As a Youth Minister one of the biggest parts of your job description is to teach teens the faith. Now, if the previous statement came as a shock to you . . . umm . . . well . . . you may want to chat with your Pastor. If not, then you know the pressure that comes along with this.
While many well-intentioned and “very wise” parishioners and staff members think this is easy, you know that, unfortunately, a classroom, a Catechism, and a chalkboard just don’t grab a teen’s attention like a Happy Meal, a milkshake, and a blender.
Disgusting icebreakers aside, the pressure to captivate a teenage audience is great, and nowhere is this more difficult than with a talk or teaching. It’s why we tell corny jokes, fun stories, or try to draw an analogy between the fear we get when the toilet water continues to rise and the fear we may have of evangelizing others. (And yes, I used this analogy in a talk . . . once.) Getting and keeping a teen’s attention is vital and perhaps our best strategy is when we don’t even use words at all.
Here are 3 situations when the best way to get a teen’s attention is to use one of your best tools: the dramatic pause.
- To Drive Home a Point
Situation: You nailed your intro about that squirrel incident. Your audience is focused, and all eyes are on you as you share about how we need to spend time in personal prayer so that we don’t go “nuts.”
Response: All you have to do is sell your point one last time. Should you raise your voice? Should you whisper? Nope. Why even use words? Because you know that the best way to drive a home a point is to stop . . . and stare at your audience . . . saying nothing at all.
- When You Forgot What You Were Going to Say
Situation: You’re rolling along giving an inspirational testimony about how you came to know God when all of a sudden (maybe because you’re distracted by Timmy in the back who can’t seem to stop twitching) you forgot what you were going to say next.
Response: The temptation can be to ramble on and on as you try to think of what you are supposed to say. But, hold on my friends; why not try the dramatic pause? Your audience will never know. While they stew in the silence pondering the depths of where you left off, you can gather yourself, reclaim your thoughts, and move on as if nothing happened.
- For Disciplinary Purposes
Situation: You’re delivering a profound teaching on hypostatic union that is leaving the teens hungering for more. For some reason Timmy on the back wall can’t seem to stop text messaging.
Response: While you’d like to hope he’s sharing your talk 160 characters at a time with all his friends, you know this is highly unlikely. So, just as your mom did when you used to squeeze your little brother’s hand during the Our Father, you have no choice but to cue . . . 30-second dramatic pause with intense stare.
Regardless of what technique you use, I think we can all agree that 1) the name Timmy has really gotten a bad rap and 2) if we want to get the message of salvation across to the teens, it’s imperative that we first get their attention.
Question: What’s your favorite way to capture a teen’s attention? (Share below)