What If I Have Nothing to Say? Addressing the Fears of Teaching

This blog post is for you. You’re reading this because you’re like me. You’re busy.

You pour yourself into your family, your ministry role, and your friends. Maybe you exercise a couple times a week. Okay, maybe a couple times a week is a stretch…

Then, on Saturday night you sit down and stare at a blank computer screen. You wish you were watching Netflix but instead you are trying to muster out a talk for your students the next morning. You reach back into lessons your youth pastor taught, you try to remember that funny story you heard at a Youth Specialties conference. After a few frustrating hours, you go to bed anxious and afraid that you have nothing to say.

Whether you’re a paid or volunteer youth worker, you’ve lived this experience.

We’ve felt this way because our greatest occupational enemy is our inability to say no.

There’s never enough time in the day to be a family member, a good friend, a youth leader, present at sports games/performances, and also prepare a moving message that will engage teens’ hearts. 

Time makes it so that we feel we don’t have anything to say. Lack of time is the enemy. 

Whatever teaching environment you teach in – dialogue, group interaction, or lecture – we have all experienced the fear and anxiety of preparing to give a message but feeling like we have nothing to say. 

This fear sits in knots in your stomach. Lies and fear go through your brain as you look at a blank page, knowing you have a message to give the next day or even that night. You start to ask yourself “where do I start?” The fears of whether or not anyone will listen, am I right for this, should I quit, etc. inevitably flood your brain. 

I want to help you always have something to say. These four tips will help you always have something to say and clarify your talk or sermon so that teenagers will listen. 

The fatal flaw we often make is that we relegate “sermon prep” to a time block on the calendar. Then we sit down and hope that creativity will flow like a faucet. When it doesn’t we expect the Holy Spirit to part the clouds and speak with tongues of fire in a way that will change how our students think and feel about everything. 

I’m not saying that God won’t or can’t take that action when necessary, but we shouldn’t bank on it. 

RADAR

To overcome that flaw we need a radar. Radar is what happens when we are curious about the world we live in. Ordinary objects or people in our everyday lives become potential sermon illustrations and examples. The young women helping the old man load his groceries becomes an example of Jesus’ words that we will be known by our love. Radar is what happens when we live with our eyes open. Write things down. Pen and paper are great. I use the Evernote app – it syncs to all my devices and makes organizing simple. At times I have a few hundred random notes in my phone, of things I’ve seen or observed, just waiting to be sorted into…

BUCKETS

Buckets are where we put clusters of similar ideas. Every couple months I’ll sit down and spend an hour looking through the random notes I’ve taken and will place them in folders with similar things I’ve seen. Buckets are where your ideas have a chance to hang out with similarly-minded ideas. It’s like a social club for your idea as they go from independent thoughts with autonomy and become beautiful chunks.

CHUNKS

Chunks are a paragraph of speech. They are a synthesized idea that you could communicate at any time, to any group of people. Chunks happen when your ideas take flight. They are the things that you speak that make people set aside their distraction and listen in a new way. The beautiful thing about chunks is that they sweeten over time as they have space to soak in marinade.

MARINADE

What, did this just become a BBQ Blog? No, marinade is what happens when your chunks of thought sit in your brain over time and are said to different audiences. Your chunks of speech will gain meaning and purpose as you give them time and space to develop within your consciousness. 

So, my fellow youth worker friends I hope that these four things, when applied, will help you be a better youth worker. May you defeat the enemy of time and the fear that your words will fall flat. And may you always have something to say. 

Jeremy Schultheiss

Jeremy Schultheiss

Jeremy is a youth pastor, speaker, and writer at Mariners Church in Irvine, CA. He exists online at www.jeremyschultheiss.com
Jeremy Schultheiss

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