Mythbuster #9 - The Bible is Only Taught In Church

Myth #9 - The Bible is only taught in church.

We youth workers do like to talk.  And we do like our “youth talks.”  Youth talks are an important part of youth ministry because part our “programming” is teaching.

To answer what we should talk about, I’d like to start with the following quote from William Berger, a camp director. He posted an answer to a youth ministry series of questions for the blog, Life in Student Ministry.

“The pastor gives a few random verses to go with the topic and in 20 minutes the teens walk away with nothing more then its bad to smoke or its bad to hate people or something like that. Please don’t misunderstand me, there is definitely place for topical messages because we need to hit on the issues they face, but I feel as if that’s all that occurs from 6th grade to graduation.

In my youth group while I was growing up I received topical messages for all that time and when I got to Bible college I couldn’t answer a single question in the Biblical Introduction class.  I didn’t even know all the books of the Bible.  All I could say, sadly, is the content of a few famous Bible stories from Sunday school.  We need to have a plan.  Youth pastors need to have a goal when the kids arrive in 6th grade.  They need to begin by teaching these kids the fundamentals of their faith and move to what they believe as Christians and why they believe it.  They need to learn how to share their faith and argue it.  They need to know how to teach someone a Bible lesson and disciple someone.”


Amen to that.  As a church youth worker, teaching the Bible is something we should be doing first.  This is what separates us from all of the other community youth programs.  Besides teens are already receiving plenty of peer pressure, sex, alcohol talks from school health, science and maybe other classes.  They also get these talks from parents in actual conversation or from nagging or from picking it up subliminally.  Even non-Christian parents do this (though we may not always agree with their moral message).  TV also gives these messages.  So do after-school activities.

I know why we feel the need to talk on these topics.  We want to prevent teens we love from making these painful mistakes.  We see teens making these mistakes anyway.  And we want to teach on these topics because we want to add the Biblical perspective.

However, I’ve learned something.  When you teach Bible lessons (which is why they are scheduling church into their busy lives and it is what they, at least visiting teens, expect to get from a church), these topics naturally come up. They naturally come up because questions and answers are on the minds of your teens and your youth group is a safe place to ask those.  You don’t need to do a series on, say, peer pressure.  Teach through a book of the Bible and in your teaching or in your breakout sessions or in your hands-on activity, your teens will talk about peer pressure and whatever else is currently happening in their lives.  This stuff always comes up and because you are already in the Bible, you are giving the biblical perspective.

Also, too often a topical teaching comes across as “Don’t, because the Bible says so.”  I know.  No one actually says that or teaches that.  But if the topic is taught and a Scripture is part of the conversation to support it (and it is often a weak supporting Scripture), this is what is taught.  I’m afraid the findings from the National Study of Youth and Religion found this to be too true.  I’m afraid too many of our college freshmen in Bible colleges are also finding out how little of the Bible they actually know.  This does fall upon us as youth leaders.

Here’s another twist on why we should teach more Bible.  The September/October 2006 issue of Youthworker Journal had an excellent article from one of their columnists, Patton Dodd.  To quote: “A few years ago, I was a teaching fellow at Boston University for an undergraduate course on the Bible.  On the first day of the fall semester, the professor opened the class with a touch of drama.  He walked in just as class was to begin, stood in silence at the front of the room, and waited for the students to turn their attention forward.  Once they did, he looked, scanned the room and the class, in perfect King’s English, recited the 23rd Psalm.

“At the end, the professor allowed the psalm to hang in the air for a moment, then asked if anyone could say where the poem came from.  We waited through several seconds of silence.  ‘Anyone?’  We sat through more awkward moments.  Was this start-of-school nerves, or did these kids really not recognize one of the most famous psalms in Western civilization?

“‘Any ideas at all?’ the professor pressed.  This time, one hand rose shyly.   A girl gave her best guess.  ‘From Coolio?…’  The professor shot a glance at me, his young graduate student who should know all things pop culture.  I looked at my shoes.  ‘Coolio?’ he said with a game smile.  ‘You need to clue me in.’  ‘He sang that song from Dangerous Minds about walking through the valley of the shadow of death.’”

The article goes on to name other guesses the students had.  Such guesses were “Sheep” from Pink Floyd, Pulp Fiction, U2, the Beastie Boys, and Dogma.

Patton Dodd is not the only one to figure this out.  Mark I. Pinsky wrote for the e-newsletter “850 Word of Relevant” (July 30, 2007) about the new Simpsons movie: “Serious discussions of faith, spirituality and religion now take place regularly on Fox, Comedy Central and Cartoon Network’s late-night Adult Swim. For the first time in history, young Americans seem to be learning more about religion-their own and others’-from TV than from their own worship traditions. And why shouldn’t they? They spend far more time sitting in front of the small screen than sitting in church.”

Get it?  Our teens are being taught Bible.  It’s being taught all over in pop culture. But it’s not necessarily being taught correctly.  This is why Time (April 2, 2007) devoted a cover article to the Bible being taught in public schools.  The Bible is so prevalent in our culture and society that many public high schools feel they are not offering a complete education without covering this piece of literature.

Teaching this piece of literature is a core part of being a church youth leader.

I recently heard about a Bible camp speaker who decided that his message time was so important to those teens’ lives that he went hours over the allotted time thus not allowing the teens to have their scheduled late evening game time and also got them to bed way past “lights out.”  For the next night he went over again but he also handed out flashlights to the counselors and instructed them that those teens who fell asleep were to get flashed by the flashlight to make sure that they stayed awake.  Sadly to some, this is the image of what teaching the Bible is.  While this story is true, the image is not true.

There are thousands of creative ways to teach the Bible.  If you have a creative mind, you can come up with your own thousand ways.  There are many good published resources full of creative ideas to come up with another thousand or so ways to teach the Bible.  There are networks of youth workers in your area who are full of creative people to “borrow” another thousand of ideas from.  There are thousands of resource websites of more ideas you can “borrow.”

Here’s another idea (borrowed from Youth Ministry in the 21st Century/Rick Lawrence).  Divide your group into small groups for one evening.  Assign each group to come up with their own five most important basic truths of the Christian faith.  Gather everyone back together and have each group share their five.  Then as one group, make a final set of five to ten truths.  There is your outline, straight from the youth, for the next year.

When teaching the Bible you also have the power that is available through the Holy Spirit working for you because God has promised us that His Word will not go out void.  Also in 1 Timothy 3: 16 the Bible says,  “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”.  So take advantage of this extra power and teach the Bible to your youth.  They and you will be the richer for it.