We’ve all given that one message that got great reviews. Students were complimentary. They even laughed at your jokes – and those laughs weren’t even courtesy laughs. They said they liked it, so that means you did something right, doesn’t it?

Maybe not.

Your goal is a lot bigger than merely giving a message that people like. Your goal is to usher people toward Jesus.

I’ve heard a lot of incredible speakers and can remember a lot of their funny stories, but sometimes, the greater point they made about Jesus was lost in their ability to be entertaining. That means there’s a massive difference between being effective and merely being impressive. How can you make sure you’re doing the one and not the other?

Analyze your motives. If your goal is accolades, you’ll write messages that are designed to bring accolades. If that’s you, it might be time to ask God to break you down a little bit (that’s one prayer where I’ve found God is almost always faithful).

Provide students with a talking point. If you don’t prompt students with an idea, they’ll have nothing to say to you except, “Good message today!” Instead, leave them with a question to wrestle with. Then when you see them later, ask them how that wrestling is going. Make the conversation about their response and God’s call instead of your message

Identify the memorable moments of your program. A few years ago, our media team put together an absolutely incredible announcement video. It was hilarious and it was all anyone was talking about after the service. What got lost in that? Anything that had to do with Jesus.

Make Jesus the star. If the most memorable parts of your program don’t point directly to Jesus, rebuild your program. If your hilarious story doesn’t remind students of Jesus, frame the story differently or let it go altogether.

What do you think? Is it more important to be impressive or effective?

Aaron Helman is on a mission to help end the epidemic of youth worker burnout. He writes Smarter Youth Ministry to help youth workers with their biggest frustrations – things like effective communication. He is also the youth minister at Firehouse Youth Ministries in South Bend, Indiana.