If you take the time to dig in and study communication and preaching, you will find that one of the most effective methods for connecting with students when you speak is to intentionally use the word, “YOU.” Although that statement sounds obvious and you are probably thinking, “That’s the most blatantly obvious thing I’ve read all day!” Think again…
Think about the last conversation you had with someone who took the time to ask you about how you were doing or what was really going on in your life. Did you walk away feeling important? Ever have a conversation with someone and they just talk about themselves the whole time? Pretty annoying, right? Being intentional to use the word “you” when speaking or preaching to a group of students will dramatically increase your connection level.
USING “YOU” INSTEAD OF “I”
The next time you prepare a message, try to intentionally change some of your I-statements” to you-statements. If you are honest with yourself, as a youth communicator you probably have the tendency to use the word “I” more than the word “You.” This is an unconscious habit for most youth speakers. We like to tell personal stories. We like to give our opinion. We like to hear ourselves speak (ouch). It’s time for some humility… Less “I”, more “You.” Remember what John the Baptist said about Jesus, “He must become greater, I must become less.” (John 3:30). It’s right there in the Bible… “I must become LESS!”
“YOU” MAKES YOUR POINTS STRONGER
Youth Pastors can have a tendency to cushion the truth by using “we.” While there is nothing wrong with a little humility, using the word “you” strengthens both the students’ connection to the truth you are speaking and individualizes it for their situation. Notice the difference between these two statements:
- We all feel broken inside. (Good)
- You feel broken inside. (Better)
Notice how the you-statement cuts straight to the heart. It takes the message and applies it directly to the student personally.
PUTTING “YOU” INTO PRACTICE
1. Use “you” during informal conversation.
Try it the next time you are just hanging out. Use it with a student over coffee. Use it with your spouse. Try an entire conversation without saying “I.”
2. Write some specific you-statements into your next message.
Be intentional to use a few well-placed “you’s” in your next message. Change the “I”-phrasing to “you”-phrasing and notice the difference.
3. Use “You” whenever you are communicating from the stage.
Odds are, the next time you get up front to speak, there is going to be this thought that crosses your mind to say “you” while you are speaking. Don’t be afraid. Do it! The more you practice saying “you,” the better you will become at actually doing it and it will become second nature.
Matt Maiberger has been involved in full-time student ministry for over 16 years. He and his family are currently in the process of moving to Fort Collins, CO where he will become the Associate Pastor of Life Church. Matt is also the founder of Youth Speaker Coach “ committed to the resourcing of youth pastors, youth workers, and youth speakers to help them become better communicators for the post-modern students represented in youth ministries today.