In a recent article for ChurchLeaders.com, Brandon Hilgemann writes, “Engaging the short attention span of teenagers (and adults) is not easy, but if you are a senior pastor and there are teenagers in the room, you better engage them or you will lose them. I’m not saying I have mastered this, but here are some tips that I have found helpful.
1. Be Authentic
The most important thing you can do in your sermon is be the same person on stage as you are off the stage. Teenagers have a gift for spotting a fake. They will know if you really are practicing what you preach.
The best way to do this is to be vulnerable about shortcomings in your life. Don’t pretend as if you have it all together. Tell us where you struggle. Tell us that you aren’t perfect. Let us know how you are wrestling in your own life with your sermon’s topic.
2. Be a Story Teller
Stories grab our attention and imagination. When told well, stories have a powerful way of capturing the mind and the heart. The better you become at telling stories and the more stories you tell, the more likely teenagers will be to listen to you.
This goes along with being authentic. Whenever possible, use stories from your own life. Give us a window into how Jesus is impacting your world. Let your personality show, and allow the audience to get to know you through sharing surprising, emotional, humorous and embarrassing moments from your life that apply to the message.
3. Update Your Illustrations
World War II illustrations are great. Many illustration books and online resources are full of them because they were incredibly powerful—back when the people in the audience had lived through the war—but if all your stories today come from a time period before the people in your audience were born, it’s time to get some new illustrations.
An example from a current event or popular culture can go a long way with a teenager in showing that the Bible is still culturally relevant. Use illustrations that connect with their world, and please note that pop culture references from your teenage years will not translate.
4. Talk to Them
If you want to engage teenagers, talk to them. If you know that teenagers are in your audience, apply points of your sermon to their lives, too. Don’t just use examples of how this works in marriage or business. Look at a section of young people and apply the message to their friendships, school or relationship with their parents.
If you make a point to speak to teenagers, they will make a point to listen. Show them your sermon is not just for adults.” (Read the full article.)