ABCs of Creative Teaching Youth

?Youth are mature enough for serious Bible Study. They shouldn?t need games and all this ?creative? stuff.?

Unfortunately this is a common sentiment among teachers of youth and adults. Of course, when they indicate serious Bible Study, what they usually mean is lecture. Yet Jesus, undoubtedly the most serious of ALL teachers, used stories, parables, object lessons, and activities to teach. As for lecture, we only have one long lecture of Jesus recorded in Scripture, the ?Sermon on the Mount.? Jesus involved others in the learning experience, preferring to guide his pupils to discover, understand, and live the truth. It?s a sin to for youth to leave Bible Study with the thought that it is boring and meaningless. Listed below are some ideas for preparing Bible Study with youth that is meaningful and exciting.


Choosing Bible Study curriculum is like choosing new clothes. Few have the resources, skill, or the time to tailor their own. But you are not stuck with creating your own or using something that doesn?t fit. There is a third option - adjusting it so that it does fit. Bible study materials are often written to fit a wide variety of needs, but with a little planning and a little adapting here and there you can get something that fits.

Fit to the Occasion, Size, Practicality

We need to be very careful that we are not buying a Ballerina outfit for a Soccer Goalie. One may be elegant and beautiful, but no matter how much adjustment we do, it will never serve our purpose. Different occasions demand different materials. And the boys soccer team may need a little something different from the mom?s cross-stitch class. ?One size fits all? rarely fits! To be most effective we need to know the sizes (spiritual maturity) of the people for which the material is intended. Finally we need something that is practical for the skill level of the teacher, the time constraints and the resources available. Discover the various interests and needs of your students and their teachers and you will be much more effective outfitting them for life.

Find the Main Idea

Isolate the main idea of the lesson, and how it should be applied to life. Then put it into one simple statement. Materials will often do this for you and call it the ?teaching aim? or ?central truth.? These are only suggestions and should be rewritten as necessary so that it is meaningful and applicable to YOUR youth in YOUR church. Your objective is not to cover all the material in the Bible passage, forcing your youth to ?sit still while you instill? all the Bible content into them. Rather your goal is to help each to discover the ONE main truth of the passage and apply it to his or her life. Our goal is not Bible Drill Champions, but Biblical Christians. If the youth leave with one truth per week and truly apply it to life, you will have been incredibly used by God and might even create a few Bible Drill Champs in the process!

Focus the Lesson

Once you have identified the central truth, everything you do during this lesson should focus on this truth, shed light on it, look at it from different angles, help youth discover it, and eventually to see its application. Read the focal passage, the lesson in the student book, the background material, and teaching helps with your specific main idea for your youth in mind. Remember that games and activities for the mere sake of activity are meaningless. But games and activities that help youth to experience the main truth, to draw attention to it, can be the key to making the lesson memorable. They can be a hook, a hanger, on which the student can hang the lesson instead of getting lost in the bottom of the closet of their minds. When choosing activities and teaching steps, always ask the following question: ?How does this activity or step reinforce the Focus of this lesson?? If you have several activities to choose from, identify which would be the best reinforcement and most likely to work with YOUR students.

Fun and Variety

Use a variety of engaging teaching methods to seize the attention of your students and draw them to the central truth. Different people learn in different ways, have had difference life experiences, have different interests and concepts of fun, different gifts and talents, and have different needs. It is impossible to teach to all these variables at once, but variety allows you to reach more of them. You want to shine a bright light of attention on all the various facets of that diamond of truth you have chosen so that all its sparkle and all its various angles and perspectives are illuminated. You want to make it so attractive to the learners so that they want to interact with it and explore it in all its detail. The worst teaching method is the one that is repeatedly used as it will progressively become more ineffective with each use. Most teaching materials will provide a couple of alternative options for each key teaching point. Identify the key idea or purpose of each activity. They are options and you can pick and choose as you wish. You may even add an option of your own if you can achieve the same result with another activity. Remember EVERYTHING in the materials are SUGGESTIONS! ADAPT!

Find Resources

If you wish to use alternative ideas you need resources. Why waste your time trying to come up with all your own ideas when there are some great helps already available from which to draw? If the focus of the lesson is for example ?compassion,? then you can often find another lesson on compassion and add or replace activities in your lesson. There are many good books and resources that are just that, sources of teaching ideas for you to adapt as needed! One great resource is And when your creative juices ARE flowing and you have a creative idea, type it into your computer or jot it down on a notecard and store it in a file for later use. You never know when the same idea could be used again with a different group of youth later. Just categorize them by subjects and key words (i.e. what does this activity teach?)


?We don?t teach the Bible, we teach YOUTH.?

Remember our goal is not ?Content? but ?Changed lives,? not ?facts,? but ?followers.? Our goal is to see youth grow and develop in preparation for a lifelong walk with Christ, to be faithful followers of Jesus. Many people know about God and Christianity without really knowing God and living as Christians. An effective teacher will know the needs, the likes and dislikes, and the learning preferences of youth and be able to integrate these into the lesson so that youth become a part of the lesson and can understand its application to his or her life. As you prepare for your lesson, you should keep in mind the needs, experiences, and personalities of YOUR youth. The key is to guide the lesson with YOUR youth in mind.


You need to connect all the parts of the lesson together and most importantly build a connection between the lesson and the students and even between yourself, as the teacher, and the students. ?Youth don?t care what you know until they know that you care.? Youth need to know how one activity relates to those that have preceded it. After you have analyzed how each activity or step relates to the main lesson you only need to phrase it in a simple sentence and it serves as a great transition to the next step. You might also let youth know how this lesson connects with previous lessons. Finally youth need to know where the lesson connects with everyday life- (i.e. how does it apply.) They want to know why the lesson is important.

If you can Adapt, Be student focused, and Connect everything together, ?Teaching Creatively? is as simple as ABC!

For a variety of creative ideas and more information on how to teach creatively visit


Short note about the author

Ken Sapp

I have been actively involved in youth ministry for almost 20 years and have been writing youth Bible Study materials since 1988. I have written for dozens of Youth weekends and summer camps around the world.

I do training workshops for youth leaders and teachers in Asia. I am recommended by others for my creativity and for my passion in mentoring youth.

Copyright 2005 by Ken Sapp.


Author: Ken Sapp