Recently, The Resurgence, wrote a great post about how to map out a setting up a preaching schedule. It was a home run and identifies many important pieces of the puzzle that need to be thought through before you just get up there and share what Jesus put on your heart an hour ago.
I think many of the principles are just as important when thinking about a student ministry context. We have a natural rhythm to our school year. This is something that needs to be embraced and lived into. The breaks, the natural highs and lows are vital when planing a preaching schedule. The challenge is that our rhythm is different than Big Church.
We have to also think through what we want to communicate, what we want to teach, how we will do it. This has to have some sort of systematic approach, yet also make space for the Holy Spirit to move and mess with you and your students.
If you are leaning into being more intentional with your sermon series and structure, I highly recommend reading this post.
The reality is that many of us work really hard to provide the best biblical, spiritually deep, culturally relevant messages to our students. Many of us have our preaching schedules mapped out months, semesters, or even a year in advance. I thought it would be helpful for us to get a little dialogue going and share some of our best practices.
Would you be willing to share a brief paragraph about your overarching theme, passion, direction, etc. The semantics don’t really matter, but all of us should have some shaping paradigm that our sermons fall into. Then after that share your monthly, quarterly, or annual rhythm of messages.
Because we are all different, claiming to have unlocked the best way to do it is a bit of an overreach, but to share how God has tuned you and your ministry, and to get a number of voices contributing, will allow us all to test our own systems next to our peers and through collegial dialogue we will all be sharpened.
I’ll gladly kick it off:
My Ministry Paradigm:
The overarching theme of our ministry is identity formation. Everything we do and teach revolves around the discovering their own identities, understanding the identities that Jesus offers them, living into these new identities, and living a more integrated life that reflects who they are and are becoming. The identity formation paradigm is built around the reality that identity formation is the number one task of adolescents, and since that is who I work with, I thought I would attempt to speak into their main interior task. It is an umbrella theme that works with their development, and allows for much of the youth ministry diet to fit comfortably in. Here is how we break down our year.
Fall: Identity Formation
For these 10 weeks or so we get after the basics of Christianity. Who God is, his love for humanity and them specifically, their alienation because of sin and rebellion, and how we are fundamentally transformed when be become adopted into the family of God. The last half of this section is focused on what it means to have our identity found in Jesus.
Winter: Living Out This Identity
This is where the classic sermons about keeping your pants zipped and the horrors of MTV (is that even a channel anymore?), and why they shouldn’t cheat fit in. But instead of hammering down on behavior modification, in / out language, the emphasis is living integrated lives. If our identities are in Christ and we are to become more and more like him, then how does that inform our decisions and choices. We have frank conversation about sex, sexuality, dating, pot, cheating, parents, algebra 1, gossip, dehumanization, materialism, or whatever I am angsty about at the time.
Spring: Sharing your Identity
This is like an evangelism series would be. But we don’t use that word. We want to help students live such integrated lives that when their friends ask what is up they are prepared to given an answer and to give one that is thoughtful, gracious, and respectful. We spend time having them reflect on the ways God has showed up in their lives, they practice articulating their testimonies and they are given a wide variety of biblical examples of God showing up so that gutter to glory stories aren’t our dominant narrative. We wrap up our year with a blow out party our students throw for their friends and where a couple of them share a little bit of how God has shown up in their lives.
Summer: Catch All.
We dial it way back in the summer and usually spend the summer studying through a book of the Bible or some common theme like parables, sermon on the mount, etc.
Its not rocket science and mine is pretty average at best. I would love to know what you do and why you do it. We would all be blessed. Would you consider taking 10 minutes and sharing?
Ben Kerns has been investing in students for over 15 years, and is still going strong. He regularly blogs at averageyouthministry.com and attempts to tweet on @averageym. He has been blessed to spend the last 7 years of his ministry at Marin Covenant Church, in Novato, CA, where he lives with his wife and 2 kids.