Discouragement has been a far too familiar friend to me throughout the last 11 years I’ve been in full time ministry. Maybe you can relate. Maybe you can’t (good for you). For me, it often comes from my constant battle of negative self-talk that I wrestle to overcome. One of those sources of discouragement often comes during the times when I feel as if my ‘up front’ teaching doesn’t matter. That it doesn’t have an impact.
A few months back, we were in the midst of planning our Spring Retreat at my local church. We had invited some of our youth to help plan and lead that weekend. During the brainstorming time, a few different youth spoke up with ideas of doing something different than normal teaching because “we don’t remember it anyway.”
Thanks for your honesty.
While my own insecurities cause me to shudder when hearing something like that, there is some truth in it. If I think back to my time in youth ministry, there aren’t a lot of messages or teaching points that I remember. What I remember are my relationships, the way that adults poured into me and experiences that brought life-change.
While listening to a podcast today, I heard something that finally sparked some resolution on this issue for me. The guest on the podcast was talking about the impact that his youth pastor had in his life, but how it had more to do with the youth pastor investing in him than it did the teaching. “I don’t remember any of his messages, but I do remember how he poured into me.”
That quote wasn’t a new idea. It was one I’d heard before. I’m sure he didn’t mean it this way, but the negative self-talker in me always takes that comparison to mean that the upfront teaching just doesn’t carry weight, which can leave me less than motivated and confident when I’m on stage teaching.
While I would agree that there is immeasurable impact when we invest relationally with youth, the reality is that it’s not supposed to be a competition.
Do adults investing in the lives of youth have an impact? Absolutely.
But does that mean that our up front teaching time has no value? No way.
When my former youth are in their 30’s looking back to their time in youth, do I want them remembering their Small Group Leader’s impact in their lives or my message on a verse in Proverbs? That’s a clear one; I want them to remember (and they will remember) the relationships…the experiences…the memories.
So, why do we do large group teaching? What’s the point?
Here’s my new theory: Even when we don’t remember specific language or instances we were taught something, impact still occurs.
The reality is that I couldn’t go back and tell you very many specific lessons that I remember learning from my sophomore year of high school. However, the things that I learned week in and week out helped me develop into who I am today.
Just because I couldn’t tell you some of the points from a message or a series I heard when I was 15, doesn’t mean that the stories that I heard or the principles that I was taught were not used as building blocks by God to continue to mold me into who I am.
It informed the choices I made that week.
It altered the things I noticed or thought about.
Even though there will be times I still shudder when someone talks about the reality that we retain little of what we hear in large group teaching, this negative self-talker is going to do his best to remember that even when there are things we don’t retain over the years, the impact of those words in that moment help to build and grow us to become who we are.
So, next time you are on stage…speak concisely, build tension, be memorable, tell stories, have fun & be confident! They might not be able to recite your main points next week, but trust that God is using it. He is.
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