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Teaching: Know Your Audience

The old saying goes, “they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

  

Before you ever get up and teach a lesson it’s important that you know your audience. By that I mean three things: know their culture, know them personally, know their needs.  

Know Their Culture
When was the last time you observed youth culture, not as a grown up who was criticizing it but as a missionary who seeks to understand it? It is so important that we understand the way our kids live every day.

Chap Clark, a sociologist, suggests that today’s teenagers live in a “world beneath.” Their culture has its own set of rules, language, and customs. Adults are not allowed in. The best we can do is learn about their subculture and interact with them when they participate in more mainstream cultural activities, attempting to influence them for Christ.

If we don’t understand where our kids are coming from when they sit down in our youth rooms, we are starting from a deficit. Know their culture.

Know Them Personally
We also need to know our kids personally. What are their parents’ names? Do they have siblings? What do they like to do for fun? What are their dreams? What do they worry about? Can you answer those questions about the kids in your group?

Occasionally I’ll get the chance to do something fun with a student. It may be go to a baseball game, out to eat, or visit their home. When I can, I force myself to clear my schedule and take the time to do this. I learn more about them in these settings than I ever do in our regular gatherings.

If we don’t understand our kids deep down, we will struggle to be effective ministers. If we know our kids personally, it will bring life to our teaching and exponentially increase our influence as ministers.

Know Their Needs
Sometimes, kids come into our group who couldn’t care less what we are teaching. It’s not because they don’t love Jesus, it’s because they haven’t eaten that day, no one has given them a hug, they haven’t seen their parents for three nights in a row, or they had a huge fight with their best friend at school.

Students come into our meetings with things already on their minds. They rarely show up with a blank mind ready to absorb whatever we say. Instead, find out what they need. They might need a meal. They might need a friend. They might need an adult to tell them they have value. They might need a place to crash that night. Be careful, and be honest and up front with their parents, but know their needs.

Remember, they won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care—about what’s going on in their lives, about them personally, and about what it means for them to live life as a disciple and a teenager.


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