Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak at Goodpasture Christian School during their chapel time. I have probably spoken there 20 times since I have been at Main Street. I have also had the pleasure of speaking at numerous FCA events all over the county. It is a daunting task to speak in front of 600-700 junior/senior high kids at 9am and often I wonder if they got anything out of the message. So in your days as a youth minister you will probably be asked to speak in front of teenagers at their school for a religious event and so I want to give you some tips I have learned (you probably know these…I am a slow learner) speaking at different events.
#1 – Gather all of the facts.
How long do you need to speak? What are some things you cannot say? Is there any specific message you want me to mention? Who is the target audience? Who is in the audience (denominations)? What does the facilities look like? Will there be any time for discussion? What kind of sound equipment do they have available? Gather the facts.
#2 – Be Realistic
I had delusions that I would alter the course of their life with one, finely-crafted message and that they would come up to me in droves crying, telling me how much my message meant to them. I am an idiot. Teenagers will text during the message, will think about other things, will be confused or just not care. Our job is to simply bring good news and let the message fall on whomever God wills, however God wills.
#3 – Keep it simple
I know you want to share the Greek syntax with them but they do not care about your 2 years of Greek graduate school and $20k in debt from that Greek (I digress). They need a simple message with a simple point. I recommend two books to help you in that endeavor: Andy Stanley’s Communicating for a Change and Doug Fields and Duffy Robbins’ Speaking to Teenagers.
#4 – Make it fun
I can hear your snarky response: “Dude…” wait a minute you would probably start, “Brother, you are watering down the gospel message by entertaining kids!” I guess you would not like the way Jesus communicated with parable. He probably watered down his own message right? Sheesh. Make it fun. Don’t be inappropriate but make it fun. I once brought tuna, sardines, spoiled milk, jalapenos, brussle spouts and mixed them all in one bowl. I then brought a $20 bill and said, “Who wants it?” Everyone raised their hands and then I put it in the bowl and said, “Who wants it now?” That kid came up and put his hand in the bowl, got the $20 and everyone laughed. I followed up talking about how everyone has value no matter how dirty things in their life get. Make it fun, make a point.
#5 – Tie things in to the gospel message whenever and wherever you can
You have to be sneaky with this in certain contexts but people need to hear the message of salvation in Christ alone, through faith alone by grace alone. Some contexts won’t let you do this but a simple, “God redeemed you on the cross” can get the message through.
What are some other things you have learned?