This year I’m teaching seventh-graders on Sunday mornings at our church. That’s significant because I’ve never taught middle schoolers before; I’ve always taught senior high. So going into the new ministry year, I was much more aware than I normally would be about how I was going to approach Bible study for middle schoolers. I wanted to make extra sure I was prepared to open up Scripture to them in a way that was engaging and transformative in an age-appropriate way.
I decided to focus on accomplishing three main goals in every Bible study for middle schoolers. I didn’t reinvent the wheel. My guidelines aren’t rocket science. In fact, they’re pretty basic. But they’re simple, they allow for a lot of flexibility, and they help me make sure I offer middle schoolers concrete information while making the Bible come alive.
Here are the 3 main things I try to accomplish in every Bible study for middle schoolers:
1. Reinforce the story of Scripture.
I want to make sure this is the year these middle school students grasp the narrative of the Bible. I want to make sure they don’t think of the Bible as a random collection of stories mixed in with verses here and there that help us know what not to do. So I’m taking the time to place what we’re studying in the context of the Bible’s big-picture narrative.
How do I do this? The first week I taught a Bible study for middle schoolers, we were in the Gospels. During the first five minutes, I drew a timeline on the board that started with Creation and hit all the major highpoints in the story of the Bible from Genesis until Matthew’s Gospel. I did it with a lot of energy and a ton of interaction. (I was a little surprised at how well the students could help me fill in the gaps. It’s going to be a good year.) I won’t do the full timeline every week, but I will reference it, and I will place every lesson within the greater context of the story.
2. Emphasize one main thing.
When I taught on the Transfiguration, I took a pretty exegetical approach, going through the Bible passage almost verse by verse. I was very interactive, as always. The middle schoolers helped me look at the historical context. We talked through the details of Peter’s response. Even did a Greek word study. It was good Bible study. But as we ended, I made sure I wrote the phrase “One Main Thing” on the board. I then wrote the word “IDENTITY.” I wrapped up the Bible teaching time by showing middle schoolers that this passage is all about the identity of Jesus.
I expounded on it a bit more, but the point is this: After some good interaction and learning, I made sure I landed the plane with one main idea so middle schoolers would have no doubt what the key focus was on. I wrote it on the board. In big letters. It was concrete. It said, “When you leave here, remember this thing.”
3. Leave middle schoolers with one key takeaway.
I teach in a large-group format where we divide kids into small groups for the last 15 minutes of our meeting time. This is where application of the lesson takes place in dialogue with a small-group leader. I make sure to equip our small-group leaders with questions that flow out of one main application point (I call it the One Takeaway). My One Takeaway for the Transfiguration lesson was something like this: “Because of Jesus’ identity, because of who he is, he can’t be just one part of our lives. As God’s only Son, as the Messiah, as Savior, Jesus should be at the very center of our lives.” The small-group interaction focused on fleshing out this One Takeaway.
To summarize: In every Bible study for middle schoolers, show the big-picture story of Scripture, drive home the one main thing, and leave kids with a key takeaway. That’s a solid guideline for teaching younger teenagers.
The key is to define these, in solid terms, helping students make the right connections and challenging them to be changed by the Truth.
What do you think? When leading Bible study for middle schoolers, what do you add or do differently?