17 Tips to Keep Teens Interested

How to Capture and Hold Your Youth Group’s Attention

Keeping the interest of teens is a challenge. Do you realize what you’re competing against? MTV, rock music, game rooms, social networking, rap music, commercial, and sports productions are hard acts to follow. But with God’s help, you can make your sermon interesting. Here are a few tips to capture your class's interest:

  1. Have the Holy Spirit’s power. You know when you have it and when you don’t. He wants to hold their attention on the inside while you speak to the outside.
  2. Be excited about your subject. Make sure you are living all week with the truth that you plan to preach.
  3. Speak on current events to show the teens that the Bible is always relevant.
  4. Guess their questions, then teach on them. Jesus constantly did this (without guessing).
  5. Create curiosity. Ask questions, but don’t answer them until the end of the message.
  6. Use many Bible and personal illustrations. Spurgeon said that “illustrations are windows through which one looks into truth.” The greatest Teacher told many stories (lost sheep, lost coin, lost son, tares and wheat, a wedding, etc.)
  7. Be practical. Show the teens how they can use what you are teaching.
  8. Use many “attention-getters” as you speak. Experts say the attention span of an adult is less than eleven minutes, followed by a lull. Several techniques can help—Snap your fingers. Clap your hands. Stare. Use silence. Hold something. Fluctuate your voice. Slow down and speed up your voice. Use humor. Use a visual aid. Get the class to answer out loud. Hit the pulpit. And walk around. You cannot teach someone if you do not first capture their attention. Do not begin teaching until you have their undivided attention.
  9. Use catchy titles. Teens may not remember a text but they do remember titles. Here’s a few that have stuck with our teens: Bones Out of Socket; He Took Up the Fragments; Witchcraft; Two Legs and a Piece of Ear; How Important Am I?; Three Fleas; What Keeps Me Going; Why I’m Proud of You; What Should Teenagers Think About?; How To Speak After Death; Doubting Your Salvation; The Advantage of No Boyfriend or Girlfriend; One of the Most Important Words in the Christian Life—No; Fake Friends; I Love You With All My Hate.
  10. Use a visual aid every time you can. People remember most of what they see, but little of what they hear. Jesus used a field, a child, a bird, a fig tree. I’ve used a rose, garbage, a pearl, a palm, a diamond, a plate of food, water, words stuck to the pulpit, a 2x4 board, a ruler, sand, a rock, and mud.
  11. Love them. Where love is felt, the message is heard. They have to know you love and like them, not just endure them.
  12. Use personal illustrations, especially from your teenaged years. However, never share personal failures from your past such as immorality and drunkenness. The teens won’t forget it, and it will cloud your teaching. Be simple concerning evil, and speak not of the things done in darkness.
  13. Be short. Stand up to be seen. Speak up to be heard. Sit down to be appreciated. When you preach, be prepared. Explain it. Illustrate it. Apply it. Give an invitation. And please, don’t ramble. When Dr. A.V. Henderson spoke just fifteen minutes at graduation, and the people were stunned and delighted. Remember, the mind cannot comprehend more than the seat can endure.
  14. Share your failures. Teens love to identify. I tell the story of riding my bike with my eyes closed and chipping my teeth. I remember the time I jumped a sewer ditch… well, half way. I remember in college asking a girl for a date to hear “Well, I don’t have a date, plans, or have to work, but… NO!” How humbling! Let them know you can fail without being a failure; you can lose a battle and still win the war.
  15. Teach on how God blessed the underdogs. David, Hagar, Gideon, Moses, Zacheus, and Paul were all unlikely heroes.
  16. Share a big decision you made and its outcome. I’ve often shared why I had to sever a dear friendship. I’ve told the story of three vows I made to God when in college—to never let my hair grow long, to never be immoral, and to never quit the ministry.
  17. Share your victories over temptation. Let them know your victories over temptation of drinking, smoking, immorality, lust, gambling, ungodly music, worldly friendship, etc. Show them that God can give them victory.

Preaching and teaching to teens can be a battle, but their lives are worth your best efforts to teach with enthusiasm, variety, and power. It’s a sin to make God’s truth boring.

Article excerpted from the book Called or Crazy by Mike Ray.

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