1. Heaven is a place on earth
Bible passage: Revelation 21
Key message: Heaven is just like earth, only perfect
Synopsis: Our image of heaven is often something along the lines of sitting on a cloud and praising God all day. This can seem boring to teens who doing instead of being. But Revelation 21 shows us a completely different picture of heaven: it’s actually a new earth, a perfect earth. And other Scripture passages show us we won’t be sitting on a cloud all day either, because there’s work to do. That makes heaven something to really look forward to. But are we sure heaven is our final destination? And what about our family and friends?
Tip: A book that really helped me in shaping my view of heaven was Randy Alcorns ‘Heaven’. Tons of sold Biblical info in there. I’ve also spent five minutes in this sermon discussing hell, because I felt I couldn’t discuss just one option for our eternal destination.
2. Becoming a ‘son of encouragement’
Bible passage: Acts 4:32-37, Acts 11:19-24 and Acts 14:22
Key message: Encouragement is more than saying something nice
Synopsis: Barnabas is called a ‘son of encouragement’ in the Bible. What made him so extraordinary effective in encouraging others? Encouragement is more than saying nice things, it’s saying what people need to make the next step in their journey with God. Barnabas encouraged young Christians who were facing persecution that they had to hang in there, that trials were part of the life of a Christian. What are you doing to encourage others? Is there someone you know that needs to make the next step? What could you do to help?
Tip: Do a word study on the meaning of the Greek word ‘paraklesis’, it will give extra depth to your explanation of what encouragement means.
3. Great expectations
Bible passage: 1 Tim 4:12-16
Key message: God has great expectations of us, even when we’re a teen
Synopsis: What is expected of teens and students nowadays? Many expectations are negative. But the whole concept of adolescence is new, a cultural phenomenon. Look at examples from history of young people doing extraordinary things both in our history and in the Bible (David. Daniel, Josiah). God has great expectations of us, no matter our age. He expects us to be an example, even when we’re a teen. What do you expect of yourself? And how do you feel about these expectations from God? How could you meet these?
Tip: Look for some great examples of young people from your history doing important things, like George Washington. Also: be careful to define these expectations from God in a ‘grace-framework’ to avoid young people feeling a pressure to behave a certain way out of fear. Assure them of God’s unconditional love.
4. Love, love, love
Bible passage: John 15:1-17
Key message: The biggest thing we can ‘do’ to bear fruit is to love others
Synopsis: In this passage Jesus explains what we are meant to do as His disciples: bear fruit. This fruit doesn’t necessarily refer to ‘converting others’, but to the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) and to good deeds we do in Jesus’ name. If we don’t bear fruit, this will have consequences. God will discipline you and show you what needs to change in your life. The biggest fruit we can bear is love. Love is not a feeling, but a choice. We need to love others as God has loved us and we can only do that if we stay close to Jesus. How much fruit are you bearing and what could you do to love more?
Tip: If you do a little bit of research on vines and grapes, you’ll find many deeper meanings in this passage you could use to make it more practical and interesting. I’ve also shown pictures of vines, because they’re quite rare in Holland and my students needed to know what Jesus was talking about so they’d understand it better.
5. Garbage in, garbage out
Bible passage: Col 3:1-8, Mark 7:14-16, Psalm 101:3, Psalm 119:11
Key message: Sin is the result from feeding ourselves with sinful things
Synopsis: GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) is an old computer-programming slogan, but it’s true for us humans as well. Jesus makes it very clear that our sins come from what’s in our hearts. How does sin enter our hearts? By what we watch, read, and hear. If we feed ourselves with sinful things, we will sin. But of we feed ourselves with God’s things, if we focus on what’s good in His eyes, we will sin less. What do you feed yourself with and what could you do to change this?
Tip: With a topic like this, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of focusing purely on the need to sin less, on the process of sanctification. But that is useless unless your students have a personal relationship with God. Always put the redemptive work of Christ at the center; preach grace and forgiveness and make the sanctification process a result, not a condition.
6. Serving instead of ruling
Bible passage: Mark 10:32-45
Key message: Following Jesus means serving, not ruling
Synopsis: The disciples had certain expectations of Jesus and His kingdom. They expected him to kick the Romans out and set up a kingdom on earth. Even short before his death, James and John who were so close to Jesus, still didn’t get it. They asked to rule, but Jesus told them it wasn’t about ruling, but about serving. Even Jesus Himself, didn’t come to rule, but to serve. His whole life was about serving. If we want to follow Jesus, so should ours. In what ways could you serve others and so honor God?
Tip: You’ll need to explain some of the context here, like the Jewish expectations of the Messiah and what Jesus meant with the cup and the baptism he referred to.
7. True worship
Bible passage: Luke 7:36-50
Key message: True worship is doing something that gives God pleasure
Synopsis: We often think of worship as singing songs, praising God. But this story shows a whole different aspect of worship. Equally interesting is the reason Jesus gave for what this woman did: she knew she has been forgiven for many sins. How grateful are you to be forgiven and in what ways could you express that to God? True worship is doing something that brings pleasure to God. What brings God pleasure? Obedience, love, fruits of the Spirit, taking care of others, praise and worship, etc. Don’t limit yourself to ‘just singing’.
Tip: You could also use Romans 12:1 but since this verse is a little too often used in my opinion, I didn’t include it here. Again, explain something about the context of the Pharisees with their judgmental attitudes and how they viewed this woman and Jesus, so your students get the whole picture.