Jesus Creed

Here is a pressing issue — something Christianity Today recently discussed: the level of familiarity with the Bible’s story. Chris Folmsbee is asking us today to weigh in on what’s going on in our churches and homes. Help us out here … now to Chris.

My predecessor at Barefoot left a pile of book proposals on my desk and today I picked up a small stack of them during a slower moment in the day and began to skim them.
At first glance at, two things surprised me about the proposals.  First, the proposals were eerily similar in their content.  All of them (probably 6 or so) were about helping students more fully understand the story of God.  Of course each of the proposals were different in their approach to help students in that way, but they were all far too analogous.  Second, each hopeful author listed as the top reason as the primary need for his or her product on the market as this; students don’t know the stories of the Bible.

Is this true in your ministry context – are students ignorant when it comes to the stories in the Bible?  Are we in need of more curriculum, etc. that helps students more fully understand the story of God?  What is the cause of this reality (actual of perceived)?

Over the last few years I’ve deeply engaged in a learning model most commonly referred to as applied or experiential learning.  The applied learning model (think: David Kolb) has been around quite a while and it has taken on a variety of different forms.  Probably one of the most simplistic ways to describe applied learning is “hands-on” or “practicable” learning.  Of course, applied learning is about so much more than just hands-on experiences but at its core it is about creating moments for students to link theory and practice or thinking and doing.

I mention applied learning because I think that so much of the reason behind a statement like, ‘…students don’t know the stories of the Bible” has less to do about the students and more to do with the way youth workers attempt to educate them.  Perhaps it is better said, “Youth workers are not helping students to learn the stories of the Bible.”  

In what ways are you helping students to know the stories of the Bible?  Is it the way you are choosing to educate or are the students in your ministry just not getting it?  Or are you content with how the students in your ministry are leaning into and living out the story of God?

Among other characteristics, applied learning is about:
?    Ongoing assessment of the subject matter and the environment in which the matter is passed on
?    Beginning with the learners in mind, rather than the educators
?    Facilitating opportunities for guided reflection that leads to the ongoing ability to link ideas with practices
?    Facilitating dialogical opportunities that lead to shared or communal learning
?    A holistic approach that integrates the subject matter with the daily life of students
?    Embracing of a variety of methods that encourage and value different types of learning styles

I’m really curious to know… Do you value applied learning?  Are you implementing applied learning methods in your youth ministry?  If so, which methods and if not, why not?  Do you think that there is any connection between students not knowing the stories of the Bible and the way we educate them? Or is it as simple as just not teaching them the most helpful subject matter?

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