Why Purity Rings Don't Work (and How to Fix It)

Take your pick of teen sex curriculum for churches and you will find a common outcome for the majority of them: a purity pledge often accompanied by a purity ring.  Since this focus has been so widespread and been going on for so long, we have more than what we need for a scientific study on its effectiveness.

You probably know what’s coming.  After doing a large, scientific study around the effect of purity rings and pledges, Janet E. Rosenbaum of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that “Taking a pledge doesn't seem to make any difference at all in any sexual behavior,”(1)

No effect at all.  Teens who made these commitments started having sex at the same age, with the same number of partners, as if they had done nothing at all.

Which begs the question:  Why?

For that, we need to dive into another field of science:  Economics.  It may surprise you that Economics studies much more than money.  In fact, the field is all about trying to study how complex problems work and how different incentives affect those complex interactions (kind of like how purity rings might affect the overwhelmingly complex world of sexuality in teens).

In economic terms, the purity ring or pledge is something called a commitment device.  That is a device used to make your future self do something that the current self is having a hard time doing.  The problem is that these sorts of methods are notoriously bad at producing the intended result.

Steven Levitt, a renown economist and best-selling author explains that as clever as your current self is at devising these commitment devices, “the future self desperately wants whatever is being denied and finds ways around it.” (2)

That’s not to say that commitment devices don’t ever work, but they are often not nearly powerful enough to work.  That is what is going on with the purity rings.  They simply aren’t powerful enough.  Violating the pledge or ring carries no tangible consequences.  In fact, the only consequences it carries are guilt after it is broken, and guilt is a poor motivator.  Generally all guilt succeeds at is making sure people hide things.

But that’s not the most concerning part.  The thing that this commitment device does succeed at is very dangerous.  Though I have my own opinions as to why, the the Johns Hopkins Study found that people who sign purity pledges and wear purity rings are far more likely to NOT use any sort of protection their first time having sex.

When well-meaning people do a great job at getting teens to pledge to not have sex until they are married, they are doing nothing to prevent pre-marital sex while at the same time causing the teens to be more likely to not use a form birth control like a condom.

What do we do?

This definitely doesn’t mean the church should stop talking about sex.  It also doesn’t mean that we should stop encouraging abstinence.  It means that our job is just not as easy as we had hoped.  The solution to helping teens stay sexually pure isn’t as simple as getting them to sign a card or wear a ring.  

Which means that we can drop all the time and energy spent on pushing those things and use that time in a more productive way.  What is that way?  I thought you’d never ask!

We need to be equipping teens with the knowledge and tools they need to make better decisions and get better at self control.  Rather than drawing an arbitrary line in the sand about “how far is too far”  we need to help them understand why certain physical expressions of love are appropriate in some relationships and not others.  

Instead of practicing some form of “just say no,” we need to teach them decision methods that can help them process big issues and help them see right from wrong when they are alone in their boyfriend/girlfriend's house.

All of this needs to be seen in light of God’s presence in the world.  All of this needs to be placed within the context of scripture and discerned in partnership with other members of the Body of Christ.

All of this is what was behind my approach to Sex education in the new UMC Resource Sex: A Christian Perspective on our Bodies, Decisions, and Relationships.  It doesn’t have a purity pledge, nor does it tell students to draw a line somewhere between holding hands and having intercourse.  

Rather, it seeks to equip young students (6th-8th grade) with what they need to live out holy lives in relation to their sexuality.  I hope you’ll check it out.  It’s available for download (coming) or on a USB thumb drive (now). 

>>>READ MORE: 5 Simple Ways to Recruit and Keep Volunteers


1. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/28/AR2008122801588.html?hpid=topnewshttp://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/28/AR2008122801588.html?hpid=topnews

2. http://freakonomics.com/2012/02/02/save-me-from-myself-a-new-freakonomics-radio-podcast/

We Just Don't Do That (The Youth Minister Code)

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There is a rule we live by as youth pastors (a code if you will) that joins us all together as fellow laborers in the body of Christ.  There are things that we agree to refrain from for the good of the kingdom of God and the health of our flock. From time to time it is good to remind ourselves what it is and why it is so important to stay connected to each other.

We don’t bash each other.  No matter if you found out that the youth pastor across the street is giving out $100 bills at his weekly gathering for new people (actually happened), we do not talk bad about them.  We praise them for whatever we can find (even if it is just a nice fashion sense), and we say something good.  We don’t critique their style of ministry, we don’t comment on their lack of focus on “depth.”  We don’t even point out how many churches they’ve been at in the past year.  We just don’t do that.

We Don’t Recruit Kids from Other Churches.  Numbers are not so great this time of year, and as you are meeting the BFF of one of your core students you think they might be interested in coming to camp.  Then, you find out she goes to another church.  Though you may know it would take just a nudge to get her to start coming to your church, you resist the temptation.  Instead you praise her youth minister for her nice fashion sense and talk about how much their church rocks.  We don’t bash her youth pastor (see #1), we don’t talk about how our church has something that is better than her church.  We don’t even ask her to try it out with her friend.  We just don’t do that.

We Don’t Stay in Our Office.  As much as it might make the church secretary happy to have you at your desk whenever a call comes through, we don’t do that.  The church does not exist within the walls of the building we call “a church.”  The church is the people in the world, and you are called to minister to them.  You go to where they are, help with their Christian club, chaplain the polo team, or volunteer in the front office.  We don’t avoid our bad memories of the lunchroom by staying in our office, we don’t schedule every second so we can’t get out.  We don’t even use a hostile culture as an excuse to stay away.  We just don’t do that.

We Don’t Confuse Ministry with Friendship.  There is a need for us all to be accepted and that need was never more pronounced and filled with hurt and worry than when you were a teen.  But even if the cool kids ask you to hang out, we don’t start thinking of teens as friends. The youth you are ministering to are not your peers, they do not need another friend, they need a minister.  They need someone to care for, nurture, and protect their soul.  We don’t invite kids to our party and we don’t take sides in relationship drama.  We don’t even post pictures of teens online calling them “my friends.” We just don’t do that.

We Don’t Meddle When its Over.  At some point you will get a new job and move on.  When that happens the new girl is going to do things differently and may even change your favorite thing.  People are going to call you and ask what you think they should do, and students are going to try and avoid connecting with the new person out of loyalty to you.  When that happens, we don’t keep taking every call from the old place; we don’t ever respond to a request for what we think about the new person or how they do things (see #1).  We don’t even have a Bible study with the old group.  We just don’t do that.

We Don’t Undermine Parents.  You have your own parenting style (or idea of what your style will be).  At some point a student is going to come up to you and tell you the story of how their parents did something to them that you think is not the best way to handle that as a parent.  You are going to want to side with the student and tell them how wrong their parent is, but we don’t.   We will build up their parent and praise them as if they were a fellow youth pastor.  We don’t talk bad about their parents, and we don’t act like we are their parents.  We don’t even make jokes about how lame their parents act.  We just don’t do that.

We Don’t Turn Denominations into Gangs. I know that you believe strongly in once-saved-always-saved or that God’s grace is offered freely to all people or that free will is an absolute, irrefutable reality of existence, and that’s fine.  It’s fine that you appreciate your doctrinal heritage but we can sometimes start sounding like our fellow Christians who believe differently than us are the enemy who must be defeated at all cost.  Though we may want to produce teens who believe identical to us, we don’t make out other denominations to be foolish or unintelligent, and we don’t act like our group has everything right.  We don’t even ignore other churches and never team up for city-wide events.  We just don’t do that.

Question for the comments: I know I have missed one or two.  What about you?  What parts of the code did I miss?

From YouthWorker Movement

>>>Read More: 5 Simple Tips to Recruit and Keep Volunteers


Where Have All the Introverts Gone?

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“You need to be a leader not a follower” “It requires you to take a leap of faith” “God wants you to live life out loud for Jesus” 

Though Americans are about a 50/50 split introverts vs. extroverts, we lift up extroversion as if this personality trait is somehow better or holier than the others. Whether it is extolling the inherent virtues of extroversion in statements like the ones above or designing programs that echo the truth behind them, we are profoundly biased towards the traits of the extroverts.

For those who can’t quite recall the differences between the two, let me give you some bullet points to refresh:


  • energized by being alone    
  • private                
  • quiet                
  • contemplative            
  • independent            
  • deliberate            
  • prefer few, close friends    


  • energized by interaction
  • social, public
  • loud, talkative
  • quick-minded
  • group-oriented
  • distractible
  • Prefer many friends

A major problem with meshing our culture's preference for the extrovert with our faith is that when you consider the Biblical characters in terms of those lists you can easily pull out many major players who exhibit far more introverted tendencies than extroverted ones.  

For example, many would say Moses was an introvert.  Think about it, would an extrovert ever stare at the burning bush to notice that it was not being consumed by the fire, or just find more dry stuff to throw on top of it for a bon fire?

That tells us that we need to be careful about how we speak, what we value and who we try to reach with our programs because we desperately need the Moseses of our world in the church, and if we aren’t careful we may unintentionally marginalize, ignore, or exclude the quiet leaders in our midst. 

What do you need to do?  To borrow an introverted trait, you need to carefully evaluate your programs, messages, and relationships.  You need to take a moment and think about the messages you are sending.  

I offer these questions and observations to help your ministry think through how introvert-friendly you are.

1. Programs:

What programs do you offer that encourage participants to spend time alone in quiet contemplation?  

Look at your most high-energy, loud program. How can you build in times of quiet to give introverts a place to breathe?

How can you remove or alter moments where people are encouraged to have surface-level interaction with people who they aren’t close to so that introverted people feel comfortable not participating or only speaking with people they are already in a relationship with?

2. Illustrations

Do you assume everyone should be more extroverted?  For example, do you use the illustration of the a person eating alone assuming that no one would want to be alone?

Do you constantly reference action-movies or extreme stories of people taking “leaps of faith” without thinking things through?

Do you highlight examples of thoughtful, slow, intellectual people who make a difference?

3. Bible

Do you recast every positive character in the Bible as a “visionary leader” or a group-oriented person?  

Do you offer people time to sit in real quiet (without background music) and consider the scriptures?

Do you highlight moments in the Bible where introverts make an impact or someone makes a habit of doing something introverts relish (like Jesus getting away by himself to pray)?

4. Your relationships

Do you bounce around the entire room every time you are there only making surface connections?

Do you try and get introverted people to talk to a bunch of people instead of getting to know them in an extended conversation?

Do you feel and act awkward when someone takes time to answer your questions?  Do you fidget and leave those conversations rather than slowing down to engage?

How did you do?  How would you grade the friendliness of your ministry to introverts?  If you aren’t where you need to be, take some time to find those in your community who are more on the introverted end of the scale (maybe that is you) and get their input. Let go of the feeling that everything has to be big and loud in order to connect with teens and design some opportunities for the introverts to be catered to and the extroverts to be stretched.

Six Tools For Taking Your Discussion to the Next Level

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The tool you are looking for is Bloom’s taxonomy. It’s not as exciting as a free youth ministry game site, but it is the best tool out there for deepening your discussions.

This tool is the key to taking your discussions to the next level. The basic idea is that there are several levels at which you can process any given idea and the goal is to plunge as deeply as possible with each session. Depending on the developmental level of your students you may be able to skip several steps, but we’ll avoid the developmental psychology rat hole and get to the content you really care about.

Level 1: Knowledge — This is the most basic level of processing questions like “Can you name the…” or “How many…” fill this level of processing.

Level 2: Comprehension — This goes beyond remembering facts to making sure you actually understand the narrative of the story. The questions here are “What was the main idea…” or “Can you write in your own words..”

Level 3: Application — At this level we help students solve new problems using the knowledge the have acquired in a different way. The questions look like “Do you know another instance where…” or “What factors would you change if…”

Level 4: Analysis — Now we get behind the information and look at the underlying motives by breaking info apart and looking at relationships between them. The questions we use to process this level look like “How was this similar to…” or “What are some of the motives behind…”

Level 5: Synthesis — This combines the information together by combining elements in new ways and proposing alternate solutions. The questions here are “If you had access to unlimited resources, how would you deal with…” or “What would happen if…”

Level 6: Evaluation — At this point the goal is to make judgements between options and defend what you believe. At this moment we ask “Is there a better solution to…” or “Do you think… is a good or bad thing?”

You’re welcome. Go talk about stuff.


>>>Read More: Asking Questions Students will Answer

Christianity: Stop Talking About It

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“I have been praying for an hour each day that my son would be saved.” Statements like this are difficult to process.  While I am glad you have been praying for your son’s soul, is it really necessary to tell us the length of those prayers?

I have been in this situation too many times. In the middle of a good conversation, someone drops in the fact that they fast every week, sold their car to give the money to the local shelter, or spend two hours each morning reading the Bible.  I have watched as, far too often, the discussion turns into a sort of passive-aggressive spirituality contest.  Never does anyone say, “I do that too and also do this,” but we might as well.

Our spiritual practices of prayer, giving, and fasting are for two purposes: to bring about the Kingdom of God within us and further that same Kingdom in the world.  It is not about making us look more spiritual.  

I think that’s why Jesus told us to stop talking about it. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus challenges us to something very difficult when talking about these three practices: “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:4b).  He tells us to be secretive about our praying, giving to the needy and fasting.  He instructs us to keep wraps on how spiritual we are!

Don’t get me wrong, Jesus doesn’t want us to stop sharing his love with the people around us or telling people about who he is.  Rather, he wants us to stop using his love, or our sporadic obedience to make ourselves look good, or worse, to make ourselves look better than someone else.  

The main question we need to ask is this:  who is getting the credit?  Why are we telling someone that we mowed their lawn because God loves them?  Is it because we want to get double credit of helping and being spiritual?  If we spend time thinking it through there is almost always a way to accomplish it where we get no credit at all, we remain totally secret, and any good thought, grateful emotion, or thank you goes to God.  

That is the goal.  We don’t hide our light, we remember that we don’t have the light. What light we appear to have is only God’s light reflected through the dim mirror of our life.  Which means that our goal is to turn people around and show them the true light we are working so hard to reflect.


Jorge Ascevedo on Reaching Young Adults, Steaks, and Moses for 2013

In preparation for an article for an UMCOM publication, I had the opportunity to interview Jorge Acevedo and talk a bit about the united Methodist Church and the Next Generation.  Jorge is the lead pastor of Grace Church a multi-campus church in the Fort Myers area and the author of Vital: Churches Changing Communities and the World.


Jeremy: You have spent a lot of time dealing with the statistics in the vital congregations research.  What does that information tell us about the next generation in the UMC?

Jorge: I was part of the call to action steering team where we did what I call a statistical deep dive into the UMC.  We were wanting to discover what were the drivers of local church vitality.  Unfortunately, that information does not tell us much at all about how we are engaging the next generation because we don’t measure that.  But that does say a lot about what we see as important.  By not measuring our engagement with young adults, we are saying it’s not important.  That means that all of my insight into this issue is Anecdotal.

Jeremy: Ok.  How is your church approaching young adults and young families?

Jorge:  We are just beginning to get serious about this.  About a year ago, I stood up to preach, looked out at the crowd and said, “Oh my goodness, they have grown old with me.”  We are in a working class suburb with an average age of forty-two.  We are not too far off from that average as a congregation.  I have been in this church for a long time and the kids who were in youth when I came are now young adults with kids.  

I’m not Bono or anything.  I do wear jeans to work every day if that makes you cool, but I have all of these young adults coming up and asking me to hang out, and what I really need to do is to spend some relational, community-building time with them.  I think what they are looking for is a mentor, but not to be mentored through a workbook, but through conversations and talking about life.

Jeremy: I totally agree.  You are talking about something like relational mentoring.

Jorge:  Yeah.  I like that term.  A old friend of mine was going to be in town and when one of the young adults on my staff found out, she said, “I’d love to hang out with the two of you.”  So, I invited her over for dinner, we grilled steaks and then the three of us talked about life.  Something just feels right about grilling steaks and hanging out.

Jeremy: In addition to the relational side of things, are there things you thing churches need to do program-wise?

Jorge: Sure.  I think that motivation is important. If you’re doing it to save your church, I’m not sure that’s the right motivation.  It never needs to be about saving a church.  It has to be about reaching people for Jesus.  

Jeremy:  So where do churches start?

Jorge:  You need to start with your platform.  Who is up front in your services?  If there are not young people in up-front leadership, people who visit who are that generation aren’t going to connect as well with what is going on.  part of what we are doing is hiring young leaders and setting them up for success banking on the idea that these young leaders will have much more potential to reach the younger generations.

Jeremy:  If you could say one thing to churches who are working on this issue, what would it be?

Jorge: I would say, let God break your hear for the next generation.  Just this morning I was reading in my devotion the passage where God was speaking to Joshua, and said “Just as I was with Moses, I will be with you.”  It is interesting that the vision God gave Moses at the burning bush outlives Moses’ life.  God-honoring leaders must have a vision for their church that will outlast them.


This is it.  This is where we start, and it is my prayer that God will place this same relational, long-range vision in the hearts of ministers throughout the Church!  If you want to read more on this subject, this is a good article.


5 Simple Tips to Recruit and Keep Volunteers

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I have this conversation at least once a month with a stressed out youth worker: “I can’t get/keep my volunteers.  No one wants to help, they don’t show up, and when they do they just stand off by themselves.  How do I get good volunteers, or even any volunteers?”  When people call me with volunteer woes, 75% of them aren’t following these basics, and once they fix these, it's smooth sailing.

Volunteers are the key to any youth ministry.  Often the first warning sign that something is wrong is a difficulty in retaining or recruiting your volunteers.  However, if you take a moment to develop your volunteer strategy and commit to caring for them you can have an incredible team!  Here’s where to start:

1. People recruit people, flyers and bulletins don’t – These are a crutch and almost universally unsuccessful at recruiting volunteers.  If you want people to join in on what you are doing, you are going to have to use the Jesus method: walk up to them and say “follow me” or something like that.  Only using flyers and announcements is a symptom that you are thinking incorrectly about volunteers.  Recruiting and developing good volunteers is a relational task, and impersonal ads are not the place to start.

2. Have something for them to do – I know that this sounds ridiculous.  You have youth group, of course there is something for them to do!  However, very few people are comfortable just showing up to a room with teenagers with no clear task.  When you recruit someone, recruit them for a job. Yes, that means you have to sit down and make a list: greeter, discussion leader, fire-eater, etc.  Start by describing in one sentence specifically what you want them to do.  Then, when you walk up to the potential volunteer you say, “Hey, would you be willing to try helping out with the youth, I could really use someone to be a _____ and take care of ____ on Sunday nights for us”

3. Train everyone - As clear as you were when you said, “I could really use some one to be at the door saying hello and telling students where the youth room is,”  they need to be trained.  For a simple task it could be as simple as you meeting them ten minutes before their first time serving and saying, “Stand here, open the door, smile and tell them the youth room is down the hall on the right.”  If they are going to be a discussion leader, you may need to set up a lunch the week before to show them the ropes and give them some tips.

4. Thank, Pamper, and Bribe  - Seriously.  They just took two hours out of their weekend.  Sit down and write three sentences on the church’s stationary with line art drawing of the building (they all have some of that) and put it in the mail.  Not every week, but do it after their first week, and then about once a semester from then on out.  Then, every once in a while feed them or give them a gift card.  If you pamper your volunteers, they will love serving and feel supported rather than like they are having to pick up slack.

5. Give them a heads up - They are your P.R. and question answerers in the congregation.  Give them your info before you publish it.  Tell them your reasoning for doing what you do, and get their input via some advisory group or deciding committee depending on how your church rolls with that.

From YouthWorker Movement

>>> Read More: Elijah and the Lone Ranger

5 Tips on Lasting Long-term without Losing Mind or Family


“I wish I had spent more time with my family.”  That was the common answer I got from pastors when, early in my career, I started polling wise, successful ministers about what they wished they had done differently or known when they were starting out.  I tried my best to take that to heart.

I’ve been involved in professional ministry for the past sixteen years  and have had an incredible time without laying my sanity or family on the alter of work.  How do you accomplish that?  It’s not easy.  I guess what this is about is a continuation of what is talked about in 1Corinthians 10:11-14.  I want you to learn from my mistakes so that you can see a way out and live a full life!

1. Have the hard conversation:  How much should I work?

You have a job to do that is far more than any single person can accomplish.  That means that, even with being an incredible delegator, you will have to decide the point at which you stop, leave things uncompleted and feel good about what you’ve accomplished.

So, start with your pastors, SPR, or whoever it is that you consider your boss.  Tell them that you are working on setting healthy boudaries with work and want to clarify their expectations.  Then, say, on an average week without any special event or camp, etc.  what kind of hour would you hope that I was putting in?  How many of those do you expect to be sitting in my office on campus?

After you get a good idea of their expectations you take that home to your spouse.  Let them know the expectations at work and ask them how they match up with their expectations.  Those two may be different!  This is where the rubber meets the road.  Your job is to broker a treaty between your work and your family where you family feels loved, cared for and protected from the sin of absent, workaholism.


2. Take advantage of your flexible hours!

Most churches assume youth ministry will happen in a more flexible time/location setting.  Though they probably (and should) want specific office hours, they are likely to be flexible with when those hours occur.  So, involve your family and decide when is it the most helpful and fun for you to be home when most adults have to work, and schedule your hours around that!

3. Take a vacation

If your minister came to you and asked you to take a 4 or 5% pay cut, you would be upset, but that is what you are doing by not taking vacation.  You need time off.  you need a break, and your family needs it too.  So, schedule it like a sumer camp.  Plan it in advance and take it no matter what.

4. Work hard at work

This one is huge.  I have worked with a ton of people who talk about how many extra hours they work, how they have to take stuff home, etc.  For at least half of them, it’s their own fault.  The reason they don’t finish their work in normal work hours is that every time I see them, they are not working.  No lie, I have worked with people who for the (sometimes brief) time we worked together, I never saw them do something related to their job.

If you are a social butterfly or are working with your best friend, do whatever it takes to keep your nose to the grindstone.  You don’t need to be rude, but you don’t have to have a constantly revolving door or full couch.  Shut your door, close facebook, and get to work.  If you have to, put a sign on the door that says please do not disturb or something.

5. Do something you love that isn’t work related

Sometimes ministry can co-opt our hobbies and turn them into work.  If you love to play the guitar, you end up rehearsing four chord Christian worship songs until the thought of playing anymore makes you sick.  If you enjoy graphic design, you end up making logos for every small group in the church until the last thing you want to see is Illustrator.  That is not healthy.  You need to have things you enjoy that are not part of your job.

Maybe it is hiking or sports, or playing music, or writing.  Whatever it is, schedule intentional time to do it, and no matter what, refuse to do it for work.  You can volunteer your graphic design services for the local food pantry or teach guitar in an at-risk school, but don’t make it part of your job.  Keep some fun thing aside to care for yourself.

From: Youthworker Movement

Dealing with Controversial Topics Without Getting Fired


I have been spending a lot of time recently dealing with controversial topics in the church as part of a message series I am doing in one of our adult worship services.  Though it is possible to get a lot of people interested, it is equally possible to end up with a bunch of upset parents, kids, and pastors.  So, in order to help us all keep our jobs and not have to shy away from every controversial topics, here are some tips I have picked up along the way in dealing with controversial topics.

  1. Wait – Never, ever, ever even consider thinking about possibly attempting to engage a controversial topic without taking time to think about it, its implications, and develop a clear goal for your lesson.
  2. Use Your Longevity – By that I mean, if people have not known you very long as their pastor they are going to be reluctant to listen to your perspective.  Unless you have to address something, wait until you know the people you are serving, and they know you.
  3. Remember They are Controversial – Topics are controversial for a reason.  Usually, either people do not agree or there is some cultural taboo associated with it.  If it is because people do not agree, make sure you don’t act like it should be obvious that one side is true.  If it has a taboo associated with it, make sure you speak appropriately, and carefully.  Do not use slang, do not joke about the taboo.
  4. Give Parents a Heads Up – Make sure that parents know when you are addressing it, and the basics of what you are saying at least a week ahead of time (preferably 2-4).
  5. Make Them the Main Thing – If you are going to address them, do not do it off the cuff or as a sub-point to another topic.  Make sure you spend plenty of time addressing it completely.
  6. Stay Focused on the Spiritual – This is your place of authority as a minister.  When people listen to you, they are wanting to hear what it has to do with their spiritual life.  For example, if you spend all your time talking about STDs and no time talking about the image of God, you miss the boat.  Everything is spiritual, and it is your job to open their eyes to that reality so they grow closer to Jesus through these controversial topics.

From: Youthworker Movement

Talk Tips: But Everyone Cried at Camp


I don't care if it made everyone cry at camp, or if it just came out in the theaters/happened on the news.  No matter how cool an illustration is, it is a distraction if it doesn't clearly reinforce what you are saying.  If it is as deeply impacting as you think it is, the students will remember the illustration rather than the point you were trying to communicate.

How can you tell if your amazing illustration is disconnected?  If you find yourself spending more than a couple of minutes trying to figure out how to make it make sense with your talk: PUT YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR AND BACK AWAY SLOWLY.  Write down the illustration, stick it in a file, or save it on your desktop (where everything else is) for later.

Though, it is generally a bad idea to plan a talk around a cool illustration, you are probably going to do it anyway because this was so great at camp.  So, here's how to rock it in three steps:

  1. Take a moment to watch the video or re-read the illustration and boil its message down into a sentence.
  2. Write down the sentence, put the illustration away, and write your talk.
  3. Then close with it.  There's nothing worse than opening with something that is way better than the rest of your message.  You want to build to this awesome thing and then use it to make your talk a grand slam.

From: YouthWorker Movemen

Talk Tips: Avoid Overplayed Illustrations

The typical youth worker spends a great deal of his or her time in front of a group talking.  This article is part of a series of tips to improve your public speaking skills.

If I have to hear about that kid that sits by themselves in the lunchroom one more time, I am going to vomit!  Seriously!  We all have our weaknesses and one of them is definitely slacking in the creativity department with our illustrations.  Yes, that is an apt illustration in some moment, but the best thing in this case is to go cold turkey and stop the insanity.

Make a list of your most used illustrations (your students know them if you don't) and post them where you can see them, then repeat after me: "I will not use these overplayed illustrations for an entire year."  Force yourself to be creative, and your students will be more engaged.


Youthworker Movement