When it comes to what we teach our students in an ongoing way, we must be sure the gospel is central. Not just in our preaching and events, but also in our curriculum. Let me clarify that word real quick because I am sure many of you don’t use the term the same way I do. What I’m talking about is the material you take your students through on a regular basis. That may be a series you write, an ongoing Bible study like The Gospel Project, or a formatted template that walks students through your sermon notes.
Whatever you use to guide students to understand scripture, it needs to be gospel-centered.
While this may sound like a simple truth, it is one I have found to be often overlooked in student ministry. We can lean into felt needs and the latest craze so easily that the gospel can either be tacked on to the end of a lesson or missing entirely. Let’s take a look at a few ways we can ensure what we study is gospel-centered.
- Use gospel-centered language. One of the easiest ways to encourage gospel-centeredness in what you teach is through language that centers on the gospel. Think through what you study and how you communicate the truth. Look for key words that point to the finished work of Jesus. One example is the term “empowered by the Holy Spirit.” Rather than telling students to pursue Jesus, quit lying, stop doing X, or start doing Y, focus them on the work of the Holy Spirit. Just using that language helps students understand that the gospel is central to living the Christian life.
- Feature Christ’s finished work. Regardless of the point of the lesson, there is always a connection to the work of Christ. Example: If you are teaching on purity, you should point students to God’s plan for sex within the bounds of marriage. Note that Jesus loves students and wants what is best for them and that the Holy Spirit empowers them to choose to wait on His best for their life. But also note the grace and forgiveness that is a result of Christ’s shed blood for those who may have made a bad decision already. It is Jesus who first loved us and who draws us to a life of loving Him and pursuing holiness in all areas of our life.
- Be careful with steps and action points. One challenge with teaching students is giving too many “how to’s” in our studies. IF we aren’t careful, we can point students down the path of moralism. No amount of doing good and acting right can make us better or get us closer to Jesus. It is only through His finished work. However, we must help students see what our response to the gospel should be and how that impacts our life. Likewise, there are steps and action points that are very clear from scripture. We simply need to use caution, focusing on the work of Jesus first and our response second.
- Always point to scripture. Regardless of what you teach, what setting you lead in, and what material you use to guide students to understand God’s word, lift the scripture high in all that you do. Make sure the focus is on God’s word above all else. Rather than the latest book or intriguing series, students need to see God’s word and how it impacts their life. The word is always gospel-centered. So you can’t go wrong leading with and lifting it up in all your teaching environments.
Ensuring your students have a gospel-centered curriculum doesn’t have to be difficult. With a clear focus on the work of Jesus you can help students walk in the way of God’s truth. By centering all you do on the gospel, students will have a greater understanding of their faith and a clearer understanding of the work of Christ in their lives.
This post was written by Chris Swain, Director of Lifeway Student Ministry Publishing