overachievers-hateI have been teaching/speaking for a couple decades now, and I am still growing. While I have not figured out how to give a perfect talk week after week, I do have a list of misses to avoid when teaching. Here are 4 areas that might seem obvious but aren’t. We might get caught in the moment, rely too heavily on our skills, or think we are doing a better job than we are. A sad truth is, students don’t often complain about these things…they just vote with their feet. How are you doing in these 4 areas?

4 Things Kids Hate About Your Teaching:

Too Long
Here’s one piece of teaching advice I received years ago, “Brandon, if you end early it doesn’t matter how bad your message was, they will love you.” While I don’t think this is a teaching rule to live by, I understand what he was trying to communicate.
• I am trying to build trust with parents, getting out 10 to 20 minutes late works against that.
• I would rather have students get one or two points they understand than sit through a long talk and remember nothing.
• Short attention spans…enough said.
• We are gathering to make Jesus known, not to show off amazing speaking skills.

Suggestion: Get an app like SpeakerClock or T-Zero. You could also have a clock visible to the speaker, I like having one of these in the celling.

Too Boring
I am not one who pushes entertainment of edification, but let’s not use discipleship as an excuse to communicate without creativity. I have heard too many teachers say something to the effect, “It is God’s word, that should be enough.” I know God’s word does not need my creative touch to be better at communicating its truth. Jesus was perfect and gave the best illustrations. That being said, I do not expect teens to love God’s word as much as I do.

In a college class on teaching, we were discussing the “Learning Pyramid” and how lecture style was the least popular/effective form of communication for learning and retention. A classmate abruptly said to the professor, “If it’s the least helpful, why is it the only way you teach?” The teacher responded, “This is not a class of practice. It is a class of delivering information.” (That professor is no longer there).

Suggestion: If you have a hard time coming up with interesting stories and illustration get help. Read more (books, blogs, news, etc), start collecting compelling stories in an app like Evernote and tag each story. Try illustration books, videos, and websites like these.

Too Much Rambling
Ever go off on a rabbit trail? You’re talking and you feel like you are saying something, but you have left your message for another topic. Maybe you are just talking, and you don’t know why or what you are saying. I often write out my talks. This does two main things: it keeps me focused (no rambling), and it helps with time. If I only say what is on my script, I am not going to turn a 30-minute message into a 50-minute talk.

Suggestion: I like writing my talk with MS Word on my Mac, saving it to Dropbox, and opening it on my iPad with iAnnotate. Play with the font size on your document before you send it to your iPad, you want to be able to see it without squinting and losing your place. Be careful, the downside to a script is you are tempted to read. Know your message well enough that you are not tethered to your iPad and that you are not awkwardly reading word for word.

Too Unconnected
What does this have to do with my life? Here is a blurb from the post The Problem With Youth Talks by Rick Lawrence (read the whole post here):

Learning loses its value the farther away it gets from practical life application. My least favorite (but often used) teaching strategy is when speakers pelt people with broad imperatives (“We all should be praying more”) that are divorced from the practical “hooks” that would help people take the first steps toward change and growth. You are the bridge between “what/why” and “how.” Applicable is determined by the people we’re leading, not by us. Lots of times we assume what we’re offering is applicable because it’s applicable to us. The question is: What’s applicable to the people I’m leading?

Adult Leaders: Development: Speaking to Teenagers - Speaking to Teenagers: Physical
Suggestions: #1 Get to SYMC and dive into Rick’s workshop, “Jesus Centered Youth Ministry.” Come hungry, leave full! #2 Check out Speaking to Teenagers: How to Think About, Create, and Deliver Effective Messages by Doug Fields and Duffy Robbins. It is not a thin book but it is filled with decades of youth ministry teaching experience.

I have, but is wasn’t for the last Bible I purchased. This was pretty cool to watch, but also pretty convicting, I am sure it will make it’s way into a future message.

Love this new video from Dove – excited to use it in a series we’re doing on guys/girls/relationships this may. We’re calling it Crazytown – this video is for sure going to be a part of it. Excited, what a great message!


I remember the summer of 1990. I was listening to a youth speaker at a Christian youth conference share the message of God’s Word with over 700 other young people. God transformed my life that week in some unforgettable ways. Funny thing is, that was over 22 years ago and I still remember the stories that the youth speaker shared that week.

If you communicate/preach/speak/teach the Word of God to students, it is vital that you use memorable illustrations. Hopefully, you have a system in place for saving and filing the illustrations that you come across. Personally, I use Evernote. Find what works best for you and USE IT. Most youth pastors hamper their effectiveness by under-utilizing an illustration filing system. What are the secrets to finding these illustrations in the first place? Here are five:

1. Examine your own life.
Personal life stories tend give the most bang for your buck in terms of impact. Take time out once per week to examine your life and think through humorous, sad, disappointing, fun, adventurous, or life-changing moments. As they come to mind, WRITE THEM DOWN.

2.  Utilize Media.
Television shows or movie scenes can act as a great opener to your message. The internet itself is full of an endless supply of great quotes, news stories, and anecdotes. Be sure to save these as you come across them in your daily life. An extra ten seconds of work to save and file an illustration or thought can save you hours of research and preparation months later.

3. Remember the Bible.
It’s God’s Word. It’s 100% true and infallible. You can never go wrong illustrating biblical truth with stories from the Bible.

4. Borrow from others.
One of the best secrets to finding great illustrations is to borrow/steal/abscond the great ones you hear from other speakers. I’m not condoning using an entire message; however if you hear an illustration or story from another speaker that you think you could use in the future… Save it and file it. Word of caution… Do not reuse illustrations with your students that both you and your students heard at an event. You will lose all sorts of credibility.

5. Read books.
It may sound archaic, but reading books is still one of the best ways to find great stories and quotes. I do most if my reading on the Kindle application. Any passages that I highlight get saved in the cloud; then, I copy, paste, and tag it in Evernote for future use.

What are your secrets to finding, saving, and filing great illustrations?

Matt Maiberger is the High School Pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Parker, CO, Matt gets to live out his passion by helping students know Jesus Christ and grow into the leaders that God has called them to be. www.youthspeakerscoach.com

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.

Weekend Teaching Series:  Brainwashed (week 2 of 3)
Sermon in a Sentence: A look at how we are brainwashed about God the Father.

Service Length: 62 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend I wanted to go into a few final ways we are brainwashed about God and our relationship with Him. I took students through Romans 5 and helped them better understand God’s love for us, His forgiveness and desire to be in a friendship/relationship with us - these things directly contradict how we are brainwashed into thinking we will always be unloved, unforgiven and apart from God. I tried to have the message pull together the themes from the earlier weeks with the Gospel being clearly presented as well. We ended the service with prayer with all of our volunteers scattered around the room. Had some awesome conversations and times with students after the service, love it when I see our team scattered around a room after a service talking with students instead of everyone just filing out of the room.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This weekend we played a “Get to Know You” game where we used polleverywhere + random trivia facts on the screen. Students would use their phones to text in their guess which person on stage the fact was about. Lots of funny bits were built into the game – super easy and fun. We also had a good push for Student Leadership, Summer Camp and had lots of students serving in greeting, lights, camera, sound and cleanup. Oh, and we played the best dodgeball promo video ever, too.

Music Playlist: Blessed Be Your Name, Take It All, God Above All, Learn to Love, Hosanna, Grace

Favorite Moment: Without a doubt the spoken word at the end of the message was the moment of the weekend. One of our students named Ashley wrote a piece that summed up the whole series – it was super powerful and I’m so proud of her.

Up next: Summer Camp Speaker Weekend (1-off)

Your Light Video

Josh Griffin —  April 18, 2012 — 1 Comment

Loved this video … it is too expensive ($20? argh) but have to admit it made for a great close to week 1 of the Brainwashed series!


WorshipHouse Media

Hey everyone from NYWC 2011!

Thanks for making our youth ministry workshop so fun this weekend — I enjoyed meeting many of you and here are the links from Every 7 Minutes: Keeping Students Engaged During Your Talk workshops I promised you today: