Sport provides a great opportunity to bring people together, build relationships and from those relationships engage in meaningful conversations. At Reach Forth one of our favourite things to do is talk about our faith in Jesus and God’s amazing love for all people! At every game, a short devotional message is shared to encourage participants and invite them to consider some of life’s bigger questions. Leading a devotional is not necessarily an easy task, but it is such an important one! How can we lead effective devotionals? Here are few thoughts we have from our experience over the years:
Be Short and Specific:
Attention spans are short (adults included but especially kids) so it is always best to keep the talk on the shorter side. Something that will help with this is to make sure that the focus of the talk is very specific and to the point. This summer in our Youth Soccer leagues we introduced a new curriculum of weekly topics that focus on a different character trait or virtue from the Bible. This allows us to keep the talks focussed, short, and to the point, allowing the children to better engage.
We encourage our volunteers to take a few minutes during the week to read over the devotional notes, even if another coach is scheduled for that week, just in case they are asked to step in. You don’t need to spend a ton of time in preparation and you certainly don’t need to memorize all that you are going to say but it is ALWAYS better if you go in knowing the main point of what you are going to share, the key verse, and having read it over a few times. One of the best ways to feel comfortable while public speaking is to know that you are prepared!
Have an Outline:
One of the things that can make preparation even easier is to have a clear outline for the talk. It doesn’t have to be complicated, in fact for a 3-5 minute devotional the outline will likely be very straightforward. What the outline does though is helps you as the speaker remember where you are going next in the talk without having to memorize it word for word. For example, we provide our volunteer coaches with notes each week on the topic for the night. Those notes are arranged in the same structure every week:
- ME & WE: this is where you establish the fact that we all can relate to this topic/issue
- GOD: then we turn our attention to what does God say about it in His Word
- YOU: finally we end with a practical idea/challenge to try
**Let’s see a full example on the topic of “Self-Control” using the structure above:
ME & WE:
“Have you ever been mad at someone, said something really mean to them, and then knew right away that it was wrong? Sometimes when we get upset we say mean things or do hurtful things before we really think about if they are the right thing to do.”
“God reminds us in the Bible that it is a good thing to stop and think before we speak, even when we are upset. The Bible calls this self-control. “Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back.” — Proverbs 29:11 (NLT)”
“Here is a challenge for this week: if you find yourself getting mad at your brother or sister, or another soccer player, can you try to first stop and think about what you could say that would be nice and not hurtful?”
Speak with energy and show the children that you are interested and engaged in what you are saying. Any audience picks up on the speaker and often takes their cues from her/him.
Prayer is so critical because at the end of the day regardless of what we have prepared it is God Who is going to speak! Above all else ask God to speak and then trust that He is working in the lives and hearts of those listening (even if you can’t always see Him).