Engaging the Bible in Youth Group
I have been a Youth Minister since the early 90’s and I can tell you that incorporating solid Bible study into youth group time can be a challenge. Sometimes it feels like by the time we do check in, highs and lows, talking about school, teachers, etc. and planning our next event... it's time to light candles close in prayer
However, this Advent we put on skits from Luke chapters 1-2. The youth really had a lot of fun acting it out, saying “Wow that is the Christmas Pageant, and we didn’t know that was in all the Bible!” The were struck by how Luke's gospel tells the story, often explaining the how's and why's at each step. (The say the why as being "love" over and over.)
The Exciting Gospel of Luke
This Lent, many churches are reading the Gospel of Luke as part of the Good Book Club. This is very exciting! Teens and youth can get in on the fun as well. Here are my 5 things to notice when reading Luke with Teenagers:
1. Hook Them with the Birth Story
Get your teens hooked with what they know and have heard from Luke: The Christmas Story and the journey to Bethlehem, the birth, angels & shepherds, etc. That Jesus was born in a trough with regular animals, no crown or anything fancy. The shepherds took a leap of faith by hearing “do not be afraid.” Teens these days can identify with the lowly shepherds.
2. Appeal to the Senses
Talk about their senses, as the book of Luke is filled with them. For many of my youth, the only time of day when they are quiet is when we as a youth group use healing oils, bonfire, candles, guided meditation, music or quiet prayers. In Luke, Jesus ministry begins with the senses; Jesus' eyes are wide open and his ears alert. He hears and feels the needs to physically heal those around him.
3. Inclusion of the Marginalized
Any time you can talk about including the marginalized people of the world, you will get your youth's attention. Teens quickly grasp the importance of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, and they know about forgiveness, justice, love, compassion and mercy. These are all revealed as characteristics of Jesus in Luke. This is why groups of teenagers stand up for their LGBT friends, stand up for The Beloved Community & The Jesus Movement --because they too might see themselves as marginal.
4. Jesus Coming Down & Reaching Out
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus does not stand at the top of the hill to talk to the people. Instead he comes down and walks among them (Luke 6: 17 -49, the Sermon on the Plain). In other words, Jesus is not looking down but having compassion for each and every person.
By saying “Blessed are the poor, for they shall see God” Luke is telling us if you want to find Jesus, go look for him among the poor and suffering, and there you shall see him. This is why teens love to do outreach projects, mission work, and feeding the hungry. I can't think of a better way to guide them towards Jesus!
5. The Universal Gospel
Finally, Luke’s Gospel is known as the Universal Gospel because he is constantly tearing down the walls that divide people and building bridges that bring them closer to God. That is the Good News that youth want to hear. That Jesus came for all of us: male, female, white, black, gay, straight, young, old. God loves us all.
Mindy Boynton is Director of Children & Youth Ministry at Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Stillwater Minnesota. Mindy lives in an old farm house with her husband Tom and three Old English Sheep Dogs. She has four grown children & two grand-children. In her spare time she enjoys gardening, reading and being with friends.