I despise fill-in-the-blanks.
They annoy me.
More importantly, I don’t think they’re particularly useful.
Needing to complete a bulletin filled with fill-in-the-blanks doesn’t make me listen more attentively to the person talking – especially when I know they’ll flash the completed fill-in-the-blank on a matching powerpoint slide. Instead, it encourages me to zone out for everything BUT the fill-in-the-blanks.
Despite this, as with retreat booklets and t-shirts, I thought that creating powerpoint slides and fill-in-the-blanks was what youth pastors did. So, for my first six years in youth ministry, I’d write my talk and then spend hours creating visually appealing slides and fill-in-the-blanks for my teens to complete as I talked. I thought that doing so made my youth services – including my sermon – interactive.
Not so, according to teens.
As it turns out, they hate powerpoint and fill-in-the-blanks more than I do.
Because powerpoint and fill-in-the-blanks remind teens of school. Even our best students don’t want to feel like they’re at school on a Sunday morning or Wednesday night.
Knowing that, eventually, I stopped wasting my time creating powerpoint and fill-in-the-blanks.
Maybe you should, too.
Imagine if you took the hour or two or twelve you spent creating powerpoint and fill-in-the-blanks and instead used that time to create genuinely interactive experiences for the teens in your ministry – things that would engage multiple senses and appeal to a broader range of teens. What might happen to the teens in your ministry? How might more interactive experiences impact their faith formation?
What I’ve seen in my ministry is that the more interactive the teaching in our youth ministry is, the more teens genuinely wrestle with and encounter God in whatever Scripture we’re studying; The more their faith grows as a result.
Given that, here are some things you can use instead of powerpoint and fill-in-the-blanks to make your teaching more interactive.
If your ministry is less than 30 people, consider replacing your talk with a discussion. When you talk with rather than at teens, you won’t need slides or fill-in-the-blanks to keep their attention; They’ll already be engaged in the conversation.
If your ministry is bigger, break up your talk with video clips or conversation starters, wherein you occasionally stop talking so that teens can talk instead. Throughout your talk, give teens a question to discuss with their table or neighbor. Or lay out art supplies and invite teens to respond to what you’re saying by drawing or creating something. Or set up experiential stations around the room that will help teens to wrestle with your text in multiple ways. Or invite a few teens to play a game in the middle of your talk that will help illustrate your point.
These kind of creative pauses will transform your teaching from dull to interactive in ways that will truly engage teens in their faith formation… And won’t instantly make them feel like they’re at school.
When that happens, I’m pretty sure no one will miss your powerpoint slides or fill-in-the-blanks.
Not even you.
Other posts in this series: