Teaching Techniques that Tantalize

Youth Specialties
June 9th, 2016

“Teaching that tantalizes?” – is that even possible?

Or am I just reaching for the alliteration? Maybe.

I almost used the word “titillates” but…well…you know. We work with middle schoolers and that’s affected what makes us giggle.

Look both words up and you’ll see that in regards to teaching, each adjective could describe a style of imparting knowledge that leaves your students wanting more. Not a bad result when we’re talking about teenagers.

So how does that happen? Some people are born with a gift to teach in ways that kids just get it. It’s a natural talent and a spiritual gift. But our ministries can’t wait for the next great Robin Williams’ character in Dead Poets Society-type teacher to come along. Even if we’re not blessed with the gift of entertaining teaching, we can still be a good teacher in our church’s student ministry. Here’s a list, though not exhaustive, of ways to dial up the engagement:

Be ready before the first youth arrives.

The stronger your relationship with each student, the more they want to hear what you have to say and the more you know how to say what they need to hear.

Use a curriculum that provides multi-sensory learning environments.

[bctt tweet=”The only person in your class blessed by you talking for 30 minutes straight is you.” username=”ys_scoop”]

It’s not how your students learn best. (It’s not how adults listening to a long sermon learn best, either.) Don’t mistake your class’s polite faces as engagement.

Ask great questions.

[bctt tweet=”Any question that is surprising, specific, and personal will get your students talking.” username=”ys_scoop”]

Which of these two questions do your students want to discuss most:

  • What does Jesus think about your social media posting?
  • If Jesus friend-requested you on Facebook or Instagram, would you hit confirm or delete? Why?

Prepare at least 24 hours ahead.

Seriously, people. Why is anyone ever surprised that students zoned out of our teachings when we put about 15 minutes effort into what we taught?

Personalize when possible.

Think about how each of your students’ process learning. Are they Hearers/Readers? Visual? Experiential?

[bctt tweet=”Most of your students learn best from debriefing while “doing.”” username=”ys_scoop”]

But for the one kid that learns differently, make it happen. Throw in options. They’re worth the time.

Multi-ages levels in one setting.

Small churches deal with this all the time since they don’t have the resources or critical mass to have grade-level learning. Quick idea: Start the lesson together, divide into MS and HS for age-appropriate small group questions, and then wrap up back together.

Control your environment.

[bctt tweet=”An old adage every education major can tell you is, “A good teacher controls their classroom.”” username=”ys_scoop”]

Just because you’re meeting in a room shared by others in your church doesn’t mean you should neglect how it looks. Make sure the lighting is soft. Ask if it’s ok to put away/clean up any chaotic mess. Ensure that the temperature is comfortable and the furniture, for that matter.

Care outside the class.

Send birthday cards. Check on students that are missing. Affirm one student a month/week with something special. Connect with each student about something in their lives at least twice a month. All of this will move them towards having open ears when you speak both inside and outside your teaching time.

See? None of this requires a magical gift. It’s just tweaking here and there, using a little intentionality.


STEPHANIE CARO has been involved in ministry for more than thirty years. She’s the author of Thriving Youth Ministry in Smaller Churches and 99 Thoughts for the Smaller Church Youth Worker. She’s senior consultant for Ministry Architects and lives in Houston with her hubby and puppy.

Youth Specialties

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