After visiting with numerous full-time WyldLife staff, one thing is clear: Campaigners looks different in every area.
That’s good news for innovative, creative, entrepreneurial, outside-the-box, experimental folks. Really, the sky’s the limit in terms of what your Campaigner groups could look like.
For people who like a pre-structured template, don’t panic because of the broad brush strokes. Instead, rejoice that you have lots of options for your own particular Campaigner structure.
Regardless of how you structure your own Campaigners, here’s the one thing that we believe should be true of each group: it must absolutely, without a doubt, no questions asked be centered on God’s Word rather than an activity or a topic.
Activities are awesome. In fact, with middle schoolers, they’re necessary. Sitting still for an hour (or less) while listening and conversing (or not, depending on how confident and outgoing a particular kid is) doesn’t even register on the “Things I’m Barely Interested In and Hope Never Happen to Me” middle schooler scale.
Have activities for sure — engaging and fun activities that involve everyone. But don’t make them the main thing.
In the same way, topics are an obvious way to start conversations with kids. They want to talk about friends, school, movies, hobbies, fears, worries, life, and other things. Always be ready with open-ended questions and an attentive listening ear.
But do not center your Campaigners around a topic.
Center it around Scripture.
All of our club talks are centered around a scripture passage. Why would we lead Campaigners any differently?
If we start with a topic and then go to Scripture to see what God says about it, we send a subtle message that the Bible’s purpose is primarily to serve us and to be an answer book to life’s questions and our needs. Of course the Bible is replete with wisdom for how to live our lives, how to love God, and how to serve others.
But mostly, the Bible is where we meet God and learn to know Him better.
In the process of meeting God and learning to know Him better, we will also learn things about how to relate to friends, how to live at school, how to spend our time, how to face our fears and worries, how to navigate life, and so much more.
In other words, if we START with scripture, we will always be led towards truth about the topics and issues that we face every day and for which we need God’s wisdom and guidance. Starting with Scripture doesn’t mean we give up talking about topics. It simply means that we put topics in their correct place: subordinate to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
It means in Campaigners we talk about a passage of Scripture and what it means for our faith and our lives instead of talking about (choice of topic) and then hand selecting various verses to scaffold the discussion.
It means in Campaigners we let Scripture guide the conversation instead of using Scripture to confirm the conversation.
It means in Campaigners we listen to God’s word first and then let our voices join the conversation.
It means in Campaigners we let Scripture teach our kids (and us) instead of using Scripture as a backup for what we teach our kids.
It means in Campaigners, we trust that God’s word is powerful enough to do what it says it will: guide, lead, correct, teach, expose our hearts, and transform us into the people God wants us to be.
If we don’t model for our Campaigner kids a life that prioritizes seeking God within his Word, above and before anything else, we will not have done our job or fulfilled our calling as WyldLife leaders.
It’s really that big of a deal.
(Here are some specific tips and strategies for reading the Bible with your Campaigners group.)
UPDATE: A few responses to thoughts and questions that have arisen on this “topic” –
- Yes, Jesus often began with topics. But in fact, he began with The Word since the topic was emanating from The Word himself.
- Because Jesus (and other Biblical authors) spoke and wrote about so many topics, our scripture can be trusted to address the things of importance in our lives. The topics have been divinely and inspirationally woven into scripture.
- What if a student (or we) have a topical question that doesn’t seem to be obviously addressed head-on in scripture? If we primarily teach topically, the underlying message to young believers could easily become, “Scripture has nothing to say about this.” But if we primarily teach from Scripture towards real life and topics, rather than the other way around, our students (and we) will be learning how to read Scripture in deeper, meaningful ways that will affect our ongoing engagement with God’s Word and will reveal wisdom about those seemingly unaddressed peripheral things.
- Topical teaching isn’t the enemy. It’s not inherently bad. But teaching from God’s Word outward is inherently good, wise, and even Biblical.
- Topically-driven lessons may fit specific teaching/discussion contexts. But this particular context – young followers of Jesus, in a setting where the primary goal is “helping them grow in their faith,” the Word itself should be the driving factor. We can rest assured knowing that the experiences and conversations will impact the topics of their daily lives.