If you take the time to dig in and study communication and preaching, you will find that one of the most effective methods for connecting with students when you speak is to intentionally use the word, “YOU.” Although that statement sounds obvious and you are probably thinking, “That’s the most blatantly obvious thing I’ve read all day!” Think again…


Think about the last conversation you had with someone who took the time to ask you about how you were doing or what was really going on in your life. Did you walk away feeling important? Ever have a conversation with someone and they just talk about themselves the whole time? Pretty annoying, right? Being intentional to use the word “you” when speaking or preaching to a group of students will dramatically increase your connection level.


The next time you prepare a message, try to intentionally change some of your I-statements” to you-statements. If you are honest with yourself, as a youth communicator you probably have the tendency to use the word “I” more than the word “You.” This is an unconscious habit for most youth speakers. We like to tell personal stories. We like to give our opinion. We like to hear ourselves speak (ouch). It’s time for some humility… Less “I”, more “You.” Remember what John the Baptist said about Jesus, “He must become greater, I must become less.” (John 3:30). It’s right there in the Bible… “I must become LESS!”


Youth Pastors can have a tendency to cushion the truth by using “we.” While there is nothing wrong with a little humility, using the word “you” strengthens both the students’ connection to the truth you are speaking and individualizes it for their situation. Notice the difference between these two statements:

  • We all feel broken inside. (Good)
  • You feel broken inside. (Better)

Notice how the you-statement cuts straight to the heart. It takes the message and applies it directly to the student personally.


1. Use “you” during informal conversation.

Try it the next time you are just hanging out. Use it with a student over coffee. Use it with your spouse. Try an entire conversation without saying “I.”

2. Write some specific you-statements into your next message.

Be intentional to use a few well-placed “you’s” in your next message. Change the “I”-phrasing to “you”-phrasing and notice the difference.

3. Use “You” whenever you are communicating from the stage.

Odds are, the next time you get up front to speak, there is going to be this thought that crosses your mind to say “you” while you are speaking. Don’t be afraid. Do it! The more you practice saying “you,” the better you will become at actually doing it and it will become second nature.

Matt Maiberger has been involved in full-time student ministry for over 16 years. He and his family are currently in the process of moving to Fort Collins, CO where he will become the Associate Pastor of Life Church.  Matt is also the founder of Youth Speaker Coach “ committed to the resourcing of youth pastors, youth workers, and youth speakers to help them become better communicators for the post-modern students represented in youth ministries today.

When I was 16 years old, I had my first opportunity to preach in a church service. I was nervous as could be. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. For some strange reason, my youth pastor felt it was worthwhile to put me in front of an auditorium full of people and be the main speaker for “Youth Sunday.” The rest, as they say, is history.

Equipping our students to become preachers of the Word not only impacts their future in ministry, but can be a great encouragement to their peers, the youth group and the church as a whole. Most of Jesus’ disciples were teenagers. He believed they could do the work of ministry, so should we.

How do we go about equipping our students to do this facet of the work of ministry?

1. Look for those who may have a calling to full-time ministry.
Guard against just investing in the popular students or those who are in student government at school. Passion for Jesus trumps popularity every time. Plus, you would be surprised how many “diamonds in the rough” are in your church waiting to be discovered. I happened to be the geeky-nerd-hyperactive kid. Pray and ask God to open your eyes to see those students whom you could potentially invite to preach.

2. Invest in them relationally.
Before you just throw them behind a pulpit, spend some time letting them see your heart and passion for Jesus and helping them continue to grow in theirs. Maybe lead a small group Bible study with all the “potential candidates.”

3. Stick with them during each step of the preparation process.
As the student begins to prepare a message to share with your youth group or church, be sure to stay along side them through each step of the process (http://bit.ly/YheAiq). This is a crucial part of their equipping. The last thing you want to do is just throw them in the deep end and see if they can swim.

4. Celebrate with them after their message.
Take the time afterward to not only review how they did, but celebrate what God did through them. Students typically need extra affirmation and encouragement – especially after getting up in front of people and communicating the Word of God.

As with any mentoring and equipping that you do with students, remember the age-old equipping process:

  1. I preach.
  2. I preach with you watching the process.
  3. You preach with me alongside you in the process.
  4. You preach.
  5. You equip someone else to preach.

PRACTICAL TIP:  Attempt to schedule having your students take the lead in speaking/teaching/preaching in your youth group or church at least one series per calendar year. This could be in the form of a “Youth Sunday” or a “You Own the Weekend” series annually.

Matt Maiberger has been involved in full-time student ministry for over 16 years. He and his family are currently in the process of moving to Fort Collins, CO where he will become the Associate Pastor of Life Church. Matt is also the founder of Youth Speaker’s Coach committed to the resourcing of youth pastors, youth workers, and youth speakers to help them become better communicators for the post-modern students represented in youth ministries today.

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

I remember when I first started in youth ministry, I worked super hard on preparing my youth talk for the following week. I would study, prep, illustrate and flavor a 30-minute talk every day, all week long. Over time, I got more comfortable with the audience size (25 students) and took less time preparing. At some point, I would even let myself slide with a “Saturday Night” special before teaching youth group the next night. And if I’m honest, I may have winged it entirely at some point!

There is a direct correlation between the amount of message preparation and the size of your expected audience. This isn’t a bad thing – makes sense even when you step back from it a little bit. If you are speaking to 30 students, you’ll prepare an hour or two probably. If you’re speaking to a 100 people, I’d guess you would prepare for several hours. Speaking to a 1,000 and it would take you all week. Speaking to a stadium filled with people and you’ll work harder than ever and invest a ton of time to make sure you deliver in front of them.

So … what if you prepped this week like you were speaking to 1,000 people? What would your messages be like if you were preparing to like you were about to speak to hundreds instead of a handful? Your students are worth it. God’s Word would be more presented more clearly than ever. Your talk would be tighter, funnier, clearer and richer.

No more Saturday night specials!


While recently coaching an up-and-coming youth communicator, I was reminded of three simple tips that professional youth speakers use when crafting and rehearsing their messages:

1. The 7-7-7 rule… Students today have been accustomed to media that is divided into seven-minute chunks that are separated by two to three minutes of commercials each. As youth speakers, it is wise to build our messages in a similar fashion; seven minutes of contents separated by little “commercial breaks” in which we build in an audience interaction, a humorous story, or something else that breaks up the monotony of listening to someone addressing the group for 30 minutes.

2. Story is key. We must not only incorporate the telling a story in our talk, but we must strive to ensure that our overall message works as a story (beginning, middle, end). More importantly, we must continually ask ourselves, “What is the story that God is desiring to tell through this message?” Jesus taught through stories and parables, so should we!

3. Rehearse it until you own it. Rehearsing and practicing our messages sometimes feels silly. We can easily be tempted into thinking that we will just depend on our natural ability to be spontaneous or be “led by the Spirit” in the moment. However, the danger with this kind of thinking is that we don’t end up “owning” our content and we come across as less-than-credible, not believable, or just look unprepared and lazy. It is more than worth every minute of preparation and practice when our delivery is as impactful as possible. Rehearse everything if you can… Blocking, gestures, telling your stories, reading scripture, facial expressions, etc. You, and especially the students listening to you, will not regret it.

The speaker I was coaching happens to be one of the college-aged interns in our student ministry. This was going to be the first time she had presented to our group as a whole. She knew she had something worthwhile to say and that the students needed to hear. Prior to speaking she was as nervous as could be, but she put these few tips into practice and did an amazing job!

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

This week’s poll question comes from Ronald Long: What is the perfect length for a youth group teaching series? Would love to know your answer on an objective level, obviously the answer could vary greatly based on calendar, schedule and particular topic. In our ministry, we’ve recently been in the 3-week range right now – curious to what you think is best, too. Vote now!


So how do you pick the title for a youth group sermon series? Great question! And while I suppose there are lots of ways to go about it – and I hope some others chime in on the comments with a few other suggestions – I thought I would walk you through some of the ways I go about picking the title for a youth group series:

Brainstorm with studentsA great way to pick a title is to gather up a few students or volunteers and walk them through the topic and come up with a list of potential titles. Make sure no one is “married” to their ideas, then land on one later that week. It gives students some buy into the process and also helps you brand it well.

Find inspiration in culture
One of my favorite examples of this was during the Women’s World Cup a couple years ago – I loved the subtitle they used “11 vs the World” and immediately planned a sermon series on the disciples around that idea. The series 11 vs the World in our youth group was a really fun one that was named really well, too (sorry Judas and even more apologies to Mathias the replacement disciple as well).

yhst-95977426524948_2239_10950023Tie it into the teaching
So sometimes the title starts the development process of the series – other times I wait and see where I want to take students and find the title as I prep the messages. I did a series a couple years ago about stewardship and the environment we ended up calling Save the Planet and let the teaching help us land on the right title.

Steal the title … or buy the resource and teach someone else’s series
If you see a great resource out there, borrow the title and adapt it yourself! You could also just buy the resource and use the ready-made graphics and outlines as well. Here’s 25 ideas to get you started, and 31 more when you’re through those!

How do you find the perfect series title!


Have you ever listened to someone talk and you are either bored to death or have no idea what they are saying. Not to long ago I attended a seminar by a brilliant scholar the only problem was he decided to read the entire 3-hour lecture off of his iPad and he used words that had me scrambling for Wikipedia. It was brutal to say the least.

This started getting me to thinking about how I communicate. I have been told before that I am a good speaker and I do have a gifting for it, but is that solely what makes a good speaker. I know the answer is a resounding no.

A few months ago I was speaking to a group of students on prayer and felt like I had laid everything out crystal clear and was engaging. I was ready to finish up for the night when I decided to ask if anyone had any questions and boom a hand shot up “What do we mean when we say ‘Amen’?” While I had gone through almost everything I had taken for granted a little piece of language we so often overlook.

Now I don’t think I failed my talk and I was glad I was able to go back and explain what ‘Amen’ means. But it did cause me to think about what if I was that speaker I listened to? What if I come across as an alien speaking another language to my students. I try really hard to use their language and simplify things down to solid points but sometimes I miss it.

My lesson was simple: I need to work at re-examining my language. We sometimes get so used to insider language that we forget it’s insider. Check myself anytime I speak or answer a students question. The second part of the lesson was this: Take time to allow for questions to be asked. Often in ministry I find I am the one talking or asking the questions. Try to plan time to let students ask questions. We often learn better from asking then answering anyways.

My questions to you are simple:

  • Are you checking your language regularly? (do all your students know what sin, amen, salvation and Christ mean?)
  • How much time do you give students to ask you questions? Do you allow them time to process and clarify what you have talked about?


Kyle Corbin has been serving as a volunteer or youth pastor for over 10 years. He is currently the youth pastor at the Bridge Church in North Vancouver B.C. You can follow his blog at: kylecorbin@blogspot.com or Twitter: @CorbinKyle.