1. Have an outline.- I cannot begin to express how important this is. Because without an outline you run the risk of rambling and going off on all sorts of tangents. But with an outline you can remain more focused which will be easier for your students to follow. Plus you will be less likely to leave out things you want to say. Not to mention that when that moment comes where you get caught up in the moment and think, "This will be so funny(even though it probably won't be)," you can avoid it because it is not on your outline. I do like to try and memorize my outline so I can speak more confidently and not be staring down the whole time, but I still always have it with me.
2. Ask yourself it is really worth it.- I think the occasional story, joke, or shock value statement is okay and can even enhance your teaching. But when used inappropriately it can be distracting and often destroy the work the Holy Spirit is trying to do in the room. So you always need to ask yourself are these components worth it. Does the story help prove a point or is it just you trying to be funny or look like a better communicator? Is the joke really funny or is just funny to you? And even if it is funny, is it really necessary? Does that shock value moment really necessary or could the issue you are trying to draw attention to be communicated another way? These are important questions to ask because while these communication techniques are often useful they can also be high risk maneuvers.
3. Keep it focused. - Your students brains are already going in 100 different places. Not to mention they can only learn so many things at a time. So you need to make sure that your sermons focus in on one major idea and constantly go in a direction where every point helps to teach that idea. Because if not your students will not be able to follow along and will tune you out. Plus, if you are not focused, and go off on a tangent like telling a random story just because you think it is funny, you run the risk of that tangent being the only thing they remember instead of the scriptural truth you are trying to communicate.
4. Keep it short.- In communication, they say that people can only focus in for 15 minutes. For teenagers that time is usually shorter and because of the world we live in, their attention span is probably much shorter than however long any study says they can focus. So you need to keep things short and to the point. I say go for 15-30 minutes. You also need to find ways to break things up along the way to refresh and refocus your students. Some ways to do this are video clips, changing points, changing slides, having a discussion question, interjecting a quick activity, object lessons, etc. Again, these are just ideas and there are many other ways to break up your sermons.
5. If the Holy Spirit says something else ignore me.- At the end of the day be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading. And if the Holy Spirit tells you to ignore everything I have typed here than do it. If the Holy Spirit says to talk for an hour than you do it. If the Holy Spirit leads you to throw out your outline and speak something else entirely then do it. Did you know that during Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream Speech" that he turned his outline over and started preaching from the heart. And he did it right at the point most of us remember. So sometimes the Spirit leads you and you must follow.
Again, these are just suggestions, but they are suggestions that have come over years of experiences of not always crafting and communicating the best sermons. I would love to hear from you though. What are some lessons you have learned that help you improve your youth ministry sermons?