Are you a preacher or teacher of the Word of God? If you are, I have an observation that I would like to share with you.
I love to hear the Word of God preached and I am sure you do too. I also love to see young people saved. But lately I have noticed something about preaching and young people.
While you and I who are older do not mind when preachers take five or ten extra minutes to finish their message, young people do not like it when speakers go over time.
How shall we remedy this situation?
The Wrong Approach
Number one, I do not think the answer is “tough luck,” young people. “Just learn to sit through it!” I think the young people are the very ones we are trying to reach, so we should pay extra careful attention to their perspective.
For whatever reason, a young person’s attention span is short. Whether it is due to their own immaturity or to cultural influences, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that this is where they are at right now, and we are supposed to be reaching people where they are at.
The Apostle Paul preached to the people at Mars Hill with a message that would appeal to them (Acts 17:16-31). He did not bog them down with Old Testament references and Jewish theology. He tried to reach people where they were at.
The Apostle Paul’s Philosophy
“To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews” was Paul’s philosophy for outreach, “and to those who are without law, as without law…that I might win those who are without law” (1 Cor.9:20).
I think we can apply this same principle to the current culture of our young people: “to the teenager, I became a teenager, in order to win some for Christ!” If missionaries to other cultures curtail their preaching styles, why can’t we do it within our own culture?
The effective method for this generation seems to be this: less is more. I repeat, less is more. You might have prepared a whole boatload to preach.
You may have many more PowerPoint slides to get through. The older people may even be cheering you on, to preach five, ten or even fifteen minutes more.
But remember this: every minute you preach over time, a teenager is watching the clock. And if they are watching the clock, they are no longer listening to you.
Here’s what I have observed. If you are a preacher who habitually preaches five or ten minutes over time, the young people “cringe” when they see your name on the bulletin. They dub you as a long winded speaker and tend to tune you out half-way through your message.
Remember I am not talking about the whole congregation. The majority probably like it when preachers go over time. I am talking about a very small segment of the congregation but a very vulnerable and crucial part of the congregation, who we very desperately want to reach. I am talking about the future members of our assemblies.
So if you want to reach young people, here is my suggestion: finish on time. If our goal is to reach young people, then frustrating them and shutting off their ears off by preaching past 12:00 o’clock is counter productive. A much better strategy would be to learn to say more in less time. Paradoxical but true for this generation: less is more!