I know traditionally youth ministry lesson have a tendency to resemble a sermon/lecture (“Auditory Learning”) more than they do other kinds of presentations. Church is a setting for 20 minute plus sermons and that might work for the adults, but it really honestly doesn't work for your students...especially those in the middle years.
Even in recent conversations about Generation Z, this group of students is being called the “Goldfish Generation” due to their short attention span thanks to media and other influences.
It is actually been researched that middle years students brains are just not develop enough to keep the full focus that we would like them to have for a full lecture-style presentation.
They live in a media driven world with a YouTube video length attention span and when they actually do sit down to watch “TV” the there is a commercial break every 5-7 minutes!?
You need to consider what I have been calling for the last couple years as I speak and mentor, the "Seven Minute Rule". You may have heard of this before or maybe you haven't but it is simply these two idea:
1.) The first 7 minutes are the most important. They are the time period you will have the most attention and when students will choose whether or not they will listen fully the rest of the time. It like the old traditional youth ministry model of "Hook-Look-Book-Took", the first 7 minutes are more than ever truly our "Hook" time.
2. ) Every 7 minutes or so you need to stop the sermon/lecture do something different or change it up. In an academic setting this takes on various forms with seatwork, assignments or reading. In our youth ministry setting it can be much more diverse and a bit more fun, either way as you plan your next lesson think about how you can change pace ever 7 minutes in order keep your students engaged, listening and learning.
HERE ARE SOME WAYS TO CHANGE THE PACE AND KEEP YOUR MIDDLE YEARS STUDENTS ATTENTION:
- Classics: "sermon" illustration story, tell a personal story, tell a joke...
- Video/Media: clip from a movie, YouTube clip, pre-made video, or even a commercial... (*see Media Resources & Teaching Clips above)
- Questions: group survey response (*raise your hand if...), turn to the person next to you, think about...
- Handouts: create your own, pre-made one, or use a blank sheet for asking questions and reflecting
- Funny: silly pictures, silly videos, silly skit...
- Game: quick trivia, upfront challenge, mid-lesson bonding icebreaker,....
- **Use Your Imagination...Don't Bore Them!!