While experience doesn’t guarantee that you’ll never have a Bible study lesson or sermon bomb, it does help you know how to deal with the fallout.
Here are a few thoughts on how to process and learn from a particularly crummy experience teaching or speaking.
Shake It Off
First things first, apply a little Taylor Swiftian words of wisdom here: Shake it off. Just like everything else in life, you will occasionally have an off day teaching or speaking. You have to chalk the bad days up as a cost of doing business. It’s just part of being a youth worker. Your worth, your identity, your value to God is not determined by your ability to always hit home runs in your disciplemaking efforts. Shake it off. Forget about it. Pick yourself up and move on.
As Much As You Can, Identify The Cause
Unless you like the feeling of totally falling flat on your face, you probably want to try to pinpoint the factor or factors that caused you to flame out. Did you not prepare well enough? Were you trying to do too much in one lesson or sermon? Has your teaching or preaching become too predictable? Was your concept too abstract? Too many examples or illustrations? Or not enough? Or maybe the fault isn’t with you at all . . .
Was your group size impacted because of an external variable (school field trip, weather, another church function, etc.)? Were students just not into it for whatever reason? Did you have one student dominate the conversation? Were there technical difficulties that derailed your plan?
The goal is to identify what caused your lesson or sermon to get sideways. I recently laid an egg in a Bible study lesson. (Again, it happens.) Looking back, I could identify that it was a combo of me not being as prepared as I should have been, and us having a smaller group than usual (with some of our key participators missing). But also, the mood in the room just wasn’t right. And I don’t know exactly why. Sometimes you can’t know all the reasons why you bomb. But try as best you can to pinpoint them.
Fix What You Can Fix
If you can pinpoint what went wrong, fix it for next time. This is called learning from your mistakes. And if we can learn from our mistakes, we mitigate their severity. Identify the variables that impacted your lesson or sermon, and work to mitigate their impact on your future talks.
We’re all going to have off days. But our message and calling are too important to neglect.
While we’ll occasionally blow it, we need to be proficient teachers and speakers. As youth workers, the stakes are simply too high not to focus on being as effective as we can be. Hopefully these guidelines will help.