Teaching Spiritual Disciplines

About a month ago I talked about some of my plans for what I’d be teaching in Sunday School this fall. I’ve had the chance to think through some things and I now have a more concrete idea of what I’d like to do. I just received my copy of Way to Live, which Brian recommended. I’m also borrowing Celebration of Discipline from someone at church. That being said, understand that the specifics could still change quite a bit as I work my way through these books over the coming weeks (we’ll see how I do with that since I also have textbooks I’m trying to read).

So, my general plan is a five week study of specific disciplines/practices followed by another five weeks spent actually doing Bible Study (which will be the final discipline we cover) followed by an Advent series. Here are the disciplines we’ll cover:

  • Lectio Divina
  • Confession and Accountability
  • Prayer
  • Silence and Solitude
  • Bible Study

With Lectio Divina I simply want to introduce students to the basics. I’ll also take some time to explain what spiritual disciplines are and what they aren’t. But I want students to know that they need to develop a habit of consistently reading God’s word, meditating on it, praying it, and contemplating it. It’s not so much important to me that students begin practicing Lectio as much as it’s important to me that teens begin consistently reading the Bible and not just in a way that reads two verses and says, “okay, I’m done!”

Confession and Accountability is probably self explanatory. But I really want to encourage students to actually develop this into a habit. I’m hoping that the two books I have on disciplines can give me a little more direction on this lesson. I’d also be interested in what others here might say about it. Any thoughts?

Prayer is, again, self-explanatory. But it’s been giving me some problems as I attempt to develop it into a lesson. I have two goals with this. First, I want students to begin developing a habit of prayer. This might mean using liturgical prayers, or simply a prayer list and praying once a day, or it might mean practicing the Divine Hours. I have plenty of suggestions for students. But I also want them to (and this is the second thing) realize that part of praying is being open and authentic with God. I want to help them realize that we can be angry at God, and we can express that anger to him – much like the psalmists do.

Silence and Solitude is often neglected in our culture, even among Christians. I want students to at least think about developing the habit of silence. I want them to realize that it is okay to stop in the midst of our incredibly fast paced society and just be. Just spend time being with God, alone – yet not alone because of the countless Christians who have practiced this discipline throughout the ages.

Bible Study is something that I thought about not including. But I want to help students realize the difference between a devotional reading of the text (Lectio Divina, etc) and studying the text. Hence we’ll jump from this lesson into Rootworks, at least that’s the plan. I want to encourage students to, while we use rootworks, make use of commentaries and other tools to aid them in their study. I think Bible study is extremely important, and we don’t do it (largely because we don’t really know how) enough. Teens are intelligent, they can study the Bible but they need to be taught how. For this I’m still working on ironing out what the differences between a devotional reading of the Bible and a study of the Bible look like. Once that’s done I’d like to spend some time in this lesson explaining those differences and than outlining what a weekly time of Bible study might look like.

So that is where things stand at present. Any ideas on how I might clearly communicate this stuff? Any quibbles, things you disagree with me on? I’m especially interested on people’s thoughts concerning a distinction between a devotional reading and actual Bible study.

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