Earlier this fall, I had the opportunity to attend a four-day conference hosted by Dynamic Communicators called SCORRE, which you might call a boot camp for public speaking. I was one of thirteen participants who spent four days trying to improve the way we give our talks: body posture, inflection, delivery, humor, and so on. We were sent home with tools to better prepare and self-evaluate each presentation we will give. Since so much of my ministry involves speaking (I’m currently a Chaplain to ten Catholic schools), this conference was among the most practical professional development I’ve ever taken in.
The main takeaway from this conference for me was that every time I speak, I need to be clear on the message I am trying to pass on to my hearers. In his book, “How to Speak to Youth… and Keep Them Awake at the Same Time”, Ken Davis (the founder of this conference) explains why this is so important:
“We did a survey that over seventy percent of the people who leave Sunday school classes, youth meetings, and church services have no idea what the speaker was trying to say… (and) over half of the speakers had no idea what they were trying to say.”
This represents a sobering statement. There are traps for those who speak on a regular basis: wanting others to like us, trying to impress others with our knowledge and speaking skills, or just filling the time we’ve been given at a specific event.
Ken Davis and his team propose SCORRE as the remedy for this trend. a six-part process. SCORRE stands for Subject, Central heme, Objective, Rationale, Resources, and Evaluation. At the heart of this process is the need to write and know a single objective sentence that is the center and guide for each talk we’ll give. As I worked my way through the process God smacked me upside the head to remind me of one of the first youth ministry lessons I ever learned and a second lesson I’ve wrestled with for years.
It’s Not About You
In the weeks leading up to my first parish job, the youth minister who had served me in high school gave me advice I’ve never forgotten. She told me to that youth ministry is always about painting pictures of Christ no matter where you are or what you’re doing. When leading a youth night or a retreat, share Jesus with others in your words. While leading a games night or a service project, make the youth know Christ is there at the center of all you’re doing. As you walk down a high school hallway, remember you are there to represent Christ and not simply yourself.
Help Others See Christ
This – representing Christ in all I do – is the second lesson I’ve struggled to really learn. I was in confession a few years ago when the priest challenged me on my inconsistent prayer life. He said: “…it would be a tragedy for a young person to come to you looking for Jesus, and to have them only find you.” This is an important lesson for me, because when the busy seasons of life come up with family, with ministry, or with my studies, quite it is my prayer life that suffers the most, and so instead of painting pictures of Christ, my family and my young people get stuck with me instead.
If I’m going to properly apply the lessons I’ve taken from SCORRE, I’m going to put more time and effort into the preparation of every talk I give. I’ll be able to give you a single objective goal for these talks – and I’ll put more effort into practicing and evaluating them than I ever have. From a ministry perspective, the entire process ought to be soaked in prayer so that I’m bringing an image of Christ and not me whenever I speak.
We can take this premise and apply it to a whole youth ministry. Whether we’re planning an individual night or scheming out the youth ministry year, we need to be clear on the goal each activity has and the way they fit into our ultimate goal – leading young people to be disciples of Christ. We need to put time and effort into our preparation and our evaluation once each event and youth ministry year is complete. And we absolutely need to soak the whole process in prayer so we can bring young people to Christ, and not simply paint a picture of ourselves.
In many ways, SCORRE, my youth minister, and my confessor all echo words written by the author of the letter to the Hebrews, reminding us of our need to always stay focused:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).