If you’re like most youth workers, you’re constantly trying to figure out the most important things to teach your students and the best time to teach those things. There are so many stories, books, characters, principles, and ideas in the Bible. How do you prioritize them?

Well, maybe this sounds crazy, but I’m going to go ahead and say it. What if there are actually only 3 THINGS that you need to teach your students?

I get to work with a bunch of really amazing people, but two of those really amazing people are Sarah and Rodney Anderson. They are youth ministry veterans. They are parents. They are writers. They are adorable. And they are two of the smartest, most strategic, most authentic and inspiring people I know. I love them. And I think you will, too.

Which is why I asked Sarah to write a quick guest post that tackles this idea of what to teach your students. Take a look…

By Sarah Anderson

There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who pack everything in their suitcases, taking into account every possible scenario—including weather condition, mood, and temperature fluctuation. And those who don’t.

No one has ever accused me of packing lightly. When it comes to filling up a suitcase, I am strong believer that more is more. My husband is the opposite. You might call him a packing minimalist.

Strangely enough, I think our packing tendencies have leaked into our ministry and our parenting. When I became a mom I read a lot of books and registered for a lot of equipment. I may have freaked out a bit of the idea of having to teach my children ALL OF THE THINGS. My husband? “Let’s just take it as it comes.”

Maybe you know the feeling—as a parent, but maybe also as a youth pastor or small group leader. As the students in your ministry start to reach a certain age and stage, maybe you too feel a sense of urgency, to want to fill their bags with as much helpful information as possible—to over-pack. Or maybe you think, “They’ll be fine. Surely something they’ve heard me say over the years will stick.”

The problem is, as youth leaders, as small group leaders, as church staff and committed volunteers, we know better. We know, that when it comes to the faith of our students, the kids we care about, invest in, lead and love, we can’t just teach haphazardly and hope for the best.

We need to be strategic.
We need to have a plan.
We need to lay a foundation.

And we need to invest our energy into making sure the foundation is sure before they pack their own bags and leave our care. For good.

So where we do start, with such a large task?

I think Jesus is always a good start.

In Matthew 22, Jesus is asked what was the greatest of the 600+ laws the Jewish people had. Jesus responded by saying…

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Love God.
Love others.
As yourself.

It seems to me that Jesus would say, when it comes to what should go in the bags of our students, that simple matters. Not simplistic. Not dumbed down. But basic—as in fundamental.

You and I know more than anyone, that the time we have with our students is short. Not only are we just a few short years away from them leaving home, but the number of hours we have with them, are shrinking far faster than we’re comfortable with.

So, when it comes to packing the suitcase—metaphorically and literally—having a plan matters. Remembering the non-negotiables matters. And holding loosely to the non-essentials matters.

Everything hangs on these, Jesus said. So let’s make sure our students are getting these three things. Let’s make sure that, when they leave our homes, our ministries, and our care, they’ll more than know what matters most to Jesus, they’ll know what those commandments look like in action, too.

Love God. Love people. As yourself.

Pack their bags with these three things, and they’ll be fine. Better than fine. They’ll be prepared.

By the way, Sarah and Rodney are the authors of a brand new devotional for students. It’s called Wiredand it’s actually based on these three things: loving God, loving others, and living the life that God wants for you. I got to be involved in the brainstorming of this devotional and I am so excited that it’s finally here. It’s an incredible tool for students (and, okay, grown ups too) at every stage of their walk with Jesus, but it’s especially awesome for those who are new to their journeys. And guess what. It’s now available on Amazon! Yay!

If you want to hear more from Sarah, follow her on Twitter, check out what she’s up to with the XP3 High School Curriculum, and tell her she needs to start a blog of her own.