Book Review – Speaking to Teenagers

If you have ever attempted to speak to a group of teenagers you know it is hard work! Add on top of that trying to speak about an issue as important as the gospel and it can get down right overwhelming. Youth pastors and workers are indebted to Doug Field and Duffy Robbins for what they have provided in this book. It goes beyond a “how to” manual and challenged me to think about the way I connect to and relate with my students as I speak to them.

The book is divided into three sections: (1) How to Think about Effective Messages, (2) How to Create Messages That S.T.I.C.K., and (3) How to Deliver Effective Messages.

Section 1: How to Think about Effective Messages

In this section, Fields and Robbins explored the role of the speaker, the role of the audience, and what is needed to put together an effective message. This was the most intense part of the book for me because they spent a great deal of time discussing the theoretical aspects of communication. I was introduced to a great deal of this material (ethos, pathos, logos, and reading audience cues, etc.) while in seminary but it was still a great refresher course. If you have never had any training with communication theory, I would encourage you to read this section with care. It is very easy to move past this section quickly and get to the more “practical” parts but you will be miss a great opportunity to grow in your understanding of how communication works.

Section 2: How to Create Messages That S.T.I.C.K.

This section was the most practical section for me and challenged me the most. Fields and Robbins introduced the S.T.I.C.K. method for creating messages: Study, Think, Illustrate, Construct, and Keep Focused. I do a pretty good job thinking, constructing, and staying focused on the message but need a great deal of improvement in studying and illustrating. I enjoy spending time studying but need to make it more of a priority in my weekly schedule. The chapter on illustrating the message was by far the most challenging and informative chapter in the book. The S.T.I.C.K. method is a good step-by-step approach to adopt if you have not yet settled in on a particular method to craft messages.

Section 3: How to Deliver Effective Messages

In this section, Fields and Robbins examined how room set-up, gestures, and vocal inflection impact delivery effectiveness. This discussion was practical and helpful even though a good deal of the information was obvious. Speakers need to do everything possible to set the room up in a way that allows for the most interaction with the audience. They also need to be certain that gestures and vocal inflection enhance the message rather than detract from the message. This section was a good reminder for me and it caused me to consider specific ways to enhance my delivery.

Books like this can be helpful but they can also cause people to feel that they will never measure up. I recognized that I have a ton of work to do to become a better speaker overall and to teenagers specifically. Fields and Robbins end the book with this encouragement: “God doesn’t need flawless communicators…just faithful ones.” I know I will never be flawless but my prayer is that I will always be faithful. One part of remaining faithful is continuing to grow and learn how to communicate more effectively. Every youth pastor and youth worker needs to read this book!

Favorite Quotes

“There are hurting kids everywhere dying to know the good news of God’s love. That’s why there’s no question that those of us who teach the Word of God are involved in a serious enterprise. ‘The stakes have never been higher,’ and ‘the silence is deafening.’”

“Giving a talk is one thing; being given a listen is something else altogether.”

“Who you are is more important than what you say.”

“It’s not about what we say; it’s about what teenagers hear. It’s not about what comes out of our mouths; it’s about what goes into their brains.”

“Speaking is a spiritual encounter between God’s Spirit, God’s Word, the audience whom God loves so much, and…you, the speaker.”