We’ve all been there. You’re in the midst of giving an amazing teaching, profound talk, or sharing the depths of your soul when you look out and see it – the teens eyes are glazed over and they’re not hearing a single word. Their minds are thinking four times faster than you can speak, but they just can’t focus. In today’s culture social media and the internet is causing your body to chemically desire instant gratification and the “Google effect” is changing the way your brain retains, or more often doesn’t retain, information.
Here are some easy, practical tips that you can immediately apply to better keep teens attention.
- Invite in the Holy Spirit
Sometimes we think it’s all about what we can do. From the first moment of planning, invite in the Holy Spirit for divine guidance and inspiration to effectively engage the teens. This fun test shows how tough it can even be for adults to pay attention.
- Turn Off the Fluorescent Lights
Fluorescent lights make it more difficult to focus and can trigger ADD/ADHD and dyslexia. Most teens are in classrooms with fluorescent lights on 8 hours a day 5 days a week, so if they walk into your room and the same style of lights are on their body triggers a school-like response. Use alternative lighting such as non-fluorescent bulbs, lamps, or natural light to help their brain focus.
- Move Around the Room
While some may argue that American’s attention spans are shorter than that of a goldfish a good rule of thumb is that the age of a teenager is the equivalent number of minutes that they can focus (ie: 15 years old can focus up to 15 minutes). This maxes out at about 20 minutes. To keep teens focused simply lead the session from different areas of the room. Lead opening prayer from the corner of the room; lead the game from the back; give the talk from the front; lead small groups or the activity from the middle of the room. Even having the teens turn from the front of the room where a video was playing to the back of the room for a talk forces their brains to refresh and wake up.
- Add A Little Environment
This is a tough one for me. My strength is not in creating a beautifully themed environment, nor do I have the time or the volunteers to setup elaborate decorations each week. Instead, we create a theme for the year and have banners made that include the theme, a scripture verse, and a nice pop of color. There’s two people who take lead on putting up the banners for the year so it’s not one more thing I have to worry about. Having this small piece of environment really helps transform the room. Can’t afford banners? You can also create a logo or moving background with your theme to show on the projector screen.
- Make Your Talks Interactive
Everyone likes to be “talked with” more than “talked at”. When writing a talk, pinpoint one word that is central to your teaching. Then, think of a creative action for the teens to do every time you say that word. For example, we were focusing on fellowship and community so every time the speaker said “community” everyone raised our hand since we’re all part of this community. (That talk was given over a year ago and the teens still raise their hands when anyone says, “community”.) Another talk focused on identity so when the speaker said “identity” everyone put their hand over their name tag. This type of engagement makes the audience feel like the speaker is in conversation talking with them.
The Lord desires amazing things for you and your teens, and has wonderful things in store (Jeremiah 29:11). Apply these hacks so your teens may more readily hear what God is speaking through you and your team.
We’d love to hear from you! What are some ways you effectively keep teens attention?