The Importance of Expository Preaching in Youth Ministry

Expository preaching is an aspect of student ministry I’m extremely passionate about. Verse-by-verse study and preaching of the Bible allows us to fully explain the intended meaning of scripture. By examining the historical and cultural background of the text and the grammatical aspects, we are best equipped to communicate the authorial intent of the passage. Solid expository preaching brings scripture to life. It connects the meaning of the passage to the life of the hearer, helping them to apply what they’ve heard to their specific life situations.

My first experience with expository preaching was against my will. I didn’t want it, I wasn’t looking for it, but God used it to lead me where I sit today.

As anyone who grew up in the bible belt knows, church is a lifestyle. From the moment I was born, I could be found at church on Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and a few times throughout the week. As I grew into junior high, I knew how to play the church game pretty well. Show up, be a good kid, go to youth group, have a little fun, then head to the main service. There, I knew I’d hear a good opening joke to the sermon, and then I’d usually check out not long after that (just trying to survive until closing prayer).

This routine speaks way more to my spiritual state at the time than the preaching, but I honestly wasn’t interested in hearing a few verses read from the Bible, followed by thirty minutes of stories and devotional comments. Church for me was the place I went to hang out with other kids, with a small interruption in between. And that’s why I’m so thankful that God destroyed my previous idea of church.

During my sophomore year of high school, my parents made the decision to move our family to a new congregation. They wanted to expose us to a church that truly preached the gospel, and used expository preaching to explain God’s Word. I, however, saw it as a way to rip me from a youth group I enjoyed – and I let my parents know.

Even though I complained about this new church every Sunday, I remember being impacted by preaching for the first time in my life. As much as I didn’t want to enjoy anything, I couldn’t help but be amazed at what I heard. In those first weeks, the pastor taught the book of Ruth, verse-by-verse. He explained the background, culture, and themes that God would ultimately use to save me. I can distinctly remember sitting in my chair, listening to the pastor explain that Jesus was my kinsman redeemer, willing to save me even though I deserved nothing.

I know it was God’s timing and opening of my heart, but for the first time I realized the Bible wasn’t just a collection of stories, but the actual words of God that I could study and understand. It was that teaching, and the willingness of my parents to ask me about my faith, that brought me to repentance and trust in Christ alone for my salvation.

The impact of expository preaching on my life led me to choose a bible college and seminary that I knew would show me how to study the depths of the Bible, and then teach those truths faithfully.

Scripture itself makes a great case for using expository preaching in youth ministry:

Nehemiah 8:8 says, “They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.”

Luke describes Jesus interpreting the scriptures, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself”
(Luke 24:27).

Both of these passages illustrate God’s intent for us to work through scripture and break it down, so that people can understand all that this holy inspired word has to offer. “…all scripture is breathed out by God and is useful for instruction…” (2 Timothy 3:16) – we should unpack every detail in our teaching, verse-by-verse.

Expository preaching drives personal understanding of scripture – It’s impossible to prepare to preach expositionally without doing a thorough study of the passage. That amount of study for each message adds up over time. I’m always surprised at how well the information sticks and what I can recall from my preparation years after teaching through a passage. Your students also receive the benefits of that study when you share your findings in your message.

Expository preaching promotes biblical truth instead of personal opinion – it demands that we preach God’s purpose for the passage. It leaves little time for our personal thoughts or suggestions. That’s not to say we shouldn’t ever use personal illustrations, but the truth still comes from God, rather than our experience. Expository preaching reminds our listeners that God has all the authority.

Expository preaching covers it all – working through scripture verse by verse leads to every doctrine, principle, imperative, and indicative. Every theme and purpose is taught as you work through the text. Students get to see the big picture of redemption while having it applied to their personal lives.

Expository preaching takes the pain out of a teaching schedule – This is practical, not theological, but we’ve all faced the struggle of figuring out what to teach from Sunday to Sunday. Expository preaching sets the schedule for you as you pick a book and simply work from start to finish. Even when addressing a specific topic, expository preaching allows you to land on one passage and use that as the main teaching.
Resources to help you understand expository preaching and further develop your preaching:

Preaching with Authority: Three Characteristics of Expository Preaching (article by Al Mohler)

A Fundamentals of Expository Preaching class available for free online (Dr. John Macarthur & Dr. Steven Lawson)

Your Students Can Handle Expository Preaching (article by Jon Neilson, TGC)


Jonathan is the Pastor of Student Ministries at Kindred Community Church in Anaheim Hills, CA.  Jonathan graduated from the Master’s College and earned a Master of Divinity at the Master’s Seminary.  He has been leading youth ministry for more than a decade.  

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