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Youth Ministry Drill Sergeant: Youth Ministry & Preaching Don't Mix
group magazine: May-June, 2013

by Darren Sutton

If you want to preach, buy a pulpit. Youth ministry was never designed to be a mini-church with you as its mini-pastor—it's supposed to be an amazing part of an existing congregation. Just because you like to preach and are sort of good at it doesn't mean it's the most effective method of life transformation for kids and their friends.

Sometimes we get so enamored with crafting a message that we forget: Lectures don't really engage young people. Just ask their parents. Kids need relationship, not rhetoric. They aren't looking for a more perfectly placed point or an amazing YouTube video to illustrate it. They’re looking for authenticity, which is difficult to offer when the pulpit is between you and them.

Some youth pastors love preaching so much that they take advantage of their youth ministry forum to exercise their true calling. But using teenagers to fulfill your preaching needs is merely a way of holding a youth ministry hostage and demanding ransom from the church family.

So stop it! If pulpit ministry really is what you're called to do, then live it out. Put on your big-boy/girl garments and take the risk of moving into a senior pastorate. Make room in the youth ministry for someone whose true calling involves serving young people and their families.

Don't stand in the safe shadow of the youth room because you're afraid to sit in the big chair—or, worse, because you don't want to deal with the headaches associated with being the head honcho. After all, when you're a senior pastor, you'll be able to swap stories about all the headaches your youth pastor causes.

That being said, you may be a youth pastor who just enjoys preaching. Ask your senior pastor for some time in the pulpit. Look for preaching venues outside student ministry, such as summer camps or area retreats. And if you must preach in your youth ministry, mix it up. Don't deliver in the same style every single week. Make messages conversational and engaging.

Not every youth pastor who preaches is called to be a senior pastor. But if someone—the Drill Sergeant, for example—walked into your youth room today and ordered, “No more preaching; you have to find a new method,” how would you respond? If you panic and bile wells up in your throat, preventing you from delivering your next sermon disguised as a “youth talk,” it might be time to re-evaluate.

Darren is a longtime Texas youth pastor and a member of our SYMC leadership team. His new book is Everyone's Called to Youth Ministry...They Just Don't Know It Yet.

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