Stuff Youth Ministers Like #21: Citing Scripture

I want to let you in on a youth ministry secret that took me years to realize – if you want to sound smarter, you need to cite passages from the Bible in your talks. Now, that may sound simple to you and perhaps you already do this, if so, you know where I am coming from.

As a bright-eyed, young youth minister I took great pride in the wisdom I poured forth each week from the front of a social hall, but every week I just felt like I was losing my “cred” with the teens. I used awesome visual aids, funny stories, and heart-warming testimony in an expertly woven tapestry of preaching that would make St. Paul say, “wow.” At least that’s how I remember it.

Yet I still felt the teenagers saw me as some young kid just out of college who didn’t know anything (at that time this was likely an accurate assessment). That’s when I realized the secret – I needed to insert citations from Scripture into my teachings. The difference was incredible. Suddenly, I had more Catholic cred than I knew what to do with. Over the next few years I perfected my method, and here are the three best ways to cite Scripture, not only in talks, but in daily conversation as well.

  1. Don’t directly quote the passage. Which sounds smarter? “In Matthew 5, verse 11, Jesus says, ‘Blessed are you when they insult you and . . .’” What’s that? You’re yawning? Me too – here try this one on for size, “And so I told my friend that he should tell his friend to keep the puppy – Matthew 5:11.” Whoa, hold on, did you just cite a passage from Scripture without explaining it? I don’t know what Matthew 5:11 says or how you made the theological jump from persecution to puppies, but I’ll assume that the bridge is there somewhere. You. Are. Brilliant.
  2. Use Scripture to defend your position in arguments. Nothing will convince someone they are wrong and you are right faster than putting the Word of God behind your viewpoint. Consider this, “Well, I really think on the basis of Proverbs 26:11 we need a bigger budget for the upcoming year.” Boom, roasted. Who is getting that bigger budget? You are, because Scripture says so.
  3. Make up chapters and verses that don’t exist. If you are ever in a tight spot, cite a chapter and verse that don’t exist in a book of the Bible. By the time someone has had time to look it up and call you out, you should be able to find a passage that corresponds to what you meant to say and then you can apologize for the misquote. If they get snarky, hit them with Matthew 7:1 and tell them not to judge. Case in point – “Well, I believe in Matthew 29:34, Jesus explicitly condemned energy drinks at all EDGE lock-in events.”

Follow those three easy steps and people will think you are a Scripture whiz. That is, until they actually start looking up what you are saying and realize you know nothing. You know, now that I’m looking at the list, I think you may be better off doing the exact opposite of everything I suggested. I could delete it, but you know what it says in Numbers 22:29-30, so I’m sure you will be forgiving.

Question: What’s your favorite Scripture passage?

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