I can remember attending summer camps as a young middle schooler, anticipating personal spiritual renewal and the opportunity to “get right” with God. Many of my friends and I experienced God in a way we never had before. We were teary-eyed students repenting of past sins and rededicating our lives to God after an emotional weekend devoted to powerful worship, preaching, and close-knit small groups.
Although these revival events, nights, or weekends made a huge impact on us students at the time, they rarely left a lasting impact. The reality of normal life set in quickly as we fell back into the pattern of old sins, spending inconsistent time in God’s Word and with his people.
Summer camps are often viewed as an end instead of a means to spiritual growth. But a single spiritual experience cannot sustain students through the entirety of the school year. Even so, these events are intended to be a spiritual catalyst in the life of students as they mature over time. So how do we fight for sanctification in our students instead of hoping a “spiritual high” sticks?
Here are a few practical steps to encourage you as you lead students toward mature and lasting spiritual growth.
Build Strong Biblical Community
The adage, “You are who you surround yourself with,” is cliché for a reason. Galatians 6:2 reminds us that when we carry each other’s burdens, we fulfill the law of Christ. A strong foundation of godly peers is a must, especially in the impressionable lives of students facing all kinds of social pressures. Therefore, we have to create structures that encourage and support biblical communities for our students.
Regularly participating in a biblically based community gives way to authenticity and accountability. What systems can you put in place to make it easy for your students to meet on a regular basis to pursue God together? What curriculum could you encourage your students to go through together?
Create a plan for how your students can spend intentional time together outside of weekly worship services. When old temptation or sin patterns return in the lives of our students, the best tool we can give them is accountability with like-minded peers. James 5:16 teaches that when we confess our sins and pray with one another, we find healing and freedom. Evaluate how you are fostering an environment for healthy community. Don’t hope they will hang out on their own—create the space for them.
For more on biblical community, check out Better Than One with Dhati Lewis.
Practice Healthy Habits
When we focus solely on fixing our students, their spiritual growth can feel like an unattainable goal. But we have to remember that change doesn’t happen overnight—it takes years. Our focus should be on the small steps students can take toward growing in their knowledge of and heart for God. Encouraging students to practice healthy spiritual habits each day helps focus their attention on God for a lifetime. Here are three habits you can begin to build into your students:
1) Margin In our oversaturated culture, filled with social media and overbooked schedules, we must encourage our students to build margin in their everyday lives. A busier life is not a more spiritual life. In fact, Jesus taught the opposite in Matthew 11:28–30—his yoke is easy, and his burden is light. Margin for students can look like encouraging them to carve out a day to rest each week. When we look at the way of Jesus, we see that he allowed interruption in his life. He was never too busy to be available. Encourage them to use their free time to read God’s Word and spend intentional, but unscheduled, time with him.
Although we can often view prayer through a legalistic lens, prayer as seen through Scripture was a way of life—Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to pray without ceasing. Prayer is powerful and we have unlimited and unrestricted access to our loving Father. Many students are intimidated by prayer but when they are reminded of God’s heart for their prayers both big and small, they will be encouraged to think about God throughout their day and regularly turn their hearts toward him.
For more on prayer, check out Just Ask with J.D. Greear.
Participating in regular worship both individually and corporately is imperative to the nourishment of our students’ souls. As the gathered church, we can encourage each other and collectively celebrate the goodness of God. We have the honor of encouraging our students to make worship a regular practice. We must also teach students how they can worship through their everyday actions. Don’t let them think worship is just something for Sunday morning or youth group. Students worship God through their extracurricular activities, their interactions with their family and friends, their schoolwork, and every small area of life. No matter what individual worship looks like for each student, we can encourage them to make God the ultimate object of their worship.
For more on what it looks like to be faithful and worship God in every circumstance, watch Fire and Faithfulness with Sadie Robertson Huff.
While the experience is fleeting, we cannot dismiss or diminish the spiritual growth that takes place at summer camp. But there is work to be done once students return to the realities and difficulties of life at home. Encourage your students to turn the summer camp spark into a flame. By following these practical ways to follow God and remain in fellowship with others, students will be encouraged to take what they learned at camp and continue God’s good work in their lives.
Encourage your students to live out their faith during the school year by taking them through Truth and Love with Marquise Cox.
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Writer, RightNow Media
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Summertime can feel like an obstacle to overcome for parents of school-aged kids. How do we keep our kids busy without over-scheduling them? How do we manage our own responsibilities while also ensuring our children’s minds don’t wither away from hours of screen time? Can anything keep kids interested, occupied, productive, and even learning during summer vacation?
Exciting things happen when we encourage our kids to create.
Remember playdough, finger paint, and crayons? Toddler days were messy! But while the medium may (or may not) change, our kids’ creativity doesn’t. Let’s occupy their busy minds by filling their busy hands with opportunities to create. Adapt the following ideas to the ages and abilities of your children.
Set up a dedicated spot in your home—a table, nook, or entire room if you have it—for artistic endeavors stocked with a supply of paper, pencils, paint, and other creative tools. Name a particular hour of your day as “art class” and explore a passion or talent your child may possess. And if you just can’t handle glitter, paint, or modeling clay, find a friend who can and trade playdates with them. When my kids were between five and twelve years old, I always loved taking them to my friend Susie, who, as an actual artist, was happy for them to join her kids in making a huge mess on her kitchen table. They came home with glittery hair, colorful smudges, and shining eyes as they showed me their newest handmade treasures.
Books are the doorway to the future, exercising children’s imaginations, thinking, comprehension skills, and creativity. Stories help them understand the world and imagine a new world in which they can play a part. The power of reading inspired Dolly Parton, for instance, to create her Imagination Library, which sends a book per month to children from birth to five years old.
While babies are napping, toddlers can enjoy “rest time” with books until they doze off. Older kids can settle down during the heat of the day with a reading hour. Or jazz up your routine with a weekly trip to the library where they can discover new stories and foster a lifelong habit of reading.
Begin with the best book in the world, the Bible. A short time reading God’s Word will start every day with pure goodness. Don’t make it complicated—even opening your physical Bible and then retelling the story in your own words teaches your children the value of hearing from God every day. Let them participate and help you as they are able. Maybe have them draw a picture depicting something from the story that day.
Once they start reading, many children begin dramatizing the stories they love. Do your kids enjoy imitating or quoting their favorite characters and scenes? Clean out your closets and offer your rejects or old favorites to a costume bin. Encourage the kids to act out their morning Bible stories, write screenplays, get into character, and become someone new on stage. Cheer on your cotton ball-bearded Moses and blue sash-draped Mary. Ooh and aah when “Jesus” multiplies the cheese and crackers. Always say yes when they ask if you want to watch.
Reading often leads to writing. Keep old school notebooks from the recycle bin, tear out the used pages, and reuse what’s left as “dreaming and drafting” notebooks. Let your kids’ creative instincts run wild! Don’t worry about penmanship or grammar. When they feel they’ve completed a poem or short story and are ready to share, help them re-write it neatly or even type it into the computer (we can’t ignore sneaking in easy learning). Print out a final version to share with friends and family. Celebrate your child’s imagination and hard work.
5. Video Editing
Storytelling takes many forms, and video is easily the most popular type of media right now. Disney, for example, rules the screens in many households. The kids will ask to watch their favorite episodes or movies all day long, and we are often tempted to let them vegetate in front of the screen. But why not put the camera—or your iPhone—into their hands instead? Using free apps such as iMovie or InShot, young aspiring producers can learn basic editing skills for photography and video. Movie night can take on a whole new angle.
Let’s encourage our kids to tell stories that reflect their faith and God’s character. The original kids’ series The Creators, a product of the RightNow Media video production team, tells the story of a group of friends who join forces to create films that are “meaningful, virtuous, and good.” The Creators weaves biblical truths into engaging stories with humor and the right dose of seriousness. Perhaps a short time in front of a show will inspire your kids to produce their own series!
When God created humans, he made us in his image (Genesis 1:27). That means we are made to be creators too—it’s part of our DNA and our purpose. Who says we have to wait until we are adults to make wonderful things?
Have you ever considered that God cares about how we spend our time and manage our use of technology?
He does. What we view on our screens directly affects how we think, feel, and behave. And God has opinions about the character of his people.
Parents know technology’s power intuitively, as we raise children in a digital age dominated by screens. The truth of Romans 12:2 applies to our online life too:
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
How can parents help children see the role of technology in their pursuit of God’s will?
Understand the Challenges
We must remember that digital content providers generally don’t care about our spiritual formation. They just want our undivided attention. Video games fix our concentration through built-in rewards that keep us coming back. Social media algorithms train us to seek likes and follows. Streaming platforms produce volumes of content aimed at enticing repeat viewers. Adults and children alike can be wooed into mindless—and countless—hours online.
Kids do not bear full blame for screen overuse—we parents are often tempted to choose computer games or movies to occupy our kids so that we can accomplish our own tasks. Laundry and meal prep loom daily. Perhaps we homeschool older children or work from home. Screens offer an easy distraction for kids that allow us to accomplish a little more than we otherwise could.
The over-use of screens expanded exponentially in 2020 as parents struggled to manage lockdowns and quarantines during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many schools turned to online learning, forcing students to stare at screens for hours on end. Working parents fared similarly, with many transitioning from office to home via laptops, Zoom, and constant digital access to work.
“There are rooms full of men and women with PhDs in addictive computing, and they have a plan for your life—for you to look at that golden rectangle all day long,” warned Dr. John Dyer, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, at a panel on social media.
“So if you don’t have a plan, you are not going to win. If you don’t think through how you are going to use it, then you’re going to fail.”
So let’s start planning.
Apply Boundaries with Technology
Screens can be amazing, powerful tools for education, social connection, spiritual growth, and creativity. But children and teens have one plan for their devices: to play on them as much as possible. We parents must guard our kids’ minds while also training them how to do so for themselves.
Healthy screen use includes time limits.
Balance your child’s online time with reading, physical activity, chores, and play time. Make technology merely one aspect of life rather than the dominant pastime. Turn devices off at family time and bedtime and be prepared to remove them completely if your kids’ behavior warrants it.
Healthy screen use also includes content limits.
The internet is an open door that allows anyone to enter your home. Filters, blockers, and monitoring software remain effective tools that help parents prevent children from finding inappropriate material. Teach your kids what to do when they accidentally access inappropriate content. Help them remember 2 Corinthians 10:5, “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Healthy screen use involves knowing how to use it for good.
As kids transition from TV to tablets, laptops to smart phones, let’s invite them to use their devices to bless others. What games are our kids playing? How are our teens engaging in social media? And do they consider how they reflect God’s character in their online lives?
When used wisely, technology is a gift that blesses our society. In Redeem the Screen, Kyle Idleman discusses how our screens can work to conform us to our culture. But God wants us to conform to his image. What could it be like to leverage our screens for God’s glory?
Bless Others with Technology
We must teach our children that people matter most. With this perspective, our kids will develop the ability to own their technology instead of it owning them. Their social media feeds will trend positive rather than negative, building others up instead of tearing them down. As you peek into their online habits, you’ll find practices to encourage and some to correct, always using Scripture as your guide.
And as we parents model admirable online habits, we can cultivate a godly perspective on why and how to use screens. If we allow our smartphones to dominate our lives, so will our kids. If we choose uplifting content to watch, speak life on our social media platforms, and practice healthy habits with our screens, they will have no excuse.
Screens can rule us if we let them. But tools are meant to be mastered for our benefit, not become our masters to our detriment. Through wisdom and discipline, parents can help kids purpose their online presence and use for their good and for the gospel.
Today’s teens can find their value in how many followers they have on social media instead of in God. They can focus on having influence rather than on what’s influencing them.
At RightNow Media, our goal is to provide churches and student ministries with access to a library curated with the latest teaching for youth Bible studies from premier teachers. Including series like Not A Fan: Teen Edition by Kyle Idleman and a number of RightNow Media Originals, we have thousands of options for your Bible study. Here are five video Bible studies that are perfect for your youth group or student ministry—plus check out our youth Bible study roadmap to make curriculum planning a breeze.
5 VIDEO BIBLE STUDIES FOR YOUTH GROUPS
Finding Truth with Francis Chan
Christians today face all kinds of challenges when it comes to understanding who they are and what they’re meant to do. There’s no shortage of options that claim to offer “truth.” If we aren’t careful, we can find ourselves chasing after popular opinion all the while neglecting the unchanging truth found in Scripture. In this four-session youth Bible study, pastor and author Francis Chan invites students into the power that comes from anchoring their identity in Christ.
Today’s world tells teens to walk around life with a mirror in front of their face. They question their looks, persona, and acceptance nonstop, thinking that one more post on social media might gain people’s attention. But God offers an alternative mirror. When God rules over our lives, he flips everything upside down. In this youth Bible study, Jonathan Evans will walk students through the parables in Luke to teach what it looks like for God to rule our lives.
Teenagers often feel trapped. They’re stuck in the same habits, depression sets in, and they wonder about their purpose. The lie that nothing will ever change pulls teenagers deeper into the rut. But Jesus offers us a way out. In this four-part youth Bible study, Nick Hall talks to students about how a relationship with Jesus changes everything—our identity, relationships, habits, and mission.
Have you ever felt stuck? Sometimes life feels rigid—as if nothing could ever really change. Maybe we’re afraid of taking a step of faith. Or maybe we’re too injured from the past to move forward. No matter where you find yourself, you can make the most of today. In this inspirational series, Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow shares stories from his life to illustrate what it means to seize each day for God’s glory.
What do you want to be when you grow up? It was an easy question to answer when they were little, but life gets complicated for teen girls. When they get stuck in drama, discontentment, sadness, and shame, how can they even begin to look ahead to the future? In this four-part Bible study, Jennie Allen, founder of IF:Gathering, inspires teen girls to throw off everything that holds them back and be energized by God’s dream for them. Dreaming big starts now.
We can all agree that sharing good news with a friend is pretty exciting. It’s especially true when the news has a direct impact on your friend’s life—an extra ticket to a theme park, the cancellation of class, or maybe an invitation to a highly anticipated party. In a similar way, sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ can be just as thrilling. We get to encourage someone through our testimony and explain the power of God, hopefully leading to their salvation.
As a youth leader, teaching your students how share the good news of Jesus is one of the most important things you can do, especially with the growing number of young people today who are uninterested with the church. It’s natural to help your students learn about standard teen issues like godly relationships, temptations, or peer pressure—but how well can they communicate the foundations of their faith to others?
For young Christians in middle and high school, the thought of sharing the gospel might sound easier than it actually is. Students deal with an immense amount of social pressure and fear of judgment due to the impact of social media, television, and music. And no matter their personality type, talking to new people—especially about religion—can be a bit frightening.
In order to help prepare and equip your youth group to share the gospel with others, there are a few things you can do to ensure they feel confident and keep realistic expectations as they learn the ins and outs of evangelism.
Start with the Basics
In order to ensure that your youth ministry is prepared to share Jesus with others, find out if they know the basic elements of the faith: Who is Jesus and what did his work accomplish? What are the implications of his death and resurrection? Do they agree that surrendering their life to Jesus and believing in him is the only way to salvation? Walking them through the fundamentals of the gospel will give them the foundation necessary to have a good conversation about Christ.
One method to help the students who struggle to remember the nuances of the gospel is Scripture memorization. Memorizing Scriptures like Romans 10:9–13, Ephesians 2:8–9, and 1 Corinthians 15:3–4 can help them understand and share the gospel. And series like Finding Truthwith Francis Chan can also help your students approach Scripture in a healthy way.
You can also prepare them through Bible study. Deep theological insights aren’t always necessary when leading someone to Jesus, but knowing what the Bible says about Jesus is a great start. The more your students know about Christ and his work, the better their conversations about the gospel will be. Remind them about how well they’re able to describe their best friend or favorite celebrity to someone. The more intimately they know Christ, the better conversations they can have.
The Importance of Apologetics in Youth Ministry
We live in a world that doesn’t value the traditional route of passing out tracts or standing on the street corner with Bible quotes on a poster board. Techniques have changed because we live in an age of information—and thanks to the internet, young people have access to whatever answers they need. For this reason, students hoping to share the gospel should consider studying apologetics.
In a nutshell, apologetics helps students defend their faith or justify the reasons for their beliefs. When people have questions or become confused about how Christianity fits into the rest of the world’s religions, students can know how to respond. Check out Quick Shots with apologist J. Warner Wallace for more tips on how to address hard questions.
Apologetics is also helpful because there are a lot of misconceptions about Jesus among unbelievers. Learning to defend their faith and dispel the myths and confusion others have about Christianity could be a great way for students to bring others to Christ. Talking about apologetics doesn’t have to be complicated either—the series Apologeticswith Matt Chandler is a great way to start the conversation with your students.
At the end of the day, one of the most important things you can do for your students is prepare them for rejection. Rejection is a normal part of life. Young people deal with issues like peer pressure and cancel culture often enough to keep them nervous about putting themselves out there. Remind them that not everyone they share the gospel with is going to receive it well, or even want to have the conversation. They could lose friends, or even gain enemies. But if they have realistic expectations beforehand, evangelism can be much less intimidating and much more exciting. As long as they remember that changing the heart of someone is the Holy Spirit’s job, and not theirs, they can share the gospel without unnecessary pressure.
Now is a great time to help your youth group learn how to share the gospel, talk about Jesus, and encourage others to do the same. In Mark 16:15, Jesus commanded for all of us to proclaim the gospel to others and obeying him has no age limit. Show your students that they can make a godly impact on not just their classmates, but the entire world—and the time starts now.
If you are looking for Bible study resources for your student ministry, we have a year-long plan full of great studies to help you get started, complete with questions to help you facilitate conversations.
Equip your church, anytime, anywhere with RightNow Media.