Writing lessons teens listen to is a famine or feast endeavor. Sometimes you’re cooking with gas, dishing up illustrations and takeaways galore.
Sometimes you get halfway through a series and it feels like leftovers just getting reheated every week.
In those times bad thoughts can creep in. “I’m just not interesting.” Or “Teens don’t care what I have to say.” Or “Why are they ignoring me?”
Keeping the attention of teens must rank among the hardest communicative challenges out there. Here are some quick tips to spice up your talks for teenagers.
1) Care About What You’re Saying
Study until you care about it. Don’t pick a topic just because you “feel like you should talk about it.” Pick topics you feel are important, and study them until you find something that interests you.
Try this, instead of having a “main theme” for your talk, find somewhere to write down “the thing about this topic that’s cool is…”
There are few passages of scripture or biblical concepts that remain boring after study. The more you dig, the more fascinating it gets. One of our main roles is to take the time to sift through the dull and uncover the fascinating in a chunk of the Bible. Keep studying until you find gold, the thing that made you think “Whoa! Neat! I didn’t know that!”
If you’re struggling to answer why you care about your topic, try the last tip on this list.
2) Include Tweetable Moments
This is the Millenial equivalent of finding your main point. Consider your central focus, and condense it down to 140 characters. If you can’t do that, you don’t know what you’re talking about well enough.If your main point can't be condensed to a tweet, you don't know it yet.Click To Tweet
You can also use this strategy for other key ideas in the talk. Instead of asking “what do I want them to remember” ask “what do I hope they tweet?”
3) Let Them Listen To Your Message, Don’t Make Them Read It
Visual aids matter. A well-timed picture on the screen or diagram on a flip chart can emphasize and add to your point in a great way. Many speakers make the mistake of putting their entire talk in bullet-point form on the screen. It takes away from the experience of the message if I’m reading every point behind you. (And it absolutely ruins it if I can just read ahead on the screen.)
Use the screen (or other visual aids) sparingly. Less is more, and you will develop a better speaking rhythm if you’re not trying to read the slides every other sentence.
4) Don’t Tell Them What You Want, Tell Them What You Know
One of my pet peeves is when a speaker is talking and they say, “What I want you to do is…” or “I want you to think about…” to emphasize their main point. If you’ve crafted your message well, it will lead the listener to a place where they want what you want. The talk shouldn’t be about what the speaker wants, it should be about what the listener gets.
Here’s an example.
I want you to think about your prayer life, how much do you pray, what I want you to do is pray more this week because I want you to have a new perspective.
Prayer changes people. If you pray more, if you take the time to pray each day, or every other day, or just more than you’re praying right now, it will change your perspective.
Maybe it’s just personal preference, but I’m much more inclined to shake up my prayer life when it is presented the second way.
5) Care About Them
The first tip was to care about your topic. You’ll speak best on subjects you personally care about. The last tip is similar, but it has to do with the people you’re speaking to. In the same way you must ask “Why do I care about what I’m saying?” you should ask “Why does it matter if they hear it?”
If you aren’t completely convinced what you are saying can impact their lives in a positive way, they won’t be either. The beautiful thing is in youth ministry the subject matter is already life-transforming. The Bible is life changing, and any time you speak from it there is something worthwhile to be gained.
The key is to answer this question, “How will our lives change if we live this?” Knowing the answer to this question will get you fired up, and getting yourself fired up is half the battle to giving a message teens want to listen to.
Speaking to teens is a famine or feast. You have to take the time to prepare a worthwhile feast. You’ll never succeed in force-feeding a teenager, you can’t make them eat. What you can do is prepare a meal you are excited about! Create an appetite with your own enthusiasm and give them a taste of what they could have if they choose to dig in.The key to writing messages teens will listen to is writing a message you would listen to! Click To Tweet