Why Youth Pastors Should Teach Expository Bible Messages

“Wait, what did the title say? Should? Who do you think you are? Don’t you tell me what to do!”

Sorry, sorry, you’re right. It doesn’t feel good to get shoulded on. And if you’re anything like me, you don’t like other youth pastors telling you what to do. Let me start a different way. Here are three reasons why I’ve been glad I committed to expository Bible preaching in our youth ministry.

1. Jesus did expository preaching.
I mean, if it was good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough… Okay, just kidding. Let’s start over, and go in order from least compelling to most compelling.

2. Expository preaching takes the pressure off
This is perhaps the most practical reason, but the reality is that youth pastors are busy. There is always something else to plan, and when you’re juggling this meeting with planning for that leaders’ gathering while remembering that you also have to book the bus for the retreat and go to that student’s baseball game, you don’t have to wonder what passage you’ll preach on next week. The next passage in the book you’re in is what’s up next.

This still means you have you have hard work ahead of you. Make no mistake—exposing the message of the passage is not easy. It will (and should) take time. But it’s the difference between deciding what to make for dinner and then making it. Sometimes deciding what to make is harder than making it. Once you know what you’re making, you can relax.

3. Expository preaching helps students learn the story of the Bible.
It wasn’t until I got to seminary that I began to understand what the overarching story of the Bible was. I, of course, very clearly understood the gospel message, but I couldn’t have told you anything about the differences between the epistles, or the Gospels, or about the connection of the gospel to the Old Testament. Sure I understood the gospel message, and had specific verses memorized, but the complete picture was missing. I wonder if I would have gotten there sooner had I been fed a steady diet of expository preaching at some point along the way. Expository preaching helps students see the big picture.

4. Expository preaching lets the Bible set the agenda.
Students need to know that we aren’t the authority. Sure, we’re smart and we’re trustworthy and we have a lot of wisdom to impart to our students. But if all we’re giving them is topical sermons, we are teaching them to trust us more than they trust God’s Word. This doesn’t mean that we can’t pepper in the occasional topical series. I tend to use these more regularly to kick off the school year as a way of getting newcomers engaged. For instance, a series I have used more than once is “Myths and Misconceptions of Christianity” where I try to focus on common ways teenagers get Christianity wrong. I then follow that up with a long walk through the Sermon on the Mount for the remainder of the year. The point being: this is what Christianity actually looks like, with the agenda set by Jesus Himself.

If, when they graduate, our students only remember “my youth pastor used to say” and they don’t remember “the Bible teaches” then we run the risk that their faith was simply a phase, and once we exit their lives when they go to college, so does their faith.

Syler Thomas is a native Texan who has been the student ministries pastor at Christ Church in Lake Forest, Illinois, since 1998. He writes a column for YouthWorker Journal, has had articles published in Leadership Journal and the Chicago Tribune, and is the co-author of two books. Syler and his wife, Heidi, have four kids.

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