Tips For Speaking Effectively
Let’s talk communication.
Not necessarily the type of communication that involves keeping in touch with volunteers and students (though that is super important!), but more so the communication that encompasses your sermons, lessons, and messages.
Being an effective speaker is a vital factor in youth ministry. What you say and how you say it are incredibly important. From sharing the announcements to delivering an invitation at the end of a message, it’s important to always do your best to share whatever information you are giving—and share well. This might seem obvious; however, I have seen several youth pastors, small group leaders, and Sunday School teachers not speak in the ways they are capable of speaking.
Whether you find yourself preaching a power-packed sermon to hundreds of students, or getting up to discuss upcoming events to a group of six students, be determined that you are going to communicate whatever information you have to the best of your ability.
Here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years when it comes to speaking effectively:
1. Ask the Holy Spirit to Guide You.
If there is one thing that we must all remember to do before we share, it is asking the Lord for guidance. He is able to calm nerves, bring things to our remembrance, and give us things to say that we might never think of. He knows the audience we will be sharing with far better than we do, so it’s a no-brainer that we go to Him first and foremost before any type of speaking engagement.
2. Create an Outline.
When I first began in ministry, I would create an outline for everything. I had a written outline for games, upcoming events, my sermon, and just about anything else that had to do with our programming.
Am I saying you have to be this extreme? No. I’m just extra. What I am saying, though, is that it’s helpful to plan properly before delivering whatever it is you have to say. An outline can easily help you stay within the means of what you are speaking about. In addition, an outline aids in looking at what you are about to say and making sure that it is 100% bathed in God’s truth and not your own.
Creating an outline also helps you to be more prepared before you speak, as an audience can often tell when the speaker has not given much thought to the preparation process—especially students.
Whether you create an outline on your iPad or on paper, have something that easily lays out what you have to say.
3. Set an Objective.
This is something that I learned as a college student pursuing a degree in education. When creating lesson plans, no matter what the lesson entailed, I had to specify an objective. Essentially, an objective is a learning goal. For example, if I were creating a lesson plan on fractions, my objective would be, “Students will learn to understand what fractions are and how to read them.” Knowing my objective, I would then create the lesson and make sure that everything I taught lined up with it.
This is helpful, in that it helps you to know exactly what you aim to do while you are speaking.
Are you sharing your testimony? Your objective is showing the audience how God changed your life.
Giving the announcements? Your objective is to inform everybody on what is happening in your ministry.
Teaching a Sunday School lesson? Your objective is to teach them whatever the curriculum or lesson has laid out.
Think of your objective as a target and your speaking as the arrow. You want to do everything you can to make sure that your arrow hits the target you are aiming for.
4. Stay on Topic.
There have been several times where I have found myself enjoying a speaker, only to find myself lost in the middle of them sharing. Oftentimes, this is due to “rabbit trails” and straying away from the original topic.
I’m sure we’ve all done it. I understand that sometimes when we’re speaking we’ll think of an anecdote that goes well with our topic, or the Lord will lead us in another direction—that’s not necessarily what I’m talking about, here.
We become ineffective when we start sharing something so far from our original topic that our audience walks away scratching their heads asking what exactly they were supposed to have learned. To avoid this, refrain from tangents, rants, long stories, or anything else that might cause you to get off task.
5. Finish Well.
This is something that took me years to learn. I cannot tell you how many times I would get up and share a passionate message, only to finish it weakly and unprofessionally. I would either stand there not knowing how to close, or awkwardly get offstage. After fumbling through my closers several (and I mean SEVERAL) times, I knew I had to make some changes.
I started paying more attention to ways that other speakers closed their speaking time, and I realized that it is often a time of summarizing, prayer, invitation, and thanking the audience for their time. Again, it is always important to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit, but know that no matter how you close, it’s important to do it well.
Youth workers: It’s time for us to start being the amazing speakers God has called us to be. Our time in front of an audience—no matter how big or how small—is crucial and we must steward it well. From giving game instructions to leading a Bible Study, it’s up to us to remember that we have a responsibility to God and to the audience to communicate well.
You got this.