I am a youth pastor who oversees and teaches 7th, 8th, and 9th grade students. And anytime I prepare to teach a passage of the Bible to them, these are some of the first books I grab. Here’s why these are some of my essentials for teaching:
- The ESV Study Bible – I use this because it has a very comprehensive section of notes which helps me keep my message on track with the Biblical context. Plus, it gives me other ideas of points I may have missed.
- The IVP Bible Background Commentaries – I use these because they unpack the cultural background of everything that happens in a passage. So when you read, for example, in Ruth 4 that the kinsman-redeemer took off his sandal and gave it to Baoz, you get 150 words or more on the cultural meaning of this action at the time it was written. This is indispensable for knowing what’s going on and for helping contextualize it for a younger audience.
- The Illustrated Guide To Bible Customs & Cultures – I use this because it has pictures. And it’s not as heady as the IVP Commentaries.
- Zondervan’s Teen Study Bible – I’ll check in here to see if there are any teen-friendly explanations/illustrations of a certain part of Scripture. When they do, it’s usually pretty helpful for my audience (and is often something I hadn’t originally thought of).
- The Student Bible – The one pictured above is the same Bible I used when I was a student in a youth ministry. The publisher put in some short student-friendly thoughts, but this Bible also has my notes and markings from when I was a student. It helps me remember what was important to me when I was the same age as my audience.
- The Message//Remix – I don’t teach from this translation, but I read it as I prepare to pick up any other nuance I may have missed in the previous resources.
I pull these books off the shelf each week as I prepare to teach my students the truths of God’s Word. And for me, I’ve found them to be essential teaching tools in youth ministry.