One of the best ways to learn and grow is to teach. Knowing that, here are eight tips for unleashing teens to teach in your youth ministry.
1. Regularly invite teens to teach. Publicly let teens know that if there's a topic they'd like to teach, they should talk to you. Privately encourage specific teens to do so.
2. Schedule teens to teach on a week that makes sense in your teaching calendar. If you can integrate their topics into a larger series, do so. Otherwise, schedule their lessons as a one-off. Don't schedule teens to be your subs during a week when you're on vacation. They'll need you there for support and encouragement!
3. Walk teens through each step they need to complete as part of their teaching preparation. Teach them how to research their topics. If they're leading a discussion, show them how to write good questions. If they're giving a talk, explain how to structure it.
4. At least six weeks prior to their scheduled teaching time, in order to aid teens in their research, give them a packet of information filled with suggested Scripture passages, commentaries about those passages, and other relevant information about their topics.
5. Set deadlines and hold teens accountable for completing each step of their teaching prep.
6. After they've written their talks or discussions, meet with teens. Affirm their work. Help them edit and organize their lessons in logical ways. If teens are leading discussions, coach them on how to lead good discussions. If they're giving talks, have them practice in front of you, and offer tips on their presentations.
7. When teens teach, be present beforehand to calm their nerves. Afterward, affirm them.
8. A week after a teen teaches, meet with him or her in person. Process the experience together and affirm his or her effort. Ask teens to reflect on what they did well and on what they learned. Doing so will help them grow as leaders and followers of Jesus.
Jen Bradbury is the youth director at Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. She's the author of The Jesus Gap and a frequent blogger at YMJen.com.