About 5 years ago, I was serving a church as a volunteer youth pastor; when we decided that we would do a retreat on purity. I asked a friend and fellow youth pastor to come and teach at the retreat. I shared with him the topic, and he mentioned, well what about going through the book of Ruth. As I thought about the story of Ruth and purity, I wondered how he would pull this off, but I said sure. He taught four Bible studies through the book of Ruth and our students absolutely loved it. He taught them straight through the story of Ruth, and had great application with regards to purity. When we were planning our next retreat all of our students wanted him back. Since then he has done a total of six retreats for me, all of which were going through a book of the Bible. Our students have been though Ecclesiastes, Ruth, Philippians, and Jonah. Each time we do a retreat, they always ask if he is coming back to teach. This is how I got hooked on teaching through books of the Bible. Since then I have taught through the Gospel of John, Esther, Habakkuk, The Sermon on the Mount(I know this is not a book), and am currently writing a series through Hosea.
Benefits of Teaching through a book of the Bible
- You always know what you are teaching next.-I am a planner, so it is nice to know as I am preparing for this week’s lesson, what I will be teaching next week. This only works until I get to the last chapter of a book, then I have to choose something else.
- Your teaching is logical-I don’t know about you, but when I read Scripture I read through books of the Bible. When I teach students how to read the Bible I tell them to read through books. If this is the case then why don’t we teach through books of the Bible? Most youth lessons consist of four verses pulled out of four completely different places.
- Your teaching Bible study skills-At one of our most recent retreats, one of the students said, “I like the way he teaches, because he points it out in a way, that makes me believe that if I just read it I would get the same thing out of it.” This is a huge compliment. As you teach through a book, you are not only teaching the content of that book, you are also teaching students how to read the Bible on their own.
Concerns for Teaching through a book of the Bible
- It gets boring-I have not had a student say this to me. I think this is a copout response from people that maybe don’t want to put the work into it. It does not have to be boring. This way of teaching can be more exciting than just grabbing a couple of different verses each week. I personally get encouraged as I prepare these lessons.
- I am on one topic to long-This is not true at all. Each book of the Bible covers many topics. You may have a similar theme each week, but the topic does not have to be the same.
- It gets redundant-This concern I don’t understand. If your students are anything like mine, they listen to the same music and watch the same movies over and over again. If the presentation is engaging then it will not get redundant.
Keys to teaching through a book of the Bible
- Know the Why it was written-One of the keys to teaching through a book of the Bible is to know the purpose the book was originally written. Many of the letters written by Paul, Peter, and John were written to Christians that were going through hard times. The writers were encouraging them to remain in their faith and be vigilant, even in the face of a culture working against them. Is this not what we are wanting students to do? Knowing why a book or letter was written can also be a great help in application. If you can understand the situation the original receivers were in, then it makes it easier to transfer the application to your group.
- Get ahead in planning-If you have a target date when you would like to start, then the three weeks prior to that right one Bible Study a week. If you can start earlier do that. This will help you know where you going. It will also help you be able to explain the big picture to your students.
- Don’t try and do it all yourself-I guess you could open the Bible pick a book and just go at it yourself, but that may be biting off more than you can handle. I find at least one good commentary on the book I am going to teach and read it as I go. This will help with explanation and application. Right now I am using the NIV Application Commentary on Hosea as I write my Bible studies.
- Do the Hard Work-The first time you try and do this it will be difficult, but do the hard work. Spend the time preparing and studying, it is worth it. It is worth it on a personal level and for your group. It does get easier as you do it more often. I am trying to write one extra Bible study a week so I can get ahead.
Where do I start?
- Pick a favorite-If your favorite book of the Bible is a reasonable length and covers some of the topics you would like to discuss with your youth, start there. You will probably already have a working knowledge of the book, and you will enjoy it.
- Pick something short-If you can not go with a favorite, go with something relatively short. This way you and your students can feel like you have accomplished something, in a short amount of time. Good places to start would be 1 John, Ruth, Jonah, and Philippians.
Let me know if I can be of help.
This idea came from visiting Tim Schmoyer’s website. A great resource for those in youth ministry.
Part 2 can be found by clicking How to Teach through a book of the Bible (Part 2)