When I prepare a message, most of the time, I usually know where I’m gong with it and I have an outline in my head. There are times though when I leave the prepared path and go muddin’ (as they say in the south). In preacher talk we call them rabbit trails. Talking and preaching like we have all the time in the world, is like a fun day at the mud pits. Well, it’s fun for us but the people in the passenger seat may not feel the same way.
Unless your students like to sit and hear you preach for hours and hours, like mine do (insert eye roll here), we all have a limited amount of time to say what we feel like God has put on our hearts before kids mentally check out on us. Remember, muddin’s fun but we can also lose track of time. A rabbit trail here and a mud sling there can add 10 minutes to our message that is not necessary. Those ten minutes can suck up our prayer time, response time from kids, or worse, it could get us stared at and watch tapping from parents at our door. Before you swing that oratory wheel screaming, “Yeee Haw!” take another look at your message and ask a yourself a few questions.
Is this necessary?
When I say we should examine our message before we speak, I am not taking about slapping on the rubber gloves for an invasive probing. If you write out your messages, look at your introductions and decide how far you have to go before your kids are with you. Ask yourself whether the story fits, is the intro video too long, and whether the game you want to play really gets you group moving in the direction you want them to go. Much of what I want to say may be fun or cool but isn’t necessary.
Where am I going with this?
The old adage, “Begin with the end in mind” has saved me a ton of time and grief. If I know my kids need time at the altar I won’t put a lot of fluff in the beginning. If I know that I just preached an intense series and our kids need to lighten up a bit I may close with a funny video. If I have a feeling that our kids need to connect with each other I may have them team up at the end and pray for each other. As tempting as it may be, I cannot afford to do all these things in one night so something has to get cut. I have to think about the end of the night and where God is wanting me to lead our students.
What is the Spirit saying?
Not too long ago we had what was called a SERVE night. It was not a normal service night because kids would be breaking up into small groups for projects. On these kinds of nights we only do a couple of songs and then break up so kids will have time to serve. One of the songs that night had a closing chorus that said, “let the veil down, let the praise go up, we’re in the presence of the Lord.” The Holy Spirit pinched my heart and said, “Let’s go muddin’ here”. I decided to trash my mental notes and spend 10 minutes talking about the veil that was torn in two when Christ was crucified and that many of the students were living on the wrong side of the veil and not entering into God’s presence. After using a few student as an illustration, I invited kids to “pass through to the other side of the veil” and into the Holy Of Holies, Best muddin’ ever! Kids came to the altar for prayer. I cut MY stuff for Spirit stuff and the kids had plenty of time for serving.
Asking these three questions before you get up to speak will not only save you time but will help you get your kids where God needs them to go faster. Off Road preaching is fun, just remember whose in the truck with you.
How about you? Where do you tend to go muddin? Games? Message?
Do you feel like you tell too many jokes or get onto issues that have nothing to do with your topic?
Tell me about it in the comments.