Sometimes people like to poke fun at the stereotypical youth pastor. Rather than focusing on what a youth pastor shouldn’t be, I am going to focus on what they should be.
First things first, let me approach the responsibility of preaching.
Expositional preaching is not the norm. There is a huge difference between topical and expositional preaching. Topical preaching is ripping verses out of context to support your own ideas. Expositional preaching is faithfully teaching the Bible verse by verse and allowing the text to speak for itself.
Youth pastors should preach the Bible verse by verse, chapter by chapter, and book by book. Hebrews 4:12 says “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Why would we preach anything other than the Bible?
Shouldn’t we avoid expositional preaching because it’s boring to youth? We don’t preach to entertain, we preach to teach the word of God. Don’t preach the Bible like a lecture. Make it engaging, but remember that the means to communicate is always subservient to the message we teach. (Also, who said the Bible isn’t fun?)
Don’t teach relevant topics to youth, teach them the Bible which is always relevant. If you are a reflection of the culture, how can you be a reflection of the gospel? Colossians 1:8 says “He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf.” Youth pastors are ministers for Christ on behalf of students. You don’t minister for the approval of students, you minister because Christ calls you to.
A good youth pastor isn’t a good event planner; a good youth pastor is someone who shapes a culture by the faithful preaching of God’s word. Events don’t bring kids to Jesus, but the truth found in God’s word does. Kids can go to events anytime they want, but where can they go to learn about God’s word? If we are a poor imitation of cultural norms, we are just giving them another fun place to hang out.
James 3:1 says “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” You aren’t accountable to the audience you preach, you are accountable to God for what you preach. I would hate to stand before God one day and say “I entertained a bunch of young men and women, but did it at the expense of faithfully teaching your word.”
Don’t feel the weight of running a cool event where lots of people come; feel the weight of faithfully preaching God’s word to a community of people whose eternity depends on it.
Lastly, here are three qualifications of a youth pastor:
- Competency. A pastor must be competent and able to lead. Leading in a church is much more than teaching on a Sunday morning. It is vision, discipling, leading leaders, etc. A leader must be able to refine his skills and continually grow in his capacities. For example, a pastor must know and continue to grow in his knowledge of the Bible. 1 Timothy 4:6-7 says “If you put these things before the brother, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.” A man of God teaches the word of God. And how can you teach what you do not know? A leader never says he has arrived, but continues to grow one degree at a time (2 Corinthians 3:18).
- Character. A leader is first a Christian. You can’t lead others if you are not first a follower of Christ. Someone with the title of pastor must have a heart that is fortified and shaped by the gospel. 1 Timothy 3:2-3 says that church leaders “must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” This passage paints a picture of the character a leader in the church must have. You can’t lead others to the gospel if the gospel isn’t growing you every single day.
- Love for the church. A love for the church isn’t something you can manufacture. It must be a genuine love produced by the gospel. In many of Paul’s letters, we see his love for the church. Philippians 1:8 says “For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” Love doesn’t always equate to emotion, but it manifests itself in a conviction to serve the church to the best of your God-given abilities. Without a love for the local church, serving will quickly lead to burnout.
Allow the word of God to shape the community you are leading as the gospel continues to take root in your own heart.