There is NO doubt that keeping the attention of a teenager can be challenging. With all the different distractions that teens are faced with, it can become a task to keep them focused. The key many times is knowing when you are loosing your audience.
There are many signs that send the message, “I’ve checked out”. Here are just a few to make note of: students whispering to one another, pulling out their cell phones, girls digging in their purse, and wandering eyes.
Nevertheless, there are things you can do to help keep them engaged during your message. First! – don’t get frustrated when a student disengages or is disruptive. One of the most harmful things we can do is “call them out” in front of their peers. This may actually push them further away and put a strain on your relationship with that student.
Toward the end of my first year as a youth pastor, I began to feel as though I were losing my students. They were physically in attendance, but I didn’t feel like they were hearing me. I started noticing “The Signs”, so I knew I had to do something to keep my youth group focused and engaged.
Here are three things that you can do:
1. KISS – “Keep it Simple & Short”
I always do my best to keep my sermons short and to the point. Many people think that short messages downplay the importance of God’s message. This is simply not true. Teenagers want to hear God’s word applied to their lives – they want it to be real and relevant. They are not impressed with large vocabularies and lengthy sermons.
If you want to keep their attention, try keeping your messages within 15 – 20 minutes. Anything beyond that is over doing it.
2. BE FUNNY
You will be surprised at how much this one thing can make a difference. Bringing humor into the mix creates a comfortable atmosphere and can break down any walls students may have put up.
One thing you want to be careful of is telling jokes. I personally am not very good at making jokes very funny. If you are anything like me, you can get stuck in the “Lame Department” really quick.
A safe and easy way to get them laughing is to tell funny stories. Why? Many times the story will sell itself. Build funny stories into your message to make it memorable. The more personal the better! But, always have a plan to get back on track, or you may lose them.
3. BE UNPREDICTABLE
Sometimes, when you notice you are losing the attention of your students, change things up. Walking around the room while you are speaking, changing the pitch of your voice, or even getting students involved in the message will spice things up.
Teenagers get bored of the same things over and over again, so try switching things up a bit.
Change the set-up of the room, the lighting, or even decorate the room to tie in with the theme of your next message. The goal is to grab their attention and keep them engaged.
As these tips help you to keep the attention of your teens, it also help you to become an effective communicator. The better communicator you are the better you are able to reach students with your messages. These are things that have help me helped me tremendously.
What are some things that have been helpful for you?