I just finished reading a really great book by my friend, Andy Blanks. Andy is the co-founder of a the website youthministry360 which is chalked full of great resources for anyone connected to student ministry. I found his book, The 7 Practices for Teaching Teenagers the Bible, to be one of the most helpful tools I have come across that equips, inspires, and challenges youth workers and volunteers to teach scripture in a way that is impactful and transformative. As someone who has developed my own curriculum as well as used just about every curriculum under the sun, I found this book to be the right tool that walks through the difficult process of having curriculum in your hand to actually presenting it.
Keep the main thing, the main thing!
One of the best parts of this book his Andy's first chapter on engaging with God. He immediately dispels many of our reasons we think we want to teach scripture, like information transfer or behavior modification. "You teach the Bible so students will know God and grow in their imitation of Him." And then he hits you between the eyes with a true gut check. "You can't lead students to desire that which you don't desire." Our walk with Jesus is foundational to our teaching students to know and love Jesus.
In a very pastoral way, Andy shepherds the reader through a little bit of self-evaluation. And I have to admit, this was pretty convicting as a youth worker who is struggling with senioritis! Because these were words that were difficult to hear, I found Andy's tone and heart warm and inviting. There is no shame, just grace and a kick in the pants.
Every chapter is full of practical nuggets you can implement NOW.
Andy could have milked this book and made it a couple hundred pages, but instead he made it totally accessible and easy to read. Each chapter is formatted in a way that you can skim to what you need, but written in a way you won't want to. What I appreciated most is that in every single chapter there were things I could use this week in youth group to do a better job in my teaching. Here were some of the highlights for me:
- Practical step by step plan to take curriculum and translate it into an actual lesson
- A renewed call for biblical context to make sure students know how particular stories, themes, people, and points fit into the larger biblical narrative.
- People have different learning styles. No kidding, but I don't teach that way. Andy gives a huge list for ways to connect with different learners.
- A tutorial on how to ask good questions.
- A list of different types of application questions and activities you can use so that students can lean into life change.
Two thumbs up!
I have to admit I was feeling a little patronizing about reading this book. I have been teaching teenagers the Bible forever. What could this small book have to teach someone as wise and good looking as me? It turns out quite a bit. This book only took me an evening to read. And every other page is marked up and underlined with things I want to remember and implement in my ministry. In fact how I am doing my talk this week is completely changed, and changed for the better simply by using a different application tool outlined in this book.
I highly recommend this book. Anyone, including you who is responsible for the teaching in any form within the context of student ministry, this book will be a blessing and dramatically improve your ability and effectiveness. Good curriculum is great. But someone who is working out their own thriving walk with Jesus equipped with the right tools to take that curriculum and make it personal for their context is golden!
I hope you find this book as encouraging and equipping as I have. And if you are struggling with a little senioritis, this book is a good kick in the pants from a true pastor and shepherd of students and youth workers. Thanks Andy for your heart and for this great tool!