Is It Excessive? Part Two: How long are you going to talk?

I’ll be honest it’s a little bit of an ego trip for me to get up in front of people and talk.  It’s kind of hard to believe that I’m paid and trusted by others to give insight and truth, to lead them and guide them to a relationship with Christ.  To give a message is an honor and a blessing.  What can I say?  I love speaking and could talk for hours…but when does it become excessive?
I know a subject I’ve heard many youth ministers debate is how long a teaching should be.  Some say no more than 10 minutes, others say as long as you need.  How do you know if you are talking too much or enough?  In Part Two of this blog series Is It Excessive? I want to talk a little bit about how to identify if we’re doing too much talking and how we can improve our communication.  So you know your talking to much if…
PEOPLE TELL YOU.  They tell you directly and indirectly.  When they tell you directly it hurts especially when it comes from a teenager or minister.  A parent…we usually brush off and say, “They don’t know.” but a student who says, “You’re talking too long people are bored.” I don’t know about you but that stings.  When they tell you indirectly it’s easier to ignore.  Maybe the sound of tap, tap, tap increases from students upping their texting.  Maybe, you notice they aren’t facing you while you speak.  Maybe they don’t even come anymore.  It’s easy to ignore because we can say, “Psht teens, so immature and disrespectful.”
I use to speak for 40 minutes when I first started and I lost a lot of momentum in a message.  Ministers would try to tell me lovingly but all I felt was hurt…my ego had been busted.  It took a while to realize that the problem wasn’t length.  The reason my talking seemed excessive is because I didn’t know the proper way to construct and deliver a message.  So here’s how:

  • It starts with one point.  Every message should be easy to sum up in one point.  If there is one thing you wanted your students to know when they go home what would it be?  If you can answer that question, then you have the core of a great message.  Too many times we fill a message with too many points that end up canceling one another out.
  • It continues with creatively repeating and elaborating on that one point.  Share a testimony (either your own or another), relate it to culture, the world, their lives, bring them into it.  Tell them what God thinks, what does the Bible say…what’s Jesus’ take?  Tell them how to apply it to their lives and reveal to them what life would look like if they embraced your one point.  When you bring different components to drive home your point you make it memorable and engaging.
  • Lastly, embrace your message.  I would say memorize it but I’m not sure that would do the trick for everyone.  But ask yourself, “How long do I practice my message?”  And “How do I practice my message?”  Do you have other people read it or listen to you speak?  When you write a message you need to spend time with it, read it to yourself, to others, practice the delivery, rework and tweak what your telling and then embrace it.  When you can embrace the message it comes from the heart.

When you can drive home your point and show the students that you embrace your message the amount of time you spend talking won’t matter.  I hope you all weren’t looking for an answer from me but I don’t know if there is a perfect length. Again I use to speak for 40 minutes, now it’s more like 15-20minutes.  Why the change?  I just had too many points. Will I ever go back up to 40mins?  Maybe, but right now I don’t need too.  Again, don’t get me wrong I know a lot of great youth pastors who speak for a little short of an hour and they are great, they just have different story telling gifts.  Our messages are going to come off excessive if we don’t whittle them down to one point and embrace what we are saying.  I hope this makes sense.  I know I’m not the authority on speaking to teens so I would invite you all to share what you do to make sure your speaking isn’t excessive?