online discipleship for teens

This post is for all my youth pastor friends. This past fall our teen leadership team tried to decide how best to help our teens get into their Bibles during the week. We thought about using DevoZine but it was too expensive. Then we wondered about writing our own daily devotions and putting them in a book to give out. We couldn’t get enough teens to help write it at the time.

Then in November I wondered if we could put the devotionals online and have teens check in during the week. Duck Duck Jesus and the Dirt were born!
Naming the Sites
A teen randomly said we should call the online discipleship thing Duck Duck Jesus. I thought it sounded playful and caught people’s attention. We also used an image of line of ducks following the big duck. Could be used as an illustration for discipleship and following Jesus.
Last weekend we took our sr high on a retreat and talked about sanctifying grace on the last day. They each got a cup of dirt as we talked about growth, weeds, Miracle-Gro and working on our hearts & relationship with God. We decided to change the sr high version of Duck Duck Jesus to the Dirt. It’s the place our sr high teens take seriously their relationships with God.
Websites
I set up two separate networks on http://www.ning.com for free. Duck Duck Jesus is for 7-8th graders at www.stillwaterjrhigh.ning.com. The Dirt is for 9-12th graders at www.stillwatersrhigh.ning.com. The site is set to a variation of private so they can request membership and I can approve them. Then they’re able to set up a personal profile and access the Discussion area.
Content
Every Monday – Friday, I post a Scripture text, 2-3 questions and an action step. I give a link to the NIV and Message version of each Scripture. So far I’ve used the Message/Remix Solo Devotional by Eugene Peterson for the majority of postings. I’ve also used Creative Times with God by Doug Fields to break up the rhythm. Tomorrow I’m having them watch this YouTube clip to start the discussion on happiness vs. living a full life. We’ve only been at this several weeks so I’m excited to see how we expand the content!
Response & Adult Involvement
Each teen is encouraged to do the reading and questions and post their responses in the forum. They interact with each other and with adults. We have 4-5 adults who are members of both groups. They have a group of teens to remind and encourage to check in.
Reminders
Each teen who signs up is aware this is a high accountability group. They must be ready for a bombardment of text messages and Facebook messages during the week. 🙂 We set up fan pages for each group on Facebook so we send reminders from there as well.

What I’m Learning
Our teens are digital natives and very much at ease with new technology. They’ll sign up for just about anything I put in front of them. I’ve noticed they’ll sign in and comment on each other’s walls and change their status but won’t do the Discussion for the day. They’re also not afraid to share when a Scripture is tough and doesn’t make sense. Our adults do a great job of asking questions and pointing them in a good direction.

#1 Goal Right Now
Many people are simply scared to open their Bibles for fear they won’t understand or know what to do. These online discipleship groups are an interesting first step. My hope is that teens will see themselves in the pages of Scripture. They’ll believe these stories can help show them how to live. I want them to fall in love with the God of the Bible. God is not boring. God is a mighty, risky, crazy, loving and intimate God.
Our church is thinking about using this model for adult online classes. If this is something you try at your church, shoot me an email to jkbsmith@gmail.com. I’d love to hear about it!

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