Once again, you find yourself preparing to speak to a group of teenagers who need to hear the word of God. This is what you live for. You’ve poured over this talk all week long. You say one last prayer that God would bless your message, and you begin to speak. And what happens? Someone in the front row has the nerve to take out their phone and start texting right in front of you! Then a group of girls start talking and giggling so loudly, the whole place can hear them. Then one of the Jr. High kids sticks his finger in his brother’s ear and the chaos mounts.

Sound familiar?

Hey we’ve all been there. But when the youth group stops paying attention during the message, what happens? Maybe they are corrected for their misbehavior. Perhaps the speaker calls them out from the platform. In extreme circumstances, a volunteer may escort disruptive students from the group. One way or another, the problem is “dealt with.”

But who’s problem is it, really? When a comic gets heckled and no one laughs at his jokes, you don’t blame the audience. When a band gets booed after every song, you don’t blame the crowd.

It’s fair to say that every youth worker has faced their fair share of tough audiences but I’ve noticed a strange trend: Unlike other presenters, youth workers tend to blame their audience when a message doesn’t connect.

I am not advocating watering down the message in any way. We are not performers or entertainers but like entertainers, our audience comes before us voluntarily and only listens to what we have to say as long as they find it compelling.

The point of this article isn’t to lay out the 5 simple steps to becoming a better speaker. There are courses, books, videos, countless free and paid resources available to anyone interested in improving their presentation skills. But none of that matters unless we recognize our responsibility to present a clear and compelling message.

Instead of being frustrated with disengaged students, let’s take a moment to consider what we can do better, to keep them hanging on every word.

Timbo is a 12-year veteran of youth ministry. Today he serves as a Youth Ministry Strategist through Student Ministry Central. He blogs at StudentMinistryCentral.Com and author of the book “Do These These Things: Youth Ministry Best Practices