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Preaching for youth: finding topics for sermons

Many youth leaders and youth pastors have a problem coming up with great topics to preach on when preaching for youth. If you are one of them, don’t beat yourself up over it. You’re not the only one and it’s quite normal, especially hard when you have to preach every Sunday. How do you keep coming up with fresh topics?

In two earlier posts in the series on Preaching for youth we discussed what to keep in mind when choosing topics to preach on for youth and the two routes to finding a topic, namely the expository route and the topical route. In this post we’ll give you three approaches on how to find a great topic for your next youth sermon.

It’s not always easy to come up with fresh ideas for topics to preach on to youth

1. Choose a story

Research has shown that stories appeal greatly to this postmodern generation. The Fuller Youth Institute has done extensive research on the topic of ‘sticky faith’, meaning faith that lasts throughout the college years and after. Their findings conform that stories matter, that stories have impact.

Questions to help you find a topic for a sermon for youth:

  • What (unfamiliar) story in the Bible can you use to preach on? What familiar story can you use to share new and fresh insights?

Example: I’d heard the story of David and Goliath many times, but when I read Max Lucado’s Facing Your Giants, I got a whole new perspective which I promptly used for a sermon in a youth service.

  • Can you translate a ‘topical study’ into a story?

Example: you want to preach on being satisfied with what you have, of not always wanting more. You could use the story of David and Bathsheba to illustrate this point.

  • Is there a current story in the news you can use as a starting point for a sermon? Or an older, famous one they may not know yet?

Example: think of stories like the guy who cut off his own arm to survive, the people aboard flight 93, etc. Each of these stories can serve as the starting point for a youth message.

  • Has someone you know experienced something powerful with God that would make a good testimony? Can you build a sermon around this?

Example: a woman in our church was told her baby wouldn’t survive being born and she was advised to have an abortion. She didn’t but instead got a massive prayer effort started. Her baby not only survived, but is now a healthy boy. We used her testimony in a service to show God still performs miracles.

2. Choose a need

Another way to find a topic is to take some time to pray and think about the needs in your youth group. It’s important to dig deep and not just touch on the superficial needs. They may want a new iPad, but that’s not their real need. Their real need may be a deep sense of loneliness, of not belonging.

Questions to help you find a topic for a sermon for youth:

  • What issues are your students struggling with in general? Is there a pastoral issue that’s been popping up a lot lately?

Example: You may see self cutting gaining ‘popularity’. That’s definitely a sign of a deeper underlying issue you could address, like dealing with emotions, feeling alive, or coping with pain or loss.

  • Has something happened lately in your youth group or in your area which has affected your students?

Example: When the father of two of our students died quite unexpectedly, we needed to address this issue because students were having a hard time dealing with it.

  • Is there a recent study or are there statistics on things relating to youth that have drawn (your) attention?

Example: Research has shown that having family dinners together decreases the chance of teens smoking, drinking and doing drugs. What makes family dinners so effective? What need is met in these dinners that prevents teens from engaging in certain behavior that you could address in your sermon?

  • Has there been a news story that has draw attention to an issue amongst youth?

Example: After the recent suicide of a 14-year old boy who was bullied, bullying has become a hot topic again. You could use this for a sermon on feeling different, on belonging, on bullying, on being lonely or even on being depressed or suicidal.

3. Choose something popular

You can also choose something popular to shape your sermon. Be very careful here that you don’t misuse the Bible for your own agenda, to make your own point!

Questions to help you find a topic for a sermon for youth:

  • What songs are popular right now? Is there something in the lyrics, the video or a bout the performing artist that you can use?

Example: Lady Gaga’s ‘Born this way’ is an excellent example of a song you can use for a sermon. There’s a very strong message in that song, but not necessarily a message that corresponds with Scripture.

  • What are the current box office films? Is there something you could use? You don’t even have to show clips form the movie, most of the students will have seen it and you can give a brief overview of what the movie is about for those who haven’t.

Example: It’s a while ago, but we used The return of the King once as a theme for a youth service and a sermon. Our approach was an evangelistic one, telling the students (and their unchurched friends) that Jesus would return as King someday and asking them if they were ready for the return of the King.

  • Is there a popular video, expression, habit, photo, anything? Just look at what your students are sharing on Facebook or posting on Tumblr and you’ll have a pretty good idea.

Example: When Steve Jobs died, many posted pictures of ‘iSad’ or cartoons of Steve Jobs dong something at the gates of heaven. These were good starting points for a sermon on heaven, on loss, on doing something meaningful with your life.

These three approaches may help you find a topic for your next sermon for youth and of course there are many more ways to find topics to preach on (you could try our Youth Sermon Topics page for instance). But none of them matter if God isn’t involved. Every search for a topic to preach on for youth should start with prayer and lots of it. Prayer should be at the heart of your sermon preparation!

How do you come up with good topics to preach on for youth? Where do you get your ideas and inspiration?

Posted on 28 Comments

28 thoughts on “Preaching for youth: finding topics for sermons

  1. this has been very helpful as a youth group leader and insightful I appreacite you tips thank you

    1. You’re very welcome Naomi, I’m so grateful my blog is helpful to you. May God bless you in your work for His Kingdom!

      1. I like your tips and they would surely help me!!

  2. […] ensures more variety, because you can take the time to come up with topics and passages from the entire Bible instead of just the books or passages you’re familiar […]

  3. this is really nice i learned a lot thank you

    1. this page would really help me in my youth ministry. Hope to find more and more so to guide me in my endeavor of bringing God’s children in His feet.

  4. This is very good. It will really help me in my youth ministry because their are many youths that will need this.

    1. Thanks for letting me know, grateful to be of service worldwide!

      1. Thank you for a wonderful teaching and approach on how to deal with the youth. Believe me I love them so dearly and I get hurt when the devil attacks them.

        1. God bless you for loving young people, we need more people like you!

  5. thankyu for your advice av learnt alot of helpful information which i have faith wil help me sail through. God bless u.. give us more

  6. it is very helpful..thank you

  7. I would thank you from the bottom of my heart, It’s really nice and many were blessed by this Web site. keep update more topics God bless you!!!!

    1. Glad to be of service!

  8. i would really thank you.its nyc and we are blessed

    1. You’re more than welcome! I’m grateful to be of service to the worldwide church 🙂

  9. Hello, my name is Felisha and I got to speak to the youth at my church for youth Sunday in August, and tell the truth not really sure what to say to them to meet there needs. I got three different age group with three different out look on life. I want to touch them all. Can you help please????

    1. That’s a tough job Felisha! I would choose a passage that you can make very practical, for instance one of Jesus’ teachings or a Psalm, and explain what this means to us now. That way, you can show what it means for non-believers and for believers for instance, and share it both on a very practical level for the youngest students and a bit deeper for the older ones. Or do an Old Testament story and really make it come alive, because all age groups love great stories!

  10. Dear Sister Rachel,

    Thank you for the useful guidance for effective youth ministry. We are grateful to you.

    Yours in Him,

    John Wesley
    Navjeevan Seva Mandal
    Bangalore, India.

    1. You’re very welcome. I’m in awe to see my resources make it all the way to Bangalore (my husband has been there twice actually!). May God bless you friend!

  11. This is very insightful i wish i was able to read it the earliest.
    Anyway it will help my youth mentors a great deal .

  12. wao!This is a great job so insightful. God bless your ministry in Jesus name.

  13. Thanks for your tips
    They will greatly help me out in ministering to the blessed.

    1. You’re very welcome!

  14. Dear Rachel
    Thanks for the Guidance and suggestion its very useful and helpful. May God continued to use and bless you.

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