What do you think of when you hear “Youth Ministry”? Pizza? Snacks? Small groups? Games? Videos?
What about preaching?
I’ve been serving in some form of leadership in youth ministry for most of the past 15 years – more than half my life! There was a time where I went along with what I assume is the conventional view of youth services: cover the basics because you have to, but don’t make it too churchy. Have fun, give everyone a chance to share, and please don’t get preachy.
Well, time and experience have brought me to a place where I now embrace preaching in youth service. It’s to the point where we call the presentation a message or sermon (not a lesson or talk) and the presenter the preacher. We’re not ashamed of the fact that we preach to youth. Here are 10 reasons why:
1. God’s Word sanctifies.
Jesus prayed that his followers would be sanctified by the truth of God’s word (John 17:17). When I preach to my students, I am exposing them to the sanctifying word of God
2. The preached word builds faith.
The Bible teaches that faith comes by hearing God’s word (Romans 10:17). Preaching God’s word brings faith to the hearer.
3. Young Christians are Christians.
Sometimes we allow ourselves to be intimidated by a teenage audience. We buy into the myth that we have to do something dramatically different to gain their attention and earn their engagement. The truth is that young Christians are Christians. They need to hear the declared word of God just like any other Christian. If we withhold this we fail to contribute to their spiritual growth.
4. Suggestion isn’t declaration.
Teens today have virtually unlimited access to many competing worldviews. They are bombarded with alternative interpretations of scripture. Diversity of thought can sometimes be a good thing, but only in a context where they are also receiving more concrete instruction. Surely, I don’t speak with nearly the authority of scripture. Still, there’s an importance to someone taking the time to study God’s Word, stand before teens, and say, “yo, this what the Book says.”
5. Kids are smart.
I have students who do calculus and biology in school. I have students who make beautiful art and music and do audio engineering. There’s no reason for me to hold back on preaching and dealing with difficult subjects. They can handle it.
6. Youth Ministry isn’t forever.
One day, my students are going to graduate from high school. They’re going to need to continue attending church regularly, and they won’t be in youth ministry anymore. If I fail to preach to them now, they’ll have a false expectation about what church is and should be.
7. Not all church kids are saved.
I can’t assume that my students – even those who grew up in church – have been saved. I am intentional about preaching the gospel to them because I know that the Holy Spirit can use the Word of God to convict them of sin and lead them to repentance. After all, how can they hear without a preacher (Romans 10:14)?
8. Worship service isn’t small group.
Small group discussions are great and can be a powerful method for helping students to grow. In our youth ministry, we’ve experimented with small groups during our worship service. Ultimately, doing this took away from both the small group and the preaching. We really value preaching during our worship service, and we leave small group discipleship for other settings where it can be done properly.
9. Preaching is worship.
We often think about worship as music (especially songs that make you cry). Worship is actually more of a response to God where we bow to him in humility and submission. One of the ways that we do this is by submitting to the Word of God through the preaching of that Word.
10. Preaching is a hallmark of our faith.
Jesus preached. The apostles preached. Read the book of Acts. The gospel was spread through preaching. Paul encouraged Timothy to preach even when people didn’t want to hear it. (2 Timothy 4:2). Preaching anchors teens in the culture and community of believers.