I LOVE church history. Really, I love the quirky and often unheard nuggets from history. Nerd alert: I wrote my church history thesis on whether or not Martin Luther was anti-semitic. However, church history in youth group can be SUCH A BORE! So, here are a couple of ideas to ease the snoozing during your lessons.
1. Find a way to be interactive
Who likes to sit through meetings? Anyone? No? Yeah, me neither. Neither do our students! Find ways to make the lesson creative and interactive. For instance, I taught on the reformation for a couple of weeks leading up to Halloween. I told them all of the quirky and great reasons I loved Martin Luther. We had a reformation day party. Then, I grabbed a gigantic piece of butcher paper, laid it the length of our room, and proceeded to have them write their 95 theses about our church. We had some great discussion about those. For instance, one written was “the sermon isn’t relatable for teenagers.” Another was “donuts should be the bread for communion.” I then took the 95 theses to our church leaders both paid and volunteers. It gave our students a voice at a time when they were relatively voiceless. The students got a big laugh out of some of the ideas and suggestions.
2. Pick history topics you can link back to something today
History can be fun, we just have to figure out a way to get creative. I like games and so I’d find ways to make the information into a game. For instance, in teaching about things like the Council of Nicaea, our church group got together with another church to discuss things we believed about doctrinal issues today and then broke bread together. This allowed our students to learn about each other’s denominations, provided them with history and an opportunity to discuss with their friends.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask your students what they might want to learn about
This has become a hallmark with my students. If my students choose their topic, they are often more engaged in the learning process. I had a student in my group named Susannah. She had been told that she was given a Biblical name but she couldn’t find it. Susanna is considered the 13th chapter of Daniel in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox denominations but part of the apocryphal books in the Protestant church. This led to a lesson on the Apocrypha and a study about why the Apocrypha is accepted as canon in some denominations and not in others. My students were intrigued and I spent time teaching material that most adults wouldn’t touch anyway.
All in all, pick what works for you and go for it! Don’t be afraid to get creative or interactive. There are plenty of resources out there to help you in this quest. You know the hallmarks of your students i.e. they like games/they like intellectual conversation. Use those to your advantage and look for ways to engage them!
Tori Mick is the Director of Youth Ministries for Broadmoor United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge, LA. She earned her M.A. in Youth Ministry from Memphis Theological Seminary and The Center for Youth Ministry Training. She is passionate about youth, worship, social justice, and issues of race. When she’s not hanging out with her students, you can find her hanging out with her sweet dog Roscoe, traveling, trying new food, or reading a great book. You can connect with Tori on INSTAGRAM, TWITTER or her BLOG.