By Philip Timothy, Message Staff Writer
Too often youth ministers/ministries just “let it happen.”
Andy Blanks, co-founder of youthministry360 and author of 7 Best Practices for Teaching Teenagers the Bible, pointed out to his audience that statistics reveal a larger than imagined percentage of youth ministers do little or no planning for their small group Bible study time with their youth … they just let it happen. Not good.
“Events, big or small, are good, but too often youth ministers miss the opportunity to lead teenagers to know God and His ways through small group Bible studies,” Blanks said. “Regrettably, it’s an opportunity that’s unfortunately wasted.”
Blanks and Les Bradford, close friend and co-founder of youthministry360, spent Friday, April 25, discussing with more than 60 youth leaders from across the state practices they could employ to better engage their teens.
Bradford, a member of The Church at Brook Hills, Birmingham, Ala., and Blanks, a member of Shades Mountain Baptist Church, Vestavia Hills, Ga., worked for Student Life in Birmingham for a number of years.
They led the publishing team in creating the Student Life Bible Study and developed the Just like Christ series of Bible studies, as well as other youth ministry resources. But in 2010, both felt called to start their own resourcing ministry. In March 2010, they co-founded youthministry360.
“Andy and I have a strong desire to see teens grow in their relationship with Christ through a better understanding and application of God’s Word,” Bradford said. “And we want to show others how they can do it.”
It was the duo’s obvious passion in their ministry, Blank’s presentation, and the practical material and practices that combined to help make Friday’s forum the “best ever.”
“No doubt about it,” Kevin Boles, Youth Strategist of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, said, “Friday’s forum was the best we’ve ever had. Andy’s conversational and interactive style of delivery really kept the audience engaged, not to mention all of the information was practical but very instructional.
“We had a mix of staffers come,” Boles said. “One church sent four full time staffers while another sent their part-time youth minister. I’d say we had about half and half – full time to part time. It really didn’t matter what their status was because what Andy talked about applied to both.”
Participants received a free copy of Blanks’ book – 7 Best Practices for Teaching Teenagers the Bible – as well as other useful material and information that would help in their small groups or Sunday school classes. They also had access to curriculum Bradford and Blanks had written and brought along.
“The training and resources offered by youthministry360 is certainly something that we can make available in the future. It would work well regionally so that we might have an opportunity to impact more churches. Andy and Les are certainly open to that idea.” Boles said. “The Forum on the Northshore in August will provide the same caliber of training and we’re looking forward to a great experience there as well.”
Boles, whose department puts on two forums a year, will have Tim Elmore, founder and president of Growing Leaders, come to First Baptist Covington in August. Elmore will speak about how to develop new leaders from the “iY generation,” a name given to the current generation of teenagers.
“Andy emphasized what I teach and try to communicate to the youth ministers all the time,” Boles said. “Sunday school and small group Bible studies must be a regular part of their ministries.”
“Our calling as youth ministers, workers or volunteers is to lead teenagers to know God and His ways,” Blanks said. “We can’t teach what we don’t know. If we don’t know the Bible then we certainly can’t teach the Bible.
“How many of you shudder when a student asks a question about what the Bible says about this subject or that,” Blanks asked. “This book – the Bible – has the answers. It is up to you to know it well enough to find them. You must be able to engage your students with biblical answers and the only way you can do so is by knowing the Bible.”
Blanks told the audience his book – 7 Best Practices for Teaching Teenagers the Bible – is great for the beginner and veteran alike and is perfect for the volunteer.
“It is straightforward, practical and an easy read,” Blanks said.
The 7 Best Practices Are:
Engaging With God
Prepare Well, Teach Well
Context Is Key
Plan for Interaction
Teach For Application
Know Your Role
“People have different learning styles,” Blanks said. “In the book is a huge list of ways to connect with different learners. You may be the best teacher in the world but if you can’t find a way for them to understand or learn what you are teaching, that’s not good for you or for them.
”You teach the Bible so students will know God and grow in their imitation of Him,” Blanks said. “Challenge yourself so you can challenge your students. You can’t teach teens to hunger after something if you don’t hungers after it yourself.”