One Pitfall & One Goal To Elevate Your Teaching Strategy

Jonny Radcliff
May 26th, 2020

Not gonna lie, I love preaching. I love compiling a curriculum, mapping out a plan, and being creative in my teaching methods. In fact, I would venture a guess that there are very few head student ministry leaders who don’t love it too. 

But isn’t there a lingering voice inside of you that wonders if your teaching lineup is producing life-change? 

The subjectivity of student ministry is one of the heaviest parts of the industry. But we are not incapable of educated reflection on the effectiveness of our curriculum. Here is one pitfall to avoid and one goal to embrace. 

The Pitfall: Awesome Topics

The most common problem for affective curriculum plotting in student ministries is a sweet lineup of compelling topics. 

Doesn’t sound right, does it? Let me explain. 

The typical plotting process involves a leader (or, if you’re really next level, a handful of leaders) with a whiteboard and a September through May calendar. In war room fashion, everyone mind dumps their best ideas. Your board probably looks similar to this one: 

And then, of course, is the whittling process: 

And finally, the sacred assigning of the months, coupled with heavy consideration to the calendar year. 

Come to think of it, that lineup actually looks promising (just a little bummed “too many Cheetos” got axed). And whenever God’s Word is accurately proclaimed, there are no limits. But the real question is this: Do all of these series move you closer to a specific image of what God has led you to create in your specific student community? 

Arranging compelling topics from year-to-year does not insure that your students will have the necessary elements of faith once they leave your ministry. Come up with a short list of the skills and passions that you want a student to have upon completion of middle school and of high school. Then from this point, start to map out your 3-4 year approach to accomplish this.

If your goal is to build a wall, it would not be advisable to start by picking out the choicest bricks and then start slapping them together. Even a DIY-from-YouTuber knows you have to investigate the space, picture the end product, then make a game plan. It’s no different than mapping out your curriculum. 

Make sure you are not simply arranging shiny series back-to-back without a discernable plan. Let’s give our students a clear path as opposed to a bag of tricks. 

The Ultimate Goal

Many of us have different iterations of the same end game. Perhaps we’ve made it too complex. Jesus didn’t. 

He said our goal for us: “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your mind, and with all of your strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.” Let’s replicate that in students. 

These are the four checkpoints to use to evaluate your ministry. Here are some questions to ask yourself in each of these categories: 

Love God with your heart. Does our teaching…

  • • cause students to make God the boss of their emotions?
  • • make self-feeders?
  • • create true worshippers?

Love God with your head. Does our teaching…

  • • cause a deeper understanding of who God is?
  • • drive students to hide God’s Word in their hearts?
  • • lift high Jesus as the Truth?

Love God with your actions. Does our teaching…

  • • influence how our students spend their time?
  • • influence the decisions they DON’T make?
  • • cause students to make Jesus the center of their future plans?

Love your neighbor. Does our teaching…

  • • drive students to serve?
  • • create a burden for the lost?
  • • encourage simplicity and generosity as a lifestyle?

Use these questions to get the conversation rolling for your own evaluation method. 

Above all else, let’s always commit to seeking Christ for wisdom on how to best serve his students through the proclamation of His Word. 

Jonny Radcliff

Jonny Radcliff is the Student Ministry Director at Storehouse Church and the Philly Area Coordinator at National Network of Youth Ministries. He lives near Philly with his wife and the four little monsters that they rear together. His 13 years of student ministry have been spent in Indiana and Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of Liberty University and Grace Theological Seminary.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.