I was recently looking at some old messages and noticed that I suffered from a lack of focus.  I would have a thousand points and twice as many examples.  If you were to listen to one of these messages you would never be able to guess the bottom line.

According to the Orange Strategy you and I have about 40 hours a year with our teens.  If you speak to teenagers you probably give anywhere from a 15 to 45-minute message.  In that time allotted you probably want to say a lot of things; however, you really only need to say one.  The reason is because your time is limited.  You need to know what you can say in those few minutes that will affect the rest of their week.  Basically you need to have a BOTTOM LINE to your messages THAT WILL STICK.

To get your bottom line you just need to answer the question, “What do I want them to know?” but to make it stick you need to answer the following questions:

What do I want them to do?
Every message needs to conclude in an action plan.  If you are just filling their heads with knowledge it will get canceled out in the next conversation that they have.   Give them a tangible action step to make your lesson more concrete.

How can I continue the conversation?
Give them something to chew on.  If you just give them answers without giving them questions they either embrace what you have to say or totally reject it.  While the former is better than the latter it won’t promote growth.  You want your teens to grow.

How can it be packaged?
It’s not always what you say; but how you say it.  Therefore use alliteration, or rhyme.  Make it into a mantra that they can repeat when facing certain situations.  Just be careful not to be shticky to the point where it’s goofy.

When you make your bottom line stick you utilize those 20 minutes to the max.  The idea is to use the time you have to influence the moments you do not.  Even if you aren’t giving a message, knowing how to communicate to your audiences is key.  Always have a bottom line and be sure to make it stick.

How do you craft a memorable bottom line?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more great youth ministry articles and thoughts on his exceptional blog Marathon Youth Ministry.

I’m super excited to invite you to Saddleback Church on October 4th – Doug Fields and Duffy Robbins are coming to The Refinery to teach their incredible Speaking to Teenagers seminar. They’ve made is super accessible for everyone in the area ($25/person) and it is something I’m SO pumped to be sitting under in a month. Join us!

A practical jam packed one day seminar for Youth workers and anyone else who teaches or speaks to teenagers Including pastors, volunteers, Sunday School teachers. If you teach once a quarter or twice a week, this day is for you.

You will leave this seminar knowing:

  • The crucial elements of effective communication
  • The essentials for understanding and connecting to a teenage audience
  • Keys for personal and spiritual preparation before speaking
  • The top 10 places to find great illustrations
  • How to use the right types of words to make God’s Word come alive for students
  • 7 proven tips to make stories more personal & effective
  • An approach to turn your experiences into powerful illustrations and connecting points
  • The powerful dynamics of humor and how to use it effectively
  • How to keep teenagers engaged and deepen their learning
  • How to avoid making the most common mistakes speakers make
  • Practical guidelines to enhance your body language and gestures
  • The secrets of time and timing in speaking
  • How to match the type of message to your unique situation


The other week I lead a workshop on technology for a group of Sunday School teachers.  I was given plenty of notice to prepare, I did plenty of research on new technologies and made sure I talked about transferable principles.  All was good until I walked into the room, and realized that I had overlooked one important detail.  MY AUDIENCE.  Instead of preparing a workshop for them, what I had done was built one for me.

As a youth minister you know your primary audiences are teenagers, parents and your ministry team.  If you’ve been in ministry long enough you feel pretty comfortable with your audiences; however, it’s still easy to lose site and touch.  If you don’t know whom you are speaking to you’ll find yourself speaking to nobody.  If you want to grow your audience you need to know them and that’s done by.

Spending Informal Time With Them – When it comes to teens it means connecting with them online, going to their games or grabbing a bite to eat.  With parents it might mean picking up the phone and when it comes to your team do something they like together.  It might seem like I’m asking you to do more; however, it’s all about adjusting your schedule and making this a priority.  The better you get to know someone the easier it is to serve them.

Knowing Your Content – If you are unsure of your audience before you speak make sure you are confident in your content.  When you have passion and confidence you people are receptive.  Even if they don’t understand what you are talking about, they’ll be drawn to your passion.  That’s why so many of us want to pick up curling after watching them in the Winter Olympics.

Asking Questions And Listening – If you are speaking to teens gather a group of them together beforehand and ask them questions about the subject.  Don’t draw any conclusions, let them speak and listen.  Your goal is to be like a fly on the wall.

Asking The Experts – Chances are you aren’t the only one speaking to this demographic.  Get to know your audiences by acquiring wisdom from those who study, follow and market to them.  They’ll be able to give you new perspectives that will help craft and fine tune how you approach your audience.

When you get to know your audience you show them that you care what they are going through and what they need to know.  When your audience sees that you care, they’ll want to share that with their friends.  People are looking to feel connected, do that by speaking to their lives.

How do you get to know your audience?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more great youth ministry articles and thoughts on his exceptional blog Marathon Youth Ministry.

I have found that of all of the things that I have poured into my ministry that have had by far the biggest impact on individual lives and on groups as a whole is good, solid biblical teaching of God’s word. That means different things to different people. What I mean is regular (weekly), verse-by-verse, chapter-by-chapter teaching. Such teaching allows God’s word to teach God’s word, not choosing a topic to teach and then searching for various verses to back up the message you want to get across.

Now there is nothing wrong with topical teaching. I actually believe that a short stretch of a certain topic once in a while that pertains to your students is very healthy. But a regular diet of topical teaching is like feeding your students ice cream week after week. They need the meat of the word. And that means expository teaching.

Many people will disagree with this and I believe they mainly do because they either have not seen this type of teaching over a long period of time impact lives or they are ignorant or even lazy. Expository teaching is, here it is, hard work. It takes much more time and effort to dig for what a passage really means, what it meant for the people that it was written to, and what it means for its hearers now.

You will do your students an injustice now and over the long haul if you fudge in this area. We live in a world of extreme biblical ignorance and I believe that is mainly the church’s fault—starting in the youth ministry. If you focus your attention on developing your ability to teach the word in a way that truly feeds students solid meat, the impact of your effort will be seen in the lives of your students now and in their lives down the road as they continue to crave the meat of the word.

Youth ministry is a wonderful, unique, challenging, often misunderstood and rewarding career. It’s no longer as much a stepping stone to being a REAL pastor as it is a very specialized ministry that requires a disciplined work-ethic along with the ability to learn how to focus on what one has been specifically called to do. This takes years of patience, endurance, faith and heart to get it right. In my experience, more than 30.

Rob McIlvoy is a 30-year youth ministry veteran who has worked in churches, Young Life and internationally. He initially wrote this for his 23-year old son who had just landed his first full-time youth ministry position. He was hoping to impart words of advice as he began his own calling.

Got a great question from a fellow youth worker this week about topics we cover every year in our youth ministry. It was a quick answer for me – and I’ll share those below – but would LOVE for you to share in the comments what you teach on each year as well:

Each year, I try to start the school year with a 1-off message or short series about your purpose in life, the purposes for the church and our new identity in Christ. Every year it is framed differently and people might not even recognize it is intentionally the same message every student needs to hear again and again.

This is the easiest one on the list – simply because this is by far the biggest felt need of students so we for sure cover it every year. It is the most widely promoted, best attended series of the year. Last year’s version was called Facebook Official and was really great.

Apologetic Series
This is a more recent addition to our “teach on every year” list but it has become more and more important to see that students are challenged to build a stronger foundation for their faith. The past few years we’ve brought in a special guest speaker who specializes in this (maybe you could find a local Bible college professor or something) to help you bring the heat that series.

Life/Teachings of Jesus
Every year I want us to do a clear Life of Christ series. Maybe 3-4 weeks on the teachings, miracles, statements, sermons, parables – something that centers on Jesus alone.

I think those are the big ones – oh, one last thing – I would have added that we do a Christmas series every year … but this year, we’re trying something new and doing a series called InstaLife in December then joining up with families/parents the week of Christmas. Hope it goes well!


I was priviledged to be a part of a roundtable on speaking to Teenagers in the most recent issue Youth Worker journal. It’s now available on their site – here’s a clip of it, head there for the whole thing!

YouthWorker Journal: What goals in youth ministry are achieved through teaching?

Duffy Robbins: Helping kids nurture a relationship with Christ, make good life choices and be equipped for ministry. All of this is drawn from Ephesians 4:14-16.

Josh Griffin: Dispensing information is part of teaching, but far more important are inspiration and challenge. Teaching gives youth workers the opportunity to combine personal experiences and story with the eternal relevance of God’s Word.

Pamela Erwin: Critical thinking, biblical literacy and teaching the story of God’s revelation. There’s a tremendous difference between teaching objectives (what content we want to communicate) and learning objectives (the transformative learning that takes place through an experience). A primary transformative skill is thinking critically. Youth ministries are excellent places to teach biblical literacy basics such as the books of the Bible and key characters of Scripture. Youth workers also need to help students understand the big story of God’s work in humanity from creation to Revelation, along with the individual stories of God’s activity in Scripture coupled with how God is constantly pursuing them. Students need to know their stories are as important to God as those in Scripture.


I’ve been enjoying the past few weeks more or less “off” – You Own the Weekend is our annual series where I don’t teach – students do! I’m a firm believer in giving away the platform (maybe to a fault) so students can hear from different voices and diffrent learning styles. Vote in today’s poll and consider checking out 5 Reasons You Should Let Someone Else Teach Next Week.


It’s one of the most important aspects of youth ministry.

And yet, for a lot of us, it’s one of the most challenging.

I’m not talking about teaching your 8th grade guys what the Bible says about sex. I’m talking about teaching the Bible to teenagers . . . period. The way I see it, youth ministry is primarily about helping teenagers know God and to be transformed as a result.

The hands down, best way to do this is through teaching students the Bible. After all, this is the main reason God gave us the Bible. It’s God’s most complete way of revealing to us his character and his ways.

If this is true, it becomes imperative that we not only teach the Bible, but that we teach it well. Essentially, when we teach the Bible as it’s meant to be taught, we’re leading teenagers to encounter God. And when we’re most effective at leading students to encounter God through the Bible, we’re simultaneously most effective at setting them up for meaningful life change.

But the fact still remains that teaching the Bible can be intimidating, confusing, or for many of us, deeply uninspiring.

I want to change that. That’s why I wrote “The 7 Best Practices For Teaching Teenagers The Bible.” This isn’t a dry instruction manual. It’s not overly academic. I don’t spend a lot of time making the case for why you ought to be teaching the Bible. (I mean, c’mon. You know it’s important.) What the book does, however, is pretty simple:
• It explains exactly what the 7 Best Practices are
• It makes the case for why each of the 7 Best Practices is important
• And it gives you a TON of practical examples of activities and strategies so that you can IMMEDIATELY apply the 7 Best Practices to your Bible teaching.

In case you’re curious, here are the 7 Best Practices:
• Best Practice #1: Engaging With God
• Best Practice #2: Prepare Well, Teach Well
• Best Practice #3: Context Is Key
• Best Practice #4: Embrace Unpredictability
• Best Practice #5: Plan For Interaction
• Best Practice #6: Teach For Application
• Best Practice #7: Know Your Role

Here’s the deal: I think most people want to be better Bible teachers, but don’t really know where to start to gain the skills. My entire purpose behind writing this book is to make it super simple for youth workers to become dynamic and effective Bible teachers. Nothing more, nothing less.

The question I hope you’re asking is, OK, where can I check this out? You can sample the first chapter and learn lots more info by simply going to this website. And if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to shoot me an email at andy@youthministry360.com.

Andy Blanks is the co-founder of youthministry360. Andy has worked in youth ministry for 13 years developing Bible study resources for several youth ministry organizations. Andy is a volunteer youth leader with his church’s youth group, leading small groups, and speaking and teaching whenever he gets the chance. Andy blogs about discipleship and spiritual formation daily at andyblanks.com.