Halfway through a college semester, a professor discovered that a student was retaking her course. Doubting that the student had failed the course the first time around, she checked her records to see Jack’s previous grade. To her surprise, he had gotten a “C” the time before. Scratching her head as to why her student would take the course twice, she decided to confront him before class.
As Jack was walking toward his seat, the professor stopped him and asked, “Jack, why are you taking this course again even though you received a ‘C’ last time?”
Try This! ❯
As you plan out your message for youth group, take the time to consider these best practices, and try to focus on practicing one each week for the next eight weeks.
A deer-in-the-headlights look flickered across Jack’s face, as he paused for a moment and pondered what the teacher had just asked him. With fingers clenched to his chin, Jack’s dazed confusion soon shifted as if he had discovered a great, hidden secret.
“You know,” he said, “I thought some of this seemed familiar. I just couldn’t remember where I’d heard it before.”
People can go to school and church their entire lives and completely zone out, regardless of the skills of a communicator. Chances are that some of your kids have zoned out from time-to-time. And while you can’t always control someone’s willingness to listen, there are best practices you can implement to maximize student engagement. After all, a discipleship multiplication strategy needs students to be engaged with what you are saying during youth group.
Here are eight best practices to grab your students’ attention:
1. Lead with a story
A story invites your listeners in by taking something abstract and making it concrete. Hook your students in by telling a simple, yet insightful, story. You can easily draw on past experiences or the experience of others. Jesus knew and harnessed the power of story in His ministry, and you can too!
2. Use the right tone
What you say matters, but how you say it matters, too! When you’re speaking to your students, make sure you are using different tones and inflections. Showing excitement, dread, sadness and other emotions in your speech helps students to stay emotionally connected.What you say matters, but how you say it matters, too! Click To Tweet
3. Be silent at the right moments
Silence is a powerful tool within speech. Every time I take a moment to pause, it snaps the students to attention. Students who were looking down or drowning in a sea of words all of a sudden sense a change in what is happening. Silence also gives them an opportunity to reflect.
4. Ask questions
Questions draw listeners into the message by requiring them to actively think about what you are about to explore or have just said; they incentivize students to pay attention and get them processing and internalizing the lesson. If you have a larger youth group, pair share or just ask rhetorical questions and take a moment to pause so that the students can answer it internally.
5. Walk around the stage and make eye contact
Moving around encourages your students to keep their eyes on you, so don’t stand in one place. Whether you have a stool, pulpit or lectern, move around the room. As you are moving, try making individual eye contact with a student. Holding eye contact with a student takes them out of their comfort zone and hits them straight in the heart.
6. Keep the topic focused
As you plan out your message, narrow the scope of your lesson. Don’t try to accomplish everything in one message. Find one to three ideas and communicate them. For instance, if you are going through a book in the Bible, figure out the theme of the text and continue to emphasize and repeat the point. This helps your students remember what they talked about in youth group.
7. Don’t just wing it
Come prepared to youth group. These students aren’t going to be with you forever, and they desire a well thought-out message.
8. Give an action step
Youth group is not just an entertainment experience (although it is often treated that way; check out this webinar for more). Give them an action step or application at the end of your message. Challenge them with a specific assignment that calls them to live out their faith.
Students cannot be forced to listen, but following these eight best practices will help you better engage your students during your message, and equip them to live-out discipleship multiplication. Hopefully, if you apply these insights, your students will stay engaged and have no problem remembering what you taught them.
Want more practical advice on mobilizing your teens to share the gospel? All of our Mobilize stories offer great ideas for training your students and building a Gospel Advancing Ministry. Sign up here to receive this free, hands-on, weekly resource in your inbox!