Preaching to teenagers can be extremely challenging but extremely rewarding.
After spending years working as a youth pastor, I have learned a few things about preaching to teenagers.
These lessons were hard-learned through trial and error. Mostly error.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of everything you need to know. But hopefully these tips will help some of you not have to learn the hard way like I did.
1. Be Authentic
Be yourself. Don’t try to be cool. Don’t try to act just like a teenager or use all the same slang they use. Students have a built-in poser detector. They can spot a fake a mile away.
We have all met the 40-year-old youth pastor who is trying way too hard to be “hip.” Don’t be that guy.
We have also met the 20-year-old youth pastor who tries way too hard to be a hipster. Again, don’t be that guy.
Teenagers want to know: Do you really care about them? Do you really have an authentic relationship with Jesus? Do you really practice what you preach?
Authenticity is the one of the most important things you can have as a speaker. It doesn’t matter how polished your sermon is, if you aren’t authentic they won’t listen.
2. Be Interactive
How are you involving the audience?
Take a poll by raising hands. Ask them to shout answers to a question. Pull a few people up on the stage for a visual illustration. Ask the audience to stand, sit, jump, close their eyes, look at something, make a noise, act something out, play a game, dance …
Whatever you do, teenagers love interacting with a message. It is always better to have some level of involvement from the audience than just making them sit still, shut up and listen the whole time.
3. Tell Stories
Jesus is the best preacher ever. He told a lot of stories. You should too.
We live in a world obsessed with stories. Every TV show, book, movie and video game that a teenager spends hours of their day with proves that stories are powerful and important to them.
Good stories grab their attention. Stories help them discover a truth for themselves before you directly say it. Just be careful not to tell a story just for the sake of telling stories. Have a point.
4. Be Funny
Are they laughing? Not at you. With you.
You don’t have to be a comedian. You don’t even have to have the best jokes. Just have fun. Teenagers want to laugh. Give them a reason to.
Laughter breaks down the walls of the hard to reach students and brings students back for more. Laughter also eases the tension in the room after a few hard words.
The best communicators know how to get the audience rolling with laughter one minute, and listening intensely the next.