Post written by Frank Gil
When I started doing student ministry I was nineteen years old and jaded. I had one year of Bible college under my belt and I thought I knew everything. I was reading Charles Spurgeon and binge-watching John Piper sermons like it was Stranger Things on Netflix. I had a chip on my shoulder and believed that youth ministry had been watering down the gospel for the past decade and it was my job to bring a reformation to student ministry. So I entered the double-wide trailer that was called our youth room and I would preach forty-five minute lectures covering multiple chapters thinking that I would raise the standard in youth ministry.
Well, I can tell you that over ten years later, I have no clue why those kids kept coming back to hear the rantings of a young collegiate pushing an agenda. But since that time, I have learned a great deal about speaking to students. I encourage anyone working in student ministry, to read these tips and begin to apply them in your preaching if you haven’t done so already. I promise you that it will help accomplish the goal of getting kids to hear and understand the gospel better.
Humor is the Currency of Students
What we do isn’t for entertainment. However, if it is boring, students will check out. I always try to start my talks with a funny illustration or story. I have found that laughter opens up students to be more willing to hear anything you have to say. I try to become as aware as I can of the pace and the tone of my message. If I go long on something serious or there is an extended time of explanation, I like to break that up with humor or something to make students laugh. If I can’t think of something funny to say, I use funny videos to help illustratrate what I want to accomplish. You don’t have to be a comedian, but making kids smile and laugh will only help engage students with your talk. However, never under any circumstance, use a student as the joke. Be self- deprecating, but never pick on a student, even if you know them well.
When Possible, Get Students Involved
You are free to be innovative in student ministry. It doesn’t need to be simply twenty-five minutes of someone talking up front. I love to bring students up to serve as puppets when I want to illustrate stories. Sometimes, I also ask students to repeat words that may be new or difficult to understand or ask easy questions for them to answer. Every Christmas, I tell my students to say the word “incarnation” about three times so when I talk about Christ becoming a man, I can use that word knowing they understand what it means. Also, nothing beats having students simply read the passage for you. It is a great way to increase biblical literacy and empower students to be bold in front of their peers about their faith.
Andy Stanley was Right
When I was in college, my preaching pastor made us read Communicating For a Change written by Andy Stanley. In this book, Stanley promotes that there should be one main point to your sermon. When it comes to students, this idea has served me well. Preaching one point and hitting it from multiple angles has done more for my students’ retention of my sermons than three point messages that are alliterations. With every message, I try to summarize the whole lesson in one sentence and repeat that sentence often in my talk. It helps my leaders know what the goal is for their small groups and it helps me stay on point. Helping students clearly understand your message is much more important than the amount of information you are trying to pass along in one talk. Getting students involved and making them laugh along the way will only make your talks that much better.