Yesterday on the Youth Min Blog Doug posted a good article about how to approach success in youth ministry. He focused in on the personal aspect of youth ministry success, saying, “I believe one of the most important ways we evaluate the effectiveness of our ministry begins with us and our faithfulness,” and I totally agree. Too often we think that if we can change other things, people, or programs that the youth ministry will become more successful. In reality, much research and study on leadership tells that the character and integrity of the leader is the most important factor in organizational success.
In order to help us evaluate success on this level in youth ministry, he offered some questions to ask about our own faithfulness. Are we personally faithful…
- at spending time in God’s word for myself (not for a Bible study or small group)?
- in spending time with God in prayer (and not just for youth in the ministry)?
- in taking a full day off, using all my vacation days, getting exercise, eating properly, getting enough sleep, etc?
- in letting my ministry be Christ’s ministry?
- in modeling all the above to my leaders/youth and empowering them to do the same?
These are some good markers, but I want to address one specifically. His first question is a common one in ministry circles. There is a difference between studying the Bible for personal growth and studying the Bible for teaching and preaching, they say. If all you ever do is study for teaching and preaching, then you are not spending personal time with God studying the Bible. I want to ask, Why is that?
I think it is completely possible to study the Bible for personal growth and for teaching at the same time. In fact, I might go so far as to say that unless we are studying scripture for ourselves then we should not be teaching or preaching on it. The old admonition to separate out personal scripture study from preparation for teaching simply creates a dichotomy where one doesn’t need to exist. I’m not sure I want someone to be studying one passage of scripture for themselves and then teaching me out of another section because he or she thinks I really need to know about it.
If we taught out of the lessons we have learned from scripture we will be better, more authentic teachers. If a passage or lesson is worth teaching others about, it is worth studying personally. So study it personally first, and then prepare your lesson or sermon. There is really no need to separate it out. Obviously, there may be times when you need to personally study outside of passages that you are preparing to teach on, but I don’t think it is healthy to think that when we are studying scripture to teach that it somehow doesn’t “count” towards our own personal growth. It is possible to do it in such a way that will both grow ourselves and make us better teachers.