After posting Why Preach in Youth Ministry and Better Preaching in Youth Ministry I’ve had a couple discussions crop up elsewhere that take this issue of preaching and youth ministry in a little bit of a different direction. Since it keeps coming up, I thought I’d address the issue here, too. The thought keeps coming up that the youth minister should preach to the whole congregation from time to time, not just to the students.
First, a little personal history.
My plan as I entered Bible college was to be a teacher. Youth ministry was important to me, and I wanted to be a well-equipped volunteer youth leader, but it wasn’t a viable career option in my mind. I planned to transfer to another school after a year or two. Within a matter of weeks, I began to see things very differently and committed to youth ministry as my priority. A few months later, however, as part of an Intro to Ministry class project, I was asked to preach at a small church for the service our class was planning. The affirmation of a faculty member and some other follow up to that assignment got me more interested in preaching, and I started taking all the preaching classes I could.
During a weekend internship, the lead minister moved away to another church, and I was able to fill in often during a few months of searching. In my first youth ministry, when the senior minister retired after I’d been there about a year, thinking of my internship, I volunteered to fill in as I’d done before. Little did I know that I would be preaching nearly every week for almost a year and a half in addition to helping lead worship and lead the youth ministry.This experience gives me a fairly unique (or maybe just odd) perspective of preaching in youth ministry (to students) and of the youth minister preaching to the congregation as a whole.
There are several reasons I think it’s been beneficial for the youth minister to preach to the whole congregation. (I would also extend this to include associate pastors of other stripes as well – i.e. worship, children’s, missions, etc.)
- The congregation hears a variety of styles and perspectives, which raises the likelihood of engaging those who don’t necessarily connect as well with the lead pastor.
- They are exposed to a passion for the next generation that doesn’t usually come from the lead pastor. This is good for the congregation, but it’s great for the student ministry itself, too as the adults have more of an opportunity to catch the vision for discipling the next generation.
- They can begin to see the youth minister as more than a fixer of broken kids – more than a nice guy who’s not quite ready for ministry without training wheels. I don’t mean to denigrate other youth pastors here, but I’ve often come across people in the church who think of youth ministry as a proving grounds of sorts. It’s a really unhealthy perspective that’s uncritically shared by too many people. Unfortunately, it’s an obstacle many youth ministers will face. Preaching to the whole congregation is one means we have of tearing it down. Of course, if you’re a youth minister who’s preaching a biblically weak or unprepared message, you’re not going to be making any gains in this department.
- The lead pastor gets a break. One of the keys to staying fresh in preaching is to be able to get out of the weekly routine once in a while. Having the youth minister preach can be a refreshing pause in the preaching cycle.
- The adults of the congregation learn more about youth culture and what they could be doing to share hope to the young people around them. During my year of preaching, the church shifted in mindset toward youth because they heard stories of the transformation God was working in the students of our community and wanted to do something to be a part of that. This kind of shift won’t happen just because the youth minister preached on New Year weekend, when the lead pastor and 31% of the congregation were out of town. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make the most of every opportunity that presents itself.
- The students feel like they have a voice in the congregation, too. There is too much of a gap between ‘the church’ and ‘the youth group’ in most cases. Students often don’t really feel like they’re connected to the church. Hearing ‘their guy’ speak to everyone can help them feel valued by the church as a whole.
- The youth minister can become a better communicator. Preaching to a group that’s different than our norm can force us out of our normal preparation and delivery patterns. We think through our process with a fresh perspective. Sometimes, this can free us from the unhealthy parts of our patterns.
The bottom line (assuming well prepared and delivered Biblical preaching) is that it’s good for the church, good for the youth minister, good for the student ministry, and even good for the lead pastor. This may seem a little skewed, since I’m a youth minister who likes to preach. And my experience is admittedly way out of the norm for youth ministers, so I’m definitely open to correction. Am I missing obvious, good reasons you can think of for not having the youth minister preach to the congregation a little more often?