How to Prepare a Lesson in 10 Minutes or Less

You are supposed to prepare a lesson for teenagers that will entertain, inform, capture their attention, refocus them on Christ, make them laugh, make them cry, and at the end, make them stand, with arms high and heart abandoned, to celebrate their good, good Father’s Reckless love…in 10 minutes.

Now you’re sweating.

Adrenaline is flooding your brain. A thousand ideas are all trying to push through the same doorway in your mind. All the good ideas are jammed and keep getting stuck in the small opening you have available so the only ones that are getting through are the tiny ones too small to expand into a real lesson and too random to connect to anything else.

Panic is setting in.

You smile and wave to the students knocking on your door and mouth “I’m just wrapping up” and make the not-sign-language-official sign of tying up a big bow for emphasis.

Prayer. ALWAYS a good lesson and something you are doing a lot of at this exact moment as a matter of fact. “Does prayer work?” Good lesson title – I guess you’ll find out in about (glances at clock) EIGHT MINUTES when you are supposed to be delivering it!

WAKE UP! Whew! It was just a dream…unless it isn’t…

Does this ever happen to you? Does this ALWAYS happen to you? Maybe this NEVER happens to you (teach us sensei!).

Whichever of these is true for each of us, there are some practical things we can do to help avoid the “10 Minute Panic” each time we have to present a message.

STEP 1: Get a plan.

Build the boat BEFORE the storm. My uncle has a sailboat that he takes out into San Diego Bay from time to time and the amount of effort it takes just to prep the boat to be on the water is enormous…and the boat is already built.

Developing a plan for our messages is the first and most important part of the process. If we don’t have a direction over the course of a semester, we will find ourselves gravitating back to the topics and messages we most resonate with which will give our students a limited exposure to scripture. When you’re scared, you go to what you know. When you are prepared, you can explore with confidence.

After spending time listening to God, getting input from leaders, hearing where your students are at, and searching your own heart – what are the things you believe are essential “Big Rocks” for your students to learn during their time in your student ministry?

Make a BIG list. Use the BIG sticky notes! The kind that go on the wall! Or just write on the wall! (We assume no liability on this one!)

As you get these answers, you will find similarities – group similar topics together into “Big Rock categories” until you have 5-10 and then start brainstorming series for each category. Figure out how many opportunities you have to present a lesson and start putting series of messages in slots.

Pro Tip: Series are helpful because you can marinate on a topic for a while and look for videos, articles, stories, and other resources that tie into the different messages. Also, it keeps you from creating new graphics every week and it keeps a thread of conversation going among your students and leaders over time which increases the opportunity to have the formational conversations you hope to have on the topic you are teaching while it is fresh on your and their minds!

Step 2: Calendar the plan!

Andy Stanley ’s Seven Checkpoints is one example of a list of “big rock categories” they have named as their essentials:

SEPTEMBER (3 MESSAGES)

Authentic Faith
Series idea: “In My Feelings or In My Faith?” (Heb. 11)
Week 1: What is Faith? (Luke 7 – Jesus heals a centurion’s servant)
Week 2: Are Feelings Faith or Fake? (Jeremiah 17:9 & C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”)
Week 3: How to Increase Your Faith (Hebrews 11)

OCTOBER (4 MESSAGES)

Spiritual Disciplines
Series Idea: “Gains, Gains, Gains!”
Week 1: Gain More Time (Spending Time in Prayer)
Week 2: Gain More Friends (Accountability)
Week 3: Gain More Knowledge (Reading Scripture)
Week 4: Gain More Peace (Tithing)

NOVEMBER (3 MESSAGES)

Moral Boundaries
Series Idea: “All Eyes On…?” (Book of Proverbs)
Week 1: “All Eyes on WHO?” (Who does your social media glorify?)
Week 2: “All Eyes on WHAT?” (How does porn affect us?)
Week 3: “All Eyes on WHEN?” (Living a life of purity for the WHEN God prepares)

DECEMBER (4 MESSAGES)

Meaningful Relationships
Series Idea: “Tables” (Sermon on the Mount)
Week 1: “Your Lunch Table” (How do you love people at school you don’t know?)
Week 2: “Your Dinner Table”(How do you love your family?)
Week 3: “Your Table of Contents” (How do you love what’s inside you?)
Week 4: “The Communion Table” (How do we love each other as believers?)

JANUARY (4 MESSAGES)

Wise Choices
Series Idea: “Broken Bones and Broken Hearts” (David)
Week 1: “Choose the stones before the battle” (Prepare in private prayer)
Week 2: “Know When To Run” (When to leave a situation) Saul tries to kill David
Week 3: “Consequences are a thing” (unwise choices lead to pain – Bathsheba)
Week 4: “Forgiveness is for the Wise” (giving and receiving – David and Nathan)

FEBRUARY (4 MESSAGES)

Ultimate Authority
Series Idea: “You Just Do You, I’m Just Doin’ Me” (Romans)
Week 1: “Freedom is Beautiful and Dangerous” (Romans 6:1-14 Free to Sin?)
Week 2: “If You Love Me…” (John 14:15 – You will obey my commands? Why? Freedom!)
Week 3: “I’m Dead!” (Romans 6 – So I offer myself every day to God’s plan instead of mine)

MARCH (4 MESSAGES)

Others First
Series Idea: “First of All…”
Week 1: “First of All, Let Me Love You!” (Loving people who are different than us)
Week 2: “First of All, Let Me Shut Up!” (Listening puts others first)
Week 3: “First of All, Let Me Help!” (What can you do to help the helpless?)
Week 4: “First of All, Let Me Glorify God!” (Point praise up when it comes your way)

So here’s the answer to the question in the title of the article: you can’t. But, you can make a great plan that will give you the time you need to listen for God’s voice and guidance as you prepare to speak truth into the lives of students! (Or just totally steal the one in this article!)

Source: Andy Stanley, The Seven Checkpoints for Student Leaders: Seven Principles Every Teenager Needs to Know

J.M. McGinnis

J.M. McGinnis

J.M. has been in youth ministry for over 20 years and is a graduate of Southern Nazarene University. He currently spends his time speaking at events, training youth leaders, writing, and playing basketball. J.M. lives with his wife, Rhonda, outside of Atlanta.
J.M. McGinnis