Those committed to their faith know the importance of having a relationship with Christ. But for teens who are learning about the Church it can be difficult to grasp not only the beautiful theology but why it matters
for their lives today. It’s vital to recognize that you’re not called to simply teach the faith, but you’re called to lead the teens to an encounter with Christ. Here’s ways to make the faith relevant with practical ideas you can apply.
5 Ways to Make the Faith Relevant to Teens
- LINK EVERY TEACHING TO CHRIST
Teens need to understand the teachings in context of the whole Truth. If you’re teaching about social justice or moral decision making and connect it to Christ then the teens are more likely to remember and apply those teachings because they understand it in context of the faith.
- DIRECTLY CONNECT IT TO THEIR LIFE
Everything you talk about, and want them to remember, must be directly applied to their life. You must answer the question teens are asking of, “Why does this matter for me right now?” or “Why should I care?” If you don’t then they’ll likely forget everything that was covered when they walk out the door (see the stats below for what people actually retain). I find it effective to use weekly challenges or text their parents follow up questions to ask them.
- USE STORIES
Christ did it and it worked pretty well for Him! Every person I’ve met is able to remember stories better than teachings, and if they remember a teaching it’s because it included a story. Think about the homilies you remember…how many of those included the priest or deacon sharing a story? Use real examples, personal testimony, pull from movies, or even make up stories for the sake of the teaching.
I recently did a pro-life session where we took several pro-life issues and had a teen read a story as if they were in the midst of that issue and weren’t sure what to do, then teens discussed what they would do in small group. I was amazed how, after a few stories, the session was deeply impacting many of the teens and I realized it was because we were making each of the issues relevant to their daily life and they could understand what it was like to be in that situation, or they were sharing how they already were.
- UTILIZE EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING
More than ever, this generation yearns to learn through experience or the Socratic Method. Whenever possible, make the teaching not just interactive but experiential. Teaching about liturgy or Church history, then take your small group on a “field trip” and do a silent Church tour, challenging them to find something in the Church they didn’t recognize or notice before. After returning draw an aerial blueprint of the Church at the front and give one teen a marker to draw what they noticed. Then expound on whatever they draw and catechize from there.
If you’re talking about prayer, don’t just teach them about it but spend time with them in prayer! During praise and worship we gave youth the opportunity to share an intention and I was amazed at how quickly they opened up and shared some deep, challenge, and intense struggles with everyone.
- PLAY GAMES WHERE THEY TEACH/DEFEND THE FAITH
- Create 2 teams and ask a scenario question about the topic covered. The team that buzzes in first can either answer with what they’d do in that scenario (in line with Church teaching) or share what the Church’s teaching is on that topic. The other team has to give the other answer.
- Use skits, where they live out the Church teaching. Youth practicing the right moral choice reinforces the teaching and helps them retain the right information.
- Play jeopardy at the end of the session where teens are split into two teams and have the questions be one teen versus another so no one can hide from participating.
90% of what they learn when they teach someone else or use it immediately
75% of what they learn when they practice what they learned
50% of what they learn when they engage in a group discussion
30% of what they learn when they see a demonstration
20% of what they learn from audio-visual
10% of what they learn when they’ve learned from reading
5% of what they learn when they’ve learned from lecture
God has great things in store for you and your teens. Pray for your teens and volunteers, and invite the Holy Spirit to inspire you as you plan, prepare, and carry out your desire to lead teens closer to Christ.