Less Talk More Experience: Helping Teens Discover God

June 20, 2013 — Leave a comment

The majority of us agree: We all need to talk less and stop lecturing our teens. I try to keep my youth talks no longer than ten minutes. The truth is, while most of us agree we should talk less, the majority of us are still talking! I get it. I don’t want to stop talking either. I do believe a powerfully engaging message can open the minds and hearts of teens. Getting the opportunity to engage a captive audience on a weekly basis is a gift. But as Darren Sutton wrote in his article for Group magazine, youth ministry and preaching don’t mix.

Youth Pastors using teenagers to fulfill their preaching needs is merely a way of holding youth ministry hostage and demanding ransom from the church family.
-Darren Sutton

I agree with Darren. We don’t need to preach at kids, but we do need to take our calling to guide and direct students to a new level.

So if preaching and youth don’t mix, what does?

Rev JW TruettHow would you answer this challenge Darren left us with in his article: If the Drill Sergeant walked into your youth room today and ordered, “no more preaching: you have to find a new method,”How would you respond?

Behind door #1: Interactive and engaging teaching where students get to ask questions and enter a discussion with the teacher.

Behind door #2: Small group-based teaching, where students discuss a topic and enter into discussion with one another.

I like door number one and two, but then again, I’m a talker. For the very verbal teen in your group, this is great. But think about the other kids in your ministry. What kind of learning environment can you provide for not only auditory learners, but visual, and kinesthetic learners as well.

Door #3: Experiential and discovery based learning.
This type of learning environment requires more work. It goes beyond our desire to be authentic by sharing stories about our own teen experience or struggles.  It requires us to think of ways students can learn by experiencing and discovering a truth through a first hand account.

When teaching through youth talks, you ask, “How does this story relate? What truth can the student apply to their everyday life? Will it lead into good discussion?”

When teaching through experiential and discovery based learning you:

1. Provide an experience that demonstrates a concept or raises a question
2. Reflect: What happened?
3. Guide students in generalizing and abstracting. How? What if? So what?
4. Challenge students to transfer what they’ve discovered by taking critical action. Now what? (Henton, M. (1996). Adventure in the Classroom: Using Adventure to Strengthen Learning and Build a Community of Life-long Learners. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt.)

It’s likely that many of us will keep doing “youth talks” but why not direct or combine that with the kind experiential learning that allows students to discover truth through taste, smell, touch, movement, and sight.

Ready to give experiential teaching a shot?

Check out the experiential lesson Rick Lawrence gave at Simply Youth Ministry Conference back in March.

Have you given an experiential or discover based lesson you’d like to share in the comments? Don’t forget to subscribe via RSS or email!