Teaching Strategy for Your Ministry

HOW TO STRATEGIZE YOUR TEACHING

WHAT YOU'LL LEARN

  • How to strategically teach kids and teenagers every week.
  • How to strategically teach kids and teenagers every month.
  • How to strategically teach kids and teenagers every year.
  • PLUS: What’s included in Grow Curriculum and Strategy to help you teach kids and teenagers well.

It’s so important to have a strategy for what you teach kids and teenagers. Without a strategy, we run the risk of missing important ideas, teaching only the topics that personally interest us most, and ultimately failing to give kids and teenagers a full and holistic view of God. So how do we do that? It comes down to what we do every week, every month, and every year.

A WEEKLY TEACHING STRATEGY

To teach kids and students effectively, we can’t just open the Bible and teach! We need strategic and age-appropriate teaching methods if we want them to remember, personalize, and apply what we teach. With Grow Curriculum, we find there are two ways to do that on a weekly basis.

First, every week of teaching needs to answer three questions. We didn’t invent these questions. Rather, they’re the questions teachers and communicators from every discipline agree are the questions answered by every compelling sermon, talk, lecture, or lesson.

  • WHAT? What are we talking about?
  • SO WHAT? Why does it matter to God and to us?
  • NOW WHAT? What should we do about what we just learned?

But that brings us to our second point. You could theoretically answer all three of these questions with even the most boring lecture or sermon, but here’s the problem — only a very small percentage of people learn best by listening to a sermon, and almost none of them are kids or teenagers.

There are more effective ways for kids or teenagers to learn than simply talking at them, like…

  • QUESTIONS AND POLLS give them the chance to share their opinions and thoughts, which keeps them engaged and helps us better understand their perspectives.
  • PERSONAL STORIES give them real-life examples of faith, doubt, and difficulties to learn from and remind them they’re not alone.
  • IMAGES, VIDEOS, AND MUSIC engage their eyes and ears, and help us recapture their attention when it wanders.
  • OBJECT LESSONS give concrete experiences to help them understand or remember abstract ideas.
  • ACTIVITIES get them moving and interacting in ways that will help them better remember what they learned, because they didn’t just hear it — they experienced it.
  • MOMENTS OF REFLECTION give them a chance to sit quietly, write, think, or pray, so they can better process what is being taught.
  • OPPORTUNITIES FOR RESPONSE give them a chance to do something about what they’ve learned, like make a commitment or choose a next step.
  • DISCUSSION gives them an opportunity to have conversations with their peers, and with us, about what they’re learning — and it might just be the most important teaching method we just shared.

For kids and teenagers, the most effective discussion questions aren’t meant to review or summarize a lesson, but to help them personalize and apply what they’ve learned. Kids and teenagers learn best by processing out loud, asking questions, giving pushback, sharing opinions, listening, debating, and being involved in the learning process. This can only happen in a discussion.

So if you want your weekly teaching time to be strategic, answer three questions and use plenty of different teaching methods.

A MONTHLY TEACHING STRATEGY

Now that we’ve talked about a weekly teaching strategy, let’s zoom out a bit and look at each month. Rather than one-off sermons, we suggest teaching kids and teenagers in series that are roughly one month long. During that month-long series, you can create a special month-long experience to help kids and teenagers better remember what you’re talking about and process the big ideas you’re sharing. You might do this with…

  • A unique series name
  • Series graphics, music, and videos
  • A special room or stage design
  • Series-specific activities, rhythms, structures, or patterns
  • A series-long challenge or activity

AN ANNUAL TEACHING STRATEGY

Now that we’ve covered what a weekly and month teaching strategy might look like, it’s time to talk about the annual strategy. (For more details on how to plan a year of ministry, including your teaching calendar, check out this article on planning a year of ministry.)

When planning an annual teaching strategy, the most important thing you’ll need to do is to establish your scope and sequence — a fancy term for what you’ll teach (the scope) and when you’ll teach it (the sequence). Because kids and teenagers learn differently and have different needs, we suggest approaching your annual teaching strategy differently between kids and students. Here’s how…

FOR KIDS

Since preschoolers and elementary-aged kids are more likely to remember stories about God rather than abstract principles or ideas about God, it’s so important to structure our scope and sequence around biblical stories. We suggest some chronology in the order in which you teach your Bible stories, but with an equal balance between the Old Testament and New Testament each year, doing series that are primarily book studies or character studies. We recommend splitting it up like this:

  • DECEMBER — MAY: Spend 6 months in the New Testament, beginning with the birth of Jesus and continuing chronologically through the epistles and stories of the early church. Repeat this every year, using different stories and passages each year until you run out of stories. If you’re following the Grow Kids scope and sequence, you’ll cover all of the major stories and passages in the New Testament in three years — at that point, you’ll start over again.
  • JUNE — NOVEMBER: Spend 6 months in the Old Testament, beginning with creation and continuing chronologically through the entire Old Testament. This should take a few years! (Oh, and here’s a tip — when you’re studying the Old Testament, always try to use supplementary passages from the New Testament to help kids connect the stories of God in the Old Testament with Jesus.) If you’re following the Grow Kids scope and sequence, you’ll cover all of the major stories and kid-friendly passages in the Old Testament in three years — at that point, you’ll start over again.

FOR STUDENTS

Since teenagers are capable of thinking much more abstractly than kids, you can teach more abstract ideas and in more abstract ways.

  • Instead of primarily teaching Bible stories, you can teach more principles and ideas.
  • Instead of teaching chronologically, you can combine passages from the Old and New Testaments, and even multiple books, to show students how very different parts of Scripture come together to show us what God is like.
  • Instead of doing primarily book studies or character studies, you can also do more topical studies that introduce students to a variety of characters, books, or both. We suggest doing a combination of book studies, character studeis, and topical studies each year.

With that in mind, we recommend structuring your scope and sequence for teenagers around a few key subjects students want and need to hear about. But just because your scope and sequence is structured topically doesn’t mean every series needs to be topical! You might do a study in Ephesians through the lens of friendship, or a series on Moses through the lens of identity, or a study on the Exodus through the lens of hurt and pain. Keep that in mind as you read through this list of subjects we suggest you cover in your scope and sequence, either every year or every other year.

  • AUTHORITY: A series on responding to authority figures and examining who (or what) we allow to have authority in our lives.
  • CHRISTMAS: A series on the Christmas season or story. Schedule this series every December.
  • DOUBT & QUESTIONS: A series on approaching tough faith questions. Schedule this for the spring or summer, after you’ve had time to build plenty of trust with your students.
  • EASTER: A series on the Easter story. Schedule this for the one or two weeks leading up to Easter, depending on your calendar and preferences.
  • EVANGELISM: A series to help students hear and share the good news of Jesus. Schedule this in the summer to align with the discipleship focus of sharing your story.
  • FAMILY: A series on building healthy relationships and navigating conflict with our families. Schedule this for the spring in preparation for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
  • FRIENDSHIP: A series on developing healthy friendships. Schedule this in the beginning of the school year to help students get off to a great start in their relationships.
  • HURT & PAIN: A series on trusting God during times of crisis.
  • IDENTITY: A series on discovering who God created us to be. Schedule this in the fall or winter to support the winter discipleship focus on knowing and using your gifts.
  • JESUS: A 4-week series on the life and message of Jesus. Schedule this near Easter.
  • JUSTICE: A 4-week series on biblical justice.
  • OTHERS: A series on loving or serving others. Schedule this in November to give students an opportunity to serve others during the holiday season.
  • SPIRITUAL HABITS: Each year, we schedule at least one series on our four spiritual habits: spending time with God, spending time with others, using your gifts, and sharing your story. Schedule this anytime, but especially in the spring to align with the spring discipleship focus of spending time with God.
  • WISDOM: A series on making wise choices in general or in a specific area (dating, social media, peer pressure, etc.).

And hey, if you’re using Grow Curriculum, we’ve already done this work for you. For every week of every year, we provide teaching content designed by real in-the-trenches youth and kids pastors who understand how to teach kids and teenagers effectively. And we give you everything you need to make it happen!

WHAT’S INCLUDED IN GROW CURRICULUM

If you’re looking for resources to help you strategize your teaching plan, here’s what’s included in every volume of Grow Curriculum and Strategy.

FOR KIDS

TEACHING

  • Weekly elementary teaching videos 
  • Weekly preschool teaching videos
  • Access to the Grow Message Builder Library where all of your messages can be created, edited, viewed, and printed online
  • Elementary lesson guides for each week in PDF, DOC, and Message Builder formats
  • Preschool lesson guides for each week in PDF, DOC, and Message Builder formats
  • Elementary small group guides for each week in PDF and DOC formats, as well as in the Grow App
  • Activities, object lessons, music, reflection, response, and more in every week of teaching
  • Hacks for toddlers to help you customize each series for a toddler-specific context
  • Hacks for preteens to help you customize each series for a preteen-specific context
  • Hacks for teenagers with special needs to help you customize each series to include students with different levels of physical, developmental, or learning abilities
  • Weekly coloring pages and printables

COMMUNICATION

  • Weekly volunteer huddle guides in PDF format
  • Weekly volunteer emails in plain text, MailChimp, and HTML formats
  • Monthly parent emails in plain text, MailChimp, and HTML formats
  • Weekly and monthly parent handouts in PDF and DOC formats
  • A social media plan for students, parents, and volunteers

GRAPHICS & VIDEO

  • 60-second bumper videos for every series
  • Countdown videos for every series
  • Editable series graphics in PSD format
  • Series title slide images in horizontal, vertical, and square formats, so you can use them easily on all print, online, and social media platforms
  • Series background slide images in horizontal, vertical, and square formats, so you can create your own slides and use them easily on all print, online, and social media platforms
  • Big Idea images for every week of teaching, in horizontal, vertical, and square formats, so you can use them easily on all print, online, and social media platforms

EVEN MORE STUFF

  • Decorating ideas to complement each series’ theme
  • Worship song suggestions to complement each week of each series
  • A font list of every font used during the year
  • A shopping list of every item we suggest you purchase for your messages during the year

FOR STUDENTS

TEACHING

  • Access to the Grow Message Builder Library where all of your messages can be created, edited, viewed, and printed online
  • Sermon guides for each week in PDF, DOC, and Message Builder formats
  • Middle school small group guides for each week in PDF and DOC formats, as well as in the Grow App
  • High school small group guides for each week in PDF and DOC formats, as well as in the Grow App
  • Hybrid guides for each week in PDF, DOC, and Message Builder formats
  • Activities, object lessons, music, reflection, response, and more in every week of teaching
  • Hacks for middle schoolers to help you customize each series for a middle school specific context
  • Hacks for high schoolers to help you customize each series for a high school specific context
  • Hacks for teenagers with special needs to help you customize each series to include students with different levels of physical, developmental, or learning abilities

COMMUNICATION

  • Weekly volunteer emails in plain text, MailChimp, and HTML formats
  • Monthly parent emails in plain text, MailChimp, and HTML formats
  • Weekly one-minute sermons, summarizing each week of teaching into a script you can use for social media recap videos
  • A social media plan for students, parents, and volunteers

GRAPHICS & VIDEO

  • 60-second bumper videos for every series
  • Countdown videos for every series
  • Editable series graphics in PSD format
  • Series title slide images in horizontal, vertical, and square formats, so you can use them easily on all print, online, and social media platforms
  • Series background slide images in horizontal, vertical, and square formats, so you can create your own slides and use them easily on all print, online, and social media platforms
  • Big Idea images for every week of teaching, in horizontal, vertical, and square formats, so you can use them easily on all print, online, and social media platforms

EVEN MORE STUFF

  • Room or stage design ideas to complement each series’ theme
  • Worship song suggestions to complement each series
  • Bonus song suggestions to complement each series, in addition to the worship songs
  • Game suggestions for each week of teaching
  • A font list of every font used during the year
  • A shopping list of every item we suggest you purchase for your messages during the year
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About The Author

Kenny Campbell

Kenny Campbell

Founders of Stuff You Can Use and Grow Curriculum

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