I have been teaching and speaking for a couple decades now, and I am still growing. While I have not figured out how to give a perfect talk week after week, I do have a list of misses to avoid when teaching.
Here are four areas that might seem obvious but aren’t. We might get caught in the moment, rely too heavily on our skills or think we are doing a better job than we are. A sad truth is, students don’t often complain about these things—they just vote with their feet. How are you doing in these four areas?
4 Things Kids Hate About Your Teaching
1. Too long. Here’s one piece of teaching advice I received years ago: “Brandon, if you end early, it doesn’t matter how bad your message was, they will love you.” While I don’t think this is a teaching rule to live by, I understand what the person who told me this was trying to communicate:
- I am trying to build trust with parents, and getting out 10 to 20 minutes late works against that.
- I would rather have students get one or two points they understand than sit through a long talk and remember nothing.
- Short attention spans. Enough said.
- We are gathering to make Jesus known, not to show off amazing speaking skills.
2. Too boring. I am not one who pushes entertainment of edification, but let’s not use discipleship as an excuse to communicate without creativity. I have heard too many teachers say something to the effect of, “It is God’s Word; that should be enough.” I know God’s Word does not need my creative touch to be better at communicating its truth. Jesus was perfect and gave the best illustrations. That being said, I do not expect teens to love God’s Word as much as I do.
In a college class on teaching, we were discussing the “learning pyramid” and how lecture style was the least popular and least effective form of communication for learning and retention. A classmate abruptly said to the professor, “If it’s the least helpful, why is it the only way you teach?” The teacher responded, “This is not a class of practice. It is a class of delivering information.” (That professor is no longer there.)
Suggestion: If you have a hard time coming up with interesting stories and illustrations, get help. Read more books, blogs and news. Start collecting compelling stories in an app like Evernote, and tag each story. Try illustration books, videos and websites like these.
3. Too much rambling. Ever go off on a rabbit trail? You’re talking, and you feel like you are saying something, but you have left your message for another topic. Maybe you are just talking, and you don’t know why or what you are saying.
I often write out my talks. This does two main things: It keeps me focused (no rambling), and it helps with time. If I only say what is on my script, I am not going to turn a 30-minute message into a 50-minute talk.
Suggestion: I like writing my talk with MS Word on my Mac, saving it to Dropbox, and opening it on my iPad with iAnnotate. Play with the font size on your document before you send it to your iPad, as you want to be able to see it without squinting and losing your place. Be careful, though. The downside to a script is that you are tempted to read it. Know your message well enough that you are not tethered to your iPad and that you are not awkwardly reading it word for word.
4. Too unconnected. "What does this have to do with my life?" Here is a blurb from the article "The Problem With Youth Talks" by Rick Lawrence (read the whole post here):
“Learning loses its value the farther away it gets from practical life application. My least favorite (but often used) teaching strategy is when speakers pelt people with broad imperatives ('We all should be praying more') that are divorced from the practical 'hooks' that would help people take the first steps toward change and growth. You are the bridge between 'what/why' and 'how.'”
Whether our talks are applicable or not is determined by the people we’re leading, not by us. Lots of times we assume what we’re offering is applicable because it’s applicable to us. The question to ask is, "What’s applicable to the people I’m leading?”
Brandon Early has been serving in youth ministry for nearly 20 years and is the director of student ministries at Valley Church in Des Moines, Iowa.
For the original article, visit simplyyouthministry.com.
For a limited time, we are extending our celebration of our 40th anniversary. As a special offer, subscribe to Ministry Today magazine and receive 50% OFF our normal discounted rate!