The following is an article I wrote last March for the Deep & Wide Youth Ministry blog I used to maintain and facilitate for Dare 2 Share Ministries. It’s nice to know after almost a year that these principles are still applicable in a variety of Youth Ministry settings…
The ALTernative teaching style is something that grew out of Dare 2 Share’s most recent DVD curriculum project, Gospel Journey Maui, that was filmed in January of ‘08 and release October of the same year. Greg Stier, founder and president of D2S, applied this method throughout the week of filming and has since put these ideas to paper and shared them with Youth Leaders nationwide. It had a radical impact on the week he spent with 7 teens and twenty-somethings of various religious worldviews as they discussed some of the BIG questions in life and is sure to have the same type of effect in how you do Youth Ministry. It has definitely been transformational in how I do it!
The following overview will give you just enough information to begin implementing this into your Youth Ministry, but nothing will prepare you more than simply diving in and applying the following principles.
ASK – Ask questions. Ask questions without expectation or an agenda. You need to ask questions and truly want to know what your teens have to say. It may take a few attempts at this, but it won’t take long to create an environment that is open and where teens feel the freedom to share their responses. It might take them back at first if this is not normal for your youth group setting, but you continue to encourage them that they have the freedom to share and while everyone might not agree all the time they certainly need to respect each other and not take things personally. Dare 2 Share’s Gospel Journey Maui does a great job posing some incredible questions (and laying out this entire teaching style). I have also asked the teens in my small group on occasion to write questions they have on 3×5 cards and we actually use their questions as the foundation for our discussions. They even get more engaged in the conversation if they realize you are using one of their questions.
LISTEN – Listen to what your teens have to say. The more you listen to them, the more likely they are to listen to what you have to say in return. This is extremely valuable in this process and how you do here will translate into your overall effectiveness as a teacher to your teens. In addition to earning their respect, by listening you will better understand where they are at and exactly what they need to learn. As the conversation progresses, your teens may even have additional questions that they will want you to answer. There is nothing like being asked by your teens to answer their questions and teach them the things they are wanting to learn. How many of us as Youth Leaders / Teacher wish we walked into a room each week with our teens and wished they asked us more and more questions. Personally, this is what has amazed me the most as I have implemented ALTernative teaching into my small group…as I listen and we have true conversations, they actually ask more and more questions. I no longer have an issue having to fill our entire 90 minutes each week. I have a problem keeping us within the 90 minute time frame. Great problem to have!
TEACH – While this step sounds simple, it can be the most complicated in the process. You need to have some flexibility here. If you started your lesson by asking, “Who is God?” and in your mind had prepared to support Him being Creator, but as your teens responded to your question they landed on the fact that Jesus is God and began wrestling through the Trinity and Jesus being fully God and fully man, your refernces to God being Creator and having scripture passages to support that won’t resound well with your kids. In fact, they’ll probably think you didn’t listen to a word they said because the point you are trying to teach has nothing to do with where they went with it. While we can try to prepare for everything our teens will throw at us, the truth is we can’t. Here are a few suggestions:
- Stay in the Word daily. The better you know God’s Word in general, the better equipped you will be to speak to the various questions your teens will ask or the points they will want to learn more about.
- Be honest with them. If you don’t know the answer, tell them you don’t but commit with them to find the answer in scripture and come back the following week to discuss it after some research.
This format isn’t necessarily new news either. You can actually find examples of this all throughout scripture, especially in the New Testament. Several times we read Jesus asking a question of the crowd, listening to their responses, and then teaching them where they are at. One of my personal favorite examples of this in scripture is the discussion Philip has with the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8. You see Philip ask the Eunuch some key questions, listen intently to his responses to better understand where he was at, and then teach him truth based on scripture.