Teaching Better Part 1: 3 Must Haves for Better Sermons

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Teaching may be the toughest tension in youth ministry. The majority of youth workers that I meet love to teach. As a matter of fact, many would say teaching is their favorite part of youth ministry!



     Many also list the constant pressure of teaching as one of their biggest stressors. Anyone who has been in youth ministry for more than a few months knows that Wednesday (or Sunday) is ALWAYS coming! Teaching well one time isn't as difficult as teaching well week after week. 


     We love to teach and preach, but we hate that another talk is always coming. We love it when we find a sermon that seems to write itself, but we hate the weeks where we struggle to write anything. 


Is there a way to teach better with less tension and less stress? I believe there is! That's what this three part blog series is all about: helping you to teach better with less effort!


     So let's go ahead and jump into Part 1: 3 Must Haves for Better Sermons


     We've all experienced a sermon that was so easy it seemed to write itself. The preparation was effortless, the presentation was excellent, and the impact was eternal. It couldn't have went any better!


     So what makes sermons like this so easy? I believe your sermons will seem to write themselves when you embrace these three things in your preparation.


3 Must Haves for Writing Better Sermons

1) A Burden

Great communicators have a burden. Not just a burden for their talk, but a burden for the people they're talking to. If you don't have a burden each week for the students you get to teach, it's time to step off the stage.


It's not enough to have good content, you need a burden for the people before you can be a great communicator! When you have a burden for the people you are teaching, it's easy to see. It's also easy to see it when you don't. The best youth ministry communicators have a burden for the students they teach!


When it comes to teaching, the burden is the weight you carry for why your students need to know what you are teaching. Your burden provides the tension for your talk, and it becomes the main point of what you're teaching. If you want to write better sermons and teach better, you've got to have a burden for your people!


Pray and ask God to give you a renewed burden for your students. It will not only make you a better teacher, but it will also make you a better shepherd.


2) A Base

Just like when building a house, a strong foundation is vital to building a great sermon. The foundation of a sermon is where you start. It's the most basic outline you will use when first beginning to put it together. As a communicator, you will need a solid foundation before you can create a solid sermon!


Before you have a topic, scripture, or story you will need a base. Your base is the way you approach every sermon, and it should be the same each week. Your base is your sermon writing template, and if you don't have one you probably won't have much of a sermon either. 


There are a lot of different bases you can use, but I prefer Andy Stanley's "Me, We, God, You, We." I have a document in this format that I use to start writing every sermon!


I start by listing my main scripture and thought in the "God" section. I then follow it up with the personal application I want the students to walk away with (the "You" section.)


Next, I fill in the "Me" and "We" sections with a story or illustration to connect to students in the introduction. Finally, I fill in the final "We" section with a challenge or dream for our group. once everything is filled in, I have a workable outline!


After years of using it, I'm comfortable with this sermon base. It helps me get started quickly and creatively. Without it, I would waste hours getting started with a workable outline. You don't have to use mine, but you will need to find a sermon base that works for you.


The better your base, the better your sermons! How you start writing a sermon will directly impact how you deliver the finished product. Great communicators get off to a good start by using a base they're comfortable with.


What sermon base do you use? Do you have one currently?


3) Bandwidth

More often than not, the quality of your preparation will determine the quality of your talk! I can usually tell how much time a person has spent preparing a talk within the first five minutes of it. Why? Because great preparation leads to great sermons, and poor preparation leads to poor ones. The quality of your preparation will determine the quality of your talk!


Confession time: I am not naturally a good communicator. I only preach well because i prepare well and beg the Lord to speak through me.  Give me a day to prepare and i will give you an average sermon. However, give me three weeks to prepare and it will be much better!


I need time to pray through a message and let the Lord speak to me before He speaks through me. I have a hunch you do too. If you want to speak better, you have to prepare better. A major key to teaching better is to develop more bandwidth and time in our preparation.


Think about it this way. If you are preparing to teach about the Holy Spirit, wouldn't you prefer time to read blogs, books, and commentaries as you prepare? I would!


I also want time to find good illustrations and stories to help students connect. Unfortunately, there is simply not enough time to do this well in a week!


Do whatever it takes to get ahead and begin preparing sermons at least three weeks out. The best communicators I know all do this, and I believe it will make and immediate impact in your teaching!


Creating bandwidth in your teaching isn't easy, but it's definitely worth it! Some ideas for creating this space for yourself could be using video teaching, bringing in other speakers, or letting students and volunteers to share their God stories. 


Do whatever it takes to create some bandwidth in your teaching prep. You won't regret it when you do!



     Have questions or something to add? We would love to hear from you below! Also, check back next week for Part 2 of our Teaching Better Series!


Jeff was born and raised in East Tennessee and holds a bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies. He has been in ministry for over ten years, and has had the opportunity to start two student ministries from the ground up. Jeff currently serves as a Student Pastor at Faith Promise Church in Knoxville, TN, and leads a campus of over 500 students.

Jeff’s goal in ministry is to lead students to know & follow Jesus in a way that affects every part of their life, and to raise up next generation leaders to have an even greater impact. More than anything, Jeff enjoys sharing life and adventures with his wife Candis and their two boys, Malachi and Imri.

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