Here’s Where It All Began…
I still remember the first time I was given the opportunity to preach in front my youth congregation. I had been a youth volunteer with my church for a few years and when I was first asked, the news was met with a sense of excitement mixed with dread. I had questions like, How do I even prepare a sermon? Where do I start? What am I going to preach about?
I did my best with what I knew and put together what I thought would be an epic sermon; one that was funny, dramatic at some points, had tons of life lessons, and spiritual applications. I felt like I had prepared well. The time came and I stood up front, delivered my sermon with confidence, and gave the response.
I wish I could have told you I had crowds of youth in my church coming forward, flooding the aisles, and on their knees with tears of repentance flowing freely from their faces. Well, that didn’t happen. In fact, the response was closer to one or two tentatively raised hands and more than a few bewildered stares in my direction. I had no idea what went wrong or what I missed out.
Well, that was only my first attempt, surely I’d get the hang of this. Well it didn’t, not for a long while. I’m not sure if you ever had the same learning experience as me but if you’re at all like me, you probably spent the time second guessing yourself, doubting your calling, questioning your abilities and feeling like you’ve let your youth down.
Eventually, I had the opportunity to attend a few preaching classes in seminary, the assistance of a great spiritual mentor and it wasn’t long before I was able to understand and apply the lessons I learnt from them. It wasn’t rocket science and it was a simple process once I knew how. My preaching isn’t perfect, but being familiar with the process has saved me from many failures at the pulpit. I’m thankful that a few youth have come to thank me over the years for preaching what was to them, a life-changing message from God.
Through all of this, I do have one regret: I still kind of wish I found out sooner, or known how to get to the resources available, or found someone to hold my hand earlier through that process of writing and delivering those first few sermons I preached.
I’m pretty sure my early experiences as a preacher aren’t unique to me alone. We’ve all been there before. We’ve felt that sense of inadequacy and uncertainty, like an artist staring at a blank canvas, wondering how his painting would turn out.
The Art of Preaching
“You do not know how paralyzing that staring of a blank canvas is. It says to the painter, you can’t do anything … Many painters are afraid of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas is afraid of the really passionate painter who is daring.” ~ Vincent van Gogh
The blank canvas represents so many possibilities. In fact, to many, it can be outright intimidating. Hands poised above the canvas. Pallettes of wonderful colors waiting to take on so many hues and vivid passionate colors. There is incredible power, but also great apprehension in the waiting. What will be created? Will I have the right perspective? Is it true to my vision? Did I see it right? – The depth, the fill, the background, the highlights. Will I get everything right? Will they understand? And more importantly, will it stir up their hearts and excite a response?
Fingers on the keyboard. Pen poised above paper. You know how it feels. That sermon slot in the program says to you, “You can’t do anything.” But God says, “You can do all things through me.” Relax, set it aside for a moment. Let’s remember why we are here. We are here to deliver His message, we are the brush in the Master’s hands. Yield to him. Like a brush on a palette of paints, your life will take on the colors and hues of the experiences of life. More importantly, you will take on the colors and hues of God's passions as well.
All artists desire to create greatest masterpieces. But rather than dabs of paint touched to a piece of canvas, the masterpieces we yearn for are changed hearts touched by God.
The Lost Art
Ask any youth what the high point of the Sunday service is and I’m quite certain few of them would say it was the sermon. It’s not surprising. Youth today are bombarded with hundreds of thousands of messages a day; messages from the TV, movies, radio, internet, advertising, Facebook, Twitter, their friends, parents, to name just a few. They are well versed in using these channels of communication. Just look around you on a Sunday morning. You’ll see any number of young people discreetly whipping out their mobile phones, their fingers an unbelievable flurry of motion, probably texting their friend in the next row about where they’ll be having lunch after service. No, I’ve not been spying on your congregation, I see it happen in my church too. Shhh! Don’t tell my pastor, but I’ve been known to be guilty of doing the same myself!
This is the world we have been thrust into. Our goal is to make a difference in the lives of youth, to be a contact point to recapture the attention of our youth and point them back to God. You may have been faced with the weight of the unenviable and daunting task of preaching a sermon. You must deliver one that will engage a diverse audience: the son of the Senior Pastor (who after indirectly hearing what you’ve said over the pulpit will approach you a few days later to critique the message for its lack of theological and doctrinal accuracy; the high school youth who’s struggling with the real issue of being bullied in school; a middle school youth who just accepted Christ last week; the teenager girl who just found out she will soon be a mom.
Like an artist, you have a message to communicate. But the medium is not paint on a canvas, stone beneath a chisel, or notes on a staff. The vehicle entrusted to us to communicate God’s truth is the spoken word - the sermon. Some of you get the importance of recovering this lost art. But some of you might be wondering why we should spending so much time on preaching if your youth aren’t even interested in listening anyway? Why not just give them what they want and have an extended worship service? Or a small group meeting? Or some games that they’ll enjoy so much more?
Why Even Bother?
Youth find sermons dull not because the Word of God is boring, but because they don’t see how it is relevant to them. They complain that, “It’s always the same old thing.” because the application is always the same, or worse, there is no application at all! Another complaint is, “Sure, I get what they’re trying to say, but so what?” Our sermons have to speak to the hopes, dreams, hurts, fears, cries and struggles that youth face every day. When Jesus spoke, he met His hearers where they were – in their fishing boats, in the fields, at the well, at their times of celebration, in their times of mourning and when they needed a healing touch. When we deliver our sermons, we provoke our youth to ask, “How did the characters in the Bible relate to one another? What choices did they make? What might have gone through their minds?” And we relate it to our youth here and now by giving them pause to ask, “How do we relate to one another? What choices do I struggle with making? What goes through my mind?”
We believe so much in the power of the sermon that we made a decision to put together the best youth sermon resource we could imagine. Even if you don’t have a youth service in your church or an opportunity to share from the pulpit, you can still apply the lessons in this resource to preparing for a Bible study series, a teaching session, or to share a powerful lessons at camp.
Here’s a little disclaimer: I did NOT stumble upon these ideas by chance. We meticulously searched for PRACTICAL, PROVEN, and APPLICABLE ideas. Whatever your needs may be, we made a wish-list of everything that we only dreamed of having in our hands when we first started out. All our knowledge, research, feedback we received from our website, things our readers from our website have been asking for; We poured them all into a blueprint that we call…
Listen to what other youth leaders who have discovered and used my sermon ideas have said:
Everything you need to know about preparing for and preaching awesome Sermons!
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There are quite a few free ideas on the web, that may not cost you any money but will certainly cost you plenty of time to download and sort between the trash and the treasure.
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