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Sunday School Lesson

Leading a Middle School Sunday School Class NEXT PAGE

Here are my tips for leading a great Sunday school or youth Bible lesson time. These methods are specifically for Middle School (Junior High) age kids.

Junior High: Active Bible Studies

Junior High: Active Bible Studies
Do you ever get tired of that comatose-like state your junior highers slip into as soon as you start your lesson time? We thought so, which is why we created these Active Bible Studies. Each lesson is based on a teachable passage, features clear lesson plans, fun activities that tie in to each lesson, discussion questions and more. It is truly a turnkey resource for when you need to include a Bible study for small groups, camp, meetings, retreats, or whatever else you program demands. And each lesson is specifically designed to help junior highers apply God’s word to everyday life.

Using my youth group lesson plans:

On the "Lesson Plan" page you will find many pre-made Bible lessons to choose from. These are not the usual "bubble-gum" Bible lessons that you normally find offered in curriculum books. Rather, they are foundational, doctrinal issues. These kids are ready to learn more detailed answers to questions like, "Where do you go when you die?". Plus they want answers to hard questions like, "Can you go to heaven if you commit suicide?". Kids will ask you these loaded questions. If you give them the same old rote answers they will turn you off and mistrust whatever you're teaching. If, on the other hand, you prepare a detailed, Biblically supported answer, weather it's a tough answer or not, they will grow to trust you and appreciate your lessons.The point is to tell the kids the truth.
283263: Creative Bible Lessons in Essential Theology: 12 Lessons to Help Your Students Know What They Believe Creative Bible Lessons in Essential Theology: 12 Lessons to Help Your Students Know What They Believe
By Andrew A. Hedges / Youth Specialties

* Many teenagers make poor choices because they're uncertain about who God is. Combining audio, visual, and hands-on activities, Hedges's curriculum encourages them to explore Scripture, figure out what they believe, better understand God, and discover his purpose for their lives. A must-have for youth pastors, parents, and teachers. Includes hints for instructing multiple learning styles. 176 pages, softcover from Zondervan.

Age group differences:
My Bible lesson plans can be adapted to both junior high and high school age kids but the teaching methods are quite different. Middle school kids are just starting to realize that they can make their own decisions. They are just now beginning to grow their own faith apart from their lesson plan pictureparents. It's an exciting time to teach them.

Here's a tidbit from "Frontline":
"As the prefrontal cortex matures, teenagers can reason better, develop more control over impulses and make judgments better. In fact, this part of the brain has been dubbed "the area of sober second thought."

Click on Bible Lesson Plan for full size PDF Image

If your class is primarily 6th-7th graders I recommend having them fill in the blanks on the Bible lesson plan worksheets. This helps them begin to be able to create a "life application" sentence drawn from reading a Bible verse. Have them sign their names, and hand them in at the end of the lesson (I let them select one item from the "treasure box" as a reward {more on that later}). At the end of a season we spend a class making cover pages and assemble the Bible lesson plans into a booklet for them to bring home to their parents. I add pages of pictures of the class that we have taken throughout the year. The booklet becomes a valuable treasure and accomplishment for many of them. Click here for Sunday School lessons that I teach at the beginning if a middle school class.

For older kids and high school age filling in the blanks is more like a tiresome chore. They're ready for a free flowing discussion debating the finer points. Just use the questions on the Bible lesson plan for discussion starters. Use the verses as Biblical support for the issue being discussed. Guide the discussion to the main point the verses are conveying. If you get side-tracked use the next question on the Bible lesson plan to re-establish the direction.

Rewards: I use candy as a discussion stimulator. Any answer gets a kid a piece of candy. If they're not paying attention I usually bounce it off their heads. I've heard some youth leaders insist that this "keeps the kids in a perpetual state of immaturity." I say, it works great. All eyes are focused on me and kids are reaching for answers. They'll mature soon enough.

The treasure box: I made a treasure box of party favors from - the World's Largest Party Superstore . This was a fun incentive for younger teens to listen to the lesson and fill in the blanks. I filled it with five or six different things to choose from like Silicone Religious Sayings Bracelet, Magic Star Ball , candy, and the super popular Zany Bands (Faith Bands). This is an inexpensive way to add a little excitement to your class.

Magic Star Ball Pkg/8

Magic Star Ball Pkg/8

These light-up balls feature super star shapes and an attachment so you can wear them around your neck.

This was one of our popular rewards.  

I've used B&H Photo many times. Their prices are good and the service is great. I trust them now.


Take lots of pictures: Kid's love pictures of themselves. A digital camera is a must for a youth leader.

Digital images can be easily enlarged and printed to hang proudly on the youth room wall. Order your photo paper from B & H Photo (link at the left).

Pepper the pictures on the back of the Bible lesson plan worksheets. The work sheet then becomes a treasure that the kid will take home. You never know where that will lead, but a Bible lesson plan with pictures will be viewed more often than one without pictures.

Add pictures to your e-mails. The kids will eagerly look for your messages increasing your communication effectiveness.

Here's a great inexpensive gift idea: FAITH BANDS

They make great prizes for games.

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A pack of 4 are just $3.99
2128541: The Gospel Story Stamped Silicone Bracelet and Card, KJV

The Salvation Story Silicone Bracelet with Card is an excellent and inexpensive gift to present to someone with whom you would like to share God's Plan of Salvation through Jesus with.

Now, if you're going to give your kids a symbol of their faith with which they will start conversations about their faith, you should also give them the tools to share their faith. Teach this Sunday school lesson.


Gimme Five: 500 More Ways to Get Your Students Talking With more than 500 prompts, Gimme Five is sure to get your students talking, thinking, and laughing as they name their five things---foods they hate, situations that make them cry, favorite television shows, and much more. You'll find funny stuff, as well as hot issues and scenarios that'll make your students dig deeper. Whatever route you choose, Gimme Five will spark fascinating conversations.

Matching Pre-Lesson Activity: A pre-lesson activity that demonstrates some aspect of the Sunday school lesson reinforces the Bible lesson and increases the "remember-ability" of the lesson. This can be tough to come up with. Many of my Sunday school lesson plans have this. If you come up with one let me know so I can update the lesson.

Also, matching your games to the group of kids that show up is essential. Sunday morning kids usually are dressed nice, tired from the school week. Midweek evening they can dress for the mess. Sometimes the group that shows up are brainiacs. Sometimes they're jocks. Have several different types of games ready to go so you can select the best one. Have good prizes ready for the winners.

Match your style to the kids: Each group is different. Your's might be boys who like to play physical games. Another might be mainly girls who like to socialize. Yet another might be primarily kids who like "brain" games. You must match your teaching style to the kids in your group.

Multiage Leaders: I strongly recommend putting together a mix of volunteers from different age groups. Most young leaders lack experience. They have a hard time coming across as authentic when talking about things like perseverance. They have not yet faced the troubles of life and won. However, the younger leader can offer the exuberance of a budding faith that an old warrior can not. In addition, a 20-something jock youth group leader will naturally attract athletically able boys to his youth group. A grand-motherly youth group leader might have a youth group that resembles a girl scout troop. A leader will attract the kids they empathize with most.The other kids will feel disconnected and may drift off to some other churches youth group. If you find yourself serving at a new church with a group you don't connect with quickly enlist the help of volunteers with the characteristics that match your kids. No one will have all the characteristics of every kid in any group so a varied group of volunteers will help ensure that all the kids feel a natural connection to one of the leaders.

Don't be afraid to be silly or outrageous: Sometimes I come dressed in a Starfleet uniform or Jedi costume. In one of my pre-lesson activities I weigh the girls (you can hear the gasps). These are the lessons they remember years later.

Prevent BAD BREATH: Nothing can spoil the effect of your teaching more than bad breath. This may seem like a no-brainer but a lot of people have offensive breath. Make sure you don't. You may need some dental work but usually it's easy to fix with mouthwash, mints, or gum. I picked this up from a Billy Graham Crusade training course. It's important.

768551: Full Tilt: Wacky Games That Teach God"s Word for Middle School Full Tilt: Wacky Games That Teach God's Word for Middle School
By David C. Cook

You got game!

Here are twenty-six creative activities to engage kids with fantastic Bible-focused, high-energy fun! Correlated with Bible-in-Life and Echoes curriculum for September 2008 through June 2009, this book is loaded with innovative ideas-including scripture references and teacher tips-and provides a great resource for alternative Step 3 activities. Or use it with your own lesson plans-this handy resource fits well with any curriculum or can be used as a stand-alone activity.

In Full Tilt you'll find page after page of wild and wacky games that middle-schoolers will just love playing. And while they're laughing and acting out, they'll also be learning God's Word, because every game in Full Tilt is based on Scripture. With themes for lessons, teacher tips, and Bible references, you've got an awesome youth ministry tool in hand!

Suggested books
for teens

Biblical Directives and the Holy Spirit:

I rarely tell kids what they should do or how they should act. Rather I try to get Biblical truths deep into their hearts and let the indwelling Holy Spirit do the rest. Biblical directives aren't always as clear as, "Thou shalt not kill," and situations they face daily hardly ever have a clear Biblical answer for how the kid should respond. But, if they have Bible knowledge and the Holy Spirit I believe they will respond in a Christ like manner. Jesus says to, "First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean." (Matthew 23:26) We need to develop Christ-like character if we want to get Christ-like behavior. More...

Single Digit Youth Groups, by Marcey Balcomb is one of my favorite books. It is inspirational, rejuvenating, and full of great stuff to make small youth groups awesome. If you ever feel envious of the "successful" youth pastor who has hundreds of kids in his youth group this book will get you back on track to value your smaller group. I've been involved with large and small youth groups and I much prefer the intimacy of a smaller group. Pouring your life into a few kids has an awesome effect on them for life. It's so great to see my students graduating from college bringing their faith with them into the world. Get this book.

40422: Single Digit Youth Groups Single Digit Youth Groups
By Marcey Balcomb / Abingdon Press

This book includes benefits, strategies, and practical helps in beginning or strengthening signal-digit youth groups, as well as Scripture-based activities and short stories. A variety of reproducible forms are also provided for use or adaptation Each and every youth needs and deserves support and encouragement. This book offers some ways to be there for them on that journey, regardless of the size of the group.


267463: Choose Your Top 3: 500 Dynamic Discussion Starters to  Get Your Teenagers Talking  

Break the ice with questions! Simple discussion-starters like "What are your top three fast food restaurants, skills, or fears?" can become gateways to what's really going on with the kids you see every day.  

Great Snack Suggestions: sunday school snack table

I can not stress strongly enough the value of having a great snack. Bring something that surprises the kids at how good it is. Do it every week.

Hot spiced cider using Aspen Mulling Spices is always a hit on cold winter days.
The cheap grocery store mix just won't do.

Cheese. Anything with cheese. Kids crave cheese. Just slice up a block of cheddar. We're growing bones here people!

This is a great place to get the reluctant moms involved. They might be scared to death to enter the class room but they'll frequently be willing to bring a great snack. They usually get their teen to help put it together: Creates a little family activity; generates huge pride for the kid who brings it.

Click here for the expanded pdf article.

Snack Hints & Tips:

Soda Pop:
Always buy the liter bottles of soda pop or juice and put out small dixie cups. Pre-open the bottles to release the pressure and prevent a mess. The advantage of this over 16 oz. soda cans is far less waste and way lower cost. You'll only need three bottles, at about 87 cents a piece for a youth group of about 15 kids. Spills are also smaller.

Healthy snacks:
Sure, you may bring healthy snacks but bring some fun stuff too, like potato chips, cookies, and donuts. I frequently bring cereal and milk. Unfortunately healthy snacks cost twice as much. I can satisfy a group of 15 kids for about $15.00.

Shop the day before and bring the snacks home:
Keeping the snacks at home ensures that they'll be there when it's time for your meeting instead of gobbled by the men's group that met just before. Buying snacks just before church usually means warm soda pop. Buying it the day before gives you time to get the drinks nice and cold.

yout_group_snacksFood can serve as an illustration of the Bible lesson:
I served grits before my lesson on hypocrites, called them hippo-grits. The kids remembered this even years later. For one lesson I grill steak as an illustration. I've also used cantaloupe, red peppers, and avocados.

Food can just be fun:
Once I brought carmel apples, a fall tradition. Except one was an onion (snirk). We made towers with marshmallows and toothpicks. Try this fun game with baby food.

Food develops the bonds of friendship:

440519: Thriving Youth Ministry in Smaller Churches: Secrets for Cultivating a Dynamic Youth Ministry Thriving Youth Ministry in Smaller Churches: Secrets for Cultivating a Dynamic Youth Ministry
By Rick Chromey & Stephanie Caro / Group Publishing
Are you in a "small" church? Well, guess what--you're the majority. With the average church in America clocking in around 75 members, there's no reason why "small" has to equal "less" when it comes to healthy, thriving youth ministry.

In this stereotype-busting examination of "smaller" (don't call 'em "small!") youth ministry, Rick Chromey and Stephanie Caro provide clear biblical and philisophical direction along with a host of practical ideas. You'll discover strengths you didn't know you had, and realize that what you thought were obstacles were only excuses.

Today's teenagers move at the rapid pace of today's society. And a smaller youth ministry has the flexibility and qualities to be nimble and relational, two qualities that will serve your teenagers better than a kickin' stage or a big budget.

Embrace your smallness and create a ministry teenagers will love to be a part of, no matter how many of you there are.

Get Down with the kids:

I don't mean "get down, get jiggy". I mean get your body down to the kids level. Join them. Do not stand poor_class_settingabove them or preach from the stage. They get enough talking to at school and home. Get down with them and talk with them. Your body position and posture subconsciously indicates your feelings about the kids to the kids. In the typical youth setting shown on the right, the good youth group settingleader is separated and above the kids. What does this indicate about his feeling towards the kids? Is it any wonder we get the blank stares and poor participation in a setting such as this? In the picture on the left the leader is sitting with the kids, actually a little lower, the kids are facing each other and the conversation is lively.

466069: 99 Thoughts for Smaller Church Youth Workers 99 Thoughts for Smaller Church Youth Workers
By Stephanie Caro / Group Publishing
Celebrate the wonderful journey of ministry in the smaller congregation with 99 Thoughts for Smaller Church Youth Workers, and become a more passionate youth worker who's deeply committed to helping guide teenagers toward a Jesus-centered life!

Veteran youth worker Stephanie Caro, who understands both the challenges and blessings of working in a smaller youth ministry, cleverly unpacks her insights and ideas in 99 Thoughts for Smaller Church Youth Workers. Your heart for teenagers will grow as you read Stephanie's wisdom on vibrantly ministering in a smaller church.
Stephanie also delivers practical suggestions and resources for youth ministry programming, affirming your students and leaders, and tapping into creative, beneficial resources.
Teaching with Love & Logic: Taking Control of the Classroom  
Time-tested ideas and strategies will empower teachers to effectively manage classroom dynamics while bringing the joy back to teaching.



Middle school kids, girls especially, seem to love drama. Divisions, arguments, and clicks might arise as a result of boy friend girl friend relationships, clothing, just about everything. I see that with many girls this continues into college. Don't panic. My suggestion for handling it is:

Listen to all parties sympathetically;
Express sincere empathy for their distress;
Don't get sucked in. You don't always have to fix it;
Allow them the freedom to deal with the situation.

Say, "I am so sorry you are having this difficulty. I know you have the Holy Spirit in your heart to guide you so I'm looking forward to see how well you work this out." If you offer to help you are taking the responsibility for the outcome onto yourself. Instead, say, "I can see you're having a hard time. Would you like to know what some other kids have done?" If permission is given you can then interject some words of wisdom without letting them off the hook for the consequences of the outcome. They will learn important lessons by dealing with the situations themselves.

For more helpful methods of dealing with teens get the Love and Logic book shown on the link in the left column. For parenting strategies refer your parents to this page for Parenting with Love and Logic.

  Leading a middle school Sunday school class can be very rewarding. Following the suggestions on this website and using my Bible lessons just about guarantee a great result.
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