It was the one common denominator on almost everyone’s paper. I just spent two weeks speaking to young people and training youth workers in Uganda… and their kids are just like ours.
The training workshops were particularly revealing. We started each session breaking up into groups, brainstorming ideas on a large piece of paper, listing ministry practices that were working… and also models that, sadly, weren’t working. Then we discussed each item in detail, speculating why, and learning from each others’ successes and failures.
Despite our many differences, I was amazed at the similarity between Uganda and American youth ministry. In both countries we’ve been boring people to death.
It’s funny, because the one thing I’ve heard from missionaries for the last 20 years is how in Africa people are so hungry they can listen for hours upon hours! “They don’t have the short attention span like in the US.” Yet, every single Ugandan youth worker in our training last week said, “We’re boring our kids by going on too long.” These 20-something aged African youth workers kept asking, “How can we keep young people’s attention?” So I presented them with the same training I’ll be giving at the National Youth Workers Convention this year: Using 10-Minute Talks
It’s fun hearing how clear, short talks can really stimulate today’s young people to think. Especially when followed by small group questions about the talk (which is why we provide small group questions in both of my 10-Minute Talks books).
This proposed methodology always seems to fluster certain people who think I’m asking you to water down your messages. Quite the contrary. I’m not asking us to engage kids for just 10 minutes. I’m asking us to only talk 10 minutes, then engage them in small groups for another 45. This minimizes monologue and maximizes dialogue.
A couple weeks ago Texas youth worker named Jeremy sent me an email telling me, “I just used one of your 10 minute talk stories at our back to school bash in front of about 80 jr. high and High School students and they loved it. They were engaged the entire time.”
I asked him, “Which one?” He was kind enough to give me the whole scoop:
It was the 19th talk, titled, “Having it All,” talking about Temporary vs. Eternal.
I used this talk during our Back to School Bash service in front of about 80 Jr. High and High School students. We were in the Gymnasium of our Church which is great for big youth events like this.
The kids really enjoyed the story. They seemed engaged the entire time. By using this story I was able to share the message that a relationship with Jesus Christ is the only thing that is eternal in a way that these students could relate to. For an evangelism/outreach event like this it was perfect. For outreach with students you never want to simply open the Bible and start preaching a deep expository sermon, because that will normally bore them to death. This “10 Minute Talk” gave me the opportunity to share the Gospel of Christ which will ultimately open doors for deeper discussion and lessons later.
All of the feedback I got from both the students and parents was very positive. I know this mostly due to tweets and facebook statuses, but I even had kids come to me and say they really enjoyed it. One mom told me that the story I told is all her son talked about when he got home that night.
I recommend “10 Minute Talks” to anyone who works with youth.
Thanks Jeremy. (I actually posted a link to a free download of one of those talks on this book page)
I just have to ask: Why try to keep kids attention for 30-45 minutes when we can just say it in 10 and then let them discuss it and digest it with us in small groups?