Teaching the Next Generation: 9 Concepts for Effective Communication

teaching-children-the-word-of-god-imageWhat are we communicating to our kids, students, and parents? What do we want them to walk away with each and every time they sit under our teaching? How would we define a win when it comes to our messages?

The goal when teaching is never to impress. Instead, our goal must be to connect and communicate clearly the truth contained in the pages of the Bible. When we allow our ambition to drive us to impress we often miss the goal of clarity!

Matthew 13:10-15 (The Message) – “10 The disciples came up and asked, “Why do you tell stories?” 11-15 He replied, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it. I don’t want Isaiah’s forecast repeated all over again: Your ears are open but you don’t hear a thing. Your eyes are awake but you don’t see a thing.
The people are blockheads!
They stick their fingers in their ears
so they won’t have to listen;
They screw their eyes shutso they won’t have to look, so they won’t have to deal with me face-to-face and let me heal them.”

Jesus told stories to create readiness. He understood that people needed help in order to be ready to digest the truth He was teaching. Jesus understood the need to connect in order to reveal truth. Many of us who communicate need this reminder often. When we step up to speak we have to remember to put time into creating connection moments as we teach the Scripture with faithfulness.

Each of us may get anywhere from 10-30 minutes each week to communicate God’s Word to the next generation. Are we doing that in the most effective manner – in a way that is going to draw attention to who God is? Here are 9 key concepts that will lead to excellent communication…

1. God’s Word and the Holy Spirit are more powerful than you – Are you relying on your own words or God’s Word to see lives transformed? God will speak through you in ways you can never imagine! So many times I have walked away from speaking not remembering what I said. These have been the moments where God is completely speaking through me. His way with words is greater than anything we could ever say!

As you study and prepare, make sure you are not missing what God is saying. Look to His Word for the majority of your message and not culture, history, or the latest idea that may draw emotion. Rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to speak through you!

2. Keep it clear and simple – The next generation does not want deep theological messages based on the Greek text, historical documents, or the separation of modern religion. They are not concerned about dispensationalism, the difference between humanistic theology and Christlikeness, and the views of premillennialism, postmillennialism, or amillennialism.

While I believe our kids and students need to understand theology and teaching theology is very important, our messages cannot get bogged down with the theological debates that go on in the religious world every day. Our kids want to hear simple and clear truths from God’s Word that they can take and apply to their lives! What are you doing to keep your communication simple and clear?

3. Talk with, not at – Have you ever sat in a conversation in which the other person had totally disengaged? Kids feel like they get talked at all the time – lectured by their teachers, yelled at by parents and coaches, and talked down by those around them. They need to be talked with. Whether it is your physical approach or the words you use, make sure you are communicating to and with, instead of at.

For years, I refused to even stand on a stage and talk above our students. Our physical demeanor says a lot about whether or not we truly care about those we are communicating with. Kids and students need us to step down to their level and talk to them, not at them. It is the image of us getting our knees and talking with a child as opposed to standing above them and pointing our finger at them.

4. Less is more – We must make sure our message is focused on the bottom line. Cutting out material is a difficult process but less is more when you want kids to walk away with the main point. Never have a message that has ten points in it… kind of like the one I am doing right now.

Our rule with students is never go above 15-20 minutes with MS and 20-25 minutes with HS. The less application points we communicate, the better chance we have of seeing lives transformed. When we teach on multiple points, students typically walk away with nothing.

5. Be relatable and culturally relevant – This does not mean we have to strive to be as hip as possible! But it does mean, we have to communicate in a way that is going to make sense to today’s younger generation. Talking about toaster ovens and 8-track players is not very culturally relevant. But using terms that kids can relate to causes God’s Word to become more relevant to their situation and circumstance. The words we use will often determine whether or not kids see us as authentic. If we try to use big words that don’t make sense, we will lose attention. When we use language that makes sense, they will grasp the truth of God’s message!

6. Use invitation and challenge – God invited the disciples into an awesome relationship with Him. He had compassion, fed them incredible meals, traveled the world with them, and built incredible bonds with each one of them. But he also challenged the heck out of the disciples. Kids will react as we approach them with this same mindset. Don’t be afraid to open up your life – be real and authentic, while at the same time using God’s Word to challenge those around you to live as He lived and talk as He talked!

7. Think outside the box – There are many different ways of learning – audio, visual, sensory, question & answer, etc. Do not just think in the parameters of the words you use. Never limit yourself to what you have available at your fingertips! Always think outside the box when communicating God’s Word!

8. Be prepared to fail – There will definitely be times when you say something you shouldn’t say or misspeak. There have been times where I have misquoted Scripture or even somewhat taken it out of context. We have to be ready to not only accept failure, but also accept the critique of others. I have people who I go to every time I speak that evaluate every aspect of my message – stage presence, word usage, application, content, and voice influx. There are also times that we will walk away discouraged, feeling like we completely bombed the message. I have lost count of how many times that has happened to me. You will not always present things perfectly, but these are moments that God will still use and that we can grow from.

9. Never lose sight of the end goal – Our end goal must always be transformed lives. We must never lose sight of our God-given purpose – to make disciples who are making disciples! Your communication is not about you obtaining the spotlight, but about Christ shining through every word!

Connecting is not always easy work but it may just be the difference maker when it comes to people taking forward steps in their spiritual journey!

The Heart of Family Ministry: Equipping Parents to be Pastors

FamilyOver the past couple of months I have had the privilege of digging deep into the purpose and vision of family ministry. I have looked at everything from the why to the how to the what. Why do we do what we do? How do we implement family ministry in way that brings honor and glory to God? What do we need to do differently in order for our families to truly experience God’s fullness.

This mind-boggling conversation has caused me to fill up pages upon pages of notes. I have spent hours researching what other churches are doing while looking at what parachurch organizations are available for us to partner with. Our team has evaluated every aspect of what we have done and where we currently are. We have spent time actively seeking what God desires of us over the next weeks, months, and years.

My conclusion is not profound. Instead, it is simple… Although families are full of brokenness, through the grace and truth of Jesus, we have the only message that can provide true healing and restoration. As much as we think we have our act together as parents, spouses, and children, the majority of us are broken, messed up individuals in need of repair. The message of Jesus is also incredibly simple – he has come to ‘seek and save that which is lost.’ In other words, he has come to restore the broken, heal the fractured, and transform the lost.

I come into contact with brokenness amongst families on a daily basis. Whether it is a past mistake destroying a marriage, a lack of trust and compassion, or moments of crisis ruining a families’ rhythm, many families are faced with extremely difficult circumstances.  As a church, we are called to share Christ’s love, grace, and mercy to those in need, including the family that lives across the street that may walk into our church doors for the very first time.

The mission God has called us to is clear – empower and equip parents to be pastors! The church, as a whole, has a tendency to take too much responsibility for the spiritual growth of our children and students. That is not family ministry. Instead, living out a Christ-centered family ministry means that we are providing our parents with the tools, resources, and relationships they need to live out their God-ordained calling as parents. They must become the spiritual leaders of their homes!

We preach ‘what happens in our homes is more important than what happens in our church.’ While I believe that wholeheartedly and agree that it sounds wonderful, I often feel as if it is a simple statement that lacks integrity. In other words, God is challenging me as a Family Ministry Pastor to truly begin living that phrase out practically! The more I hear from God, the more he challenges me to truly practice what I preach – not only on a personal level, but also from a standpoint of leadership within ministry.

I am excited to see the practicality of family ministry rise to the next level over the next few weeks, months, and years – a level that in which we will see families discipling other families while being discipled. It is a level that not only experiences numerical growth, but also passionately cares about the spiritual development of our children and students. Finally, a level in which parents truly become the pastors of their homes!

As we lay out the vision for family ministry, my prayer is that we are not drawn one bit away from the vision God has for us. May we constantly walk in step with Him every day of our lives – seeking Him, listening to Him, and obeying Him at all cost! Through our obedience may families within our community truly be reached for the cause of Christ!