Effective Communication to the Next Generation

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Delivering the gospel to the next generation has been my passion for the last 13 years. Over those 13 years, I’ve really tried to lean in and grow in the area of preaching in order to most effectively reach them. Studies are proving more and more that the attention span of not only teenagers, but also adults, is shifting and shrinking. So, what is the best and most effective way to present the gospel to them in the amount of time that I have each and every week? I’d love to share some ways that I have found to be extremely fruitful.

Are you involving visuals?

While carrying out His ministry on earth, Jesus repeatedly used visuals to communicate His message (vine and branches, mustard seed, etc.). Truth that is communicated not only verbally, but also visually, can impact teenagers profoundly. We live in a culture where teenagers communicate a lot through images. Instagram, GIFS, and emojis are evidence of that.

'Images are the language of the 21st century.'

Dr. Tim Elmore

According to the Visual Teaching Alliance (1998), 65% of the population are visual learners. The 3M Corporation has also found that visual aids in the classroom improve learning by up to 400% (3M Corporation, 2001). Another source is John Medina’s book, “Brain Rules,” where he states that audience retention of a text based message drops to only 10% after 3 days – but this increases to 65% with the addition of a strong visual image.

Always ask yourself when delivering a message, “What can they SEE with their EYES and walk away with in their HANDS?”

When we ask this question in preparation to speak, we will always speak to the visual and kinesthetic learners in our ministry. I always try to send my students home with something physical in their hands. For example, I have sent students home with a Go Fish card when talking about being a fisher of men. We can easily send them home with a plastic penny when talking about the lost coin or a Lego piece when talking about building others up with your speech.

Are you involving your team?

Maybe you don’t feel like a creative person or maybe you aren’t personally a visual or kinesthetic learner. That’s okay, involve your Youth Ministry Team!

Creativity takes a team. 

Michael HuxI have found that more minds equal better results.

I always try to meet with my leaders before kicking off in the Fall. When I meet with them, I bring with me the series, along with the texts, I am planning on preaching. I involve my leaders by asking them for their ideas on how we can best incorporate visuals, stage design, photo booths, guest experiences, and tangible aids that they can walk away with. When you take your creativity along with the unique strengths, perspectives, voices, and skills of other people, your collaboration will give you great results.

 Are you involving memorable statements?

Jesus delivered memorable statements, “tweet-able statements” if you will. A famous example is Luke 6:31, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” One pastor has said, “Memorable is portable.”

Have you ever noticed how easily students remember lyrics to a song? Maybe you’re the same way. Most of the time they’re memorable because they rhyme. Other times, it’s memorable because it’s simple.

If you want to make it memorable, keep it simple. 

Can your students sum up your message in one statement? 

If they remember your statement, they will carry it with them wherever they go. 

Are you encouraging note-taking?

I have found that when I reward note-taking, I not only am helping them recall the message but I’m also helping them pay attention during the service.

What gets rewarded gets repeated. When students take notes, I have them post a picture or screenshot of their notes to their Instagram story and tag our Youth Ministry Instagram account. The next week, we will randomly choose one of them to walk away with a Starbucks gift card. We have also partnered with a local fast food place that rewards our students with a free cookie or ice cream when they show up that Wednesday night with their notes.

Lastly, and most importantly, we strive to model our methods after Jesus. When we study Jesus, how he communicated, how he led others, we will be effective in communicating His word to the next generation. 

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