In the past few months I have had the pleasure of visiting several different youth groups, some of them big and some of them small. As I sat and enjoyed listening to the various people who took to the platform to speak and share, I noticed two distinct value systems around pulpit ministry in youth groups.
The first was a very calculated and intentional approach to selecting those that would speak to the students, the other was a much more casual approach, allowing students to speak as well as leaders. I am not totally sure where I lean to, because I think there is tremendous value in both and perhaps the answer lies in the middle.
This idea would place high importance of having only the best, most well spoken speaker in front of your students. Choosing those who have the most thorough knowledge of the Bible to be the core speakers to your students. These people are effective and deliberate communicators.
I love the idea of always bringing the best to students and choosing to only put the best most qualified people in front of your students means that they are going to get a solid, scripture based message every time they come to youth. Students deserve the best leaders and that includes preachers and having someone communicate a message well increases the likelihood that the students will remember what was said.
If not balanced out, it may seem as though pulpit ministry is only for those who are well polished “professional Christians” who have a clear calling to preaching ministry. This approach can come at the detriment of students and leaders who might be called to the same, but have not place to explore those gifts and can make attaining that level seem out of reach.
The idea of students and leaders sharing the things that God is teaching them; to me, is inspiring. Allowing students to be a part of the preaching and exploring their gifts and potential calling, it is just so real.
There is honesty, transparency and raw faith when students come share about what God is doing their lives. I have seen so many times where a student’s testimony has had a greater impact than the best-crafted sermon. When students share about their faith journey it comes across real and authentic and for the audience, it portrays a faith that is relatable and attainable.
If unchecked this can be somewhat of a disaster, where students are allowed to teach, or share their testimonies it can quickly go from God entered to “me” centered. I once found out afterwards that a student told multiple lies in his testimony just to impress our group. If we are not careful, and expecting students and leaders to be prepared to share, the pulpit can become a soapbox for anyone who wants to talk, which can compromise the purpose of the teaching time.
My encouragement to you is to find ways to keep the pulpit open, open to those whose desire is not to glorify themselves, but glorify God through their speaking, those that want to bring a word, a truth. It is up to us as youth workers to make sure that when someone takes the stage, they are prepared and ready. That does not mean, perfect and professional but sharing a Christ-centered message that is from the heart.
Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Be sure to check out his Twitter stream for awesome ministry goodness. Want to get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself? See how right here.