After last week’s post regarding Better Preaching in Youth Ministry, I wondered if I might need to back up a little bit and defend the general idea of preaching in youth ministry. I mean, should we really be “preaching” to kids? They don’t respond well to lecturing, right… most kids learn better from other teaching styles… youth ministry is different than preaching ministry… you’re not really a preacher, anyway… right? Isn’t preaching too old-fashioned for a vibrant youth ministry?
While each of these objections may have some merit in many cases, I think the benefits of preaching well to students far outweigh them all. Here’s why:
- Preaching isn’t just about passing on information, it’s about the transformation that takes place within a mind/life that has been renewed by by the Spirit of God working through His Word. This goes beyond giving a good ‘youth talk’ (which is usually just what a youth leader might call a sermon when he’s trying not to sound old) that is exciting and engaging. Good preaching (no matter what you call it) bridges the gap between the Bible & the culture in which our students live, and it helps them discover what bearing that should have on the way we live our lives.
- Learning style can be an issue, but the objection that students can’t learn from preaching because it’s lecture just doesn’t seem to have any teeth. When did preaching start to mean no interaction? When did a sermon become an isolated package of information that the speaker delivers then expects the hearer to do all the processing and enacting on their own? Good preaching engages more than simply ears.
- The bottom line for me is that, quite honestly, my students don’t need another game or activity to entertain them or even to teach them some lesson in morality. They don’t need me to make them laugh at each other to break the ice between them so they can be BFFs… AS MUCH AS they need to be drawn deeper into the heart of their Creator as they try to figure out why they were created in the first place. I know of no better way for them to be so drawn than to grab hold of the Scriptures and look deeply at the God they find there. Good preaching takes students deeper into the Word than they normally tend to go. (Great preaching will drive them to dig in on their own, as well.)
Maybe this is just a way for me to justify the way I’ve come to do things or to play to my strengths a little bit, I don’t know… A typical night with my students is focused on worship and a message. I don’t put
a lot of any effort into coming up with the next, best youth group game. My students do a lot better job of entertaining each other than I ever could! But none of this means that there’s no room for fun and games in youth ministry. The room where we meet each week has old foosball, ping-pong, & pool tables, an XBox, & 9Square. We play loud music and funny videos, and the students are having a ton of fun. But I (or someone else) also preach just about every week. Our students genuinely like to come. But more importantly than that, they’re hearing something transformative when they do. And the transformation that’s taking place is not because they’ve bonded so well together or because they had a blast.
It’s because God is at work through the preaching of His Word and through a team of people who have been bound together in fellowship around the mission that we’ve found in that Word.