In the Spring of 2007, I took a Youth Ministry Communication class by Dr. Kara Powell (Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute - FYI ) at Fuller Theological Seminary. I thoroughly enjoyed this class because Kara required us:
- to read a lot of great preaching books and take extensive notes on each chapter
- investigate secular research on how youth learn
- develop a training manuel on how to train teachers
- to apply what we learned by having to preach to the class which was basically full of cocky youth pastors.
Needless to say, I learned a lot and got a lot of excellent feedback from seasoned youth pastors and from Dr. Kara Powell about my communication method and style.
My favorite lecture in the class was the lecture where we looked at the secular research on youth education. One of the researchers argued that youth teachers must have 5 core beliefs about the adolescent in order to be an effective teacher and communicator.
5. Positive attitude toward adolescents. Every time you step on stage, you have to believe in every students sitting in that room. You have to believe the best about every student who will listen to your sermon and you have to trust the Holy Spirit can and will change them through the proclamation of God’s word. The secular researched indicated that when there are positive youth development programs bad behavior reduces greatly. Never condensend, undermine, talk down to or speak negatively to students from stage. Be positive, hopeful and speak with grace and humility.
4. Empathy for the adolescents. Students need to feel ya and then they will hear ya. Communicate with your heart. They need to know you are for them and you can identify with the pain and hurt they are going through even though how minor and mandane it may be. Pepper emotional appeal (pathos) in a lot of your youth group talks.
3. Commitment to the adolescent based on the belief that the teacher/communicator really does make a difference. In another words, what you say from stage really matters and God can use what you say to change kids’ lives for Jesus! As youth communicators it can be very frustrating because we think we aren’t making a difference, but we are and we have to remember that and believe that. This is why preaching is viewed as a holy sacrament. When teaching youth, there is something holy, beautiful, transformative, powerful and divine that is happening. Your next youth talk may be a huge turning point for one of your students.
2. Classroom management and organization. When you step on stage you need to be in control of the room. There needs to be a disciplinary plan on how to deal with the distracting and disruptive kids. Two question you need to ask: 1. How will you discipline? 2. Who will help manage the room when you are speaking? If you have a chaotic and disrespectful crowd, then your teaching will be useless and ineffective. So figure out ways on to have a well behaved and respectful audience when you give a youth group talk. In my previous post, I wrote about how to discipline the disrespectful guy because my small group management was horrible.
1. Multiple teaching strategies. You have to change up your communicating method. Diversify your arsenal of how you teach kids. Kids need different perspectives. Here are four ways you can get multiple teaching strategies:
(1) Read these communication books: Communicating For Change, Teaching Through The Art of Storytelling, Speaking To Teenagers, Homiletical Plot, How To Speak To Youth and Keep Them Awake and Teaching That Makes A Difference (In this post titled Youth Ministry Teaching Methods I talked about what books have shaped my communication strategies)
(2) Get guest speakers
(3) Buy great student ministry curriculum (XP3 Students is my favorite )
(4) Buy Rob Bell’s DVD: Poets, Prophet and Preachers. Rob Bell is amazing communicator, regardless of what you think of his theology. In this DVD, Rob gives five talks where he explores the theological, conceptual, practical and personal dimensions involved in giving a talk, sermon, message, or teaching.