A couple of weeks ago I received a promo email from preachingrocket.com (You should check them out, they offer great tips, advice, and training for all things preaching and speaking).
Usually I scan these kinds of emails quickly, but this one really caught my attention.
Here’s an excerpt I have been given permission to share with you:
You’ve studied. You’ve prayed. You’ve written and you’ve practiced.
Despite all that, most people sitting in church aren’t going to sit on the edge of their seats hungry for what you have to say. I wish it wasn’t that way, but unfortunately, that’s reality.
People won’t automatically listen to you because you’re a preacher. In fact, this may be a strike against you in some people’s minds.
People won’t automatically listen to you because you’re preaching from the Bible. You know it’s the Word of God, but they still have questions.
And people won’t automatically care about what you’re saying because you’re passionate.Sometimes, passionate people aren’t taken seriously. C’mon – you know that’s true.
Do you know what people are interested in?
Toby Keith was right. People really do want to talk about themselves. If you didn’t get that reference, be thankful you’re not a country music fan. Google it, if you dare.
I know this is incredibly man centered. It seems backwards.
It’s our ultimate goal to help people become God focused and Gospel centered. But in order to lead people from where they are to where God wants them to be, we’ve got to start with where they are.
So, what does this mean for us in student ministry? How can we start where students are? Here are a few quick thoughts to help us consider how we break into a students world with our messages:
1) Truly Invest in Their Lives: When students see us committed to them and not a ‘program’ or ‘numbers’, they intuitively know that what we say has great value for them to listen to. They know that we understand them and their needs.
2) Become a Student of ‘Their World’: If you are not spending time trying to understand youth culture, you are missing a vital component to talking their language. Take time to seek out the music, video games, social networks, media, and books they are digging into. Being able to refer to something in ‘their world’ of youth culture goes a long way to build bridges.
3) Ask them What They Need and Understand Their Felt Needs: Whether you are small group volunteer leader, or in charge of a whole ministry, it’s imperative that we ask students the issues and challenges they and their friends are facing. Don’t just assume you think you know… Many times I have sat down with students and asked about the struggles and needs of their peers only to find out issues that I was unaware of many. Taking time to listen to an issue that is relevant in a students world – and then giving them hope that God can and will help them in this area will demand their attention.
4) Ask Them To Help Plan (and Present) Your Messages: If you are able to create a 3-4 week series ahead of time and are able to incorporate students in the process, you will be amazed at their creativity and ability to communicate a felt need to their peers. Utilizing students to create a message or a whole series can be incredible! You might even consider having some of your student leaders tag-team or do the message with you from time to time?
Well, there are just a few ways that we can meet students where they are at. What would you add to this list? How do you create messages to connect to their world and remain relevant but still biblical?