Just showing up vs. godliness in action
By Ken Moser | January 31, 2012
I’ve just had a great chat with a parent. He asked me the question, “How do I teach my boys the Bible? When I ask them their thoughts on a passage each week at family devotions they just stare blankly and don’t say anything.”
Great question, and I can’t believe it, but I quick as a flash of exploding gunpowder came up with… of all things… a hunting illustration. Now you must realize that I’m not a hunter. If there was a nuclear winter or a zombie apocalypse or it would be all over for Kenny & Julie (although I could see her grab that Navajo spear we have hanging on our wall and go stalk some game). Basically, as soon the local grocery store ran out of canned food. I’d be … err, toast.
But when I think of it, hunting and Bible study has a number of things in common.
Let me explain.
Some of us have grown up with a bizarre strategy of reading a section of Scripture with a group of youth and then leaving it up to them to figure out what the Bible is saying. Often, we have been taught a strategy built around asking a number of questions like “What do you think verse 12 means? Why do you think Jesus said this? What does the writer mean by righteousness?” etc. etc. Now think of it… this is not a wise (nor Biblical) strategy*. Most youth that I have met are simply not equipped for serious hermeneutics (Biblical interpretation) without a good bit of help beforehand.
Nor is the “ask a bunch of questions and hope for the right answer” a strategy that you would put into practice in almost any other field. Let’s go back to huntin’. Here in Saskatchewan there are tons of animals around and, you guessed it, huntin’ is quite the pastime. You would never hand your son a rifle, a handful of bullets and say “how do you think you load this thing and shoot an animal?” Crazy isn’t it. You would talk him through the parts of the rifle, how to load it, gun safety, how to aim and gently squeeze the trigger etc. The goal is, of course, that later on he can handle it himself and teach others as well.
However, think of what we often do with God’s word. We hand young people this awesome, but let’s face it, sometimes difficult to understand book and say “figure it out”. In thirty years of youth ministry experience I can assure you that the average young teen is just not equipped to deal with a series of questions based on a Bible text—especially when the feel any degree of discomfort or pressure. No wonder they simply grunt and answer, or stare into space.
The solution is quite simple; we must not be ashamed to teach young people the Bible. I mean open it up and explain it to them. Here is a simple formula:
Step 1. Read the passage
Step 2. If you wish, ask three simple questions:
1. Are there any parts of this passage that impact you straight away?
2. Is there anything that is confusing in this passage of Scripture?
3. Does this passage remind you of any other parts of the Bible?
Step 3. Go through what the text is saying and teach the youth what it says.
Step 4 You may want to discuss any applications from this passage.
Now I must say that there are some excellent ‘inductive’ methods or templates for letting youth unpack the Bible (i.e. give this passage a title, write down the three main points from this passage, write down as many practical applications as you can etc.). This, however, is a much different strategy from simply a barrage of questions. [Btw, for youth leaders out there: young people speaking in Bible study isn’t really the measure of success we are looking for. Sure, it is a good and helpful thing, but in the end, we are looking for things like “do they remember the word and put it into practice?” “Do they store God’s word in their hearts?” And even “Do they keep coming back?!”
In the end the point is simple, don’t be afraid to teach young people what the Bible says. Our success is to be seen in what happens down the road, not whether we have a good short-term discussion.
Hope that helped that dad I was chatting with.
*Remember Priscilla and Aquila in Acts 18:26—they took Apollos aside and explained the Bible to him. Reflect also on Paul’s words to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:14-16.