Last week I had the joy to “preach” in our church’s weekly staff meeting. Somebody teaches every week; I hadn’t in a very long time. Afterwards, no fewer than a dozen people pulled me aside to share how much they appreciated what I had to say. But the truth is they didn’t really appreciate what I had to say as much as how I said it. My “delivery” helped make a message full of mediocre content memorable. All I did was utilize two of my favorite junior high teaching tips. You won’t think this stuff is profound until you make it part of your teaching routine.
KEEP IT SHORT
I have an old saying when it comes to teaching: “It doesn’t have to be long to be good, but if it’s going to be long it has to be good!” My staff meeting sermon was thirteen minutes long, and you’d be shocked at what I crammed into those thirteen minutes. Here are a few benefits of a short lesson:
- Less opportunity for the audience to lose focus.
- Forces me to cut out unnecessary content, stories, etc. I only include what’s most impactful.
- Leaves the audience wanting more!
I’ve never heard anybody complain about a short sermon. Never. Anybody. Yet far too many youth workers (and junior high youth workers are no different) write lessons that are far too long for their young audiences.
Practical Tip: Put a time limit on your lessons (our limit is 20-minutes) and aim to always be 2-3 minutes short of that limit.
KEEP IT ACTIVE
As part of my relationship with Group Publishing/Simply Youth Ministry I have attended many of their workshops and training events over the years. Something that they are famous for is an insistence on active learning. An insistence that used to bug the heck out of me has now become routine almost every time I teach. In my staff meeting sermon I spent about three of the thirteen minutes working the crowd through a very simple activity; so simple, in fact, that I almost scratched it beforehand. I’m glad I didn’t. People loved it and mentioned it over and over again. Here are a few benefits of including some sort of active learning in your lessons:
- Keeps the audience engaged.
- Makes the lesson tactile and memorable.
- Provides an opportunity for movement.
Like I said earlier, there’s nothing profound here. The idea of keeping things short and active when teaching a room full of young teens is as old as the hills. Yet most junior high youth workers break the very same rules they say are so important! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lamented at the end of a weekend over the fact that my lesson seemed “too long and boring”. Because it was both!
But I’ve never regretted providing a short and active lesson….and neither will you. More importantly: Neither will they!