I love to use mnemonics! 4 words that start with C. The first letter of each word in a sentence or series of points that form an acronym. A 3 line limerick that’s easy to recite. They’re all great. As long as I don’t force the passage out of context or make it too corny, mnemonics are all good. I also love using visual metaphors and being creative with the room or stage design. Even using iStockPhoto or services like Gracewaymedia.com for graphics are helpful. We show a lot of short “mini-movies” on different topics to serve as lesson hooks, discussion starters, illustrations, etc. We find most of ours at Worship House Media. But most recently we’ve really enjoyed using video student stories related to different topics from Bluefish TV through Rightnow Media. I also really like to use lesson re-enforcing hands-on activities in small groups or little games during large group. Unfortunately, these are much more difficult to put together and orchestrate…especially for large numbers of students. That’s probably why you don’t see this kind of thing much in large youth groups.
My favorite use of creativity in teaching isn’t really gimmick or any sort of special tool. It’s actually just telling the biblical story. But not like talking about the story where you say “I want to tell you about a story in the bible.” Or just explaining the story where you just talk about the things that were happening in the background. Rather, you tell the story as if you’re in the story yourself…you’re one of the persons in the story telling the story. Or maybe not as one of the characters but at least telling it in such a way that it feels like you’re right in the middle of the story. Start with the first sentence being one that grabs their attention and then go back and tell the story leading back to that opening statement. Try experimenting with the various modes of narration, you know like 1st person, 2nd person, and 3rd person. I just recently heard Pastor Chris Brown of North Coast Church employ this kind of creativity in his sermon at our denomination’s annual conference called Midwinter. Check out his website called StoriesThatTeach.com.