Youth Pastor, What’s Youth Ministry to You?

Do you see your youth ministry as a place to preach or a people to shepherd? Is youth ministry mainly a vehicle for you to hone your ministry skill or get your name out? Or is it a God-given responsibility to serve the young sheep Christ has given you?

A Place to Preach or a People to Pastor

In speaking to pastors in general, Phil Newton unpacks the difference between the two approaches well.

I was discussing this subject with one of our pastoral interns who recently preached at a church that may be considering him as a pastoral candidate. I asked simply, “You have to discern whether you are looking for a place to preach or whether you are committed to shepherding that congregation.” There is a difference.

In the former one might polish his sermons, add oratorical flash, and expect compliments that he has preached a solid sermon.

In the latter, he feels the weight of that congregation’s needs as he approaches the pulpit with the Word of God. He’s conscious that from his trembling lips comes life for that man he’s counseled over and over for habitual sin; hope for the lady recently diagnosed with terminal cancer; a vision of the sufficiency of the gospel for the one struggling to put one foot in front of the other; and the call to serve Christ internationally in the Spirit’s power for that young couple burdened for unreached people groups.

That kind of preaching takes place when a pastor lives with, prays for, loves, invests in, and faithfully shepherds his flock in all of the ups and downs of pastoral ministry. Is it just a preaching point? No, but rather a people entrusted to him by the Lord of the church to pastorally preach week after week after week, even when things get difficult, even when those very people rise up in rebellion, and even when the preacher is no longer popular—that’s the call to pastoral preaching. And so he preaches until Christ is formed in that congregation.

As God said to Adam, “Where are you?”

Present Faithfulness Results in Future Preparation

The funny thing is, those who use youth ministry for their own gain will ultimately be stunted in their growth as pastors. That is, they really won’t gain much. They’ll probably get that ministry position they sought, but they won’t make good pastors and they won’t cultivate holy churches. Those who love themselves most never do. But those who faithfully shepherd the youth entrusted them for their good will not only find fruit in their students’ lives, but their own souls as well. They’ll not only be presently faithful, but they’ll also be better prepared for the ministry to come.

May God fill His churches with youth pastors devoted to the good of the students they’re entrusted and not their own progress up the ministry ladder.

So, my youth pastor friends, preach the Word whenever the opportunity arises. Take advantage of filling a pulpit. Study hard, preach hard, and grow. But don’t accept a youth ministry position simply have a place to preach. Don’t use the young people of God for your own gain. Instead, shepherd them with Christ’s heart.

May God fill His churches with youth pastors devoted to the good of the students they’re entrusted and not their own progress up the ministry ladder.

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