Home Youth Leaders Articles for Youth Leaders How to Teach Teens When They Are Not Listening

How to Teach Teens When They Are Not Listening

There’s no worse feeling than speaking to a group of people …

… and slowly beginning to realize that none of them are listening.

Everyone who works with teenagers has had that feeling before.

After all, it comes with the territory.

But today, I’m telling you how to make the distraction monster go away …

… so that you can turn your students’ attention back to Jesus.

Even the very best speakers sometimes lose the room. Here’s how they get it back and how you can too.

You already know that it only takes a small distraction to pull a student’s attention away from your message.

You also know that once one student becomes distracted, it’s only a matter of time before he drags others along with him.

So this post isn’t about trying to reign in the one student who’s being a distraction; it’s about what happens when the whole room has joined him.

Last week, I retweeted the following from Youth Group Boy, who is maybe my favorite person on all of Twitter:

Don’t you hate the fact that you can spend hours or days writing the best message you could possibly give, only to see it go south in a hurry because there are two squirrels mating outside the window or because some seventh grader just looked at a funny picture on his phone …

… or because one of your female volunteers accidentally farted, your students are trying NOT to laugh, and ironically, their silence is creating a funnier and more distracting situation than the original incident did?

And yes, all of those things have happened to me. In my better moments, here’s what I’ve done to regain control of the room and to get the focus pointed back to Jesus again.

Ask a spontaneous discussion question.

Then, let students break into groups to discuss the question. This gives the talkers a chance to get their hyperactivity out of their system and gives you time to take a breath, take stock of your talk and reassess what’s next.

Move to another room.

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Aaron Helman is on a mission to help end the epidemic of youth worker burnout. He writes at Smarter Youth Ministry to help youth workers with their biggest frustrations—things like leading volunteers, managing money, and communicating effectively. He is also the youth minister at Firehouse Youth Ministries in South Bend, Indiana.