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3 Vital Elements for Every Student Talk

This post is brought to you by Speaking To Students, the first online community created specifically for men and women who communicate to students on a consistent basis. Learn more at

One of the most challenging and frustrating parts about communicating to students is wondering whether or not you did well.

You put in the work, deliver the talk, and then walk off the stage and think, “I wonder how that went.”

How do you know if you were engaging? How do you know if you were effective? How do you know if you said what God wanted you to say?

At Speaking to Students, we know what it’s like to wonder, and we know what it’s like to fail . . . a lot! We’ve given many talks that were just plain “meh.”

And you know why? Because we weren’t sure what the “win” was. Obviously we were aware of the ultimate desired result: for students to come to know and follow Jesus. But we weren’t entirely sure what needed to be true of our talks in order for that to happen each week.

After years of experience, consulting with other teachers and pastors, and simple trial and error, the staff at Speaking to Students narrowed down the criterion to three simple elements that not only create “winning” talks, but also decrease message preparation time drastically.

And that’s what Speaking to Students is about. We’re a community of student pastors and speakers who want to help each other demonstrate excellence in what God has called us to do. And, in the process, we want to see Him do immeasurably more than we could ask for or imagine. In the name of these principles, we hope these strategies help you as much as they have helped us.

Here are three things you absolutely must do to make every student talk a win:

1. Get students’ eyes from their phones to your face.

Students don’t show up caring about what you have to say; you have to win their attention. There’s a crucial moment in every sermon when you have to make your audience care about what you’re talking about—a moment when what you’re saying becomes more compelling than whatever they’re currently doing or thinking about.

2. Take your passage from dead to alive.

As student pastors, we know that reading Scripture is critical to a growing faith, but that doesn’t mean our students want to hear it. The truth is, many of our students associate the Bible with little more than archaic, confusing language and irrelevant stories. If you want to combine your message with God’s Word, then it’s up to you to create a moment when the passage comes alive to a student. Present the Scripture so clearly or vividly or memorably that a light bulb in interest turns on in the minds of your students.

3. Push your point from Sunday to Monday.

We are working with a group of people whose attention span is similar to that of a puppy. Here’s the question that should haunt us every single time we speak: “Will what I say today make it to Monday?” Or even more, will it make it to the time when students will need it the most? At their darkest point, their most tempted point, their most critical, decision-making point? The reason this question should bother us is because we’re not just trying to preach the Word; we’re trying to plant the Word. There must be a moment in every talk when you move students from hearing something to doing something about what they heard.

If these three components exist in each of your student talks, you can walk offstage every time knowing the message was a win, and not just for you, but for your students and, most importantly, for the Kingdom as well.

Knowing your win does two things:

1. It illuminates.

It shows you where to go. It’s keeping your eye on the ball or looking at the end of the balance beam (I’ve never done gymnastics, but I’ve heard this is the key). Your mind and body tend to follow where you’re looking.

2. It eliminates.

This is probably even more important. Knowing your win keeps you away from everything else. When your win is deeply rooted, you start noticing and avoiding everything that isn’t strategic.

That’s why knowing your win is the starting point for any new or developing communicator, and the foundation for every winning student talk.

For more on how to integrate these elements into your message strategy week-in and week-out (plus TONS of other tips and information), visit Speaking To Students is a growing community that moves student pastors like you off of the lonely island of communication and into a tribe of encouragement and support. Join the movement at

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