The Significance of Engaging Our Students in the Word
*Find resources for engaging your student deeper into the Word at the end of this article.
Why is it that many of us in youth ministry are hesitant to reference the Scriptures? Do we believe that the Word of God is too antiquated, that it will scare young people away? Have we lost confidence in the meaning and power of God’s Word?
Don’t get me wrong. I too often wonder whether the scripture I use in sermons, talks, and one-on-one meetings is actually helpful or comforting for my students. But one particular experience has made me more confident, relieved, and secure in using God’s Word in youth ministry than ever before.
Five years ago my wife and I were leading a small group. All of us were in our twenties and either married or on our way to it. At the start of the year a new couple, Brian and Sophie, arrived at church and before long were attending our group. From the start it was evident that Brian was a Christian but Sophie wasn’t. They were a great couple and evidently God was working in them as they continued to come along to our home each week.
We structured our group so the first hour was held over dinner, the second hour was verse-by-verse bible study, and then we spent a good half-an-hour in prayer groups.
Six months into attending our group, as we sat around sharing prayer points, Sophie spoke up and shared with us that she was now a follower of Jesus.
Well, you could have knocked most of us off our seats with a feather!
This was terrific news, of course, but also surprising. As we celebrated together we all asked how this had come about. Sophie remarked that it had been the consistent study of God’s Word that revealed the truth to her. Over the course of our weekly young adult small group, Sophie had been soaking in the Word, and the discussion of it, which brought her into a relationship with Christ.
This experience has stuck with me and is a constant reminder of the power of God’s Word.
Hearing this, many of us may jump to 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Evidently God’s Word is effective and fruitful for all things in life and faith, and so it shouldn’t surprise us when young people and students do turn to Him because of His Word.
The writer to the Hebrews also speaks encouragingly about the way the Scriptures work. In Hebrews 4:12 we read, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” In preaching this verse, C.H. Spurgeon illuminated the point by saying:
“…But the Word of God is always fresh and new and full of force. No wrinkle mars its brow—no trembling is in its foot. Here, in the Old and New Testaments, we have at once the oldest and the newest of books. Homer and Hesiod are infants to the more ancient parts of this venerable volume, and yet the Gospel which it contains is as truly new as this morning’s newspaper. I say again that our words come and go—as the trees of the forest multiply their leaves only to cast them off as withered things, so the thoughts and theories of men are but for the season and then they fade and rot into nothingness.
‘The grass withers and the flower thereof falls away—but the Word of the Lord endures forever.’ Its vitality is such as it can impart to its readers. Hence, you will often find, when you converse with Revelation, that if you yourself are dead when you begin to read, it does not matter—you will be quickened as you peruse it. You need not bring life to the Scripture. You shall draw life from the Scripture. Oftentimes a single verse has made us start up—as Lazarus came forth at the call of the Lord Jesus. When our soul has been faint and ready to die, a single word, applied to the heart by the Spirit of God, has aroused us.”
What encouraging and strengthening words for us as we seek to teach, preach, and communicate the Word of God to students and young people. It truly is the power of God at work, and through our ministry we get to enjoy seeing this close up.
We can take confidence in the knowledge that God’s Word is at work in the lives of our students and young people. It is just as vibrant, powerful, and comforting as they day it was written. Culture cannot weaken the Word of God, nor does age confound it. We may not see this Word working as quickly as we’d like, or in ways we expect. But, we can have confidence that as we are faithful in teaching and applying the Scriptures to others, God is working in and through it. I not only see this taught in Scripture but also from my experience with Brian and Sophie.
Resources for Getting Your Students into The Word:
Psalm 119 – Why not read through Psalm 119 with your small group? Take a couple of weeks to work through it, and talk about different ways you can implement the Word in each other’s lives.
Taking God At His Word (Paperback Edition): Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me by Kevin DeYoung – This book is a great resource to work through with a student one-on-one, as a reading group, or to give as a present. It is concise and clear. There is even a free PDF study guide to go with it.
Milk To Meat – This is a 60-day devotional guide with the aim of helping young people engage with the Bible. This could be a terrific giveaway or a book to work through with a student. As their website says, “If we want to continue to mature in our Christian faith then we need to learn to spiritually feed ourselves from God’s Word. This book takes you on a journey through the most amazing book in the history of the world, the Bible. It will teach you how to read the Bible and then apply it to your life.”
Unpacking Scripture In Youth Ministry – This book is one of four in a great little series by Andrew Root. If you’re involved in any form of youth ministry then this would be worth reading, particularly with your volunteer leadership team.
John (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries) by Colin G. Kruse – Of course, the other option is to actually go through a book of the Bible with others. The Tyndale New Testament Commentary series is a great entry point for helping students to engage more deeply in the Word. Again, working through in a small group or one-on-one would be terrific, or encouraging people to do this in their personal devotional times.