If you want to connect with and motivate your students, you must tap into their needs and what interests them. A good starting point is to look at their age developmental characteristics. You can make even well-known stories relevant. Let me give you an example using Christmas.
In adding nativity sets to the children’s ministry section on the Christmas Ministry Resources page from our affiliate stores, I found quite a variety — fabric, finger puppet, stickers, magnetic, puppet glove, plastic/PVC, soft and squeezable, vinyl clings, and wooden.
I wanted to include nativities that could be used in children’s classes, or in the home, that would serve not just as touchable decorations but also visual aids or learning tools. If I were to look for nativity sets for adults, I would add resin, glass, ceramic, metal, porcelain, along with possibly other kinds of materials.
Just like you will find some nativity sets constructed more suitably for toddlers, some for older children, and others for adults, so we must consider how to communicate in relevant ways to the different age levels.
Think about people’s developmental needs as we approach the holiday season. How can you present this Jesus in the manger in ways that are relevant to them?
1) Early Childhood: They need a sense of security as they look to people to care for their needs while beginning to exert a degree of independence and initiative.
Present to them this Jesus who came to earth as a baby, loved by God, and who grew up gaining favor with God and man and showed others love. If they feel His unconditional love they will learn to open their hearts to Him.
2) Grade School: They need a sense of success or competence in this industrious age level marked by curiosity, skill development, and performance.
Present to them this Jesus who came to earth as a baby but who grew in wisdom and did many wonderful things, the best of which was salvation. If they study His life through His Word, they will become equipped to do good in life, to reach their potential in Him through His power.
3) Junior High: They need a sense of stability in this period of uncertainty with all the changes going on within them.
Present to them this Jesus who came to earth through a most peculiar set of circumstances and was not always understood as He grew and did the Father’s will. He kept doing the Father’s will regardless of how hard it was and how He felt. If they learn to trust Him, He will help them navigate this turbulent time.
4) Senior High: They need a sense of identity as they transition into adulthood.
Present to them this Jesus who came to earth as a little baby though fully aware He was God. As He grew, He did not let ego or peer direct His decisions but the Father. If they discover who they are in Him, they will come to realize that it isn’t about what others think of them but what God thinks.
5) Young Adults: They need a sense of belonging and intimacy as they build relationships and learn to cope in a big world.
Present to them this Jesus who came to earth because God so loved the world and wanted to reconcile people to Himself. Jesus knew His purpose, sought to accomplish His goals, yet remembered the people around Him and built relationships with them. If they keep a relationship with Him their top priority, others pursuits will fall into place.
6) Middle Aged Adults: They need a sense of purpose as they begin to wonder if their life is really making a difference.
Present to them this Jesus who came to earth, with humble beginnings in the manger but didn’t stay there. Rather, He went on to make a difference. If they line up with Him, they too will live abundant and productive lives to the very end.
7) Senior Aged Adults: They need a sense of satisfaction and contentment, of fulfillment, with their lives, that they are leaving a legacy.
Present to them this Jesus who came to this earth to make a difference and so for the joy set before Him endured the cross, did not revile when reviled, but rather offered love and forgiveness. If they continue to walk in Him, they too will live a life of integrity that others can look to as a role model. If they have failed to walk faithfully, they can receive grace and forgiveness even now with Jesus’ challenge to “Go and sin no more.”
You can run any truth through these age level needs to increase relevancy. If you don’t think too much about the difference these factors play in your students’ understanding and motivation, perhaps the Age Level Characteristics Resource from Ministry Tools Resource Center would be useful to you.
Teacher Training Worksheet Based on this Article: Make Truths Relevant