This is the second installment of a series on preaching and youth ministry. Gurus of student ministry focus on many important aspects of ministry, but this is one that is often forgotten, unless the discussion centers upon the proper length of a sermon or how to keep teenagers’ attention. The first installment discussed the need for youth pastors to preach through whole books of the Bible. Today, we turn our sights to the topic of bible studies developed in and for other churches.
The number of Bible studies targeting students is practically infinite. Actually, as a youth minister, it would be possible to preach solely from published series for the rest of your life without even scratching the surface of the mass of material available. This is quite trendy in student ministry nowadays. Studies produced by the likes of Giglio and Orange can be found in youth services across the country– maybe even the world.
Today, I would like to encourage student ministers to drop the manufactured study and commit to developing your own studies for the ministry God has entrusted to you. I’ll just give you two reasons:
First, the producers of these studies don’t know your people. They may know teenagers in general, but they are not familiar with the youth in your town and at your church. While the universal message for teenagers should be the gospel of Jesus Christ, this glorious truth can be presented in different forms, depending on the setting. Only you know which points need to be emphasized due to a group’s misshaped theology or which illustrations will resonate with the students in your ministry. Therefore, don’t depend on materials written for churches in other contexts. Just because it worked in Atlanta doesn’t mean that it will work in Paducah, Kentucky. You have much more insight into the lives of your church’s teenagers than some other youth leader thousands of miles away. Thus, it only makes sense to use your knowledge of the group to effectively communicate the truths of Scripture.
Secondly, God placed you at the church to preach and teach, not Louie Giglio or Doug Fields. Now, the church may wish that they had Giglio instead of you, but they don’t. They have you. Regardless if you’re a phenomenal preacher or “eh, just ok,” God has sovereignly placed you at that church to shepherd those whom He has graciously given you. Therefore, don’t rely on the spiritual gifts of other ministers to build your local church. Sure, it’s a great idea to learn from those pastors and youth pastors, but that is far from depending on their materials to feed the sheep. Allow God to use the gifts He’s given you to build His body.
The next time you’re planning your teaching series for the youth group do something wild. Resist the urge to order the newest and hottest Bible study. Pray that the Holy Spirit would give you understanding into the Word which He inspired to be written so long ago. Then, crack open the Bible to a passage with pen and paper in hand, and do the tough yet rewarding work of biblical exegesis.
You may never be asked to headline a conference or preach in front of thousands, but you are God’s man for the task. Youth pastor, live out your calling. Preach the Word.