Want to know how to engage teenagers to get them to listen to your sermons?
A few months ago a 13-year-old girl approached me after I preached and excitedly proclaimed, “Good sermon. I actually paid attention to your whole message! I didn’t get bored once!”
My first thought was, “Thank you Jesus! I have witnessed a miracle! A 13-year-old girl’s fleeting attention was held by a sermon over 30 minutes.”
But then I thought, “Hey, wait a minute. … What is she saying about all my other sermons?”
With teens’ short attention span to engage teenagers (and even adults) is not easy. But if you are a senior pastor, and there are teenagers in the room, you better engage them or you will lose them.
I’m not saying that I have mastered this, but here are some tips that I have found helpful.
How to Engage Teenagers Listen to a Sermon
1. Be Authentic to Engage Teenagers
The most important thing you can do in your sermon is be the same person on stage that you are off the stage. Teenagers have a gift for spotting a fake. They will know if you are really practicing what you preach.
The best way to do this is to be vulnerable about shortcomings in your life. Don’t pretend like you have it all together. Tell us where you struggle. Tell us that you aren’t perfect. Let us know how you are wrestling in your own life with your sermon’s topic.
2. Be a Story Teller to Engage Teenagers
Stories grab our attention and imagination. When told well, stories have a powerful way of capturing both the mind and the heart. The better you become at telling stories, and the more stories you tell, the more likely teenagers will be to listen to you.
This goes along with being authentic. Whenever possible, use stories from your own life. Give us a window into how Jesus is impacting your world. Let your personality show, and allow the audience to get to know you through sharing surprising, emotional, humorous or even embarrassing moments from your life that apply to the message.
3. Update Your Illustrations to Engage Teenagers
World War II illustrations are great. Many illustration books and online resources are full of them, because they were incredibly powerful, back when the people in the audience had lived through the war. But if all your stories today come from a time period before the people in your audience were born, it’s time to get some new illustrations.
An example from a current event or popular culture can go a long way with a teenager in showing them that the Bible is still culturally relevant. Use illustrations that connect with their world. And please note that pop culture references from your teenage years will not translate.
4. Step Away From the Podium to Engage Teenagers
I may get some pushback on this one, but nothing looks more boring to a teenager than a talking head behind a large podium reading lots of notes. If you want to engage teenagers, step away from the podium. Be more animated. Move around a little. Make eye contact. Don’t just use your hands. Gesture with your entire body.