Preaching to the Younger Generation
Dan Garland over at LifeWay recently compiled some material in an article on the importance of preaching. You can read the full article here. He included an excerpt from my book, Essential Church, which I’ve posted below.
Is preaching still important? Yes! Even in today’s hyper-techno-driven conversational-wiki-culture, preaching is of the utmost importance. Of the several church-related or pastor-related issues noted by dropouts, preaching came up several times as a critical issue in retaining college students and young adults.
While most think that students are turning off the sermon, tuning into something different, and dropping out of the church, nothing is further from the truth. Students in the church, both high school and college, view the pastor’s sermon with a level of importance. They have their eyes on him and what he is saying to them (or not saying to them, for that matter).
It shouldn’t surprise you that biblical truth must be conveyed to all age groups, especially through to sermon. But shockingly, students desire for the pastor to preach to them! The problem is not a willingness on their part to listen. Rather, the problem is the fact that the pastor is not engaging them where they are. The charts below reveal how two separate age groups view the importance of their pastor’s sermons.
Not only are the pastor’s sermons critical to the assimilation of those under 18 (above), they gain a level of importance with those between the ages of 18 and 22 (below). In other words, the older teens become, the more important it is for the pastor to relate to them through the weekly sermons.
As seen in these two charts, the spread between dropouts and those who stay increases with the age of the student. This spread is driven by how well the pastor’s sermons relate and engage each of these specific age groups.
Particularly with those over 18, how well a pastor engages and relates to this age group correlates directly with how long they will stay in the church. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that these teens will “grow into” the message you preach. Our research proves the opposite – the older the teen, the more critical it is to reach them at their stage in life. Rather than creating sermons for the 45 and above crowd, gear sermons or segments of sermons specifically for the teens in your church. The pastor’s sermon still remains one of the lynchpins in keeping students in the church. As a result, the buck still stops in the pulpit with this generation.