Looking for reports, insight and observations from the Simply Youth Ministry Conference 2012? You’ve come to the right place – here’s a list of the bloggers that will be updating throughout the coming weekend. This is a first pass at the list -I’d expect to add a few dozen more. Check them out!
You coming, too? Let me know on Twitter (@joshuagriffin)and I’ll get you added right away!
I have no idea what your normal weekly ministry routine looks like, if it is at all possible to have a ‘normal weekly routine’. Of course there are some things that only happen a few times a year, then there are those that you need to do every week. For me, preparing a message is on my do-very-week list. That is not a complaint at all, I love writing and preparing messages. But just like anything you do over and over and over (and over) again, it can get mundane, routine, even stuck in a rut. Once it finds its way onto the mundane list, it comes out in your delivery. I have noticed for me, mundane affects my delivery worse than not prepared. If I am not prepared, I can wing it a week and get by. If I am bored with my own message, so is everyone else in the room.
The past few months, I have tried a few things to shake up the messages a bit, both for me and my audience. Here are a few ideas that have worked for me:
Change up your Prep Routine
If you do the same thing week in and week out you get set on a routine for getting everything accomplished on time. My typical routine is 100% on my computer. Sometimes the place it happens changes, the exact day it happens changes, but my laptop is always involved, from beginning to end, no matter what. Last week, instead of starting my message staring at a blank document on the screen, I sat down with a yellow pad, a pen, and my thoughts. It definitely took a little longer to get the end result of a printed outline and finished PowerPoint, but the change in routine was refreshing.
Use Different Types of Illustrations
At some point, you will run out of humorous personal experiences to share. When that happens, there are always video clips! I realized that video clips had become a crutch for me. Whether itwas skit guys or bluefish TV or youtube, I can always find one that would fit somewhere. But when there is at least one every week, they start to lose their impact. I don’t know which type of illustration is your crutch; funny pictures, live drama, video clips, personal stories, public embarrassment, 3rd party interviews, Readers Theater, farm animal jokes… Whatever it is, you need to change it up, mix it up; so when you do use it they actually notice it.
Surprise the Audience
This is similar to mixing up the illustrations, but different. Once people (students and adults) have been attending church for a while, it seems that when someone steps on stage to speak, they check out. They go into the ‘I have heard it all before’ trance and don’t hear anything you say. Your message, no matter how good or creative it is, will have no impact if they don’t hear it. If you do things that they aren’t expecting, they will listen. A few weeks ago, part way through the message I walked off the stage and walked around in the audience. I just kept talking like normal but just walked around. Then I finished the rest of the message from the back of the room. It definitely got their attention. Last week the message was about reverence for God and for the church. I arranged for 3 students from a different church to walk in and disrupt the message, argue with me, and then I kicked them out in front of the entire group. Everyone listened, and quite intently after that!
Present Less Content
When I started to realize my messages were getting mundane and boring for me, which came through in my delivery, and therefore didn’t make much impact on the students, my first reaction was they weren’t deep enough or challenging enough. So of course, I just put in more content. This move actually made the message less impactful, not more. If you have ever attended a conference you know what I mean: you get so much information in so little time, you get overwhelmed with it and actually apply nothing. Cramming a month worth of content into one message is not the answer. Repetition is what makes things stick, so stretch out the content into a longer series, which allows time for the surprises and different types of illustrations to reinforce your content and actually bring growth.
Use Others as a Resource
Ask people’s opinions about your messages. Students, adult youth staff, anyone who has heard you speak. Sure, sometimes it is hard to hear we stunk it up, but most of the time we already know we did. Don’t seek the token “good jobs’, seek honest constructive criticism and be open to their ideas of how it can be better. I have found their ideas for surprises and illustrations are better than mine.
Speaking about God has always been one of my favorite things to do, but I recently started to resent it, and the routine of preparing for it. God showed me the rut I had made for myself, and how to get out of it. I hope you don’t find yourself in a speaking rut, but if so, work to get out of it. The story of God, His power, and His interaction with His creation is not boring. The messages we give to teach people about Him shouldn’t be either, for us or our audience!
Brian Seidel is the Lead Youth Pastor of the Cloverdale Church of God in Boise, ID. Check out his new blog at http://www.myendofthedeal.com/