I have been to a lot of youth retreats where a speaker comes with a prepared message to share with the teens who have gathered. Some of them have been fantastic and have connected quite well. Others have been less effective at that. I believe it is huge responsibility to bring a message from God’s Word to anyone. Coming off a youth retreat weekend I often wonder what makes for a quality speaker and a not so good speaker.
In my conversations with teenagers about various speakers, I often hear something like this: “He was funny but he didn’t really relate” or “I don’t know who he is, so I don’t know if I can relate.” If you are called to come speak to a group that doesn’t know you, I understand it can be hard to share who you are in a brief time. It is still important to share a little bit of context regarding who you are. It also helpful just to be yourself without the extra layers. In my opinion, it makes no difference if you are a top tiered speaker or not. What does matter is that you are authentic as a speaker.
Lover of God
Anyone can get up and speak in front of people. The real difference is in the heart of a person. Do you love God? Have you spent time integrating this message into your own life before telling others to do it? People who love God will naturally show that to others. It is like walking around with a cup of water. If you bump into someone, they will get wet.
I am always disappointed when a speaker has a captivated audience and never opens the Bible up. They might tell stories, show pictures, and make clever illustrations while never connecting that to the Bible. I want my youth group to know how all of their life connects to God’s Word. I am not interested in hearing someone sprinkle a few random verses on us. I want to have students open their Bibles and use them. This might be the only time they open it in a while, so let’s leverage that some.
A real downside of a large conference is the ‘untouchable’ nature of the speaker. I think it helps with the authenticity piece if they are in some way accessible It might be a chance to ask a question, or just to make a connection. All of those things matter in ministry more than a celebrity status.
I know it seems very business-like to talk about style in speaking, but style matters. I don’t mean that a youth speaker needs to look a certain way. What I do mean is that however they present their message should not get in the way of the message. Teenagers are very easily distracted by things. It is wise to recognize that and share in such a way that the speaker gets out-of-the-way so that God can work. If mannerisms are noticed, they get distracting.
I believe that the most relevant thing we can give to our children is the Word of God. It never fails, changes, nor does it run out of power. Those of us who have the responsibility of teaching it to others must prepare well. This should never be done last-minute or in some sort of flippant manner. We spend time with God and then share that with teenagers.