What We’re Teaching This Year

Look, I know how it is.  You had a plan.  You had it all mapped out.  But, then there was the mission trip, the other mission trip, the camp, and the vacation.  And now, here we are, the day before September, and well, you don’t exactly have a curriculum plan for the fall.  Been there.

I know that many student ministry leaders are scrambling to make teaching plans for the fall, so I thought I’d share ours.  Feel free to steal or borrow anything you like.  In fact, I’d be happy to send you full teaching scripts and bumper videos.  Also, before you go to the trouble of writing your own curriculum or adapting some of ours, you should consider XP3.  In my opinion, it is the best curriculum out there for middle school and high school students.  If that doesn’t suit you, there is also a ginormous selection of great teaching series at DYM, including some of my own stuff…shameless plug.

Anyway, here’s our teaching plan for the school year:

We’re kicking off the year with a series called Scandal  Here’s a little blurb to describe what it’s all about:

Who was Jesus? Most people believe that Jesus was a really nice guy who did a bunch of nice things and started Christianity. He’s usually depicted in a clean white robe with a fancy blue sash, and his hair and beard look like something out of a shampoo commercial. The truth is that Jesus was incredibly controversial. To the people he lived around, nearly everything about him screamed “scandal!” What if our perceptions of Jesus are too polished and tidy? Who was this scandalous and controversial man? And how do His actions and words relate to our lives, 2000 years later?

Our goal with this series is to put the spotlight on Jesus.  My hope is that many of the students who come to our ministry in September would become intrigued by Jesus and stick around.

Our October series is called Recalculating.  I’ll be honest with you, it’s a collection of stolen teachings from Andy Stanley on wisdom and decisions.  When I come up with better wisdom sermons than Andy, I’ll let you know.  For now, here’s a description of what Recalculating is all about:

Have you ever been asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” That’s a hard question! A better question might be, “Who do you want to be when you grow up?” As in, what kind of person do you want to be? Do you want to be generous? Selfish? Thankful? Bitter? Honest? Deceitful? How do you make sure you become the kind of person you want to be? That is what this series is all about.

Our November series is called Habits.  This series is all about patterns in our lives and how certain behaviors, over time, lead to life and others lead to death.  This series isn’t fully completed yet, but I think it will be great.  The first teaching is based on Ephesians 4:21-32 and the bottom line is:  Break one and make on.  In other words, you are one habit away from becoming more like the person God created you to be or one habit away from becoming less like the person God created you to be.

In December, we don’t have a teaching series planned.  Instead, we focus on serving, put on a baptism service, and a stand alone teaching on Christmas.  Like most of you, we take a few weeks off around the holidays.

In January, we’ll begin a series that has been reoccurring for us.  Two years ago we called it Doubt.  Last year, we called it You Asked for It because the series was built around difficult questions our students had been asking.  This year, we’re calling it idk.  Like last year, we’ll build the teachings around questions our students write and place in our “doubt box.”  We’ll collect the question in September and spend the next few months creating a compelling series.  For the record, we were originally planning to call this series, Can I Ask That? but then, like usual, Andy Stanley came out with a book by that title and stole our idea.  He’s always doing that…

In February, we’ll capitalize on the romance in the air around Valentines Day and do a series called Awkward.  For years, we just simply called this series The Sex Series, but eventually we figured out that sexuality encompasses a lot more than simply sex. Also, calling a series The Sex Series is pretty weird.  Apologies to all our alumni students.

By calling the series Awkward, we acknowledge upfront that the conversations within this series are a little uncomfortable, humorous, and awkward.  But, they are also incredibly important.  Awkward is a series we repeat year after year.  The best part of our Awkward series is when we put a panel of volunteer leaders on the stage, have them tell their stories, and then let our students ask them questions.   It’s always an amazing night.

Our March series is called Forever.  This series is a response to what I sense is a growing misunderstanding among our students about eternity.  In particular, I’m excited for a teaching on the new earth.  I’m planning to steal a page out of Dallas Willard by calling it, “Life after life after death.”

I think the idea of heaven is boring to most of our students because they don’t really understand it.  This series will be different from anything we’ve done in recent years.  We’ll see what happens.

In April and May, we’ll conclude the ministry season with a series called Fortune Cookie.  This series is all about things we believe that aren’t actually in the Bible.  The reoccurring statement in this series will be, “God never said…”  We haven’t completed this series yet, but here are a few of the beliefs we plan to address:

  • God helps those who help themselves.
  • God just wants you to be happy.
  • God will never give you more than you can handle.
  • All religions lead to God.

Well, that’s our plan for the year.  My hope is that some of our ideas generate something awesome for you.  Also, we’d love to be a resource for your ministry.  If you are interested in our teaching scripts, bumper videos, or anything else, just let me know.


Identity Lessons from Harlem

Last month, our high school ministry filled a couple charter buses and headed off to New York City for a week of serving and learning. It was a great experience, we partnered with CSM and Reach Global Crisis Response.

While we were there, I spent a day serving alongside a summer school program in Harlem and overheard a conversation unlike any I’ve ever heard. I was walking alongside two young Dominican boys. We were on our way to a local playground. I began eavesdropping when I heard this line, “What are we?” Here’s how the conversation went between two Dominican American kindergartners.

“What are we?”

“You’re Dominican American.”


“Because you weren’t born here. You were born in the Dominican Republic.”


“What are you?”

“I’m American Dominican because I was born in American.”

I was struck by this conversation. Listening to these two little boys struggle to put words to their identity reminded me of what it’s like to watch and listen to the students we serve and lead.

  • “Who am I?”
  • “Where do I belong?”
  • “Am I valuable?”

These are the primary questions our students are trying to work out. I’m convinced that identity building is the most important task of adolescence and therefore the most important task of student ministry. Who you believe you are is paramount. It influences every decision, every relationship, and every boundary.

I believe we need to spend less time teaching our students how to live and more time telling them who they are. Based on what our team is seeing and hearing, our students don’t believe they are valuable. They don’t believe they are worth much. The values and pressures of our culture are having terrible impact on their minds and hearts.

Culture is saying: “Whoever you are is perfect!” While simultaneously saying, “You are only valuable if you look like a supermodel, compete at the highest level or score in the top 10%.” In other words, it’s all based on performance. It’s a confusing at best and emotionally crippling at worst.

Unfortunately, I think that many Christian parents and student ministries are guilty of the saying essentially the same thing: “Whoever you are is perfect!” While simultaneously saying, “You are only valuable if you follow all the rules, attend every event and generally make us feel like we are succeeding as a ministry.” It’s still based on performance.

I believe we should help our students build an identity that is rooted in what God has said and demonstrated rather than on who they are and what they are good at.

In other words, “Whoever you are is imperfect. You are valuable because you are created, unique, loved, pursued and forgiven.” In other words, your identity isn’t based on your…it’s based on Him.

My point is that we need to be careful that we don’t teach our students to build their identities on what they look like and what they are good at. When we do this we are simply painting a shiny veneer on what our culture is already saying. This isn’t what our students need.

Our students need to understand that their identity begins and ends with Jesus. This understanding is fundamentally different because it isn’t based on beauty or performance. It’s based on the unchanging truths of the Gospel.

Let’s get serious about teaching our students about their identity because what they believe about themselves influences every decision, relationship and boundary in their lives.


image credited to Sophie via Flickr