In the most recent episode of my podcast, “Kinda Interesting: Thoughts on Youth Ministry,” I talk about our seven year teaching plan. Essentially, I wanted to tackle three things with our Sunday morning teaching time over the seven years we have a student in our youth ministry (6th-12th grade); core truths that we really want to drive home, topical issues relevant to the group’s needs, and biblical literacy. You can check it out here.
Having stayed committed to this plan for more than a decade now, I’m increasingly happy with it. It’s flexible enough that we really are able to roll with what’s happening in culture, needs of the group, and strengths of the teachers. At the same time, it gives enough structure that we have to give our topic selections a lot of thought and care so that we can meet our big picture goals. Finally, I love the thought that for several years now, any graduate that has been at our church for middle school and high school will have graduated with teaching from every book of the Bible.
Where do I get the materials? Primarily through a handful of companies I’ve come to trust over the years; Youth Specialties, The Live Curriculum, The Youth Cartel, and Download Youth Ministry. In addition, we’ve created some studies for books of the Bible that I couldn’t find materials elsewhere for.
Here’s the overview:
- Core Truths (yearly, 11 weeks). These are the teachings we land on every year – if teens don’t remember anything else when they graduate, at least they’ll know these eleven lessons. Within this broader category, there are two main themes; our church values and purpose (Know, Grow, Go) inform us of why we gather, while the HABITS series gives the spiritual disciplines that tell us how to follow God.
- Our Purpose
- Fellowship (‘we are real people’)
- Worship (‘in love with a real God’)
- Discipleship (‘in love with a real God’)
- Evangelism (‘making a real difference in the world’)
- Service (‘making a real difference in the world’)
- Hang time with God (quiet time)
- Bible study and memorization
- Involvement in church
- Sacraments (communion, baptism)
- Topical (yearly, 17 weeks). This is the category that gets the most flexibility year by year. Basically, it’s age specific, felt need topics (e.g., the place our group is in right now leads us to talk about this). Some topics will probably be repeated every year (dating, sex, peer pressure).
- Biblical Literacy (23 weeks). This is the bigger picture piece of the puzzle. One of our church values as a whole is Biblical literacy, and our concern that as a culture we are becoming less and less familiar with the scriptures. Towards that end, over the course of seven years we will give students an overview of the whole Bible, working our way through every book (in varying degrees of depth). If you look at the plan,, you’ll see that we’re working our way systematically through the Old Testament while bouncing around the New Testament.
My ninth First Testament curriculum resource was released last week by the Youth Cartel, this one on the book of 1 Kings! First Kings is a fascinating book to study; the historian in me loves the stories of the different kings of Judah and Israel. It is history with a purpose; the stories are chosen by the author(s) to demonstrate God’s power and His desire for us to follow Him alone. It is very applicable to today – and each lesson has connections to the book of James. Like the other First Testament curriculum, it is a four week small group guide full of discussion questions and lesson ideas. They’re only $5.99 each, or you can grab five of them for only $19.99 (that’s twenty weeks of material for a buck a week!). Here’s the official description:
First Kings is history written with a theological purpose; the author(s) wanted the readers to know there is one true God. Despite the covenant between God and His people, the Israelites fell into a downward spiral of increasing sin and death. Their constant selfishness, idolatry, and fighting with one another, resulted in the nation splitting in two, Judah and Israel, and a long list of evil rulers. Only a handful of the kings followed God, but even through all the failure, First Kings is an important book for believers today.
Through the stories of the different kings, students learn important lessons about God’s power, our dependence on Him, the hope we have in spite of failure, and the incredible love God has for each of us.
- Week 1, Solomon the Wise (1 Kings 3): A challenge to look to God for wisdom.
- Week 2, Solomon the Fool (1 Kings 11): Solomon allowed to sin to creep into his life; this lesson challenges students to keep their focus on God.
- Week 3, Asa the Good (1 Kings 15): In spite of failures, Asa was able to be righteous before God.
- Week 4, Ahab the Evil (1 Kings 16-18): Idolatry was not just a danger for the ancients, it is a real danger today as well.
My eighth (!!!) First Testament curriculum resource was released last week by the Youth Cartel, this one on the book of Lamentations! I’ve always loved the book of Lamentations; in many ways I believe our culture pushes us towards unhealthy ways of handling sadness, grief and suffering; Lamentations models a far healthier way to process difficult times. It’s beautiful poetry, haunting and terrifying imagery, and fascinating that it doesn’t have a happy ending. I think for many, this current season is a perfect time to embrace the five laments of Lamentations and work through them. Like the other First Testament curriculum, it is a four week small group guide full of discussion questions and lesson ideas. They’re only $5.99 each, or you can grab five of them for only $19.99 (that’s twenty weeks of material for a buck a week!). Here’s the official description:
Lamentations is a collection of five poems, or laments, that wrestle with the pain, grief and horror the ancient Israelites experienced at the hands of the Babylonians. Their nation conquered, their temple destroyed, and their children taken captive, they were a devastated people. Lamentations was written and/or collected by the prophet Jeremiah and read in unison every year on the anniversary of the destruction of the temple. Lamentations teaches the reader how to grieve. It also teaches lessons about God’s judgment, compassion and sovereignty.
Included with this study is a collection of 60 images to be used as a discussion opener for each study. Lamentations uses word images to convey message and meaning. In the same way, use the photos to get the participants to think abstractly, to identify and communicate message and meaning.
- Week 1, Family (Lamentations 1): The importance of family and connections in the grieving process.
- Week 2, Judgment (Lamentations 2): What does God’s judgment mean? What is its place in our lives?
- Week 3, Compassion (Lamentations 3): Even when the end is not in sight, it is possible to see God’s compassion and hope in our suffering.
- Week 4, Sovereignty (Lamentations 4-5): God’s power and authority is absolute; what does that mean when we suffer?
My seventh First Testament curriculum resource dropped a few weeks ago with the Youth Cartel, this one on the book of Daniel! And yes, I was working on it BEFORE I heard of the Tiger King. I love the book of Daniel; it’s one that we may feel so familiar with after years of Sunday School lessons … but it’s far more edgy and thought provoking than our third grade teacher led us to believe. Like the other First Testament curriculum, it is a four week small group guide full of discussion questions and lesson ideas. They’re only $5.99 each, or you can grab five of them for only $19.99 (that’s twenty weeks of material for a buck a week!). Here’s the official description:
Perhaps one of the more well-known names in scripture, Daniel was a prophet trapped in a foreign land. Captured as a teenager when his nation was conquered and his family most likely killed, he was taken away from all he knew and forced to live in Babylon where he was castrated and given a new name. He should have lost his identity through all of that, yet he remained powerfully committed to God through a lifetime of captivity. His life teaches young people powerful lessons in God’s sovereignty, what it means to be faithful, and opens the door to conversations around ancient prophecies.
- Week 1, Babylon (Daniel 1): A challenge to recognize God’s control and have the faith to stand for Him.
- Week 2, Belshazzar (Daniel 5): A warning about pride and how it can negatively impact decision making.
- Week 3, Lion’s Den (Daniel 6): A powerful lesson in just how important prayer is in the life of a believer.
- Week 4, Prophecy (Daniel 10-12): A reminder that we are precious to God and have overwhelming victory in Him.
The sixth edition in the First Testament series I’m writing for the Youth Cartel is out! It’s a four week small group resource on the book of Numbers. Numbers, the fourth of Moses’ five books, was one I really enjoyed working my way through. Originally named, “In the Desert,” in the ancient Hebrew, it records Israel’s forty years wandering in the desert before invading the Promised Land. As such, it’s packed with some pretty wild stories as a generation of Israelites who refuse to have faith in God gradually die off and a new generation of followers grow into leadership. I really like how this Bible study came out! Click here to check it out, and let me know what you think! It’s four weeks of curriculum for less than six bucks!
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE! There’s now a First Testament Five Pack option where you can build your own bundle of five different First Testament series for only $19.99 (that’s five months worth of curriculum for less than a buck a week!). Check it out!
The fifth edition in the First Testament series I’m writing for the Youth Cartel is out! It’s a four week small group resource on the book of Hosea. Hosea, the first of the twelve minor prophets, is a fascinating and somewhat disturbing book. It’s one of those ones that forces the reader to think, brings up questions, and allows groups to wrestle through some difficult passages together. It’s famous for it’s opening chapters about Hosea’s marriage to Gomer, a prostitute who is unfaithful to him, but there is a lot more to this book even beyond those surprising chapters. Hosea contains powerful messages relevant today on the dangers of allowing idols in our lives, the need to use leadership and influence for God’s honor, the importance of being intentional with our actions, and most importantly, an incredible look at God’s limitless love. Click here to check it out, and let me know what you think! It’s four weeks of curriculum for less than six bucks!
The fourth edition in the First Testament series I’m writing for the Youth Cartel is out! It’s a four week small group resource on the book of Ruth. I really enjoyed putting this one together; the story of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz fascinates me to no end. Ruth, a Moabite woman, who likely had no say in her marriage – the typical marrying age for girls was 12-15 years old, and would have been arranged by the adults in her life – demonstrates powerful love and commitment to her mother-in-law. Arriving in Bethlehem, her ethnicity that of a enemy, her husband dead after a childless marriage, every card was stacked against her. Yet her reputation for deep love and loyalty spoke to the community in a powerful way. The book of Ruth is a beautiful story, one that teaches us even now, thousands of years later. Click here to check it out, and let me know what you think! It’s four weeks of curriculum for less than six bucks!
The third edition in the First Testament series I’m writing for the Youth Cartel is out! It’s a four week small group resource on the book of Zephaniah. I did something different with this one; it includes 60 photos and discussion prompts to lead off each week with. With Zephaniah being a book of poetry to create images and feelings in the reader, using the photos to create thoughts and get the ball rolling on the discussion seemed a great way to launch each week. Zephaniah is short, yet powerful book, that speaks a lot about the coming Day of the Lord. It’s one that teaches students about judgement, salvation, hope for the future, and urgency for our world today.
Click here to check it out, and if you want to grab a copy use promo code ‘2bucksoff’ to save two dollars and get it for only $3.99 by December 15th!
The second edition in the First Testament series I’m writing for the Youth Cartel is out! It’s a four week small group resource on the book of Leviticus. I really enjoyed putting this one together; Leviticus intimidates people, but once you get some of the context and what was going on in ancient times, the underlying messages really begin to shine through. Did you know that this book of the Bible that so many Christians save for last was actually the first book that Jewish children studied and memorized? It’s important and provides many of the principles that are repeated throughout scripture and culminate in Christ.
Click here to check it out, and if you want to grab a copy use promo code ‘aaron’ to save a dollar and get it for only $4.99!