I can tell you that after 27 years in student ministry, I am not very easily shocked – not by students, not by leadership and not by parents. From sex in the baptismal pool to telling a parent to shut the crap up during a heated meeting, I have heard of many situations and actions that would, under normal circumstances be hard to believe. But in church life and considering some of the people manning the helm, I just don’t often hear much that is unbelievable.
That being said, I confess that recently I was shocked when a youth minister shared with me over some hot wings something that I just could not believe. At first, I thought I misunderstood what he said, so I interjected a few thoughts and questions to gently confirm my understanding. To my amazement, I did hear him correctly. I was actually hoping that my age was affecting my hearing to such a degree as to have just heard him wrong. But that was not the case. What he told me is a simple by-product of our time. It is something that our culture has produced and encouraged. It is an activity that has been slowly slipping into our modern ministry culture. Now don’t worry, I am not naming names – not a good idea in the consulting business anyway – but since he is not a big shot in youth ministry, you want know him and he wouldn’t care anyway. He already knows I am blogging about him and doesn’t give a rip about what other student leaders think of him because he is in a great church, paid well and has good support. No wonder he doesn’t care what you think. The fact is he doesn’t care much about what you think is really rather indicative of the appalling action I am about to reveal. If he cared about your opinion, then he might care about his weekly messages to students. I know they are breeds apart but it speaks of his attitude towards excellence and preparation. What is this nearly unbelievable action? HE HAS NEVER PREPARED A STUDENT SERMON FROM SCRATCH! Are you kidding me? No I am not kidding you. He has never prepared a single sermon for his students from his own personal, from scratch, bible study, preparation, exegesis, analysis and assimilation of message ideas put to outline and text. What does he do? He does what a growing number of student leaders are doing – He uses several of the many Ready-set-go, Wing-it, web based short cut solutions available through the miracle of click. Yep, its today’s Youth Ministry in a Box – here ya go – all ready for ya -slick, affordable and downloadable or copy pasted all in under two minutes. Hey, this one even has an ice breaker/mixer to match the message. Now, I am not saying that we don’t take, borrow, steal ideas and beginning points or other partials to develop a sermon or a series of messages. That is just good research and networking. Rather, I am talking about the regurgitation of what someone else put together. And neither am I talking about the occasional need for a break or even taking a short cut due to an emergency or extra busy week. But rather, I am speaking of the microwavable messages that have become the common place easy route simply because . . . well it is easy.
So what’s the big deal with taking a short cut? Well I am glad you asked.
1. Your creative juices are not being squeezed and enjoyed. God gave them to you, use them.
2. You can’t preach from your heart what has not been laid upon it.
3. The “Study to show thyself approved” sort of fades out of the picture.
4. It is more difficult to preach with power and conviction when it came from someone else’s power and conviction.
5. Unless you are giving credit where credit is due, then you are lying – ok, white lying – but hey, it is for kingdom impact, so extra grace applies – double up.
6. Your sermon development and interpretation muscles (a little thing we call hermeneutics) are being underworked and growing weaker by the day.
7. The raw development of sermons will flow from your bible reading, your devotional time and your life experiences based upon the needs of your students. This is terribly difficult to accomplish on someone else’s dime.
8. Your maturity as a speaker, presenter, preacher, teacher and gospelizer is dependent upon your personal study and development time.
9. It is easier to remember and preach what God is revealing to you than what God revealed to someone else.
10. Authenticity is a hot commodity. Students will recognize the difference and you will notice a change in your connection with them after sitting under your “word” to them, for them from Him through you, their shepherd.
OK, somebody shoot this horse before I make an enemy or two or three or four or . . .
I’m just saying: Write it from scratch . . . they will come.