Letting teens discover Biblical patterns themselves


There are patterns in the Bible. There’s a pattern of rebellion in the history of Israel. There’s a pattern of forgiveness and grace on God’s side. There’s a pattern of God picking some highly unlikely candidates for important jobs. There’s a pattern of sacrifices being made to atone for mankind’s sins. There’s a pattern of love. Unbelievable, indescribable, unimaginable love.

These patterns are important, because they show the bigger picture of God’s redemptive story. They’re important because they show why certain stories are in the Bible. They’re important because they show God’s consistent character and the depth of His love.

But do your teens see these patterns? Do they recognize them in your sermons, in the small group materials you use, in their private Bible reading? [Read more…]

Helping your students with ‘anchoring’ new Biblical truths


In cognitive psychology there’s an interesting phenomenon called anchoring. It means that people will always try to anchor new knowledge, problems or issues to existing knowledge and experiences. This not only helps us to remember things better (example: the same math equations work for math, chemistry and physics), but it’s also a big help in problem solving skills. In short: anchoring is a very important part of the process of learning.

Example: when given a problem (‘How do I open this jar that is stuck’?) we automatically try to recall previous similar knowledge (‘A few weeks ago I managed to open one with a knife’) and experiences (‘I have to be careful to use the knife in the right direction, otherwise I’ll end up cutting myself like I did last time’).

This process of anchoring has some interesting and important consequences for teaching Biblical truths in youth ministry: [Read more…]

How to make a good youth small group study

bible study group

Making a good youth small group study yourself is time consuming perhaps, but also very rewarding. It gives you more flexibility than bought curricula and you can adapt your study specifically to the needs of your small group. While I don’t believe there’s one right format for good small group studies, I do think there’s a process you can follow to help you create a good study. Here’s what I advice on how to make a good youth small group study:

1. Pray

Everything you do needs to start in prayer, be imbedded in prayer. Without God’s blessing, the best Bible study in the world won’t make a difference for your students. Make it a habit to spend some real time in prayer before writing a small group study, not just a two minute ‘rescue me’ prayer a few hours before small group starts. [Read more…]

How to make a teaching plan for youth ministry

small group

One of the most challenging plans to make for a new season of youth ministry is a teaching plan. Yet it’s also the most rewarding one, both spiritually and in terms of stress reduction. First, let’s have a look at some of the benefits of making a teaching plan. Then we’ll discuss how to actually make one for your youth ministry.

The benefits of a teaching plan

I admit: I’m a planner, so making plans and planning in advance comes natural to me. Yet I’m convinced of the benefits of a teaching plan for every youth ministry. Here’s why: [Read more…]

Creative ideas for memorizing Scripture


In the church I grew up in, we spent quite some time memorizing Bible verses. We always had vacation Bible weeks for kids where we were taught one or more verses, we did the same every Sunday in Sunday school and even the teen ministry gave it a shot.

But after that, I didn’t devote much attention or time to memorizing Scripture. In the last few years however, I’ve become more and more convinced of the importance of knowing verses, passages and maybe even whole chapters or books from the Bible by head. [Read more…]

The lasting power of simple images

Campus train

I was still a college student when I first encountered this image, or drawing actually. My husband and I were part of a Campus Crusade for Christ group and that’s where we first saw it. In the years we spent there, it became sort of funny, because the thing kept popping up in sermons, speeches, talks, Bible studies and testimonies. We referred to it as the ‘Campus-train’ and by the time we left the group, we could draw it off the top of our heads.

It’s a powerful demonstration of the necessity to put the facts first, followed by faith and then feelings. In this postmodern culture with its focus on experiences and ‘what feels good’, the temptation to put feelings first is big. But as we all know, our feelings aren’t reliable and they certainly are no indication or evidence of what God is doing in our lives. It was a deep truth, the depth of which we didn’t even fully realize at that time. Still, we found the image to be a bit silly. [Read more…]

Introducing the sound of silence in your youth ministry


Do you know what silence sounds like?

It’s a noisy world we live in. We’re bombarded constantly with sounds from cars, our neighbor’s dog barking, crying babies, phones ringing and music playing in stores.

For teens, even more so. They have constant auditory stimuli from their iPod, phone conversations, the racket a huge school full of teens make, games they play or friends they hang out with.

Silence is hard to come by these days. Acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton calls silence ‘the fastest disappearing resource’ and he’s on a mission to record and preserve silence before it’s destroyed by man-made noises (look at this fascinating initiative One square inch of silence for instance). [Read more…]

The power of Stories

Saint Martin

When we moved from Holland to the south of Germany, we moved to a very Catholic area. Here in Bavaria the Catholic Church is the dominant denomination with the German Lutheran church at a distant second place. As a result, we’ve experienced some Catholic traditions and fests. Even though our son goes to a public Kindergarten, the religious influence of the Catholic Church is very much present at these fests, but in a positive way.

The story of St Martin

If there’s one thing the Catholics got right, it’s the power of stories. Take St Martin for instant, the famous Roman soldier who gave half of his cloak to a beggar to keep him from freezing to death. He then had a dream in which he encountered Jesus, wearing his half-cloak, recommending him for what Martin had done.

[Read more…]

Finding your key message in a Bible passage

How do you go about finding the key message in your Bible passage?

This post is part of the series on Preaching for youth. I believe that every sermon should have one key message, one point you’re trying to get across. I also think that your key message should be pulled directly from the verse or text passage you’re using. In this post, we’ll show the process of finding your key message in a verse or passage.

1. Study the verse or passage

For me, the starting point is always to really study the passage or verse I’m using. It may be very familiar to you, but it’s good to read it again a few times to let it work in you again. I recommend using several translations to see how they translate or interpret the text. It helps you look at the words afresh and may even give you some new insights. In this phase, I usually don’t look at commentaries yet, I want to extract the key message myself first.

How do you go about finding the key message in your Bible passage?

[Read more…]