For me, Bible study started at a young age.
I was blessed to have parents who encouraged my brothers and me to get into the word early, to write things down, to learn for ourselves what it had to teach. I’m sure I thought it was boring at the time; but now that I’m a teenager, I’m starting to realize this personal discipline is essential to my life and future.
It was through personal, inductive Bible study that I learned to really love God’s word. But when I look at the church around me, I don’t see much emphasis on Bible study in youth ministries. We’re encouraged to read our Bible, of course; but what the Christian culture gives us is one lesson after another on “issues,” and very little encouragement to study the Scriptures in depth.
But we teens need Bible study — more than we even realize. Here are four reasons I believe pastors, teachers, youth leaders, and Christian parents need to encourage and exhort us to study the Bible, and teach us how to do it.
1. We desperately need the truth.
“Teens today are rarely encouraged to engage in deep, life-transforming study of the Bible.”
No one argues that Christian teens today are facing a massive onslaught of temptation and opposition, perhaps even more so than previous generations. Chances are the youth in your church are dealing with all kinds of issues — from depression to peer pressure to the LGBT agenda to uncertainty about what lies beyond graduation.
Now, more than ever, we need the truth of God’s word as our rock and anchor. Only the Bible gives us what we need to sift through the lies; to stand strong in the face of trials; to live lives that are focused on Christ and his glory, and even to make this goal a priority.
2. We need to see these truths for ourselves.
It’s also no secret that we learn more and remember better when we enter into the process of discovery for ourselves. I’ve benefited hugely from the teaching of my parents, my pastor, and many others — but my greatest joy in God’s word has been in the truths I discovered on my own. There’s something about the process of discovery that makes the thing discovered so much more valuable. You hold it closer, and treasure it more highly.
Teens need this experience of discovery in the Bible. Middle and high school are often a time of searching, of discovery, and of wonder. We don’t just want to be told something; we want to find it for ourselves. So, teach us to search the Scriptures, and give us the tools to do it.
3. We need to be challenged.
Luke 2:52 records that “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” By age twelve, he was learned enough in the Torah that he could hold an educated conversation with the religious leaders of his day.
Teens today are rarely encouraged to engage in deep, life-transforming study of the Bible, or in literate conversations about it. We’re encouraged to read it, and while that’s a great starting place (and a necessary one), it can’t be the end. We are definitely capable of thinking deeply and wrestling with tough topics, so hold us to a higher standard. Challenge us, give us something to reach for.
The teen years are a time of habit development. If we begin now to form the habit of Bible study, we’ll be equipped with a solid foundation when we finally leave the authority of our parents, teachers, and youth leaders.
4. We need the fellowship.
The stereotype is unfortunate, but true. Youth groups can often be breeding grounds for cliques, fights, and all kinds of high school drama. With a little help from social media, little things become big things and a circle of friends turns into an exclusive “group” faster than a relationship can become “Facebook official.”
“Teens are the future church. Equip us now to do what we will be called to do then.”
At the start of his first epistle, the apostle John explained his reason for writing. “That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).
The basis of all true fellowship is God’s word. Do you want unity in your youth group? Let your teens come together around the Bible. When there’s something deeper in common than school, sports teams, or music preferences, fellowship becomes much deeper, more lasting, and more impactful for both us and the larger community of faith.
Equipping the Future Church
Teens are the future church. We’re the leaders, teachers, pastors, evangelists, authors, artists, engineers, and stay-at-home moms of twenty years from now. Please, equip us to do what we’ve been called to do. Give us the tools to pursue a dynamic, growing relationship with our Creator.
Entertainment is not necessarily bad, but we can’t survive on or find real joy in that alone. We need the truths of the Bible. Teach us to find them for ourselves, and you will impact the rest of our lives and ministeries.