teach the youth.

The spices come in how you would fit this to your culture and youth group. Whatever teaching guide you use: modify, modify, modify. Evaluate each topic and weigh whether it would be suitable to your group, take out what doesn’t fit and add key lessons not there that you believe to be important for your young people to learn. If you have material you’ve taken from elsewhere, see if you can change the examples and approaches to ones that have more impact to the culture of your teens.

Cooking Instructions:

 

From what we just discussed, you will have multiple topics and subjects that may have you thinking “Now, how will I ever teach all these to my youth?” Especially with time being limited, you may have to boil it down to the really, really important things for your young people to know and apply.

Keep in mind that teaching is not just during the regular structured (usually weekly) meetings where you give a message. You can integrate small groups, camps, time in the church with adults and events by others into your teaching strategy. Even moments of enjoying the company of one another in a group or even activities outside the youth group can be used intentionally to help youth learn a lesson.

A good strategy, especially if you are the main youth leader, is to map out what you would teach a year in advance and try to keep it updated, evaluating it yearly to make it the best it can be for your youth. If you can’t plot it out a year ahead, consider charting out what you want to teach 6 months in the future or even 3 months out. The most common plan in youth ministry and perhaps the least strategic would be only plotting out the week ahead. This way, your lessons could be subject to emotions or the latest fad and could make you miss out on topics that you might later regret your youth not learning.

If you are able to come up with a teaching strategy for the year ahead, don’t become frustrated if things don’t turn out exactly as scheduled. Be open to changes and make adjustments as the ministry progresses. My encouragement is that having a plan on what and when to teach will help guide you in imparting to your youth “the most importants.” Another thing is it will give weeks and months for you to prepare ahead, this will help you give quality lessons and get the best resources or resource people for the youth.

The Presentation:

There you have it, not just a recipe, but a year’s plan. Now to prepare it and present it to the youth—this will be up to you. Certainly to get it ready is no joke and will require effort.  But the results! Where young people are being consistently fed well on the Word of God there you will find a ministry that is growing strong and where the Spirit’s power is evident. There you will be amazed as you watch your youth grow.

I pray that this will encourage you to prepare the best teaching for your youth and that you may be able to feed them well. And as you teach the whole counsel of God to them, may you also taste and see that the Lord is good.

Alvan Tauli, GYMN-Asia Philippine Training Coordinator

Teaching guides to help you as you plan:

Take note that many web-based ministries would consider donating subscriptions to those outside the USA/Canada or Europe (just email and ask.

  1. Basic Training by Global Youth Ministry Network – sample here.
  2. The Seven Checkpoints for Youth Leaders by Andy Stanley and Stuart Hall – is an example of focusing on a few key points.
  3. Paul Kelly, who has helped me think a lot about this topic, points to the following curricula:
  4. The Jesus Creed for Students by Scot Mcknight looks at the major topics in Jesus’ own ministry.
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