Porn. Cutting. Drugs. Sex. Depression. Abuse. Suicide.
Some things just aren’t any fun to talk about.
Which is why most people don’t talk about them.
You need to talk about them.
The Good News is no good if it only works in a sterilized environment. Teens need a message to resonate in the hidden corners of their life. They need hope in the darkest places. Even if they aren’t facing these challenges, they know someone who is, and they want to know how to help.
It can be challenging to write a message dealing with hot button issues. Here are five qualities for your next talk on tough topics.
It is common to tip-toe around these topics because they are uncomfortable. Your students need you to be the one who is confident and secure with conversations that make others blush. Don’t back down, these topics are important.
Practice your talk. It is important that you not stumble on words like “pornography” and that you not say “sex” in hushed tones. Be comfortable in what you’re saying before you are saying it in front of your group.
Tough topics tend to create many gray areas. Premarital sex is bad, but how far is too far? I feel depressed, but am I just having a bad day? I’ve thought about dying… but I don’t feel suicidal, what do I do?
Bring clarity to the situation by explaining in detail the causes, manifestations, and solutions to whatever topic your discussing. By being very clear, you better prepare your students to face these challenges in their lives and the lives of their friends.
For any issue you cover be able to clearly answer these questions in one sentence:
What does it look like?
Why does it happen?
Why is it harmful?
What should you do?
You should have a Bible verse for anything you point out as sin, and for any solution you suggest. Students need to know the practical reasons to stop (consequences) as well as the spiritual reasons. You don’t have to quote every Bible verse in your message, just be certain that you can back up your points and suggestions with biblical sources.
Use a service like OpenBible.com to research what the Bible says about all kinds of topics.
Always have a plan for what you will do if a student shares they are struggling with the topic you’re discussing. For instance, if you have a night where you talk about depression, spend some time gathering a list of therapists to which you can refer students. If you’re going to talk about pornography, know how to encourage accountability relationships in your group.
Hopefully, you’re talk will be the push a teen needs to seek help. Be sure you are ready to usher them towards whatever help they need.
Gather a list of resources you’d suggest to someone who wants help. They could be professional counselors, books, websites, Bible verses, accountability partners, etc.
Many teens are afraid that if the deep things come to light they will be left to face them alone. What many of them need the most is someone who promises to stick with them through the hard part. Your job doesn’t end with the message, that is just the beginning. Teaching on these topics is how you *start* the process of helping teens. Don’t give up after the first lap, run the race alongside your teens.
Keep a prayer journal and add every student who asks for help to it. By being in prayer for these students you are helping in a tremendous way, and it will also keep them on your mind throughout the week. That way you are more likely to follow-up and ask how they are doing.
Teaching on tough topics is one of the most important things you can do in youth ministry. It demonstrates that faith can withstand the messy parts of life, and God is present in our most challenging times.