Sunday School Class Ideas For Young Teens
The young teen years are a challenge: physical changes inside and a growing sense of a bigger world outside. Starting to pull away from parents conflicts with still needing the security they provide. And the search for individual identity fights with the desire to fit in with everyone else.
As confusing as this time is, it provides a great opportunity for Sunday School teachers. For one hour a week, you can provide a safe and comfortable place for your students to share their lives with a caring adult and each other. That will make a difference for them that can last through the week.
First, it's important to ask some questions:
What are early teens ready to do academically and socially? What kinds of issues and problems are they facing each day? The table below gives a small picture of where many of them are at.
How Young Teens Are Developing
Personal & Social Skils
Issues To Deal With
Asking more detailed questions
Bullying and cliques at school
Group discussions and brainstorming
Learning to say 'no' when appropriate
Confusion about their bodies and changes they're going through
Listening to others and showing empathy
Wanting more independence vs. having to respect authority (adults)
Making discerning choices for themselves - what to watch, listen to, wear, etc.
Becoming more aware of current events in the world and their effects
Question For You
How important was Sunday School in your life as a teen?
You could go further and ask more questions, like:
- What are their fears?
- What pressures do they face?
- Who do they confide in?
The answers you get can be the basis of powerful Sunday School classes. How? By connecting the things they are learning in their lives to people and principles in the Bible.
Basic Approach To Teaching Your Classes
Applying Bible stories to their lives
Your instruction time will ideally be divided between teaching on a Bible story or verse, and applying it to the lives of your students. Doing both makes scripture easier to understand, and will leave a bigger impact on their minds and hearts.
Concepts must be relevant
Your teens will respond much more if you choose ideas that describe them now. Using topics geared toward adults or younger children will cause them to lose their interest or even become frustrated, and you'll miss a chance for good relating.
One of the foundations of good interaction is listening. You can model this in your classroom by planning times of sharing (perhaps for prayer). Encourage the students to listen to each other.
Also, make sure your class includes questions that spark discussion rather than "yes" or "no" answers. While keeping the focus on the lesson, encourage teens to give their opinions and insights as much as possible. Break the class into smaller groups for projects so they talk with each other too.
How To Use Topics In A Class
If you are using pre-packaged materials, take at least a few minutes each class to incorporate one of your topic ideas. Make sure both go together naturally so the class flows smoothly.
When making up my own material, I like to think in terms of units. Then I have a little longer to explore a topic and give the students more time to make their own connections.
Here is one of the lesson plans I came up with.
God Has A Plan For Me
For this topic, a good theme verse would be:
Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Then I'd look for related scripture to emphasize the theme of identity in Christ:
- Psalm 139:14-15
- Ephesians 2:10
- Eph 1:11-19
- Col 1:16
Within this big topic, I'd list some ideas directly from the passage:
- Who does God say I am?
- God formed us just the way He wanted us (each as a special work of His).
- We are incredibly important to Him.
- God has work for us to do in the world for Him.
And then I'd home in on what ideas my students might connect with personally:
- How do I learn to be confident in myself?
- Self-esteem: how can I stop comparing myself to others?
- Why do I always want someone else’s looks/personality/life?
- How do I find out who God wants me to be?
Out of these thoughts come a general direction and outline for the unit and some classes. Next, I can write out questions and projects that relate to the ideas, while adding in time for sharing and questioning by students.