When it comes to speaking to teenagers, there are many philosophies and strategies out there. You’ve probably heard many of them. While they all have their place, there is one that I try to utilize as much as possible, especially when speaking to middle schoolers.
Make it interactive!
I was told early on that it should be considered a sin to bore someone with the Bible. That has stuck with me as an underlying principle every time I speak. Sometimes I do a good job, and other times, I probably have crossed the line into boredom. But it is my desire to make it interesting and get teenagers (and adults) interested in what the Bible is saying more than turning them off from it.
Many of you might be thinking, “But the Bible alone should be enough since it is God’s word!” Yes, I understand what you mean, but let’s also be honest with ourselves. There are parts of the Bible that are not as exciting. There are laws, lists of family trees, and a bunch of people that do not make sense to the average person. That is why we have Bible teachers — to help Scripture come to life and bridge the gap between the ancient writings and our lives today.
With all that in mind, I am wholeheartedly in favor of making your youth group, sermons, small groups, etc. as interactive as possible. It allows you to connect with your audience and them to connect with the Bible in a way that a lecture will never accomplish. We tend to get this with games, which is one of the reasons most youth ministries have some sort of activity. But when it comes to the lesson portion of the evening, we sometimes forget the importance of interaction.
Just last night, I taught on Hebrews 10, where the writer speaks of us having confidence to enter into the Most Holy Place. As I surveyed the room, most of our middle schoolers had no clue what that meant. Because I anticipated this, I had everyone then stand up, and I positioned them in a crude mock-up of the Jewish tabernacle. I could have easily just explained it or showed them an image on the screen, but because they were on their feet and participating, it clicked with them in a different way.
When you are preparing, I encourage you to think as creatively as possible on how you can make it as interactive as possible. Sometimes, this might mean asking questions, instead of just lecturing them. Other times, it might mean getting some students to act out what is happening in the Bible story. Maybe you could have them read it and teach each other. You could even allow them to use their phones to vote, send in questions, or participate in some other way. There are numerous ways to make a lesson or sermon more interactive!
For those of you who do not feel very creative, I encourage you to do one of these two things (or both)…
Find someone or a team of people who are creative. If you don’t feel like you can come up with ideas on your own, surround yourself with people who can fill that void. (This is a great principle that goes beyond creativity, too!) Bounce ideas off of them, but make sure to do this ahead of time, instead of right before you speak. Even though they are creative, they will need some time to think and you will probably need time to prepare. Maybe you even let this person or team carry out the interactive piece during your program, in order to change things up and involve others.
Find resources that can help you think creatively. There are some amazing website for youth workers. Two of my favorites are Download Youth Ministry and Stuff You Can Use. There are also several youth ministry groups on Facebook, where you can crowd-source your research among other youth workers. For those of you who use curriculum, make sure you choose one that provides interactive ideas. Some are better than others in this area. I recommend XP3 to many youth ministers, partially because they include an interactive suggestion in each lesson.
What are some of your most creative ideas? Share them in the comments! It’s okay. You’re not bragging. You’re helping others!