SIX THINGS (OF AT LEAST 15) THAT YOUNG PEOPLE WANT IN PREACHING
1. Tension: Don't gloss over the messy parts of Scripture that sometimes butt up against other bits of Scripture. Dive headfirst into such discrepancies. You will see a room full of faces go dark because they've just turned off their cellphones.
2. Passion: If you aren't amazed, in awe, angry, frustrated or otherwise passionate about the topic, they won't be either.
3. Not too passionate: Real feedback I got from a sermon once: "I get that you're really excited about Communion, but I don't get why anyone should be that excited about Communion." When preaching, make sure you're at the appropriate excitement level for the topic.
4. Interaction: The more you open yourself to conversation with the congregation, the more significant the experience will be. In my setting, sermons are always interactive, which is both frightening and freeing. I now see the responsibility for a positive sermon outcome as shared with the congregation and the Holy Spirit. After prepping sermons, sometimes I'm left with questions like, "Why does this matter?" Instead of stressing to force an answer, I ask the room and watch as the Holy Spirit completes the sermon through the congregation – that is, when we don't just awkwardly stare at one another.
5. Behind-the-scenes-interaction: I don't plan sermons or worship gatherings in a vacuum. I always include my target demographic in planning and brutally honest debriefing (see #3). This ensures that illustrations will hit home and matters important to them are at the forefront. It also invests them in the message, so if a sermon tanks or thrills, we share that responsibility.
6. Celebration: Every week, celebrate a young person in your congregation. EVERY. WEEK. Millennials grew up the most hyper-graded/evaluated individuals on the planet. Lacking positive feedback, they assume they are screwing up. Note: There is splash-over. If you affirm one person in the room, others will feel better about themselves.
The Rev. Mike Baughman, 36, is the community curator and founding pastor of Union, a new kind of United Methodist church start/coffeehouse in Dallas. He graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2004.