I have yet to meet a student pastor who didn’t want to get better at teaching. Most would even admit to wanting to teach more students or having opportunities to speak outside of their group.
Some are content with speaking to the students they have, but want to get better at what they do.
Whether you have five students or five hundred, you can always get better at speaking. Watch the guys and girls who are totally rocking it and you’ll see a trend. They’ve done these four things and are intentional about it. If you want to get better, choose one of these tips and work on it on your next talk. You’ll get better and your students will appreciate it (and possibly, so will some adults in the crowd!).
Be a better speaker with these four tips:
Get rid of verbal crutches
I was listening to the radio the other day and a reporter was stumbling over their words like I did tree branches the first time I tried to run a cross country race. I started to count the number of times he said “um” and totally gave up listening to the rest of what he was saying.
A speaker who is paying attention to their craft knows that silence is better than filling the void with “um, uh, ya know, and stuff”. Be intentional with your words! If you’re lost in your notes or forgot where you were headed, don’t fill the quiet with mumbling. Use every phrase that comes out of your mouth on purpose.
Can you recap your talk in one sentence?
A speaker knows their message. You can get to the point of your message using lots of stories and weaving a cool web, but understand the “meat” of your message by boiling it down to one sentence.
“God has a purpose for your life.”
“Jesus died for sinners like us.”
“It’s up to us to share the Gospel.”
Make sure you can get the point of your message across in one sentence. If you plan that out before you write your talk, make sure your talk delivers. Have someone read it and tell you what they think your message is. If they get it, so will your students.
Video tape yourself, then watch yourself speak
This one is painful for me. But it’s the only way to ‘get outside of yourself’ to see what you do when you talk. Maybe you play with your watch. Maybe you adjust your glasses. Maybe your hands do things you didn’t even know about.
Watch yourself speak so you can become aware of your mannerisms. Then work on making sure what you do is intentional. Get rid of the nervous twitches and gestures. Move with purpose.
End your talk with actionable application
Don’t just end with, “Isn’t that cool? Ok, see you next week!” Give your students something to DO with the truth you just told them. Give them several suggestions.
And remember your audience. If you have only homeschool students, they probably can’t share Jesus with their classmates (unless their siblings need Jesus, but you get my meaning). Think about WHO is in your audience and tailor your application to THEM. Give them next steps. Have whatever they need to take those steps ready. Make it happen!
We have great truths from God to communicate to students. We teach every week. Let’s get better at it so students can grow in their faith and we can grow as communicators!
Man, tonight I am struggling.
On the outside, I’ve got no good reason. We had a KILLER weekend at church. Students showed up in more ways than one. I’ve been handing over more and more ministry to them and they are doing great with it. They’re leading the games. They’re playing the worship songs. They’re making the announcements.
During service, I got to baptize a student who’s been struggling, but wanted to take the next step in their faith journey. It was an awesome moment.
In the past few weeks, I’ve been dealing with some pretty heavy stuff, but the senior pastor and my direct boss have been super supportive and helpful and encouraging.
So why do I feel like a let down?
What’s this nagging doubt that I’m not making a difference in the lives of the students I work with?
We all go through seasons and I’m recognizing that I’m in need of some reflection and action.
Here’s what I’ve seen in my own ministry and life. Alongside it, I’ve written out what I plan to do about it. Maybe it’ll help you too.
Plan rest after busy seasons
I’m coming off of the busiest time of the year for our students ministry that isn’t right in the middle of summer craziness. We just launched our fall small groups, had our first big parent meeting of the year, trained all the new small group leaders, and celebrated our promotion Sunday.
I’m wiped out!
This next week, I’m planning some “white space” into my calendar so I can recharge and refresh after working some really crazy hours and being under some stressful deadlines.
Big new plans come with doubts
There has never been a time in my ministry where I’m on stage less during our “big program” time. I’m giving more and more stage time away to students. All the while, I’m having doubts. What if it all doesn’t work? What if they don’t step up? What if it’s all a terrible idea?
Seriously, it’s a little more work, and a little less the way that I would do it, but it’s exciting to see students serving. I know I’m risking a lot because it might LOOK like a student lead the game. Which is another way to say, it’s out of my hands.
I’ve got it on my to-do list to make sure that I train these students to do a job they’ll be proud of. And hoping that my letting go means more ownership of the ministry.
Spiritual Warfare is a thing
“Praying for you. Discouragement happens, and it's hard to deal with. But I don't imagine the devil would waste his time discouraging someone unless he really was making a difference. I assume that is the case for you.”
I got this message from a buddy who’s also in ministry while writing this post. I’m reminded that Spiritual Warfare happens everywhere and that I’m not immune.
I know I need to be reading Scripture, listening to worship music and worshiping along. I need to pray and trust God. He’s got this. And He’s in control. I can’t screw this up enough so that He can’t make something beautiful out of it.
Have ministry connections that encourage you
My buddy who sent me a message does not live in my state. He doesn’t even live in my timezone. But he saw me asking for prayer in a Facebook group of other youth pastors. I have friends in ministry who get it. The ups and downs, highs and lows, wonderful rollercoaster that is ministry.
I’m about to head to the greatest student ministry conference ever. It’s called DYM100. Maybe you’ve heard of it? I went last year and it was epic. I can’t wait to reconnect with other student pastors and be encouraged by them.
Have support. Find it wherever you can. If it’s in town, make it happen! If you live two hours away from the next youth ministry, get online and make connections with other youth workers. Be in a community that will pray with and support you.
You never know when you may need it.
Ministry is messy but it's beautiful too. I'll write some thoughts about it here, especially when it comes to student and middle school ministry!