Editor’s Note: I interviewed Kristen Hatton about her new study for teens on the book of Exodus. We are also hosting a giveaway of the study. To enter, leave a comment below.
Christina: Tell us a little about yourself, your family, and your ministry:
Kristen: I am an author, speaker, and pastor’s wife. My husband and I have been married for 22 years. Originally from Texas but now live in Edmond, Oklahoma, where he is the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian.
We have three children – a college daughter and two high school sons.
I began a girls’ Bible study when our daughter was in sixth grade and we had just moved to Oklahoma to plant our church. At that time I had no aspirations of writing a book. But in starting the Bible study I quickly discovered a lack of gospel resources for teens. At the same time I noticed how very little the girls really understood the gospel. This is the back-story to what led to me writing my first book, Get Your Story Straight, which is a 52- week progressive devotional book for teens explaining and applying the gospel from the one story of the Bible about Christ.
My second book, Face Time: Your Identity in a Selfie World, was born out of my daughter’s eating disorder. After realizing her struggles with comparison and feeling less than and worthless, I conducted a teen survey that revealed to me the magnitude of identity and worth-related issues girls were struggling with.
My new book, The Gospel-Centered Life in Exodus for Students, ties back to my desire for more Bible studies for teens that are actually in books of the Bible!
While my books are for teens, I really love talking to parents of all age kids. Typically the weekly blog posts on my own website are geared toward parents, and I’m working on a self-published parenting e-book.
From my writing, speaking, and role as a pastor’s wife, I also spend time doing lay counseling and see a huge need (at least in our community) for more biblical based counselors. So my aspiration is to get a masters in counseling so I am better equipped and able to formally offer help to teens and parents.
Christina: Why did you choose Exodus for a teen Bible study?
Kristen: When my daughter was in middle school I began a girls’ Bible study for her and a group of her friends. Our group stayed together through their high school graduation, but I learned early on there were limited resources for students their age. I remember standing, staring at the teen section at my local Christian bookstore and feeling so discouraged and confused about what to teach. The offerings seemed limited to quick fixes for complicated teen issues—studies that missed dealing with the heart and applying the gospel—or feel-good messages for navigating a happy, successful teen life. I wanted something more. Teens needed more.
Teens need to have their eyes lifted off themselves to see the truth about who Jesus is. They need to be deeply rooted in his Word to learn who he is and in more than a Sunday-school-answer way, why he is the answer to everything. They need to see his Word as the one unfolding story about Jesus. Otherwise the Bible doesn’t make much sense, and it can seem more like disjointed bits of advice and rules. If this is it, no wonder it is read more with the goal of checking quiet time off the to-do list. Instead, teens need to see it as the daily “manna” needed for all of life.
I walked out of the bookstore empty-handed that day. I decided instead I would take a sermon series from my pastor-husband and rewrite it into a Bible study. And that’s what I did with the books of John, Exodus, and Hebrews. I love all of those books, but my favorite study with my girls was in Exodus. Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament was eye-opening for most in the group. It was exciting to discover Jesus in such unexpected places as the tenth plague, the wilderness, and the tabernacle. And, I hope this will change the way teens read their Bible.
Also in Exodus we have laid before us God’s pattern of redemption! We see the Israelites grumble, complain, disobey, worship false gods, and try to be their own Savior. Their sin is easy for us to see. What’s not so apparent to us is how we are just like them. We, too, do all those same things. They needed a Redeemer, and so do we.
But what we also see is how God loves to give grace to the guilty. Over and over again he not only comes to the rescue of the Israelites, but he seeks to be in a relationship with them. Their hope and the hope of all humanity, which is enslaved to the rule and reign of sin, rest on the faithfulness of God to fulfill his promises. So Exodus points us to through the deliverance of God’s chosen people to what is later fulfilled in Christ. I want teens to get this!
Christina: What do you hope readers will come away from Exodus having learned?
Kristen: How we are just like the Israelites in desperate need of a Redeemer, and God’s faithfulness to his covenant people to rescue, recreate and restore.
Christina: What are some practical ways parents can help teens learn to study their Bible?
In our family, we typically pick a book of the Bible and slowly work our way through it at the dinner table. Not every night, maybe only a couple times a week. Sometimes we might read a whole chapter, or it may just be a few verses and then we talk about it. To get our kids thinking we simply start by making observations about the text by placing ourselves into the story and using our senses. What do we see? How might we be feeling?
In our observations, we are also looking for the “fallen condition focus,” or you could say where the sin and need for the intervening work of the gospel shows up in the passage. And from there the big truth of the passage – the gospel and it’s application. The more we do this together, the more I’ve seen our teens grow in their Bible reading skills and ability to think deeper about God’s Word.
Another great Bible study training tool that worked well with my girls’ Bible study group is called The Five Cs. I learned this method from author Jon Nielsen in his book Bible Study: A Student’s Guide. In the book he gives the Five C’s as: creep (for observation), context, Christ (where is Christ in the passage), crux (key point), and call (application). I still often use this method for my own personal study.
Christina: Why do you think so many books for teens are topic based?
Kristen: I think most teen books are topical for the same reason much of what teens get in youth group is – a law-driven focus on behavior modification. Too many Christians leaders tend think we just need to teach teens how to be a good Christian by following the rules. But when statistics show 70-80% of teens growing up in the church abandon it as college students and adults, this should be an indicator we are missing something. What’s missing is the gospel and it’s application to all of life. Our teens are not hearing who Jesus is for them. Most have never heard of justification or even if not by name what it means to justified in Christ, and what true sanctification looks like.
I also think we underestimate teens and think we need to entertain them, and make everything fun and relevant. Well, the Bible is relevant to all of life when read through the lens of Christ and the gospel. And from my experience when teens are given more “meat” and trained in how to study the Bible, they rise to the occasion. I believe there are more teens than many adults think who want to dive deeper into the scriptures and be challenged with talk of theology. But even with topical books, there are some really good, gospel-centered ones out there. But gospel is the key – if it’s law-based it’s not the true help our teens need.
Christina: Would this be a study parents could do with their teens as a family?
Kristen: Yes, the Exodus book will work great for parents and teens to do together. In fact, I love the idea of parents doing it with their kids. When we are learning/hearing the same thing it fosters conversation and helps family members relate to each other at the heart-level. So our family will probably do it ourselves in the fall.
Each lesson is designed as a one-hour lesson, but I think in a family setting, as opposed to a small group Bible study with more people, each lesson can be done in a shorter time period. Though it could also be broken up over a couple sittings.
Christina: As someone who works with teens and young adults, what are some unique discipleship needs you find in your ministry?
Kristen: Parents. The longer I’ve been in the world of teens, the more I see how ill-equipped, fearful and/or checked out parents are. I think this is an area the church needs to do a lot more equipping and encouraging in the gospel.
In our culture parents tend to outsource everything. So when it comes to the spiritual development and nourishment of their kids they see the youth group/church as the one to do it. What they need to see is they are primarily responsible and the church and youth ministry are meant to come alongside them. As it so often is, parents don’t have a real understanding of the human heart, the extent of sin and idol-worship, so they themselves don’t know how the gospel – the work and worth of Jesus – is relevant to all of life. So what I would like to see is more training of and coming alongside parents so they have a gospel grid for filtering their parenting decisions through. All this ties back to the parenting e-book I’m working on.
Christina: What encouragement can you give to our readers who serve in discipleship with teens and young adults?
Kristen: Keep doing it! Because so many parents are not involved with the spiritual development of their children and are without true gospel understanding, our teenagers need adults to invest in them. Adults who they can share openly without fear of shame or judgment and who will speak truth into them. So I commend all of you who volunteer with teens and young adults. It is vital, and I imagine for those being discipled, it will be the reason they give well into the future for their gospel growth and continued connectiveness in the life of the church long-term.
Christina: What are you currently reading?
Kristen: Oh, I have a whole stack of books on my nightstand right now. I’m so excited about it! This past school year was so full with speaking, writing and editing deadlines I didn’t have time to just read so that’s my goal for the summer. A few in the stack are: Suffering and the Heart of God by Diane Langberg, Unmapped by Charlotte Getz and Stephanie Phillips, The Price of Privilege by Madeline Levine, Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle, Loving Your Friend Through Cancer by Marissa Henley and In All Things by Melissa Kruger for my devotional study.
We are doing a giveaway of The Gospel-Centered Life in Exodus for Students. Simply leave a comment below and you will be entered. Update: the winner has been selected. Thanks to all who entered.
About the Author:
Christina received her undergraduate degree from Covenant College and her Master’s Degree in Counseling from Palm Beach Atlantic University. She writes for a number of Christian ministries and publications including Revive Our Hearts, Desiring God, Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and Ligonier Ministries. She is the content editor for enCourage and the author of A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope Through the Psalms of Lament and Closer Than a Sister: How Union with Christ Helps Friendships to Flourish. Christina also serves on the advisory board at Covenant College. She prefers her coffee black and from a French press, enjoys antiquing, hiking, traveling, and reading. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two boys. You can find her at www.christinafox.com, @christinarfox and on Facebook.