Using your voice effectively to captivate your audience

preacher

[This post is part of our series on Preaching for Youth]. We’re talking about using your voice effectively to captivate your audience when you preach. Yesterday we discussed the importance of being natural, finding your own natural rhythm and speaking clearly. Today we’ll give three more tips to use your voice effectively.

4. Use (some) dramatic tactics

When I was a kid I had a Sunday school teacher who could tell stories like no one else. When she did the Bible story, everyone was captivated and you could hear a pin drop. My own mom also was a great storyteller, she often told made up stories at night when we were on vacation and my sister and I hung on every word.

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Captivating your audience by using your voice effectively

preaching

[This post is part of our series on Preaching for Youth]. I have listened to sermons that were interesting in content, but so boring to listen to that I had to force myself to keep listening. I’ve also sat through quite a few sermons that weren’t spectacularly deep or rich, but kept my attention nonetheless. The difference often has to do with how speakers use their voice.

You can write the best sermon there is, with a great key message and a solid structure, but if you can’t captivate your audience while delivering it, it will be in vain. How you use your voice is a crucial element in your sermon presentation. The good news is: it’s also an aspect you can learn, practice and improve. Here are three tips to captivate your audience with your voice: [Read more…]

Why is it so hard for parents to understand their teenagers?

My parents just don't understand me is one of the most often heard complaints from teens...and they may have a point.

I think it’s one of the most heard complaints amongst teenagers: my parents don’t understand me. And in all fairness: quite a few teens do have a legitimate gripe here. It is very hard for parents these days to really understand their teens. But why is that? Let’s look at a few causes and at what you can do as a youth worker.

1. Parents have little time

There used to be a time when one parent was home (usually the mom) when teens came home from school, but in most western countries that time is long gone. Two working parents has become the norm and as a consequence, there’s not much time left for parents to spend with their teens.

The exact statistics differ, but I heard Marko quote that the average American dad spends 15 minutes a week with his teens, 5 minutes of which without the tv on. Walt Mueller in his book Youth Culture 101 quotes research which indicated that 46% of high school students wished to spend more time with their family.

My parents just don’t understand me is one of the most often heard complaints from teens…and they may have a point.

[Read more…]

Tips for being a good Christian youth leader

What tips would you give to someone who's striving to be a good Christian youth leader?

I love seeing search terms like this pop up in my stats: tips for being a good Christian youth leader. It means that someplace, somewhere, someone is doing their very best to grow in their role as a youth leader and that makes me so happy. So I’m going to try and help you take your leadership to the next level with these tips for being a good youth leader.

1. Read

One of the things you should invest time in each week to grow as a youth leader is reading. The old adagio ‘leaders are readers’ is really true! Here are a few things you should ‘feed’ yourself with:

  • Books on (Christian) leadership: there’s hundreds of them coming out each year. You don’t need to read them all, but find some authors you like and that feed you.
  • Books and up to date info on youth culture: youth culture is changing so fast that it’s important to stay on top of this. Two of my favorite sites for this are the Youth Culture Report and Jonathan McKee’s blog.
  • Books on youth psychology and development: one of the hot issues at the moment is extended adolescence for instance – it will really pay off to stay current on topics like this.
  • Blogs from youth leaders and youth ministry organizations: I follow about 50 youth ministry related blogs and I’m learning tons like this every day.

What tips would you give to someone who’s striving to be a good Christian youth leader?

[Read more…]

How to give a ten minute sermon to youth

Nervous because you need to preach to youth for 10 minutes? No worries, we got you covered.

“I have to preach to youth for ten minutes”. This is another search term used to find my site this last week. It may be me, but I’m sensing a bit of panic in this statement. Like someone just now realizes he somehow got roped into giving a talk to the teens and he has no idea how to do this. But no worries, we got you covered. Here’s what to do.

Pick a short verse or passage

If you only have ten minutes, you’ll need to pick a short verse or passage from the Bible to discuss. Otherwise, the Bible reading would take half of your time. Also, don’t pick anything too complicated in terms of theology or context, because you won’t have the time to explain a whole lot.

Super focus on a key message

When you have so little time, it’s even more important to focus on a key message. What exactly do you want to say? What do you want to get across in these ten minutes? Make sure you have this crystal clear, so you’ll be on target all ten minutes.

Encourage or challenge

If you only have ten minutes for your sermon, you’ll need a key message that’s affirming, encouraging or at the most challenging. Don’t try to correct or admonish, because of the time constraints you can’t do this in a context of love and you’ll end up preaching the rules, not the relationship.

Nervous because you need to preach to youth for 10 minutes? No worries, we got you covered.

[Read more…]

How to tell your youth leader you’re pregnant

Dear pregnant teen girl...God loves you, no matter what you've done and He's there for you every step of the way.

One of the things in my blog statistics I love looking at, are the search terms people used to find my site. Every now and then there are some interesting, funny, sad or shocking ones and I figured I’d share some of them with you while at the same time try to give answers.

This one appeared in my search terms this week: how to tell your youth leader you’re pregnant. This is one of those search terms that makes me kind of sad, because you can feel there’s a story here. Somewhere on this earth, there’s a pregnant teenage girl scared to death because she has to tell her youth leaders that she’s pregnant. Something that in most churches does not go over well.

I’ve written about handling a teenage pregnancy in your youth group, which is probably why this search term was successful in finding my blog. But let’s try and give some advice to a pregnant teen who is scared to tell her youth leader she’s pregnant.

Dear pregnant teen girl…God loves you, no matter what you’ve done and He’s there for you every step of the way.

[Read more…]

Helping teens deal with difficult situations at home

Some of our teens face a really difficult situation at home. How can we help them deal with this?

There’s no such thing as a perfect family, but some of our teens face a more difficult situation at home than others. Their parents are divorced, they’re growing up in a single parent family, they’re part of a complicated family structure with step- and half-siblings, you name it. Or they have to deal with unsupportive parents who are not doing a good job in raising them, who take their own frustrations out on their kids.

How do we help our teens to deal with difficult situations like this with their parents? Is there anyway we can help them, equip them? Can we in anyway compensate for what they miss out? Here are some of my thoughts.

1. Help them understand

While it’s certainly not their task to be the adult in the relationship, it does help if teens understand their parents better. That means we may need to take the time to explain difficult family dynamics, or educate them on the effects of for instance divorce or loss.

We need to be careful not to condone any negative behavior, but we can try to make the teen aware that there are reasons for it. Also, it’s important to realize that this is especially tough for younger teens who have a hard time understanding abstract concepts and emotions, so make it as clear and concrete as you can.

If we can help teens understand their parent(s) better, it’s a good first step in coming up with a constructive approach to the situation.

Some of our teens face a really difficult situation at home. How can we help them deal with this?

[Read more…]

The unintended consequences of rules

The S.S. Eastland lying on its side in the Chicago harbor: an example of best intentions having horrific results.

On July 24th 1915 the steamer S.S. Eastland capsized in the harbor of Chicago. More than 800 people perished in an accident that could have been easily prevented. You see, after the catastrophic collision of the Titanic with an iceberg, a new law was passed stating that all passenger boats were required to carry enough lifeboats for all passengers. Understandable and certainly issued with the best intentions, but it proved to be fatal for the S.S. Eastland.

This steamer’s design wasn’t optimal to begin with, and with the added weight of the extra lifeboats it became top heavy. It capsized while tied to the dock. There was no time to hand out life vests or use the lifeboats and 844 people died, including many women and children.

It’s a horrific example of measures taken with the best intentions, but gone horribly wrong. And it’s not the only example of negative unintended consequences.

Take the law for instance that required cyclists to wear a helmet in Australia in the early nineties. Yes, the number of cycling related head injuries was greatly reduced, but there was another huge unintended consequence: the number of cyclists was reduced as well. People didn’t want to wear the helmet and so they stopped cycling.

What we do in our youth ministry may have the best intentions, but that doesn’t man it can have some big negative unintended consequences. And these consequences can even outweigh what we were trying to regulate in the first place. It’s important to see if the rule and what you’re trying to prevent with it, is indeed more important than the unintended consequences and effects.

Can you think of an example in your youth ministry where the consequences of a rule were worse than if you hadn’t done anything in the first place?

The S.S. Eastland lying on its side in the Chicago harbor: an example of best intentions having horrific results.

Change the world or go home

Change

I came across this ad in a Dutch magazine. It’s for wine apparently, though I’ve never heard of this particular brand. What struck me was the slogan they were using:

“Be moved. Love. Encourage and excite. Be enthusiastic. Motivate. Change the world or go home.”

Not sure what this has to do with wine, but this would make a pretty awesome personal mission statement. Change the world or go home…

Is it still your drive to change the world through your youth ministry, through what you’re doing with teens and young people? If not it may be time to reignite your vision and passion.

Change the world or go home.