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Guest Post: Communicating Effectively to the Next Generation

Today’s post is from @bsimpson. If you aren’t following him you should.


Early in my ministry I served a rural church with a small youth group.  Each week I was responsible for preparing a lesson that would help teenagers understand the Christian life.  For several weeks, I arrived at church with a commentary on Romans and offered a feeble message.  The students were obviously bored, I was confused, and the result was disastrous.  I was not communicating effectively to the next generation.  I had a lot to learn.

Over the years I have continued to lead and teach, and I think I’ve gotten better, though that is ultimately for my students to decide!  Here are five things I have learned about effective communication to the next generation:

  1. Thoughtfully prepare.

Effective communication requires that you work prior to the moment you deliver your message.  Don’t wing it.  Carefully write down and rehearse what you plan to say.  Have coffee or lunch with a wise friend and present your outline.  Ask them if it makes sense.  If not, go back to the drawing board.  Most audiences can quickly discern the amount of energy you have put toward preparation.  If they sense you are not prepared, you will lose them.

  1. Know your audience.

If you are speaking to children, youth, or adults, ask a lot of questions.  Spend time talking with people who are part of the church, community, or age group that you will speak to.  The more you listen, the better you will communicate.  Get out of your office and live among the people.

  1. Use appropriate, accessible, and authentic illustrations.

After spending time in study, you may have a number of earth-shattering insights.  Before unloading these new discoveries, slow down.  Think about each point, and consider how you can help people understand what you are presenting with appropriate, accessible, and authentic illustrations.

  1. Anticipate problems, questions, and objections and address them.

Children and youth are accustomed to learning environments where questions are encouraged.  If something is unclear, controversial, or challenging, questions arise.  Anticipating possible problems, questions, and objections and addressing them proactively invites dialogue, indicates that you take such concerns seriously, and adds weight to your presentation.

  1. Once you’ve crafted your message, trust the Holy Spirit and rest in Jesus Christ.

Oftentimes, our desire to communicate effectively is coupled with a deep-seated belief that success hinges on us.  We believe that we are solely responsible for the results, and what follows is persistent anxiety.  While we do have a responsibility, we don’t do our work alone.  God speaks through us by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Even when you communicate a message that falls flat, it is quite possible for God to transform and change your hearers.

Ben Simpson

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