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The Secret to Writing a Great Youth Ministry Talk

good ideas

What’s the single biggest difference between the top speakers and the average ones?

The answer will surprise you.

It’s not wild creativity or better jokes or cool clothes and haircuts.

It’s not presentation skills or voice quality or rehearsed hand gestures.

So what is it? What’s the secret sauce that top speakers have that the rest of us don’t?


The secret to a great talk is in the editing, not the writing.

A top-notch director might shoot 45-80 hours of video to put out a 90-minute feature film.

What do we do before youth group?

We show up with 18 minutes of prepared material and try to stretch it into 20.






I’m not nearly optimistic enough to pretend like every idea I’ve ever had is good enough to see the light of day.

Are you?

Here’s the thing about those top speakers. It’s not that they always have only great ideas. It’s this:

Great speakers have plenty of bad ideas. They’re just good at squashing those ideas before they get used.

Sometimes this means resisting the temptation to share everything.

Other times it means cutting out your most hilarious story because it just doesn’t fit that well.

But in every case, it means preparing enough material that you can cut some of it and still have plenty of message left over at the end.

Prepare more than you need.







If you know you need to speak for 15 minutes, your first draft should run 20 minutes.

Don’t stop when you think you’re done, write more and then write some more. Add another illustration. If you’re a funny person, write a few more jokes. Find even more Bible verses that support your point.

If you found a great video, find another one.

Collect more good ideas than you can possibly use, and don’t worry, we’ll do something with all of those real soon.

Edit like a pro.

I always shoot to cut as much as a third of my message between first draft and final presentation. You can do that too, but first a word of warning.

Don’t try to draw a line between good and bad ideas. After all, there’s an excellent chance that all of your ideas are pretty good ideas.

Instead, you’re looking for best ideas and ideas that aren’t quite to that level. What do I do with all of those ideas?

Best ideas stay in the message.

Good ideas are cut from the message and filed away for another day.

Bad ideas are expunged without pity and I don’t like to talk about them.

Ruthless editing in practice.

If you want to become a better speaker, here’s how you can put this into practice by tomorrow.

1. Prepare 20 percent more material than you usually do.

2. Plan on speaking 20 percent less than you usually do.

So if you usually speak for 15 minutes, plan on writing 18 minutes of material and speaking for 12.

Yes, it’s extra work, but then you didn’t think you’d become a better speaker without extra work, did you?

If you’re down to become a ruthless editor and a better speaker, let me know about it.