So you have to speak to a bunch of teenagers about Jesus, but you have no idea what you’re doing. Don’t worry, if you follow my tips you can be the most dynamic youth speaker around. In fact, I’ve used these tips to coach thousands of people just like yourself to youth ministry fame and glory – some of them have even been featured on Preachers N Sneakers. If you listen to me, in no time you’ll be strutting the stage of Jesuspalooza sharing the good word to the young folk till the only influencer they want to hear from is you (and maybe Jesus).s.
1. Throw Chocolates (and Xboxes) into the Crowd
Let’s face it, Bible talks are boring, but free food isn’t. When I’m speaking to a group of youth, whenever I sense a lull in the energy I yell “Who wants some free stuff?” then proceed to throw lollies and chocolates into the crowd. That perks them right up, and fills in about 1-2 minutes while they scramble on the floor trying to grab the food before the others. It’s a great way to keep young people energised. Sometimes, if there is one kid who is especially annoying me, I will through a chocolate bar right at their face to teach them a lesson. If they complain I can just say I was giving them chocolate – you can’t complain about that. It’s like the Bible says, “If your enemy is hungry, give them something to eat.”
One more tip, increase the value of your giveaways throughout the talk. Start with lollies, move up to chocolates, then perhaps try t-shirts or burgers. Finally, throw an Xbox into the crowd; if they know an Xbox is coming, you can be sure they’ll be super attentive to any wisdom you have to lay on them.
2. Talk like a Teenager
There’s nothing teens love more than to hear older people speaking their vernacular. It assures them that person speaking is cool and worth listening to. So here are some words that are popular right now. Throw these into your talk and you are guaranteed to connect with the young people:
Spill the tea
3. Appropriate Good Stories for Yourself
There is nothing that makes a Bible talk pop more than a great story. However, most people don’t have very interesting lives. Chances are, you’re one of those people. But don’t worry, young people haven’t done a lot of schooling yet, so you can often tell a story that happened to someone else as if it happened to you and they won’t know the difference. You may feel like this is lying, but what you’re saying is true, it really happened, you’re just making the truth personal. I’ll give you an example. I was talking to a group of teenagers and told them about how I was born and raised in the inner-city, and then one day while I was playing basketball with my friends I got into one little fight, so my Mum sent me off to live with my rich auntie and uncle. I talked about the struggles of being an inner-city kid having to live in a rich neighbourhood. That story didn’t happen to me but it did happen to someone. The story was so powerful that many young people gave their lives to Jesus that night.
4. Guilt is Powerful
Some of the most powerful times of ministry happen when young people come down the front after a talk to cry and cry. After the talk you can look at all the crying young people, watching all the powerful walls being broken down and say to yourself “I did that.” But how do you actually make that kind of power ministry happen? Guilt. The best way to get young people to cry en-mass is to make them feel guilty. So go hard on the sins you know they’re committing. Swearing, drinking, skipping school – these are all pretty good. But the most powerful guilt weapon is sex. Talk about lust, porn, french kissing, and worst of all, sex before marriage. If teenagers know anything it’s that they should feel guilty about sex. So make sure you bring up their sin and yell at them telling them God is angry and wants them to repent! Then invite any young people down the front who want to stop making God angry. I guarantee you’ll have so many tears you’ll get a pay rise, and many young people will commit to leaving all their sin behind. (On a side note, if you’re planning to take an offering, play a song about being set free after your prayer time and ask for money then. Your audience will give out of relief that they are never going to sin again – you can’t put a price on perfection.)
5. Less Bible More Great Quotes and Power Phrases
The Bible is a pretty good book, but it was written a long time ago before people had Instagram or phone lock screens to put inspirational quotes on. So if you want your talk to engage young people not just while you’re giving it, but for a long time after, make sure it’s full of quotes and catchphrases that they can share with their friends. Let me give you some examples, Jesus said “Love your enemies”, which is fine, but you can say “The best revenge is success!” Both deal with the issue of enemies but see how one is more shareable than the other?
Another example: the Bible says “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” That’s an alright message but quite exclusive. But what if in your talk you riffed on “The work of God is to believe.” And then you can say “Believe in your family, believe in your friends, believe in your dreams, and believe in yourself! When you believe you’re doing God’s work.” Wow! Powerful! Now you could have everyone stand and shout “I believe.” Goosebumps. And finally, finish with a slide, which you can share as on Instagram which just has the word “Believe” over some mountains. Young people eat that inspirational stuff up! They’ll go home feeling like kings and queens of the world!
Pro-tip: Before giving your talk, have all your best quotes ready to go as shareable social media tiles so as soon as you finish speaking you can share them on all your social media platforms ready for your audience to like, share and regram. Best practice is to have your quotes written over photos of you holding a microphone, so as to maximise your personal brand.
So there you have five powerful tips for awesome youth talks. I promise if you put them into practise, you will change many lives and be a regular on the youth preaching circuit in no time.
Ok, if you haven’t left already because you’re appalled at my terrible advice, I thought I’d let you know that you can get a free copy of my new book, Talks That Don’t Suck: How to Write and Give Bible Talks for Teenagers. It’s full of hopefully good advice. Just fill out the form below to sign up to my mailing list and I’ll send it right along!