Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Preaching to Students

There has been a movement in recent years by many youth ministers to not preach in youth ministry. Granted, I understand that not every youth minister will do ministry the exact same way, because we all have different styles of leadership, but some youth ministers have disregarded the necessity of a sermon for the students they are entrusted. Each youth ministry will be driven by different means of ministry, but I believe it is absolutely imperative to preach to students. To be transparent I am a youth ministry who is writing a Masters thesis on preaching, and have focused the majority of my masters on this topic....just so you know I am biased.

Dr. Alvin Reid in one of his blogs this past year made an argument for the need of revolution in student ministry in America. Dr. Reid is no newbie to youth ministry, but more importantly his priorities are right according to good theology. His first supporting argument was to present students, their families, and millennials with the Word of God, because that is the best we can offer. He quoted a great book by Kenda Dean, Almost Christian, and Dean's argument is the same that the church continues to offer good moralistic truths to students in a topical fashion, but good morals does not lead to salvation, life-change, or revival. The only clear source of such things is the possessor of life, Jesus, and his "memoirs" have been recorded in the Scriptures.

Now so far I have only made an argument pertaining to the necessity of scripture in the youth ministry, and to be honest I intend to make sure that ministry is saturated in scripture. (Side Note: The  navigator's model of grasping Scripture has given me a great foundation for methods of teaching students Scripture). Nonetheless, this has not made for an argument for preaching in youth ministry. The argument for preaching is that it has the potential to teach students how to study the Word and teach it to others. I will explain this through way of anecdote.

I have developed as far as I am aware a new homiletic method I call Inductive Exposition. I love inductive sermons because you save all your punch to the end. In a deductive sermon you give your conclusion and then support it. In an inductive sermon you walk the audience through the questions of your study and how you went about to answer these questions. For someone who teaches postmoderns I thought this was a great solution to the cynical students I work with who question everything. However, inductive was not enough for me, because I wanted to keep the expositional model found in many deductive homiletics. So I merged the two and created a method of preaching that walks the audience expositionaly through the Scriptures towards the conclusion of the scriptures. And all of this is preceded by good exegesis.

What I did not anticipate was the students began to mimic my method of teaching. I went through a season in my ministry where I had a large number of upper class leaders, particularly guys. They were such impressive leaders, and many of them had a firm grasp on the scriptures that I thought it was time they learn to teach. This was true especially since a few of them were considering going into vocational ministry. So, we began our series, and the first student preached a sermon that sounded very similar to mine, and he did a good job at teaching the scriptures. I thought that was interesting, but then the second student spoke in similar fashion. All eight students preached in a similar fashion to me, where they started by asking questions of the text, and then studied using some free online resources I gave them to find the answer. Then they formatted their sermons to explain their questions, the text, and how they came to their conclusions. They were communicating the scriptures effectively. What sealed this in my mind was when one of the students offered an invitation after his sermon, something that I don't regularly do in youth ministry, and one of his peers accepted Christ.

As I reviewed what had happened I realized that my preaching had inadvertently caused the outcome of their preaching methods. My preaching method taught students how to ask proper questions about Scripture and then how to find out the answers. It was a basic way of teaching students how to study the Bible. Then, after the students stumbled upon their own realization that they had effectively grasped God's Word, they were emboldened to teach its truths to others. Now, I structure my sermons, applications, and illustrations, with more thought going towards the students mimicking me and learning the principles of Bible Study.

So, I ask the question of youth ministers out there: What would your youth group begin to look like if you began to teach them the scriptures, which are the power of God, in such a way that they begin to study the scriptures for themselves and are able to teach them to others. Just let your imaginations wander and dream of the possibilities. I personally, will never do anything different, and preaching the Word of God has become the foundation of my ministry.

In view of this I resound Dr. Reid's argument that not only will this produce a biblical youth group but biblical disciples who then stand on the precipice of a great awakening. History has affirmed this, and I believe the Spirit has revealed this vision to many youth leaders that it is coming again.

BTW: I would really appreciate some comments on this if anyone feels like adding to this discussion.
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