Five Things To Think About When You Preach a Terrible Message

We have all been there. You walk off the platform and you just want to get under a rock and pray that everyone will just forget about what you said. You feel embarrassed, stressed, and you hope your Senior Pastor doesn’t hear about it because you think you might get fired if he heard it. No matter what your wife or anyone says, you feel terrible and you just want next week to come so you can “redeem” yourself.

However, if I can comfort you in anyway, take a deep breath and consider the following:

1. Your students won’t remember it.

No matter who I talk to, when I ask them what they remember the most about their time in youth ministry they never mention a specific message their youth pastor preached, but the time they spent with them and the trips they went on. You love the preaching of the word. I do it! I hold it in as high regard as anyone. I do my best to hone my skills to be the best preacher ever. However, your students won’t graduate from your ministry with fond memories of the sermons they sat in, but the memories they spent with you.

Your message was terrible last week? That’s okay. Get back in the word and do better next week, but don’t forget to make those memories with the students. Those matter way more.

2. Your students won’t care.

You had one kid asleep and one kid texting the whole time. You figure those kids made out better than the ones actually listening. Remember that your students haven’t sat in a preaching class in Bible College. They don’t know the difference between expository preaching vs. topical preaching or if you are using the “Me. We. God. You. We.” way of preaching by Andy Stanley. To the students, you are preaching a message to them, and if it is bad or good is really contingent to how you feel about the message.

3. Your students will still learn from it.

I don’t know where I heard it but I heard this quote once, “The mature worshiper is easily edified.” Obviously students range from different levels of maturity, however your most mature kids will find something that will edify them even if your sermon was miserable.

As for the less mature students, you would be surprised by what they pick up. You may walk away thinking you made the worst sermon ever, yet your students found a nugget of truth that will get them through that week. Don’t be discouraged; students can still learn from your bad week.

4. Learn from your mistakes.

If you really felt your message was bad, then grab a paper and pen and write down what you think you did that was so bad. Was it your presentation? Your interpretation of the text? A couple too many analogies that bombed? Your message went 20 minutes too long? Your message was too short? You were factually incorrect?

I said there were ten tribes of Israel (there are twelve) and quoted a passage that I thought was in Proverbs (it was just a Christian saying that isn’t even in the Scriptures) all in one sermon. I made those dumb mistakes because I didn’t give enough time to my study. I walked up to the pulpit arrogant and ill-prepared. I learned to spend a couple more hours in study and a couple more hours in prayer. God allows you to have terrible sermons so you can learn from them and to humble you. You are not Matt Chandler, Mark Dever, and James MacDonald, you need to prepare and pray before every message. (P.S. Matt Chandler, Mark Dever, and James MacDonald would tell you that they have bombed, too.)

5. God uses imperfect people to do his work

You are imperfect. It is going to happen. Take a sigh of relief. There is grace. There is freedom in the fact that you don’t have to be perfect. Don’t let that cause you to be lazy in your sermon prep. Study hard, Pray hard, and let God use you mightily!


If you ever need ideas, tips, bounce off your analogies to see if they work, or prayer, join our Facebook group of over 1500 youth pastors from across the country!  Let’s help each other out to become the best youth pastors our churches can have.


  1. Great words Frank. It's so easy to get so discouraged after a message, but I've found another tip for this post is to not mention how bad you feel you've done - it takes away so much. You never know how your words will be used by God to speak to someone, but if you finish with how bad of a sermon you just gave, someone might feel dumb and discredit what they heard from God.
  2. I'm pretty much perfect, so I've never had to deal with this. I can't help it if I always hit it out of the park. JUST. KIDDING. great work, Frank. We can all relate!

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