The other night I had the opportunity of listening to a youth evangelist speak. The guys sermon was great and really reached our kids. Being a student of “the game” so to speak, though, every chance I get to hear other people speak I have a tendency to see flaws in their communication style. This isn’t a bad thing, because as I critique them I’m brutally honest with myself, “Is this something that I do as well?” Here were a few things that stuck out in this gentleman’s presentation that apply to me. They are also things, I believe every youth work can work on.
- SLOW DOWN
I am a speed reader. This causes me problems when I speak. Even though I teach from an outline most often, I read the point I am wanting to make. Then it is off to the races to see how fast I can get to the next point. This muddles up the point I’m trying to make, the illustration that I am using, and the truth that I am communicating.
SLOW DOWN. It is not a competition to try to squeeze in every little nuance I can into a lesson. Make sure that the truth that I am communicating is being communicated in an understandable way which means making sure I don’t sound like the 1990’s Micromachine Man.
- Speak clearly
One thing I noticed is the evangelist was not very clear during the invitation. I had two students who raised their hand during the invitation that shocked me. When I got with them after the service and asked, they said “Oh no. I am Christian. I didn’t know what he was asking so I raised my hand.”
Am I clearly communicating the Gospel? Is it something that my students can understand. Are they picking up what I’m putting down so to say. Often we get caught up in using “insider language” or “Christianesse” Terms that only church going students can understand. Cut out “insider language”, don’t use words you learned in seminary, and break down these vast theological principles in a way that a student can understand.
- Be yourself
Often when we go to camp, conference, or youth revival we want to sound like these large room speakers. Don’t try, you won’t sound authentic. When I started in youth ministry I honestly wanted to sound either like Doug Fields. I thought he was the best youth speaker I had ever heard and Doug is a VERY good communicator. I realized very quickly, I’m not Doug Fields. Doug is older and has way more experience speaking that I do. He is from Cali and I’m from a VERY rural area in Kentucky. The kids he talked to on a weekly basis surf and skate; my kids hunt and farm.
If you are a 34 year old youth worker and being ‘cool’ left your life in the 90’s don’t try to be cool! Be yourself. I don’t throw phrases into my sermon like “ratchet” because that’s not how I speak and my kids know it. If you’re a 20 something youth minister and that is who you are, go crazy and feel free to throw “ratchet” in as much as you like. Just relate the Gospel of Jesus Christ to your teenagers in a way that is authentic to you and easy for them to understand.
Kevin Patterson is the Associate Pastor/Minister of Students at Spring Bayou Baptist Church in Kevil, KY. He is a six year youth ministry veteran. He enjoys hunting, fishing, and the great outdoors. If you see him at NYWC in Louisville say Hi, you’ll recognize him by the beard.