What place do the youth have in the sermon? This article engages with this question, indicating they ought to be addressed.

Source: De Wekker, 1995. 3 pages. Translated by Liz DeWit.

The Position of the Youth in the Sermon


You would think that we are treading on thin ice when we begin to speak about the place of our youth in the sermon. Here and there we happen to overhear that the youth do not really feel addressed through the sermons on Sunday. It isn’t about them; it isn’t clear to them what they are to do with the words of the gospel in their world. Moreover, some of the youth have serious questions about the truth of the gospel in relation to the world around them and its different religions.

On the other hand — according to my impressions — it is not easy for many preachers to bring the gospel in the language and to address the issues of today’s youth. What is the world in which our youth live? How can you bring the gospel in such a way that it also speaks to them?

Naturally, the preachers can argue that only the Holy Spirit causes the gospel to truly speak to hearts and impress itself on hearts. I wholeheartedly agree with this! But he does use a medium! Precisely the man on the pulpit has a great responsibility in the transfer of the gospel. And wouldn’t every conscientious minister who loves his congregation want to do everything to reach the “little ones” in his congregation, as well as adolescents and young adults? 

The Principle of It🔗

It must be a matter of principle to us — understand this rightly — that the youth have a right to be addressed in the sermon. That does not mean that there always has to be a special direct address to them. The appellation “youth” and/or “boys and girls” does not guarantee that, following this, there will truly be a message that really addresses them well! Addressing the youth separately — that is something that according to me must happen regularly and frequently (see Eph. 6:1-3; Col. 3:20), but the focus of the sermon on the youth does not have to be limited to that. After all, the sermon addresses the entire congregation, the church with whom the Lord has established his covenant of grace. We know — and that must also be made clear in the preaching — that baptism does not save us, but it is not insignificant that our children and youth carry the sign of King Jesus on their foreheads (Article 34, Belgic Confession). Proceeding from this reality that places our youth in a unique and privileged position, they must be called to seek the God of their baptism. The need for a new heart is absolutely not diminished today; the willingness of the Lord to grant it is likewise undiminished. However, then it is also necessary for the minister, out of the Scriptures, to give leadership in a pastoral manner to the youth, who have been moved to a desire to fear the Lord. The question arises: how must we do that?

Determining Their Position🔗

We often speak about a “youth culture.” Now, it is striking that “the” youth culture is nonexistent. That which we are inclined to designate under one heading is in truth fragmented into a variety of subcultures. Connected to this is the openness of the whole world (also of Christian youth) to the idea of: to each his own pleasure. In short, saying this with a difficult word: pluralism.

In the booklet “Platzak bij de wensput - facetten van de modern jeugdcultuur” (Returning with an empty bag from the wishing well – facets of modern youth culture) W. G. Rietkerk present three identification marks of postmodern youth culture.

  1. Privatization of the faith. Believing is what you do in church. But don’t bring it to school or to the workplace. As a result, in every little facet of your life, you must cultivate an appropriate position; positions that are often in conflict with each other. Therefore, there is a lot of insecurity: “Who is God?” “Who am I?” “Am I more than a number?”
  2. No insight into history. There is no universal meaning. Metanarratives don’t satisfy; all “isms” (liberalism, communism, etc) have come to nothing. As a result, the past was nothing, the future will probably, likewise, be nothing; we are living right now and will take from life whatever we can get.
  3. Experiential focus. Modern youth focuses on experience. A house party is a symptom of that; you live very intensely, under the influence of substances, until you burn out, but at least you lived! Everything is focused on immediate gratification. As a result, in the short term, young people are optimistic: through technology everything is possible. In the long term, they do not see a future for the world, with regard to raw materials, environment, and energy supplies.

Practical View🔗

The world in which we live today does not determine the content of the message; the Word is the point of departure, source, and norm. We must realize that the younger ones (just as the older ones!) are not sitting there waiting for the Word. The Lord lays questions on the hearts of the younger ones, which they of themselves would never ask — questions regarding our sinfulness as human beings: questions regarding reconciliation with God, and questions regarding our eternal destination.

There are young people — I have noticed it often — who are so eager to know how to live with the Lord and what this looks like. More than ever before, the minister must reveal the unity of doctrine and life over against the cultural fragmentation and privatization of the faith. He must show the practical aspect of living in holiness to the Lord in two ways: what the hidden relationship with the Lord is and how it becomes visible in all aspects of life.

Over against all relativism, it must resound through the preaching that the Truth is a Person with whom you are not a number, but who desires a relationship with you. One person, Jesus Christ, who at the same time is the way and the life (contrary to all pluralism).

In this manner the minister, from the Word, will draw the lines to everyday life. In the middle of an experience-focused world, with which also our young people are saturated, the framework of God’s truth as an absolute standard will be given.

As for the language, keep it simple. Regularly use an example that speaks to young children also. We may take a stand in using the words of our time. At the same time, our youth must grow accustomed to the use of biblical words and concepts, which must be used and cannot be simplified or substituted. It is not an easy task but definitely a glorious task to bring forth, out of the treasure of the Word, new and old things, and in such a manner that the eternal Word of God resounds in the language of this time. I am not making a case for slang, nor for deliberate popular communication, but for understandable language. 


In this way we may maintain perspective in two ways.

  1. Over against all pessimism about the future, it may resound who Jesus Christ is, what his future brings to us, and which lifestyle is indicated by this. In this way it will become clear to the youth what is absolute and what is relative.
  2. Sermons may be preached within the perspective of the work of the Holy Spirit in young people. This produces a healthy spiritual tension:
    1. ultimate exertion to speak to our youth in the world in which they live, with the deep understanding that only a life through faith in Christ has meaning;
    2. believing, pleading on the basis of God’s promises for our youth. Preacher, daily bring the youth of the congregation to him!
    3. holy rest in the knowledge that the Lord gives growth and that his Name will be planted in hearts from generation to generation.

Which preacher will dare to say: I have reached this goal?

At the same time, which conscientious preacher will not repeatedly say: I am pursuing it in order to grasp it.

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