The Body of Christ is seeking relevance by abandoning all things that look like "religion." In doing so, oftentimes we are throwing away key tools that would help our effectiveness in reaching this generation with the Gospel.
The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:21 "For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe." Many have abandoned the idea of preaching for acceptance by the world and have adopted more palatable identities like speakers and coaches. However, after 20 years of reaching young people for Christ I realize that more than ever Millennials and Gen Z want and need the preaching of the Gospel.
Now, let me qualify that by saying that not all forms of preaching are effective in the 21st Century for youth ministry. Because most sermons target adults problems many young people learn to tune out messages based on content and delivery. So don't be offended if you are preaching your heart out on politics, season, destiny and next level when you see the kids on the third row laughing at an instagram post.
They aren't inspired to serve Jesus Christ by our homiletical style, Greek proficiency or if we are in the right key when we whoop (for the African American preachers). Neither are they impressed with fake attempts of the preacher to look, act and sound like teenagers.
Here are a few tips that we have used that have been blessed by the Lord to persuade hundreds of young people to make decisions for Christ through the foolishness of preaching:
PRAY - In the Gospel of John, Jesus said without me you can do nothing but if you abide in me and my word abide in you, you can ask what you will and it shall be given. Ask the Lord for His thoughts, guidance and insight into the holistic needs of the young people who will hear you. Pray that they will be receptive to the message and the Savior.
KNOW - Know your audience. Paul said that he became all things to all men that he might win some. He was familiar with the issues, ideals, perspectives of people from all walks of life. The worst thing is for the one youth event that a church has in a year to have a preacher to come and speak to adult situations and totally miss the opportunity to impact those that the event is for. Do some online research, watch a teen TV show, read music lyrics and websites, talk and listen to a younger cousin or niece about what is going on in the minds and hearts of this generation.
- HEAR - In Revelation, the Apostle John said "He that has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the church." Don't be afraid to give young people what the Holy Spirit is saying according to the Word of God. Spend time studying the timeless scriptures and think through how they can be applied and lived out in the life and world of a young person. Jesus defeated Satan with "It is written" and this generation will need no less to overcome the spiritual challenges of our times.
- LOVE - The Word of God says we can "speak with the tongue if men and angels but if we have not love we are nothing." In a time where our families and children have social media connections but few real relationships, it is so meaningful for a young person or young adult to hear the love of God through the voice of the preacher. That love may be expressed in encouragement, warning, comfort, correction or empowerment but your real concern for their condition should shine like the sun through your preaching. They are loved so little at home, school and sometimes church that the moment they hear the love of God through you they will be changed forever.
There is so much more to be said on this topic but just know that preaching is eternally important to every generation. Please don't assume that youth don't want to hear preaching because from my experience when it is done well they actually crave it. Contrary to common thought in our "non-judgemental" culture some young people actually want accountability and direction.
So the Church doesn't need to reinvent the wheel. We just need to fine tune our approach so that our children can hear and believe the same Gospel that saved us. Faith, regardless of age, still comes by hearing the Word of God. How can they hear without a preacher?
~ Darrell Williams