If I brought anything to the table over the past 30 years, it’s my God given gift of gab. I love sharing interesting and relevant messages with students. Many of my messages focus on growing in Christ, but I always include the gospel and what it means to follow Jesus.
This is part seven in my eight part series on what students want from their youth pastor. In this series, I’m sharing what my students told me after I asked them what qualities they appreciated about my time as their youth pastor (eight years) that I could share with other youth pastors.
This is not a bid for youth pastor of the century or for a monument outside my house. I have plenty of failures I can, and have, written about, these are qualities I’ve tried to work hard on my entire career and feel like they would benefit any young (or old) youth pastor starting out.
These are not the only qualities a youth pastor should have, just the ones my students shared with me.
I hear it all the time, “My students won’t listen.” I’ve had the the same problems and I’ve been communicating with students for 30 years, but I’ve learned to capture students’ attention in simple, interesting and relevant ways.
I just came back from speaking at a retreat. I’ve spoken at this retreat for the past six years. I’ve spoken at the same camp for the past 17 years and have been honored to have my week fill upon fast every year because of the bond I build with students.
Whether I am introducing myself at a camp, retreat or youth meeting I do several simple things (not all at the same time necessarily)
At this retreat I prepared several slide introducing my family, my favorite sports teams and some current shows I am watching on tv. Once kids know I’m a real person, they become more invested.
The second thing I do I is tell them how much I love them and teenagers in general, because I do. It’s not a Jedi mind trick. I tell them they are overlooked and underutilized in God’s church and that should changed. I tel tell them they are the world’s greatest natural resource filled with hope and new ideas.
The last simple thing I do is share my story of how I became a Christian. I say, “My journey may not look like yours, but we share the same road” I also tell them I am still growing and haven’t arrived.
Let’s face it, some of us aren’t very interesting, but we can all communicate in interesting ways. I love using illustrations both big and small. Here are a few examples from my YouTube channel,
Now, illustrations do make our messages more interesting, but the topic themselves must be relevant to a kid life. Why would a kid need this message versus my need to preach this message?
I know there’s tension between preaching relevant messages and biblical messages. Some believe we have to use the latest movies, music, etc. to make our point and some cast all that aside for straight out the Bible teaching. I don’t thing it’s either/or I think it’s both.
“I trust that you are aware that today’s success is tomorrow’s mediocrity. This means anything appealing today will be appalling tomorrow.”
― Israelmore Ayivor, Leaders’ Frontpage: Leadership Insights from 21 Martin Luther King Jr. Thoughts
The Bible is always relevant. The Bird Box Challenge is not. Kids understand pop culture better than we do, if we do not use it well, it will be seen as a joke rather than to communicate something that will be useful to them.
I just spoke to a girl who thanked me for speaking at a retreat and she said, “your messages always connect with us”. That’s the goal isn’t it? There is the human connection of “I get you” and then there is the power of the Spirit that says, “I get you more”.
Connecting with students, through culture, on human level is one thing. God connecting with them on a spiritual level is another. The latter is greater than the former, but he former give us permission to introduce the latter.
I asked my students which messages over eight years they remembered most. The could name two or three, which tells you that our messages will be forgotten, but the love we show them will not.
Work on your messages, but work on loving kids more.