This is being posted on a Wednesday. Hopefully most of you have already planned your message/lesson for tonight. But, if you’re looking for some last minute magic…here ya go.

This is, by far, the best format I’ve used for delivering my messages to students. It’s the ages old Hook, Book, Look, Took.


Option 1 (my first choice): Open with a personal story, preferably of an experience while of similar age as the audience. But don’t tell them you’re going to tell them a story. Just start telling it. And, tell it as if you’re in the story right now. I explain more about this in a previous post.

Option 2 (my second choice): Open with a video of a student’s story that grabs their attention and makes an emotional connection with them around the night’s theme. It works especially well if there is not resolution to their struggle and the kids are left sitting with the tension described in the video.

Option 3 (maybe for smaller groups): Open with an activity or game that sets up the tension (below) or gets the kids thinking about the topic.

We also like to utilize Orange’s strategy for building “Tension” that helps students connect with the importance of the Bottom Line. This tension is created by juxtaposing two statements side by side: a statement about our reality and a statement about God’s truth, or vice versa.

Transition: “You see, the reality is that …” or “…the truth is…”

REALITY: “The reality is that  ….” – a general statement describing every student’s reality, relating to their struggles, their pains, the challenges of the world in which they live, etc.

TRUTH: “The truth is ….” – strong, biblically based, memorable spiritual truth that will server as the bottom line or main point of the rest of this message.

Put these statements on the screen. Maybe even side-by-side.

Transition: “The Apostle Paul wrestles with this same issue in _____” or “Joseph had the same problem when he faced _____ in Genesis.”


Make sure students have a real bible in their hands. Read the main biblical text (no more than 10 verses long, reference and page number on the screen, students following in their own bibles). Then explain its story or tell its back-story.

Transition: “Okay, there are several phrases/words/verses I want you to notice here.”


Explain the meaning of some of the key verses, phrases, and words. Make the one sentence “truth statement” (simple, easy to understand, easy to remember). Study a commentary or a Bible dictionary for this. Keep the students looking at the text with you.

Transition: “This text has some great implications for us! If Paul was talking to us today, he would give us #___ principles.”


Explain how the key phrases/words/verses relate to the truth statement (made earlier) and how it all relates to the life of the student. How is it helpful now? This Friday night? Motivate students to action. Give real world examples preferably as it relates to the opening personal story. If you have additional supportive statements, there should be as few as possible and should make use of good mnemonics (alliteration, rhyme and meter, etc.). Keep the wording short–less than 10 words.

Put these statements on the screen!

HOPE: Try to conclude your message with an inspiring statement that includes the TRUTH applied to their lives. Send kids off with some real HOPE!

Small Group Discussions: Provide small group leaders with questions to ask their students that relate to applying these things to their lives outside of church, in their homes, at school, on their teams, with their friends, etc. Encourage your small group leaders to do 20% of the talking while the students do 80% of the talking. And, encourage them to leave a significant amount of time to pray with each other about these things.


Author: Jim Murphy

Associate Pastor | NextGen Ministries Covenant Church, Bemidji, MN

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