I hear many different approaches to the teaching time in churches these days - from monologue to dialogue to ‘triologue’, first-person narratives, interviews, facilitated group discussions and hi-definition video presentations.
But how do preachers continue to connect with the next generation?
Optimising sermons for young people
Some of the following ideas might not be new to seasoned preachers, but I trust they provide food for thought when it comes to how you go about engaging the younger crowd in your church.
Young people love stories, in particular stories of overcoming difficulty, navigating challenges, and making a difference. These stories don’t have to be famous stories either. Some of the most powerful stories for young people aren’t about celebrities, but everyday ‘heroes’ that they can connect with in some way.
You might have heard it said that young people today can’t pay attention for more than x number of minutes. What about your young people? What works for them? An engaging person or idea can engage the most distracted mind. You be the judge. Perhaps you need to simply take an honest look at the responsiveness of the faces in your congregation. Is it time to trim your message, even if it’s only by a couple of minutes?
Get them involved, even before you get up. Ask them about the topic or passage during your preparation. What questions do they have? What is their response to what you’ll be covering? Maybe even interview a young person during your sermon and watch how the attention of those listening shifts.
Silence is your friend in this hyper-stimulated world and the sermon might be one of the few times they experience the gift of silence. Instead of holding the time of reflection for the end of your message, try and weave it throughout the sermon. After each point ask people to spend a minute in silence contemplating what they’ve heard and what God is speaking into their lives.
Often we seek to apply a text of Scripture to a person’s home, education or work life. What about helping young people connect what they’re hearing to how they engage on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or Snapchat? Is this passage calling for repentance, disconnection, sharing or commenting in a particular way?
Your response to the passage or topic ought to demonstrate how you want young people to respond. Should they be excited or disappointed, inspired or challenged? Help guide the thoughts and feelings of the younger people gathered for your sermon. It goes without saying, we must first work to apply the text to our own lives before applying it others .
It doesn’t have to be a clip from the latest and greatest Hollywood production, it might simply be a photo or a series of words on a screen, but young people pay attention to images so use them to highlight and reinforce your message.
Always, always, always show them Jesus – His life, His heart, His obedience, His care, His actions. They might remember your illustrations or the three points you spent carefully crafting, but make sure they remember Jesus.
I hope you enjoyed this article and please let me know in the comments if you successfully use any on my tips in your next sermon to young people.