Q&A: What curriculum do you use with your teens?

A lot of you are submitting questions for the Q&A series here at Life In Student Ministry, which is great! Now I have to try to keep up with them. lol

Brian Sheeler asks, “I was wondering what curriculum you use with your teens. What have you used? Do you pick your Bible lessons according to the teens you have and where they are at?”

I actually don’t purchase curriculum at all. In fact, I’m a pretty avid fan against canned “one size fits all” twists on all the same ol’ Bible stories. I write all of my lessons. Our small group leaders, however, pick different books and resources to use and I leave that up to them unless they want my input. (When I delegate responsibility, I also delegate the authority that goes along with it, which could be a whole post in itself.) However, I don’t use any specific curriculum myself.

When I lead a small group, I usually teach from my own life and the Lord’s interaction with it. More details on that here.

For large group teaching times, I start with a text of scripture, study it myself using Observation, Interpretation, and Application. Then I apply it to my personal life to learn “how it works” so I can use personal illustrations. In doing so, I find that I teach from my heart instead of from my notes. This is very important because then I’m actually passionate about what I’m teaching since I’ve already internalized the principles and application. Passion isn’t something that can be faked. When it’s genuine, it becomes contagious. Besides, I never ask my students to do something spiritually that I’m not already doing. If I’m going to challenge them to share their faith, I need to make sure I pop my Christian bubble and share my faith with unbelievers first.

I pretty much follow Ezra’s example in 7:10, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.” Study the Word, practice it in your own life, then share it with others.

If you’re a full-time youth pastor and don’t have time to prepare deep meaningful Bible lessons, then perhaps you should evaluate what it is you’re spending time on. I’m not saying that using curriculum is bad — just that you should never use it as an excuse to devote your time to something other than internalizing the Word yourself.


Have a youth ministry question you’d like me and other readers to answer? E-mail it to me! Please keep your question brief and to-the-point. Thanks!

Posted on May 28, 2008

  • Another great post with great answers. Tim I agree with your approach to both small group and large group teachings. My small group leaders have the freedom to find resources that they feel is appropriate for their groups but I encourage them to teach their own “My Life” curriculum.

    Yes more time is needed for these lessons, but studying the Bible should be where we are spending a good amount of time.

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  • Tim, it’s a great thought that everyone can plan their own lessons but the reality is that each of us has been called to different priorities in ministry. Sounds weird, I know. Here’s the thing though, I used to spend a bunch of time writing my own lessons but I have intentionally decided to go out and get a solid curriculum (we use XP3) that I can then modify to meet our needs and spend my extra time hanging out with students.

    It also has to do with the way we have structured our youth min. we do a talk that intros a topic and then break into small groups to get deeper into the topic.

    If I were to come up with the lessons, the small group discussion Qs, the parent’s notes about the series, etc. I would be left with way less time for building relationships.

  • Tim

    @ Chris S: I understand what you’re saying, but I think you’re still separating lesson prep and personal Bible study time. What I’m saying is that there is no separation. If you’re spending personal time studying the Word anyway (as you should be), then the time you spend modifying XP3 is probably equal to the time you’d spend organizing your personal study time into a youth lesson. A lot of people may think that it takes a lot of time to write curriculum, but that’s only true if you’re not already in the Word yourself. If you’re already digging into it yourself, the lessons and applications are already impressed on your heart and it flows from you naturally. The person who think that packaging it for delivery to students takes a lot of time are the ones who have obviously never done it this way. In fact, it might require LESS time because you’re not studying for yourself and then again studying a curriculum for your kids.

    Granted, if you’re not spending time studying God’s Word on a personal level, then yeah, it’ll take forever to fake something up on your own and this process will definitely not be time-efficient, but then we have a different issue altogether.

  • @ Luke: Yeah, that is a danger, you're right. It's important that Bible study doesn't become just a necessary task in the process of preparing a lesson. We especially don't want to accidentally train ourselves to always approach scripture with the youth in mind. We have to approach it with our own hearts and lives in view FIRST, and then let that spill over into our interaction with teens.

  • Brian Sheeler

    Thank you for answering my question! I was very suprised to see my name on your blog. I understand where you are coming from. Your answer has given me something to evaluate in my own life and ministry. thank you.

  • Luke

    I’m all for writing my own lessons, I love doing this. But I don’t know how I feel about mixing quite time and lesson prep / study time. I think this would need to be done carefully. I know personally that I can struggle with the motive behind the study. I don’t want my quite time to croak if I need to stop making lessons. I also want to tend my spiritual life outside of my ministry life if that is possible.

    I’m not trying to be picky, just a small word of caution perhaps.

  • CP

    let me answer this since I didnt really see an answer here.

    There are several to use:
    -Student Life Bible Study
    -66 from lifeway
    -Fuel 1, Fuel 2

    there are probably some others…but I think that you will find these are good for discipleship times and sunday school. I would teach through a book for Wednesday nights.

    Hope this helps

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