NOTE: The term “big church” is simply for attention. Saying main service is “big church” makes it seem that other things like kids ministry or student ministry are “lesser than,” which is not the position of YouthMin.org.
“The Youth Pastor is preaching this Sunday.” That sentence can spark a lot of different emotions across a congregation. The students get excited, the lead pastor usually gets out of town, and the older folks usually fear for their lives. But for the Youth Pastor, preaching in the main service is an exciting opportunity that doesn’t come along every week. When the opportunity comes along for the Youth Pastor to share the message in the adult service, it’s an awesome chance to encourage the congregation, highlight how God is working in the lives of your students, and move your church’s mission forward.
Below are a few tips for how to preach in “big church” like you belong there. These might even help you get invited to do it again.
- Don’t drop the ball on your other responsibilities
Youth pastors, like all the staff members at the church, have a lot to do. There are volunteers to empower, students to connect with, and programs to run. Those responsibilities don’t end when the opportunity to preach pops up. Instead, writing a sermon and prepping for Sunday morning are added to the list. Whatever you do, don’t drop the ball on those other responsibilities. Plan ahead as much as you can, and empower your volunteers to lead well while your attention is divided. Your lead pastor will be more likely to trust you again when you show that you can handle all of your responsibilities in addition to preaching.
2. Work with your lead pastor
Your lead pastor is a HUGE resource as you prepare to preach in the main services. He has worked closely with your leadership to set the course and mission for your church, he has entrusted you with the task of preaching, and he communicates in that context almost every week. You would be crazy not to work with your lead pastor as you prepare. Talk with them prior to writing your sermon, find out if there is anything specific you need to know about the series you’re preaching in. And remember, culture creates language, so ask how you can use language that moves the church mission forward.
3. Lean into others
It takes a great team to pull off a worship service, so make sure you work well with others. Work alongside your worship leader, your tech people, your stage managers, or anyone else that plays a part in the Sunday morning experience. The more you work alongside them and understand their ministries, the more impact your sermon can have.
4. This isn’t hammer time
Don’t use this opportunity to push your agenda, to monologue about why youth group is the most important thing on the planet, or to try and prove a point. Remember that you’re not normally the one in this role, so you don’t have the relational capital that the lead pastor has. Encourage, share the Word, and make solid applications, but don’t stomp on toes just because you have the microphone. You CAN use this as an opportunity to highlight the ways God is working in your student ministry, but do so sparingly.
5. Learn the room
You may be the only person who totally knows all the quirks of your youth room – the weird order you have to turn things on, the secret to making the computer work when it acts up, and so forth. But you’re not normally the person communicating in the big room, so make sure you take time to learn the room. How does the tech work? What does the stage feel like? How much room do you have to move? How much will you have to turn to make eye contact? Take the time to learn the room so you’re comfortable on the big day.
6. Practice, practice, practice
You’re bound to be a little uncomfortable preaching in the main service. Make sure you practice a number of times, hone your message and make it better as the day approaches. I even recorded my message when I practiced, then listened to it multiple times as I was driving. The more comfortable you are with the material, the more comfortable you will be. You also want to make sure your sermon fits in the time allotted. And yes, I’m certain you can “wing it” for a youth message, but preaching in the main service is different. Be overly prepared.
7. Honor your time
Often, your church’s service times are set to allow people to get in and out of the parking lot and the lobbies without congestion. Do your best to honor the time you were given. Don’t use this as your opportunity to say everything you’ve ever wanted to say or to filibuster. One of the best ways you can up the chances of being trusted with this opportunity again is by honoring the time you are given.
8. Don’t believe your own press
It’s inevitable. You WILL hear great feedback. People will talk about how great your message was, they will post about your amazing words on social media. There WILL be a little old lady that says, “I wish you preached all the time.” You may have done a great job, and your words might have been well communicated. But don’t believe your own press. Don’t start believing that you should be the lead pastor or that you should be on stage every Sunday. That’s a quick road to resentment and bitterness. Approach this opportunity with humility and recognize the team that made it possible.
9. Get honest feedback
I think we all want to do a great job, and the only way to get better is to welcome honest feedback about your message. Ask your lead pastor to critique your message, even if it’s later using a video or audio recording. Ask other staff members for their honest feedback, and then do everything you can to improve in those areas. The more honest people can be, the better your preaching will get.
10. Go the extra mile
After you’ve preached, be willing to go the extra mile in your own role. Do things with excellence, and help in whatever way you can in other areas of ministry. More opportunities will come as you prove yourself to be a valuable teammate. Remember, every area of ministry is important, so act accordingly.
I’d love to hear your tips and hacks for when you get the chance to preach in main services.