A couple weeks ago I wrote a post called, “Pivot of Perspective On Bible Study” where I talked about a few different ways I’ve been talking to people about how they view the Bible. Here I would like to throw out a few Bible_Coffeethoughts I’ve been thinking a bit through about how we refer to it in our speech. We refer to the Bible in a number of ways. We call it things like:

  1. Scripture
  2. The Bible
  3. The Word
  4. God’s Word
  5. The Holy Bible
  6. Word of God

All of these are certainly good and well-meaning names and I am not saying we need to change how we refer to it. But, I am asking whether or not it would change things. How could that impact how we think of the Bible and could that in some way change the way it impacts our lives? I have found the most common way we refer to it is, “The Word of God.” We have time in the Word. We study the Word.

But the more I study it, I’m starting to think maybe a more accurate and fresh description of it would be the “Acts of God” versus the “Word of God.” Now, I know that would be a bit awkward to refer to it by that name in the contexts we typically use the phrase “The Word of God.” But, just think about it for a second. We are not just talking about words here. We are, in fact, talking about actions God has taken.

Maybe referring to it (or thinking about it) as “Acts of God” would cause us to see how our actions should change? Maybe it would be a refreshing reminder that God took action toward and for us? Maybe understanding it as actions would help us move beyond feeling spiritually mature simply because we studied it a lot? And, maybe understanding it as Acts of God would reach much deeper into our affections/desires/feelings in ways that literally transform our motivations for obeying it?

After all, we do say things like, “Actions speak louder than words.”

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Today I was looking through some really excellent small group curriculum. I loved the way it dug into lead students in going deeper with their relationship with Christ.  However, it also held one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to pre-written curriculum:

It was really written for an adult, not a student.

The subject matter is excellent. However, the way it is written asks questions in a way that an adult who is a fully devoted follower of Christ would understand. Since this has annoyed me for years, I went through a period of time where I wrote my own stuff. In my pride, I went and looked if my stuff was any better. Truth is I did the same thing.

We think adding in engagement, activities and perhaps a video or two solves the  problem of drawing in teens. This isn’t it either. If you merely hand off any curriculum to your team they think the point is to get from the beginning to the end of the lesson. Therefore, they stop ask these “grown-up” questions, get blank stares they think is boredom, and move on.

If there are unchurched students in your group, these concepts are totally foreign to them. When students have grown up in the church they have been “told” but often are not “taught.” Just because they have heard about concepts doesn’t mean anyone has stopped and asked,  “Do you know what any of it means?”

Recently, I was probing my own three Middle School age kids as to what Grace really is. The idea that it is Christ’s “free gift” that we “don’t deserve” and what that means eluded them. These are three kids who have grown up in Christian school, in youth group, in church, in Christian programming, with two believing parents who talk to them, and still they couldn’t explain this simple concept.

I don’t think the answer is writing our own stuff, or adding any more hands on games. The answer is in the way we teach, and teaching our teachers to teach. Connecting students to the truth is NOT intuitive for everyone. Knowing how to strategically pull apart a lesson and get to the heart of the issue does not make sense to all of us. We don’t always know how to keep bringing it all back to Jesus. It’s not about the lesson at all, it’s about asking, “How will this deepen their relationship with the Lord?”

So STOP!

As you go through your curriculum and look at questions, think before you ask, and spend the time training your team to do the same.

Look at the lesson:

If you think about it, can you easily understand and articulate every concept in front of you?

Chances are if you have to think more than a moment or are pondering, “I know I just am not sure how to say it,” the teens in your group have no clue at all. They need you to let them ask more questions- about the questions.

Could someone who doesn’t speak your language understand all of the words?

A Dutch friend of mine pointed this idea out.  If you were trying to teach this lesson to a person who had just entered the country,  how would you break it down? You would use easy concepts and small words.  Do the same with your teens.

Are you stopping along the way?

Don’t go from start to finish of the curriculum just to get through. Go through it line by line. Make absolutely zero assumptions that they ALL get it. Our unchurched students are sometimes vulnerable enough to say, “I don’t know.”  Many times though they think everyone else knows when they don’t. Our “churched” kids think they are supposed to know this stuff.  They aren’t going to stop you and say,  “So listen I’ve heard about this Armor of God thing a lot. As a matter of fact, when I was little I even owned the play set from the Christian book store. I think I understand that armor is protective, but can you give me a clue as to why wearing my salvation like a hat really is helpful, and you know what Salvation is also explained as something I only have to do once, so really I am not getting this. While we’re at it can we talk about how we wear shoes of peace or what righteousness has to do with living my life today?  Did I mention I have no clue what righteousness really is and how on earth to wear it like a breastplate, I mean practically speaking. Can you tell me how this has anything to do with following Jesus?”  The discussion question read, “How can your “helmet of Salvation” protect your thoughts?”  Line by line ask them,  “DO YOU GET THIS?” and “DOES THIS MAKE SENSE?”

Personally I think maybe teens should be writing curriculum for other teens. Therefore, we are left with the adults trying to think like an adolescent. Maybe instead we need to ask, “If I’m honest, do I know what walking with Jesus means at all?”

How are you teaching your students?

Would love to hear your thoughts,

Leneita / @leneitafix



Looking for an “easy” lesson the week after Thanksgiving?  This one is for you!

Should we really only say, “Thank You,” once a year?  Here is an easy video that is funny and gets students thinking about those “things we should say.”   It also could be used as a “pick me up,” for your team.

TELL:

Students you are going to watch a video on the “20 Things We Should Say More Often.”

GIVE:

Students pen and paper to write down the top 3 things they agree we should be saying.

Show the Video:

After the laughing has subsided :) Ask these questions:

  • What were your top three statements you thought about?
  • Why?
  • Why do you think we need to say that more often?

Then Say:

Psalm 19:14 tells us, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

Ask:

  • How could this verse have to do with this video?
  • Why do we care if our words and thoughts please God?
  • Why does what we say matter to God?

Go around the room or your small groups and have each student share.

Then have students come up with a “Top 10 List” of their own.

  • What are the “Top 10 Things” they personally need to say more often?

Application:

  • Pick 1 thing you will work to say more often THIS WEEK.

Follow up the following week by asking them how it went and if it changed anything at all!

Leneita

@leneitafix

cell phones

I’ve been on both sides of this debate:

To allow or not allow students to use technology during programming?

Before the age of the smart phones, & tablets it honestly used to be an easier answer.  If they had a phone or handheld gaming system in hand, they were distracted.  Leave it home or hand it over.

The heart of the matter is that we want students fully engaged.  In a world that is so driven by being “plugged in,” it’s actually nice to teach them how to disconnect and focus for a period of time.

Up until very recently my total answer was NO to allowing any tech use during our time together. Smartphone, tablet, computer- nope.

I went the “bucket” method of asking them to hand them over the moment they walked in the door.  I tried the “If I see it, I keep it method.”  Then I realized that even though I put verses on a screen, passed out printed copies of the passages or went the *GASP* “Old- School” route of actually passing out Bibles, many of my students weren’t reading or studying at home.  Good or bad, whether I agree or not, pulling out a “book” at home felt like school to them.  Many tried and if they didn’t understand something they just gave up.  They felt embarassed it didn’ make sense to them.   What I realized was that I wanted them to start READING their Bible daily ON THEIR OWN, beyond their time with me.   This meant for our group, for this time, changing strategy and meeting them in “their world.”

I realized how in my own life my children see me reading my Bible on an app more often than in a hardbound copy.  So I allowed them “in.”

Here is what we did:

  • Clear Guidelines

 No headphones ever. They come out of the ears the moment they walk through the door.  Cell phones and tablets are away during non-small group times.  If we see them, they use a handout during discussion times.  We ask them to “turn off” all “push notifications” during study time.  This way we can ensure they are “just” in the Bible app, we still ask them to take notes by hand.

  • Create Interaction:

This has been a great way to teach student’s how to find answers to questions.  I’m working on using this time as a way to find verses, commentaries and ideas.  They want to know the “why” of something? Don’t take my word  or the leaders word for it,  let’s take  a look at the commentaries, dictionaries, and studies.

  • Go One Step Further

I work with a mix of churched and unchurched students.  This can create a gap in who knows where what is in the Bible.   The techno method creates an inclusive environment to all participating.  Then I am giving them ways to look through things at home.  They can’t tell me they “lost it,” unless they deleted it.  I use “text-otions.”  Each day they get a thought and a link to a scripture to check out.

Is this a work in progress?  Absolutely.  I may have a group that can’t handle it in the future and they may have to go away.  Does everyone even HAVE a phone?  Nope.  So we have to have handouts still and other methods so students can engage.  On trips I do remove the distraction except for pictures and once a day to check in at home.

For me I realized I was living in fear of the one that would “take advantage.”  It’s not perfect- but I decided to try.

What about you?  What side do you land on this one.

-Leneita

@leneitafix



The Thread Of Your Message

 —  November 8, 2013 — 3 Comments

Screen shot 2013-11-07 at 1.35.00 PMWhen I teach at Colossae, I use something I call a “Thread.”

The thread is the main point of the passage we are teaching, boiled down into a phrase or a very short sentence. On a fantastic week, if we’re honest about it, people will (maybe) embrace 1 thing they heard us say in our message. So, my thought is…why not make the entire message about the one thing you want them to walk away with?

That’s where the “thread” comes in. I really wrestle with the wording with our staff.  It can take up to an hour sometimes. But it’s really important to make sure we are clearly articulating the biblical authors’ point.  We want to word the writers point in a fresh, boiled down and consumable way – but certainly in an accurate way.

Then, as I prepare my notes, I make sure everything I say somehow points people toward understanding and embracing the thread.

  • If I share information about the historical background of the passage, I want to only share that info that would help people wrap their minds around the thread.
  • If I want to unpack the meaning of a specific word or grammar of a sentence, I want to only unpack the that which will be beneficial for people to to better understand the thread.

There is a phrase that people sometimes use that goes something like this: If you can’t say it in a sentence, you can’t say it in 30 minutes.

I believe that. It keeps the message simple, but not shallow. It keeps the message clear, but you can dive into the depth of it.

Do you use a “thread” or something that helps you keep your messages clear and on point?

Tell me your thoughts!

Chuck

@chuckbomar

yellow door

Last night in my student small group we had an interesting discussion.  It was about the reality of a place called “Heaven” and the “other place” called Hell.

Everyone in my group agreed that they didn’t want to spend an eternity in a fiery pit separated from God.

As we dug deeper into the questions of “what it will really be like when we die,” one girl threw out this statement, “I think Heaven is going to be boring. What are we going to even DO all day? Isn’t it pain that pushes us to be better and try harder? If that’s missing how will we know what success is?”

Then someone else admitted something profound.  “I know it’s supposed to be comforting to know that God has my future all planned out, but honestly, it sounds a little creepy.  Does this mean here on earth I just am His puppet, and then I go to heaven where we are all robots?”

I was glad at the vulnerable honesty of my students.  What they are really asking is this:

“If I let God have total control of EVERYTHING in my life, does this mean I get nothing out of it?”

How much of our experience here in “this world” is spent striving?  We want better. We want more. We think  “achieving” success, however we define it, is what’s important.  In our heart of hearts isn’t this a fear many of us Christ followers have?

Even for the most confident, “Godly” people here on this planet there is a nagging at our soul.  We grapple with indecision, insecurity, selfishness and whether we admit it or not “caring” a little too much what others think of us.  No matter how hard we try to find our identity in the Lord something seems to be missing. It’s like looking in a cracked mirror.  Even when our lives are redeemed we live in this “Fallen world.”

So what if it’s about this?  What if we approach this familiar question from a different perspective?

We let Jesus have it all NOW, because then we get a glimpse of what it will feel like to “let go” and “be ourselves.”  It was always meant to be about a relationship.  Heaven is about FINALLY hitting a point where we get to just be who we were always meant to be.  It’s not about holding our head high and ignoring the “Haters.”  Instead, all of the ache of what we’re “not” will fade away. We get to be the Creator’s Created, fully accepted, each with a part to play for all of time. In short- “You were made for so much more than this. “  Don’t we all want to know we have a bigger part to play?

Now THAT answer seemed to hit a cord with all of us. It’s about Him because He is For US…

How would you handle this “Heaven” and “Future” question?  I would love to hear your thoughts!

- Leneita

@leneitafix



Screen shot 2013-09-26 at 9.49.35 AMTeaching people about Jesus through the scriptures is one of my favorite things to do.  But over the years I’ve discovered bad habits that I had to overcome.  If you teach at all, I’d guess that you struggle with things like this too.  So, I thought it might be helpful to list a few things we tend to do that I believe to be outside of our “job description” as teachers.

As a teacher your job is not to…

  1. Give a book report.  Many times when we are preparing a message we will read books and commentaries.  We then begin working out a flow of thought by organizing all the information we obtained.  And, if we’re not careful we end up giving little more than a book report to those we are teaching. We must remember that this is not our job.  Studying what God has revealed to other people about about a passage or topic can be good to do in many regards, but I would suggest that great caution should be taken to make sure that our study does not hinder us from prayerfully considering what God wants us to say, personally.  For me, I had to stop beginning my preparation by reading other sources.  Instead, I now begin with prayer and personally walking through the bible study methods I teach others…and then look at resources to support or confront the things I’ve learned from my personal study.
  2. Conform behavior.  If our messages are not applicable to the lives of those we teach we are wasting our time.  But, if we’re not careful our desire to be practical can easily cause us to simply teach proper behavior.  There is a fine line here to watch carefully.  I’d suggest our job isn’t to get people to do things, but rather to help them understand, love and enjoy Jesus.

Closer, Farther OR Bubblegum…

 

In light of the recent VMA awards, I wanted to share with you a favorite “goto” lesson I do often with my students. This works as either part of a series or as a “Quick” in between curriculum. 

Lesson Overview:

Purity goes way beyond the body and should be brought up often.  Purity is about the mind, the heart, AND the body.  One of the most difficult parts of navigating life as a teen is trying to figure out practically what living for the Lord means.  Our tendency as those in ministry can be to give our students a list of “do’s and don’ts”  that are really our opinions. You know: DON”T wear that outfit, listen to that music or watch that television show or movie. DO only wear this thing, watch G movies, and listen to worship music.  The problem with that approach is that it can encourage a student to modify their behavior without ever looking at what is going on in their heart. Instead, when we help them look at what they are they putting into their minds through their eyes and ears we can help them navigate if they are filtering it through a Christ centric world view,or if they even want to.

In this lesson you are going to be taking the lyrics of a popular song and go line by line through it asking if students know the reference or what it is about.  If they don’t understand something, you are going to explain it.  The point is to not be judgmental but instead to help them really learn what they are listening to and what it means.  We want them to be honest if the song is bringing them closer to the Lord, away from HIm in what they are thinking on or is it “bubblegum”  (just fluff),

 

Bible Passages:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Phil 4:8

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Matthew 5:8

Prep:

The WEEK before you plan to do this lesson ask students to brainstorm their favorite songs on the radio.  (Blurred Lines, especially the rap version would be perfect for this right now.)  Tell them next week you have a surprise lesson planned.  (You can also pick a song off the radio but it works best if you use current songs students are listening to.  You can pick two or three.  It is up to you if you want to add that you don’t want to work with songs with explicit lyrics. Try to get them to be honest beyond what they think you want to hear.)

Find the lyrics online and print a copy for everyone in small groups the following week.

*Note: It doesn’t hurt to have 2 or 3 songs ready to go just in case they are “quick”  You may need to send a note home to parents letting them know what you are going to do this week.  In addition if a small group leader hasn’t heard the song you pick that is fine.  You might want to encourage them to listen to a snippet so they know the sound.  However,  what’s more important is the prep in making sure they have each read the lyrics and know what it is saying.

Opening Activity (Optional):

Name that song:

Play one or two lines from about 5 to 10 Different Songs.(Depending on the time you want to take.)  You will want them to be a mix of Christian Music, Worship Music, Oldies,  And Even Current Popular Songs (That you know and would consider “positive.”) Do NOT play the whole song!

The person who can name the most songs gets a pack of Bubblegum.

Say Something Like:

Tonight in our small group time we are going to see if you know what you are listening to.  We are going to go line by line through a song that is played often on the radio right now. (Tell them the song)  We are going to decide together if this song helps us learn about God, brings us away from him or is what I call “bubble gum.”  Those are songs that are full of “sugar” they aren’t overtly “bad” but they don’t necessarily help us get closer to the Lord.  Our goal for the evening would be that you can begin to truly pay attention to what you listen to

Move to Small Groups

Open:

We are talking tonight about (insert song) Why do you like the song?

Answers will vary.

Then:

Take the time to walk through the song line by line, explaining the song as you go.

Stop often and make sure they are understanding “hidden” references.  Pull it apart.  However, avoid judging whether or not they “should” be listening to it.  If they ask if you like it, give your opinion. Tell them why you do or don’t like it.  Sometimes you might even say,  “I understand why it’s so catchy and you like it, but it doesn’t mean it’s a song that is bringing you closer to the Lord.”

Ask:

 

  • What is each line about?
  • Is it obvious or is it an underlying reference to something else?

Don’t judge the song or the thoughts just go through and help students understand it.

Now have them look at the song as a whole and ask:

  • If you are honest does this song help you think about the Lord and grow in your relationship with HIm?

Answers will vary based on the song.

Say Something Like:

I am not attacking your music selection.  I am also not saying you ONLY have to listen to Christian music or worship music. What we are talking about tonight is that what we listen to matters.  Those words, even if we think we are only listening to the “sound” are coming into our heads.  Have you ever realized you know the lyrics to a song from the radio you don’t even like?  There are times when music from the radio that isn’t written FOR Jesus makes us think about Him. There are times love songs are like that. We have to decide beyond Sunday morning what in the world around us helps us to not only focus on the Lord, but learn to live for HIM.  Let’s take a minute and just look at two really short verses.

Read Mark 5:8 & Philippians  4:8

Ask:

  • What do you think it means to be pure in heart?
  • Why will they see the kingdom of God?
  • Why do you think we are supposed to think on things that are true, pure, lovely, etc.?
  • What does that mean?

Finish by saying something like:

Being pure in heart is not about being perfect.  It is about making choices that help us grow closer to the Lord. Seeing His kingdom is about knowing HIm.  Everyday we can make small choices in what we listen to, watch or absorb that either bring us closer or farther away from God.

Take some time to talk about other ways they can focus on the “pure” from Phil 4:8 in a practical way.  Challenge students to pay attention to the lyrics of the music they listen to in the coming week.  Follow up the next week by just asking them about pure, noble, etc.

*Note: You can also do this lesson focusing on movies, television, youtube, or any media.  It’s great to come back to it several times over the year as a reminder of what purity is, and that it isn’t just about our “bodies.”

Let me know if you have questions,  Feel free to pass this on.