Preaching. It means different things to different people. To some it means a short devotion, to others it is a 45 minute message with spitting and sputtering included. I love preaching but there are pressures that go along with it that I do not enjoy. When you get up to preach in youth group I can feel all those eyes on me wanting something, expecting something different. Here are the some of the pressures I feel come through those eyes and occasionally their mouths.
1. Say Something Funny: When speaking to youth there is a pressure to be funny. We think, if we do not include some humor in this talk some how, we will lose them. The challenge for us, and by us I mean me, is to be funny and stay on topic. Some youth pastors, believe it or not, are not naturally funny. Many of us have a dry sense of humor versus being boisterous. Some of us are Steven Wright and some of us are Chris Farley. No comedian is the perfect model of funny, they are all very distinct and so are you. Be funny, but don’t feel the pressure to say something funny that will take away from being naturally funny. Mistakes get made this way. Trust me, I know.
2. Say Something New: We are preaching from the same book. We talk about the same people. Jesus seems to be part of every message. The good news is, this generation doesn’t know the stories and some do not know who Jesus is. This gives us a chance to present new ieas to fertile ground. It’s all new to them. For those who do know Jesus and the Bible (a.k.a church kids), can sometimes give us that look that says, “Oh, great, I’ve heard this before.” We can’t and shouldn’t try to come up with something “new”, but to express these old truths in new ways. Try props, location (preach from on top of a table when doing the Mt. of Olives) , or preach in the dark when talking about the sun turning black. Be aware though, designing creative message every week is another pressure we often create.
3. Say Something I Agree With: Preaching against culture to young people is like preaching against bones or peeing on trees to a room full of dogs. Culture can become a whipping boy. It’s convenient. We may think “Lady Gaga will surely supply my next sin to preach against.” Preaching against culture is easy. Lot’s of material there. Your kids may nod their heads but they are not listening. They are not erasing songs off their ipods or blocking You Tube from their computer. I do not think culture is the issue. I think transformation in Christ, long term , is. There will always be another Harry Potter or Lady Gaga to bash, but there is only one Jesus to lift up.
4. Say Something Relevant: Is this on the test? Isn’t this what we ask our teachers when studying for a test so we know whether we should be listening and learning this material? I find that kids do the same thing with preaching. Is this relevant to my high school or jr. high world? I am 43 and I find it tough, sometimes, to remember my jr. high years. The good news is, I have three kids and two of them are teenagers. It’s a great refresher course. In preaching, I can’t keep up with every trend or fad but I do know what is real, and that is the place I have to preach from.
5. Say Something, But Don’t Take Too Long: Keeping it short is tough for me. I want to say everything, but when I feel this way I have to remember what Jesus said, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.”. I can’t say it all. As we get older we accumulate knowlege and experiences but we cannot fit them all nside a 15, 20 or 6 hour message. We know too much and our kids know so little. The pressure to share everything can derail the point of our messages, it has for me many times. Jesus told His disciple that it was better for Him to go away so The Comforter can come. I have to trust the Holy Spirit to say what I do not have the time to say. Jesus took the pressure off his physical self and placed it in the hands of God. Not a bad idea.
6. Say Something Meaningful: This may be the only pressure I put on myself. We have 52 weeks a year, minus 3 for holidays, revival, etc. so 49 weeks to say something that matters. There is the pressure to say it all in one night, as I described above, but you can ease that pressure if you see yourself as a long term partner in ministry rather than a one time, one year, one hit wonder. The key to relieving yourself of this pressure, is to pace yourself. Think longterm discipleship preaching and not just ” I have to get a response” preaching. Think about putting together a three month preaching calendar and let your students help you. Why guess what they want when they can tell you and then support it and help you design it?
I have not “preached” and will not “preach” all summer. This is new for me. It is a different kind of sabbatical for me. I think of it in terms of my favorite musical artist. What if our favorite music artist felt the pressure to put out an album or even a song every week? What if they did? Instead of hearing an inspiring, deep felt song that shares what the artist experienced in his/her life over the past year a we’d instead get songs about him or her sitting at the DMV and brushing their teeth. What dramatic thing can happen every week that deserves a song? There is a plus side to not preaching ever week. I am at a place where I have to speak every week but I only want to preach when I have something of value to say. When I kick back into preaching in the fall, my hope is, I’ll be dropping an album worth listening to.