I have been preaching to teenagers for about ten years now. Truthfully, I’m probably more suited to teaching/preaching to adults that teens. I am not your typical youth pastor. But I love teens and I love preaching the gospel to them. I believe that my time spent with teenagers helps me to better preach to adults*.
Here are seven reasons why preachers should spend some time preaching to teenagers:
- It forces simplicity. In sermon prep I constantly ask myself if I can say something more simply. This helps me to give any audience the fruit of my labor and not the sweat.
- It helps with illustrations. I am terrible at illustrations. Working with teenagers has helped me to only be terrible and not abysmal.
- It prepares me for questions. Teens will ask silly questions. And teens will ask amazing questions. I consider inquisitive teenagers with every sermon I preach.
- It keeps me from assuming an audience. It has been said that people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. This is very true with teenagers. You have to win their hearts before their ears. I never assume that I have an audience and this forces me to spend time thinking about a “hook” every week.
- It forces focus. When preaching through a difficult passage of Scripture it can be tempting to get lost in all the debates. Preaching to youth reminds me to focus on what really matters and save the intellectual debates for scholars.
- It is fun. When teenagers know that you love them they are quick to listen. Their questions and their vigor makes for a ton of fun.
- They respond and often awkwardly. Teenagers will often immediately respond to a sermon. And they often respond awkwardly. This forces me to be intentional in the way that I aim for response. I don’t ever assume that they will apply the sermon in a fitting way.
I would encourage every preacher of the gospel to spend some time preaching to teenagers—at least a few times every year. Few things will hone your preaching skills like ministering to teens.
*I want to say here that I do not—nor have I ever—viewed ministering to teenagers as a stepping stone to the “big show”. If you view preaching to teens as merely a means to an end they will see right through it, and frankly such a view is dishonoring to Jesus. Having said that, preaching to teens is great preparation for preaching to adults.