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Mar 17, 2022

The Ultimate Guide to Leading a Teen Bible Study

The Ascension Team

Do you want teens to understand the Bible? 

Do you want the teens you are teaching to find Scripture not only relevant but integral to their lives? 

Leading a Teen Study is Fulfilling

Every time they walk out the door, you will feel like you gave them something new and valuable to apply to their lives. 

At the end of your study sessions, you are amped up with enthusiasm for the role you get to have in your students’ lives. Even in difficult moments, you have God’s voice in the back of your mind. 

You have enough energy to think about all the things you want to add next year.

You may even plan a retreat. 

Planning Is a Breeze

You will feel at peace as you go about your preparation, because you know the clearest and simplest way to present the Bible without watering it down. 

Instead of staying up late figuring out details, you have time to look up specific questions from your students and dedicate prayer time to each of their intentions. 

Teaching the Bible Is Simple

You feel confident in your abilities to answer (or find the answer to) any question your students might ask. 

You know exactly where teens get tripped up when it comes to reading the Bible, so you can point out the pitfalls before they fall into them. 

With an effective structure, you have a crystal clear map for what ideas you need to cover at the outset. This way, you know for certain that teens will begin to understand not just the Bible story itself, but the divine author they’ll meet in those pages.

Study Sessions Are Lively

You lead a Bible study that sparks so much conversation, you don’t even get to all your content. 

You need to save a video or a segment for next week because there is so much buzz about what you were discussing. 

Your students keep coming back—and not just because their parents bribed them. 

They have an innate desire for truth, knowing where they come from and knowing who they are. 

And they are finding the answers at your study. 

They might even bring a friend. 

… Chances are, your high school study doesn’t look like that right now.

If this seems like a castle in the sky for you, keep reading. It’s not as far-fetched as you think! 

This article outlines the nine foolproof steps to confidently leading a Bible study that keeps teens talking. We outline the secret structure and tell you what to put in and what to leave out.

If you skip these steps, you’ll find yourself frustrated and stuck in the same cycles over and over again. We want more for you and your teens, and so does God!


A Fun, Easy Way to Show Teens the “Big Picture” of the Bible

Venture: The Bible Timeline for High School introduces teenagers to the “big picture” of salvation history in a way that is simple to understand and easy to teach. 

Sign up for a free preview!


We Get It. 

You Feel Stuck in a Rut. 

You’ve tried a lot of different methods to engage teenagers in studying the Bible. 

You may have walked into this role enthusiastically, ready to be the “cool” Bible teacher. You make cookies. You have the most well-thought-out study. 

And you still find yourself competing with iPhones and side conversations. 

After hours of trying to keep their attention and find creative ways to get them to fall in love with Scripture, you might feel like you come up empty each time. 

It is so tempting to stop fighting the losing battle and settle for just getting through it … and (through each awkward silence) planning how you’re going to avoid leading this next year. 

But that’s not really what you want. This guide will give you everything you need to renew your enthusiasm. 

Planning Is Overwhelming.

All you want to do is teach Scripture to teenagers. 

But you find that you’re spending all this extra time planning, formatting, and researching. 

Word documents don’t work. You type outline after outline. You might even make diagrams and worksheets. 

And even after you do all this work, sometimes it still doesn’t hit. 

Keep reading for a tried-and-true structure to help teens understand the entire Bible. 

It’s Just Not Resonating.

You try to do all you can to engage your students and get them to care about the Bible. You’ve planned out a great study. 

You invest time in your students. You create icebreakers. You might have even downloaded TikTok to try and understand their world a little better. 

You have tried everything.

And the content you give them still doesn’t seem to resonate with them. 

Sometimes you need to get a zoomed out perspective to come up with new ideas. We have that for you in this guide. 

Also, the Bible Can Be Confusing as Heck. 

As adults, we still find Bible passages that are confusing. We find a chapter from 1 Chronicles and wonder, What is this all about? Do we really believe this?

We have our own questions and moments of confusion. 

It’s OK. We’re all still on the journey. 

And you don’t need to be a Bible scholar to give teenagers a deep and lasting love for Scripture. 


A Fun, Easy Way to Show Teens the “Big Picture” of the Bible

Venture: The Bible Timeline for High School introduces teenagers to the “big picture” of salvation history in a way that is simple to understand and easy to teach. 

Sign up for a free preview!


What You Need

A Foundation

It’s easy to get lost in the details and the small passages when studying the Bible. 

But here’s the thing. 

You can’t build anything successfully (much less a love for Scripture in adolescents) without a foundation. 

In Scripture, Jesus says that we need to build our faith on a firm foundation. 

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock”

Matthew 7:24-27

The mistake that many people make is to start with the scaffolding. The small details. It doesn’t build something that lasts. 

These steps help you build the foundation, to build an enduring love of Scripture in students. 

Structure

You want lively discussions and attentive teens, and ultimately you want each of your students to walk away with a deeper understanding of Scripture and why it matters in their lives. 

And here’s the secret to achieving that: 

Creativity needs boundaries to thrive. 

For your study to shine, instead of starting from scratch or having it be open-ended, you need a clear structure.

Our brains like to compartmentalize and put concepts in categories. It helps us remember better. 

And when our students operate within structure, they feel safer to share, take risks, and think deeply.

In the steps below, we’ve provided an outline to help you structure your high school Bible study so your students will have an understanding of the ENTIRE Bible. 

Simplicity

If you cook often, you know that the best recipes are simple, with ingredients that are easy to find. 

They don’t need to involve a lot of time, energy, or fancy ingredients. 

Teaching the Bible to teenagers is the same. It doesn’t require watering down Scripture or coming up with an elaborate plan or altering your personality to be super hip.

It all boils down to this. Get a cup of coffee and get ready.  



1. Develop a Deep Enthusiasm for the Word of God

We can’t pour out of an empty cup. 

If you, as the leader, aren’t grounded in Scripture yourself, you will have a much harder time teaching it to teenagers.

Enthusiasm is contagious. Let the Lord fill you with his Word and get personally excited about the content you’re teaching. This enthusiasm will naturally bubble over to your students. 

How? By regular prayer and a personal Bible study or small group. You could start doing The Bible in a Year podcast with Fr. Mike Schmitz to get you in the rhythm of spending time in Scripture daily. 

(If you skip this step, nothing else is going to matter, because your teens are going to sense inauthenticity from a mile away.)


library shelf with old brown books

2. Teach the Bible as a Library, Not a Book

When we think about the Bible, we often think of it as a chronological book with a beginning, middle, and end. 

In reality, the Bible is a library. It contains various books by different authors. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible spans over a thousand years of time. 

If you show teens that the Bible is a library and not a book, they will be less overwhelmed by it and will have a new understanding when they open the Scriptures. 

When they open any book of the Bible, they will understand its context and the time period it fits into. 

… and have more insight to apply in their own lives. 

If you don’t do this, the different types of literature will throw them off and confuse them. 


3. Focus on the Big Picture

It is tempting to try to read the whole Bible from cover to cover, front to back. 

We get a serotonin rush just thinking about completing that. 

But this is actually not the most effective way to read and retain Scripture. If you try to read the Bible cover to cover, your students will get bogged down, overwhelmed, and discouraged. 

Because there is so much to take in. 

When teaching the Bible to teens, focus only on the big picture—the arc of the story. This way, they can read and understand the entire Bible without getting lost or bored.

There are fourteen narrative books in the Bible that tell the story of salvation chronologically. The other books fit into this narrative in different places with supporting information from different perspectives. 

This big-picture understanding is the foundation all their future Bible studies can build on. They will learn the ways God has moved through humanity throughout history and why it matters in their daily lives. 


4. Break It Up 

The difficult thing about the Bible is that it covers such a large span of time. All the stories tend to meld together, and it’s hard to distinguish what happened when (and why it matters.) 

Our brain likes to compartmentalize complex issues. It’s easier to remember things when they’re broken up into smaller categories. 

Try breaking the long stretch into time periods, and focus on just one time period at a time.

You could even color code the time periods so they’re easier to remember. 

We know this works because we apply it in our Great Adventure Bible Timeline® Learning System, which has helped hundreds of thousands of Catholics understand the Bible. 


two people sitting on bench looking at painting of angels and demons

5. Answer Tough Questions

Teens can ask really difficult questions. 

Even if they’re not saying them out loud, they are thinking about them. 

And if they don’t get their questions answered, they might feel like the Church just glosses over the issues they see. At that rate, they conclude that Catholicism and the Bible aren’t really that intellectually rigorous, and they put them on the shelf with the fairy tales.

Solution?

Beat them to the punch. 

After teaching each Bible time period, be sure to address the hardest possible questions they might bring up. 

Make sure to ask the hard questions, and then clearly show the answers through a lens of love. 

This way, they’ll know that they’re seen by the Church in their questions and curiosities and that they won’t be dismissed in your study. 

When you bring up a really tough question that they haven’t even thought of yet, imagine how much more credibility you’ll have gained in their eyes.

And they will keep coming back!


6. Make It Relevant

The question teenagers constantly ask is, Why does this matter?

And if they don’t feel it matters, they won’t do it. (Or at best, they will drag their feet.)

Math homework and cleaning often fall into this category. 

And unfortunately, prayer, Mass, and the Bible are often lumped in there, too. 

After teaching a Bible time period and answering the difficult questions that come with it, make a connection between the content and their everyday lives. 

One way to do this is by putting a spotlight on a character from the Bible and showing the students what they have in common with that character. Was that character afraid of the future? Did they struggle to trust God? Did they deal with temptation? How did they handle it?  

This way, your students will see that the Bible is not an ancient document but a living Word that has countless applications in our twenty-first-century lives. They will see why it matters. 


7. Have a Cloud of Witnesses

Getting tired of hearing yourself talk after a while? Feel like you’re talking into a void sometimes?

When you are shopping online and buying something new on Amazon, what do you look for? The product that has the most and the best reviews. 

It’s human nature. 

We rely on what others are doing and saying to help us decide what we should and shouldn’t do. 

How to apply this to your Bible study? Switch it up by having a number of different people deliver your message. 

The more people you have to corroborate the importance and relevance of Scripture, the more authority that message has and the more likely your teens are to buy into it. 

Additionally, we tend to trust people who are like us, so having more people involved increases the chances that your teen will connect with someone like them (and this makes it easier on you too!).

The author of Hebrews knew this:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us”

Hebrews 12:1

8. Keep It Varied

Having every lesson be like the one before can get monotonous for you and for the teens. Everybody ends up going through the motions. 

Try mixing up the way you present each lesson to keep them on their toes. 

Switch up the place you meet or the icebreakers you use. It could even be as simple as switching up the way the chairs and tables are arranged. 

Why do this? When encountering a new situation, the human brain has to pay attention to new things to determine if they are threats. It’s how we’re made. 

Of course there is no threat, but by introducing something new, you force your teens’ brains to pay attention to it because they’re hardwired to do so. 

With these small changes, they will be less likely to become complacent and more likely to engage. 


9. Laugh!

Your teens may be learning the Bible but not seeing the joy that comes from a life lived with God. 

They may see studying the Bible as a chore rather than something joyful and life-giving. 

Here’s the secret no one tells you: You are allowed to laugh!

Bible study should be fun.

This isn’t the Sacred Liturgy—don’t be afraid to laugh. God isn’t afraid to.

“He who sits in the heavens laughs”

Psalm 2:4

If you don’t take yourself too seriously, your students will see your joy—it’s contagious! 


Seems Doable?

These steps are foolproof. But it does take time to build and execute.  

Which is why we’ve done it for you. 

In Venture: The Bible Timeline for High School, we bring together some of the top Catholic presenters and evangelists, including:

Mark Hart
Fr. Josh Johnson
Mari Pablo
Dr. Bob Rice
Chika Anyanwu
Dr. Andrew Swafford
Paul J. Kim
Taylor Tripodi

Venture was written by Mark Hart, who is also the main presenter of the program. His deep enthusiasm for the Word of God has led him to dedicate his life to sharing it with teens. That is why he is the CIO and President of Lifeteen and has been known for years as the Bible Geek.

The program is built on Jeff Cavins’ revolutionary Great Adventure Bible Timeline® Learning System . Following that proven methodology, your teens will learn how the Bible is a library, not a book. They will also learn the story in the fourteen narrative books of the Bible by approaching them through twelve fascinating color-coded time periods.

In Venture, all kinds of voices encourage your students. In eight lessons, they break the Bible down into bite-sized pieces that, all together, tell the overarching story of salvation.

In each lesson, there is a “tough questions” segment where we have compiled the most difficult questions with the most qualified answers. AND there’s a segment with practical applications relating the Bible characters to your students’ everyday experiences. 

All you have to do is push play and connect with your students through discussion (which is all you wanted to do in the first place!).

Sign up for a free preview of Venture now and see for yourself.



A Fun, Easy Way to Show Teens the “Big Picture” of the Bible

Venture: The Bible Timeline for High School introduces teenagers to the “big picture” of salvation history in a way that is simple to understand and easy to teach. 

Sign up for a free preview!


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  • Sounds great! I teach middle school (grades 7 and 8). I follow the liturgical readings for the Sunday Gospels. I would love to see some dynamic resources for helping the students develop a deeper understanding of Jesus revealed in the Gospels.

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