Key Qualifications for Teaching Youth

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Have you ever felt a call or burden to teach the youth in your church? Have you been questioned as to your ability because of your age–too old to relate? Hear these words from Sally Michael in her recent seminar “Teaching Youth and Engaging their Hearts”:

The first year I taught junior high students in my church, someone who realized that I was going to teach youth said to me, “Do you think you can relate to youth?”

Now reading between the lines, I think what this person was saying in a kindly way was…do you realize that you are a beyond middle-aged woman…you don’t speak their language, you don’t know the jargon of youth…in other words, you are just not cool.

My reply was, “Yes, I can relate to them because at the core we are very much the same. We are both sinners…in need of grace. And I am very well qualified to talk about that. We have more in common than we have differences.”

What is your basis of relating to youth in your church? Is it being “hip and cool”—knowing the latest teen slang, being able to talk about their music, knowing the latest video games?

We miss the boat if we think that this is what it takes to relate to youth. We can relate because we all have the human dilemma—we need a sin-bearer so we can be right before a holy God; we need grace to daily crucify self and serve others; we need the power of the Holy Spirit to resist temptation and to walk in righteousness…we need the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Teens can easily intimidate teachers who feel they must entertain bored students or “relate” on their level. But the key to teaching youth is not to be intimidated by them, to realize the serious call to teach significant truth, to pray for your students, and to genuinely love your students.

Our confidence is not in the words we speak but in our common identification as sinners and in the message of hope, salvation, and grace that we bring to sinful men. Paul understood that and is a good model to us in how to bring that message to the youth in our churches:

1 Corinthians 2:1-5—And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

We all come to the task of teaching and mentoring youth in weakness…and sometimes “in fear and much trembling.” But the heart we bring to that ministry is what defines our ministry—do we bring hearts of dependence on the Holy Spirit; do we bring humble hearts not trusting in our cleverness but in the power of the Holy Spirit; do we bring hearts burdened that their faith would rest on the sufficiency of Christ? 

(Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Written by Jill Nelson

Jill Nelson

Jill Nelson is a wife, mother, grandmother, teacher and author. She has taught Sunday School for over 20 years and writes God-centered curriculum for Children Desiring God.

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