4 Types of Youth Ministry Teachers

Teaching is a core competency for youth ministry. If you’re going to make it… you had better be an above average communicator of God’s Word. Titus 1:9 gives a simple description of a ministry overseer that is tough to escape:

“He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”

As I chat with professional, full-time youth workers around the country I think I can categorize most of them into basic 4 categories. Forgive the generalizations. It’s not clean and I think people hop in and out of different categories at different parts of the school year and their life cycle in ministry. I think I’ve been all of these at various times in my life.

4 Types of Youth Ministry Teachers

  1. The artist: These people consider their teaching a craft. In their eyes, their lessons are as much art as a photographer, an architect, or a ballet dancer. They spend countless hours lost in crafting their teaching series, messages, etc. These folks look down on those who buy resources. Though, they may buy stuff occasionally for inspiration.
  2. The time manager: These people understand and were maybe once “the artist.” But they don’t have time for that anymore. They look at their role as a teacher a task and they want to prepare quickly. They are always on the look-out for a quick idea. They love ministry resources, video curriculum, and have a mantra that if they spend a little money on a resource that they’ll spend more time with students and less time preparing lessons.
  3. Copycats: These folks are always looking for someone else’s idea. It’s all equal in the Jesus economy, right? They listen in 6-8 sermons a week to glean ideas… not be taught, they love free downloads and hunt them, and they are always trying to take something someone else did and tweak it for their own use. They may not have many of their own ideas in play, but they’ll also be the first people to label their ministry as “very creative.
  4. Processors: These youth workers believe that their teaching will be better when they work through the content as a team. So they draft concepts and have a team of friends/volunteers look at it. By the time a lesson is taught, it has gone through 4-5 levels of revision. These people love their process.

Here’s the kicker. I don’t think any of them are necessarily better or worse than the others. I think they all have a place. And I think each category can lead you to be a better-than-average communicator of biblical truth to adolescents.

Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter that much which process you use. It matters far more that the message/teaching/lesson is delivered in a way it is absorbed than it is how the message/teaching/lesson was produced.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

12 comments

  1. 1.

    I have always resonated with the idea that a sermon or message is an art. When one looks at nearly any dictionary definition of art, it seems that a sermon fits into that category.

    Great post!

  2. Great post! At one time I would have found myself in the artist camp and looked down on others that don’t create their own material. Now I use all four areas from time to time. I’ve learned that their is more than one way to prepare, just like their is more than one way to teach.

  3. I also once considered myself a ‘1’ (although I don’t think my ‘art’ was that great), now I lean more ‘2’ and I’m glad I realized my gift was more coordination and relationships, not so much teaching/preaching…

  4. Good stuff Adam!
    I’m not sure I’ve ever considered myself in the “1” camp. I feel like I bounce around between 2,3,4 depending (as you mentioned) on season, time of year, other things going on, etc.

    I would guess that I lean more towards ‘3’, as I’m always reading, filing, making notes of great ideas, thinking of how to recycle good stuff, etc.

  5. Great post Adam!

    I have found that my teaching style depends on who is the “audience.” I speak in “big church” once a month and the way I prepare for that is completely different than for youth group. I don’t know if that is right or wrong. But I do know that what ultimately matters is that I faithfully hold firm to the trustworthy message.

  6. One thing you left out, or maybe it is assumed (as it really should be) is authenticity. At some point, regardless of whether you use curiculum, video clips, write your own stuff, or use other’s stuff, you need to make it yours. Your authenticity is more important than how you turn a phrase.

    1. In my eyes, authenticity isn’t really a type or category… unless they are the type of speaker that just overshares every week!

      We had a joke about the formula for one guy I interned under.
      1. read the passage
      2. share a story that starts with “when I was a high school student”
      3. read a Webster’s definition of the word
      4. 3 points, hopefully in a memorable acronymn
      5. share a story from high school about how you overcame this thing in the passage.
      6. come to Jesus prayer.

  7. I do find myself moving between 1, 2, and 3 from time to time depending on the season and my schedule. I would like to know how those closer to the first category plan their Bible studies. When I know where I am going on a long-term basis, I find it easier to be an “artist.” Do you have any approaches for planning six months to a year your teaching schedule?

    1. Well, I tend to fall into that #1 camp. (Good, bad, or ugly) For years I produced and shared with parents a full syllabus for my fall meeting. They knew what I was teaching, what the passage was, and what the series was all about. So I do agree with you that planning long range really opens up the palette.

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