Crafting Messages For Students
One of the many joys I’ve had in working with young people over the years, is crafting messages for our weekly gatherings. The thrill of the blank page and capturing God’s message has, and continues to be, life giving for me.
Over the years, I’ve experimented with different teaching styles, but the focus has remained the same: Reading and exegeting the Scriptures, and formulating a message for a specific group of students.
I often dialogue with other youth leaders about the process of crafting messages and I’m always eager to learn how to improve in this area. Here are a few ideas I’m working through.
First off, I love writing messages. I find the whole process from studying and brainstorming, to practicing and presenting to be sensational stuff. The fact that I get to do that as part of my job every week is magic.
Now, I could easily spend the better part of a week working on current and future messages, and be totally happy. I could probably spend umpteen amounts of hours a week reading and taking notes and writing and all things sermonizing. Alas, ministry is a bit more complicated than that.
Over the years through trial and error, I’ve had to figure out what is the appropriate amount of time to spend on messages and lessons, balancing preaching and teaching with the rest of the week.
Admittedly, I don’t know what the perfect time frame is for this (and I’m sure it will depend on your context), but I’ve found around 8-10 hours for all my lessons/messages a week works for me. I’ve also found, though, that preparing a message doesn’t just look like locking yourself in your office.
Preaching isn’t a stand alone exercise in the church.
It’s part of the community and should reflect our community life. It is directly connected to everything else we do. Sermon prep isn’t relegated to an afternoon trip to Starbucks, but is part of conversations and problem solving; it’s runs the gamut of every aspect of the job.
In other words, preaching emanates from everything else we do in ministry.
I had a friend who used to talk about “taking the text with you” throughout the week. It’s amazing what happens as we live and go about our work, with the sermon rattling around in the back of our minds.
So…how does one craft messages for students? A few thoughts.
-Involve students in the preaching process
Have students help with putting messages together. At times, get their input on the content the group goes over. Make sure their voice is heard in the preaching and teaching. Also, share the pulpit or music stand or coffee shop table. This includes students. There is nothing more impactful for your group, than having a wide range of voices speaking into their lives, especially if some of those voices are from students.
-Experiment with different teaching styles
I love a good expository/narrative style. That’s my go-to and one that I’ve been mentored in by some incredible communicators. But don’t be afraid change it up.
Do a topical message. Have points or fill-in-the-blanks. Use notes, and then don’t use notes. Use lot’s of images and videos, then don’t use any. And have times when you don’t preach at all. Sometimes the best preaching happens through conversation and discussion. Sometimes the Scriptures come alive when we just get out of the way.
-Illustrate your messages
Learn how to tell stories, especially stories that are interesting and compelling.The problem is, we’ve all heard sermons that were captivating, but contained little substance. And we’ve heard those messages full of wonderful content, but they went unheard because they lacked any relevant connection to the audience. So, illustrate.
-Trust God with your preaching
At the end of the day, it’s not up to us to determine how a message is received. We trust God with that. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve walked away from a message thinking, “Well, that was just alright. Not my best–a double for sure, but not a home run (or whatever metaphor works for you). The funny thing is, those tend to be the messages students respond to most often, not the ones I considered “Home Runs.”
At the end of the day, God’s word is what we want students to hear more of. Stories and anecdotes are nice and fun, but we want their primary connection with the speaking to be with the word of God. Let’s not lose sight of that.
Happy preaching this week, friends.