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Spurgeon the Forgotten Youth Pastor

Spurgeon didn’t have a youth ministry, but he was a youth pastor. His Metropolitan Tabernacle didn’t have a student ministry like we might think of today, but Spurgeon cared deeply, wrote frequently, and spoke often about the importance and practicalities of ministry to the next generation.

During his teen years, Spurgeon was converted and became a pastor. He consistently considered the next generation in his writings and sermons. Pastors, regardless of their positions, can learn from Spurgeon about what to emphasize in their ministry to youth.

Parents’ Responsibility

Spurgeon didn’t have a youth ministry, but he was a youth pastor.

Spurgeon acknowledged the crucial role parents play in shaping their children’s faith. In a letter to the parents of his church, he urged them not to shy away from teaching their children about their need for a Savior. He cautioned against “flimsy religion” that’s merely civil and doesn’t focus on the real transformation the gospel brings.

Instead, Spurgeon said parents should carry out the mandate stipulated in Deuteronomy 6. They should constantly keep the gospel at the forefront of their children’s upbringing. This meant going beyond nurturing a child’s self-esteem or focusing on moral behavior; it called for honest conversations about sin and the necessity of regeneration. Spurgeon wrote, “Do not flatter the child with delusive rubbish about his nature being good and needing to be developed. Tell him he must be born again. Don’t bolster him up with the fancy of his own innocence, but show him his sin.”

Spurgeon extended his guidance about parents’ role to the young people in his church. He encouraged them to listen to their parents’ counsel and appreciate the value of their godly example: “Come and hear what the Spirit of God would have to say by the mouth of the wise man. I want to show you that true religion comes to many recommended by parental example.”

Pastors’ Call to Train Youth

While Spurgeon emphasized the primary role of parents in nurturing young people’s spiritual lives, he didn’t disregard the pastors’ responsibility. He insisted every pastor should take an active part in discipling youth: “The best of the church are none too good for this work. Do not think because you have other service to do that therefore you should not take interest in this form of holy work.”

He insisted every pastor should take an active part in discipling youth.

Spurgeon interpreted Jesus’s words “Feed my lambs” (John 21:15) as a call to prioritize the spiritual nurture of new Christians and young children. He wanted pastors to give careful and special attention to the young members of the church. This pastoral duty isn’t a stepping stone for budding ministers but a central task for all.

Conscious effort is needed to pastor youth. Spurgeon steered clear of mere entertainment, stressing the importance of guidance and mentorship to shape youth into faithful Christians. He urged pastors to be chief encouragers of the next generation, not wanting pastors to harbor suspicions about young believers’ early faith journeys. By fostering spirituality without suspicion or skepticism, pastors could unlock a tremendous blessing for the church community.

Train Kids in Doctrine

To Spurgeon, the purpose of next-generation ministry environments wasn’t to keep young children “in order.” Instead, he prioritized teaching gospel doctrines plainly and with conviction—and not just the simplest ones. He considered every doctrine essential for a child’s spiritual development: “Why should the higher doctrines, the doctrines of grace be kept back from them? If there be any doctrine too difficult for a child, it is rather the fault of the teacher’s conception of it than the child’s power to receive it, provided the child really be converted to God.”

Spurgeon didn’t mean youth ministries should consist of dry and boring lectures. He instead said we must endeavor “to make doctrine simple; this is to be the main part of our work.” The Prince of Preachers’s heart beat with love for doctrinal clarity and led him to proclaim in a sermon to the young,

We are to believe in the doctrines of God’s word. What vigor they infuse. . . . Keep a fast hold of the doctrines of grace, and Satan will soon give over attacking you, for they are like plate-armor, through which no dart can ever force its way.

In American churches, where students have too often been overly entertained and undertaught, Spurgeon’s focus is a helpful corrective. He encourages us not to hold back parental intentionality, pastoral care, and sound doctrine from the youth. When we feed the “lambs,” students will grow up in their knowledge of and zeal for the Lord.

Model for Youth Pastors Today

In an age of ministry silos, it’s easy to think only one segment of the congregation is your responsibility. But Spurgeon shows us pastors have responsibility to minister to everyone in the congregation. His intentional care and catechesis serves as an excellent historical model for us. Every local church pastor and elder should see the youth in their care not only as the church of tomorrow (a church someone else will pastor), but as their church today.

We must not only shepherd parents but also partner with them to disciple their kids. This will mean speaking not only to adults in sermons, but to the whole family. It will also mean setting aside meaningful time in our schedules to invest directly in the lives of children and teenagers. Find struggling teens to encourage, newly believing kids to catechize, and mature youth to equip for sharing their faith. Don’t shy away from teaching them the deep truths of the Scriptures; learn how to communicate that big theological concept you’re wrestling with to the 5, 10, and 15-year-old who desperately needs to hear it. And if your church is blessed with a vocational youth pastor, praise God. Support him, and give him the resources he needs to succeed.

Caring for the young isn’t a new challenge. It’s one that transcends time. So, let’s follow Spurgeon’s lead. It doesn’t matter whether or not “youth” is in your job title. If you’re a pastor, you’re responsible for the whole church, including the youth.


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