There is nothing more difficult than having to sit through a message that is not engaging. Recently, I was at an event where the speaker did not relate to me. As the speaker read their manuscript, they did not provide any connection to the audience. After trying my best to pay attention, I was drawn to my iPhone and started checking social media and emails. This was the sign that the speaker had lost my engagement.
In many respects, junior high students face a similar issue when teachers, coaches, and pastors do not engage them. Great teachers are creative and make learning fun, enjoyable, and practical. Great coaches use specific drills to increase their players skill level. Great pastors communicate spiritual truth on a level that can be understood by everyone.
As a former teacher, coach, and current student pastor, I have experienced the failure of engagement many times with junior high students. With short attention spans, I had to change it up to make things more engaging in my preaching.
Here are three preaching tips that I use to help keep my junior high students engaged:
- Use Stories. I start my messages with a personal story. It attracts curiosity and interest. A couple of days ago, I was speaking at a school where I shared a story about my Dad and how he always showed up to my games as a kid. He was there when I won, when I lost, when I got injured, and when I got benched. He never missed them because he loved me as his son. I explained how this is similar to God and how He always shows up in our lives because He loves us. The story was captivating because the audience could relate to it.
- Use Visual Aids. I use visual aids in most of my messages because we live in a visual learning world. When I was preaching on Proverbs 16:18 about pride, I used a ladder as an illustration. When I climbed to the top, I explained how that spot was the place of pride and that God wants us to come down the ladder to be humble, or else someone is going to bump into the ladder and we will fall off of it. Still to this day, students talk about that ladder illustration and my quote, “Be humble or be crumbled.” Nothing engages an audience more than using something visual because is causes them to focus on their surroundings.
- Use Volunteers. Asking students to join you on stage can provide a commercial break to keep your audience engaged. This provides a spot to have fun and make laughs. Most junior high students love being picked and are eager to move around and get out of their seat.
As a youth worker, it is so vital to keep your junior high students engaged because you are teaching them spiritual truths that will shape their view of God, the Bible, and how they will live as teenagers.