Prior to each year, take time with your team (your staff and/or your most trusted key volunteers) to map out your teaching schedule for the year. If this is a new discipline for you, perhaps you should start out by quarter or semester. For more on how to do this, read A Student-Centered Process for Planning Curriculum.


Set aside two or three days each each month to focus on establishing the following for each lesson or message in the next series or two.

  1. Text – Try to focus on one passage of Scripture. Be careful not to jump around a lot. You can quote one or two other passages but don’t make your students try to find each one in their bibles.
  2. Bottom Line – Establish a one sentence, main point based on your selected passage.
  3. Objective – Decide what you want to see accomplished in the life of the student. This isn’t what you want to do. This what you want to see them do. How will they respond? In other words, an objective would not be “to teach students to seek first the kingdom of God.” Rather, an objective would be “that students would trust God enough to do things his way.”
  4. Themes – Think of a few key words and phrases that could be used as themes to guide song selection and prayers for worship, object lessons, games/activities. Whether it’s  you or someone else who is in charge of these other things, these themes will come in handy for planning everything to support the bottom line and objective.
  5. Primary Teaching Points – Take some time to briefly study the passage and write down some of your initial observations and interpretations. Then craft a couple of key statements that could be used for your teaching points.
  6. Creative Ideas – Write down some initial ideas for creativity such as a possible story, a type of object lesson, or a video illustration, or an interactive experience. The curriculum we use calls this interactive experience an XP. Then be watching and praying about it all through the month. The Lord will lead you to the right ones to use with plenty of time to make them happen AND include other people in helping put it together.


Look over the curriculum or your lesson plan two weeks in advance. That way you can think about it well in advance and watch for ideas, stories, etc. Start with and memorize the Bottom Line. Study the biblical text one week in advance. Write out your outline and craft your opening statement, all the transitions, and the closing statement.

Think in Three Segments

Elle Campbell has a nice graphic of this on . I’ve added the Tension, Truth, and Teaser.

TENSION (3-4 min)
Use story to describe or raise the tension they experience with the topic or will experience to answer why it matters. Tell the story in such a way that it draws them into feeling the tension or the problem so that they begin to want relief from the tension or know the solution. We like to use reality statements to bring clarity to the tension that they’re experiencing or that we’re trying to communicate. We say “The Reality is … ” and it’s a statement to which everyone can relate.

TRUTH (7-10 min)
Then state the truth of what God intends for us. We like to follow the Reality statements with a Truth statement to build on the tension even more. Then you can transition to the passage in such a way that shows God’s guidance toward the solution. Make sure you explain the text and background of it to help your students really understand what God is teaching us. This is where you can craft your two or three main teaching points based on the text. But, the key here is to realize that the end goal is not just to teach the text. The end goal is motivate them toward the objective you outlined previously and to inspire the to embrace the bottom line. We don’t just teach the bible to kids. Nor do we just teach kids the bible. Rather, as Andy Stanley would put it, we “teach people how to live a life that reflects the values, principles, and truths of the Bible.”

TEASER (4-6 min)
Explore possibilities for how this might apply to our lives. If you’re familiar with the OIL method of bible teaching (Observation, Interpretation, Life Application), you’ll recognize that the observation and interpretation are included in the “Truth” section above and this is where you would move into the life application section. However, assuming small groups are a significant part of your weekly program (as they should), you should explore the possible applications as a teaser to get them thinking and talking. Let the tension resolve in small groups as they wrestle with the application. Let the small group leader bring it home by helping them flesh out the real application in their lives.


ninja-skill-1The Ninja Skill to learn here is to be disciplined and routined in your preparation. Without discipline in our preparation routines, our communicating becomes haphazard and ineffective. Discipline yourself to adhere to a schedule in which you regularly carve out time to plan ahead and map out what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it with a clear understanding of why you want to say it and how it leads to change.

To work further in developing this skill, read Andy Stanley’s book Communicating for a Change.

This post is part of an nine post series called “The Master Communictor.” This series outlines eight rules for communicating to youth and young adults. Five of them are inspired by the five rules of “Building a Teaching Strategy for Middle Schoolers” by Elle Campbell and Tom Schefschunas which they presented as a workshop at the 2015 Orange Conference. Their system is based on Andy Stanley’ “Communicating for a Change.” I’ve expounded on them, added three of my own, and have assigned a Ninja Skill to each rule.

Author: Jim Murphy

Associate Pastor | NextGen Ministries Covenant Church, Bemidji, MN

Leave a Reply