When I was a brand-spanking-new youth pastor, with a rookie’s dream of becoming world-famous as a speaker, I had a mentor who taught me about communicating effectively. He taught me about organizing my thoughts, about stage presence, about timing, and a lot more. None of it helped me become world-famous (you can’t teach talent, and I don’t have enough to be THAT good), and yet I am grateful for the lessons he gave.
He told me that there are three guaranteed techniques used for effective communication. I learned to evaluate how other speakers used those techniques to reach their audiences. I noticed that some speakers overused one to the detriment of the others and that some abused, even faked, some of those techniques in what seemed to be a manipulation of the audience. But the methods work great, especially when delivered with authenticity. Here are those three techniques:
Controversy – If you say something outrageously controversial, the audience will sit up and take notice. I’ve heard more than one speaker use the old standby, “Every day, people die to a Christ-less eternity in Hell, and you don’t give a *!@^!/. What’s sad is that you’re more concerned that I just said ‘*!@^!/’ than you are that people are dying to a Christ-less eternity in Hell.” Sure, it’s controversial. Yes, it does get the audience’s attention!
Intimacy – You’ve probably noticed how suddenly quiet and intense the audience becomes when a speaker becomes moved with emotion struggles to maintain composure. Some speakers have perfected that “sudden lump in the throat” technique when they want to make an especially significant point. If you want kids to be attentive, just preface your point by whispering something like, “I’ve never really told anyone this, and I probably shouldn’t be telling it to you, but…”
Humor – God has hardwired us to laugh. We love funny people, funny situations, funny photos – anything that makes us laugh! A wise communicator will use the “universal funny-bone of youth ministry” to break through to an audience and communicate effectively. Jesus was a pro at using humor to get His message across. (Could anyone deliver with a straight face Jesus’ lines about a guy with a log in his eye trying to dig the speck of sawdust out of the eye of another? One can almost sense the comic timing if this passage were paraphrased just a bit; “So, there’s this guy with a gargantuan log sticking outta his eye…”)
Of those three techniques, my favorite is humor. It works in more places and with more people than the other two combined. Humor is a powerful tool that every youth leader should use!
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