A Christian Teen’s Guide to Making the Most of School
School takes up most of the time for teens, so how can you make the most of it?
School is probably the most significant thing in the life of a teenager. It’s where you spent the majority of your time, it shapes your thinking and your worldview, and it’s most likely the centre of your social life.
So since we spend so much of our time at, or thinking about, school, how can we make the most of it?
In this Christian Teen’s Guide we’ll answer that question by looking at the Bible, and then considering three areas in which you can take steps to make the most of your schooling opportunity: studying, friendship and faith.
What does the Bible say about school?
Let’s start by examining what the Bible has to say about school.
Learning is valuable
Throughout the Bible, we see that God values learning and the gaining of knowledge and wisdom. In fact, it’s far more valuable than gaining things like wealth or power!
As Proverbs 16:16 says, “How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver!”
Furthermore, the Christian journey is one of continual learning, growth and gaining new understanding, and the Bible is a wonderful teacher. As 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
What about learning at school?
When the Bible was written, school in the way we know it didn’t exactly exist. Some wealthier boys were educated formally but others were taught more informally in the home. So there are lots of verses, like Deuteronomy 11:19, or Ephesians 6:4, that emphasise how important it is for parents to teach their children.
Even though school didn’t really exist back then, obviously learning and being taught was still a part of growing up, and the Bible says it’s important that older people invest in teaching the younger generations.
What if I don’t like school?
Unfortunately, some people don’t like school very much, and wish we were back in the time when education was far less formal! But the Bible is pretty clear that we ought to seek contentment and gratitude in whatever situation we find ourselves – including school.
In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul writes to those who have become Christians who are married, unmarried, slaves or free. All he urges to remain in the situation they were in when God called them (verse 24), as long as they can do so without sinning.
If even slaves are urged to seek contentment and gratitude in their circumstances, we too ought to seek peace with our situation as students, as long as we are required to be in formal education.
Let’s get practical
So we’ve learned that God values learning, and that we ought to be content and thankful in our situation even if we don’t love being forced to go to school every day.
That’s a good place to start, but as Christians how can we go further than just being content with learning until we’re free? How can we make the most of school?
Well, here are three areas.
Study hard – but not too hard
As we have already seen, God values learning. And school is a wonderful opportunity to gain important knowledge that will help you make your way in the world as you glorify God.
Colossians 3:23 tells us, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” For students that means we need to work hard at our studies, to bring honour to God!
Laziness and slacking off aren’t really on for Christians. Neither are being disruptive in class, or rude to your teacher. School is a gift from God and he wants us to work diligently at it.
But we need to be careful to keep our studies in perspective.
In this article on Fervr, Samuel Mills explains why studying is important, but not overly important:
Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. (Ecclesiastes 12:12b)
This might be one of my favourite Bible verses. I’m in Year 12, and over this year have occasionally quoted it to my teachers as they hand out worksheets, assessment task notifications and exam timetables. The lazy side of me loves this, especially in the days before my final exams; the Bible seems to be saying I don’t have to do schoolwork!
But just like any Bible verse, we have to take this in context. Ecclesiastes is written by “The Teacher”. He takes a look back at his life - he’s tried everything; wisdom, pleasure, work, technology, money, sex, drugs, and rock and roll. (Okay, so maybe not those last ones.) And yet, in Chapter 1, verse 14, he says, "I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind."
The word used in the original Hebrew is 'hebel' (no, I don’t speak Hebrew, I picked this up at KYCK convention a few years ago!). It literarily means “like a breath”. Everything in this world is like a breath; it doesn’t last forever. Our wealth, our wisdom, our world, will fade away. Only the things of the Lord last into eternity.
The further you progress in high school, the busier it seems to get! It’s hard to get a balance between assessments, study, homework, keeping fit, playing sport, learning a musical instrument and hanging out with friends.
Yet all these things are a chasing after the wind. They might be beneficial and enjoyable now, yet one day they’ll all pass away. So let’s focus on the heavenly things. In the midst of the busyness of high school, let’s remember to read God’s word, speak to him in prayer, serve him through our churches and in our lives, and encourage each other.”
Build great friendships with diverse people
As Christians, we are called to love one another deeply, and to display Christ’s love to the world. And when you’re a school student, there are a whole bunch of people right there in front of you to love!
Building friendships during school is a really worthwhile pursuit. These people may be your friends for your whole life! So make an effort to make good friends – and make sure you’re pushing yourself to love and include people who may be different from you.
In this article, Kelly Carlson suggests some great ways to shine a light for Jesus at school, including two suggestions for loving others and building friendships:
“1. Learn people’s names
Our names are the word we long to hear most. It indicates intimacy, friendship, and being known. Learn people’s names and use them as often as possible. Seek out hidden people like maintenance workers. Welcome outcasts, new students, and quiet peers with personal greetings. Use their name in the hallways no less than you would your closest friends. This is a small step to take to show people you care about them, and will help you build relationships for Jesus' sake.
2. Defend against cruelty with encouragement
Fighting cruelty with cruelty is never a good idea. God just won’t have it. Seek out those who are bullied and intentionally build them up. Tell them you care about them – and so does God. Speak the truth loudly and regularly to help counter the negative voices in their lives. Pray for bullies and invite the hurting to join you at lunch, in social activities, or at youth group.”
Be bold for Jesus
School is a great place to be bold about sharing your faith! Yes it can be utterly terrifying, but did you know that a huge percentage of Christians commit to following Jesus before they turn 18? It’s a crucial time to reach people with the gospel!
So how can you do that? Well here are three big ideas:
1. Join or start a Christian group – a school Christian group is a great way to connect with other believers so you can encourage each other in your faith and witness. Christian groups give followers of Jesus a recognised presence in the school, so it’s easier for people to tell who the Christians are. Plus it’s easy to invite your friends to something that’s happening at lunch time! You can find some great tips for starting a Christian group here.
2. Make the most of conversations – Tonika Reed recommends in this article, “Make sure to be open to conversations about your personal and spiritual life, when it feels safe of course. If you attend church every Sunday, make sure to mention it when people ask you about your weekend. If someone has a question or makes a statement about spirituality and it resonates with you, talk to them about it. Be inquisitive and actually listen, but also be discerning. When you have an interested friend invite them to church, and then ask what they thought of the service. Do not hound them to re-visit, but periodically invite them to various church-related events.
3. Pray! – Prayer is vitally important, as Emily Semsarian explains: “Everything we do is for God, by God’s command. As we seek to be bold for Christ at school, we first need to seek guidance from God. It is not just from our works that someone comes to know God, but through His work in them. As God’s disciples, we need to work in partnership with Him, so we must always remember to ask him for help because as it states in Matthew 7:7: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Questions to think about:
- Do you like school? If not, why not? Does knowing that God wants you to seek contentment in your situation help you?
- What is your attitude to your studies? Do you like to work really hard, or are you more relaxed? Do you think you lean too far towards obsessively studying or slacking off?
- Who are your friends at school? Are there people who are different to you, or left out, who you could seek to build friendships with?
- Have you ever shared your faith at school? How do you think you could do this more and more?