Youth Ministry Resources: Communicating with teens about Biblical concepts can be a challenge, here’s four ways in which you can adapt your language to teens when talking, preaching or doing a Bible study.

4 Ways To Adapt Your Language To Teens

Teens speak a different language than adults, especially when it comes to ‘church language’. They have less knowledge of the Bible, but also of Biblical terms and concepts. Added to that. They’re also strongly influenced by postmodern culture which gives them a different interpretation of certain concepts or ideas.

Take the word ‘truth’ for instance. To most adults, this refers to an absolute truth. So when Jesus claims to be the Truth, adults understand is as Jesus being the absolute standard of truth. For teens, truth means something completely different. It refers to a relative truth, something you believe to be true. That means that what truth is for one person, isn’t necessarily truth for someone else.

It makes communicating with teens about Biblical concepts a challenge, though not impossible. It’s just crucial that you take the time and effort to make sure you’re on the same page as the teens you’re talking to. Here’s four ways in which you can adapt your language to teens, for instance when preaching or doing a Bible study:

Explain Church Terms

There are many church terms that we have gotten so used to, we hardly register them anymore. Redemption, sanctification, atonement, these are all words that have a rich and wonderful meaning…but they mean nothing to teens. They don’t know these words and if they know them, chances are they have a faulty understanding of their meaning.

You will need to explain each and every church term that you use, or even better: use as few of them as possible. Try to translate all these Biblical terms into common language so teens can understand them.

Always Teach The Context

Teens usually have a limited knowledge of the Bible. They won’t automatically know who the apostle Paul was, they don’t know David was Solomon’s dad or whether Noah came before or after Abraham. Because of that, they often don’t see the connections, the bigger picture in the Bible, the cause-and-effect. That means that you have to include the context of whatever you’re teaching or preaching on.

Always explain who a Bible character was in two or three sentences. When did he live, what happened in his (or her) time, why was he or she included in the Bible? And always say something about the Bible book you’re reading. Who (probably) wrote it, what is the book about and what is its general message? Explaining the context will really help your teens to understand your teaching.

Avoid The Abstract

Teens are concrete thinkers, they’re not good with abstract concepts yet. That means your language should be as concrete as possible. Good examples will often help, but you’ll need to take the time to come up with examples that mean something to teens, preferably from their daily life.

Take for instance the concept of animal sacrifices in the Tabernacle. Teens will have a hard time understanding the concept of a sacrifice as payment for sin, unless you make it very explicit. Translate it into a much more practical example they do understand, the concept of being bad and getting punished. There an action and it has consequences. Sacrifices meant that an animal bore the consequences of what a human had done wrong. In the same way, Jesus later bore the consequences of what we had done wrong.

Use Stories

There’s a reason Jesus used so many stories in His teaching: research has shown that stories matter to us. They touch us, they inspire us, we remember them better than theoretical teaching and very important: they show us a practical example. You can debate about theology till you’re blue in the face, but you can’t debate people’s personal expriences.

Let’s say you want to teach teens to love their enemies. Why not use the example of Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela to show what this looks like in real life? Combine Biblical truths with these real life examples so teens are very clear on what living out this truth looks like.