Do we really need to teach the Bible in youth ministry?
Sounds like a question with an obvious answer, right?
Okay, let me rephrase the question slightly. How would you answer this question…
What place should Bible teaching have in our youth ministries?
I suspect that this question will provoke a much more varied response. Here are some actual responses that I have heard to this very question in my multiple-decades involvement in youth ministry…
“Of course Bible teaching is important but we need to make sure that the youth group does lots of fun things otherwise young people won’t want to come. ”
“We don’t need Bible teaching in the youth group… they will get that when they start coming to church as adults. We just need to keep them engaged with activities until then.”
“Bible teaching is the only thing a youth ministry should be engaged in.”
“Bible teaching is not as important as telling young people the Gospel.”
“Jesus didn’t focus on teaching people the Bible, so why should we?”
What would your answer be?
Bible teaching in youth ministry
In ministry in general, and youth ministry in particular, there is (and should be) a healthy focus on reaching people with the good news of Jesus. We look at the world around us and see hundreds, thousands, millions of people who are unreached with the Gospel and lost in their sin… and their only hope is Jesus.
The trouble is, we make a quantum leap from problem (an unreached world) to solution (reach them!) and forget that we are a church with a head who has given us both his heart (his concern for the lost) and his mission (what to do about the lost).
Listen to what Jesus says about what we are to do about the unreached people in the world…
‘Therefore… make disciples of all nations’
Unreached world… so make disciples.
One seminar professor commented helpfully on this, saying…
‘The great tragedy of the world is not that it is unreached; it is that it is undiscipled. Jesus commanded us to make disciples, not just to get decisions.’
Apply this to youth or small group ministry, and it is clear that making disciples needs to be the sole focus and objective of any and every youth ministry or church small group.
Take a closer look at the great commission, and you’ll see that Jesus covers this in the threefold clauses (in italics) that are wrapped around the main directive (underlined) of making disciples…
‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’
So we are to go to lost people, baptise them (that is, help them to begin following Jesus as one of his disciples), and teach them what living as a disciple means in our everyday lives. These three things are what constitutes ‘making disciples’, and doing these three things is what honouring the great commission is all about.
Where does Jesus give us this imperative to go? In his word, found in the Bible. Where do we discover how to help people to start following Jesus? In his word, found in the Bible. Where do we get Jesus’ teaching on how to live as his followers? In his word, found in the Bible.
And because the whole Bible is about Jesus, his good news and helping people to turn and follow Jesus (Luke 24:45-47), teaching people bout Jesus isn’t limited to just the Gospels. Instruction on these three things (going, baptising and teaching) is to be found throughout the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.
Bible teaching in your youth ministry
So, how is your youth ministry doing at teaching the Bible to your young people?
How is your youth ministry doing at making disciples of Jesus by going to the lost in the way that Jesus shows us in the Bible, baptising them in the way that Jesus has directed us in the Bible, and teaching them to follow Jesus in the way that he has taught us in the Bible?
For some of us, we might desperately want to get Bible teaching going in your group but don’t know where to start. If that is you, then why not start by making use of the first series of Video Bible Talks which looks at Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7? You can watch and download all six videos (and accompanying leader guides) for free here.
If we want to help young people to start following Jesus, keep following Jesus and reach others for Jesus, then Bible teaching about Jesus is the non-negotiable priority and focus in youth ministry because Jesus has commanded us to make disciples, even making disciples of young people.