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Are you too smart to be speaking to teens?

 by Aaron Helman | @aaronhelman | loading comments...

Today I'm sharing one idea that will make you a more effective speaker.

Maybe not more impressive. Definitely not more entertaining.

Just more effective, and that's the most important thing anyway.

You want your message to make an impact in your students' lives.

You'll be surprised by this one weird thing that is diminishing your impact, and I'll also share the strategies I use to make sure it doesn't.

Sometimes increased knowledge can decrease your ability to communicate it.

Two years ago, I was teaching a message about Paul. We talked about his struggles and his perseverance. I thought it was a good message.

So did the newest girl, a first-time visitor to the ministry. This is what she had to say:
I thought your talk was so interesting. I had no idea that Paul was in jail. All I ever heard was the one really famous story: "The British are coming! The British are coming!"
There have been very few times in my life when I was rendered totally speechless. This was one of those times.

Bottom line was that I screwed up. I talked for fifteen minutes about a guy named Paul and didn't take one of those minutes to explain who he was.

What happened?

The girl's mind turned toward the most famous Paul she could remember, and apparently she wasn't a Beatles fan.

When we assume that everyone else knows what we know, we can't possibly be good communicators.

This is called the Curse of Too Much Knowledge, and it happens when we get smart and hang out with other smart people.

That's when, on some subconscious level, we begin to assume that everyone else has the same knowledge that we have.

My dad taught me a valuable lesson once about what happens when you assume things.

I'll assume you've learned the same lesson.

Here's what I do to make sure that what I know doesn't get in the way of what I want to teach.

Three questions to disarm the Curse

Is everyone familiar with the Biblical character I'm talking about?
More often than not, the answer is going to be no. This doesn't mean that you need to rewrite your entire talk, but it's not a bad idea to include a one-minute synopsis of the character before you move on.

It is not dumbing-down your message to include a little bit of context for the people who are new to your ministry. In fact, you won't believe how much experienced Christ-followers need and appreciate context for their Bible stories.

(If you talk about King David without explaining him, there's an excellent chance someone will think he's English.)

Do I reference an experience or idea that someone won't recognize?
If you like acronyms, please keep in mind that not everyone will understand them. As a young Christian, I remember listening to a guy talk about WWJD for almost 20 minutes without knowing what that meant.

In fact, the fastest way to make your group seem like a closed clique is to speak about specific experiences with terms that only established veterans will understand.

Look at your talk and ask yourself if a brand new person would struggle to relate to your stories and vernacular.

Do my students understand Biblical terms as well as I do?
Almost certainly not. Think about how many seminary classes deal with the concept of grace. Is that really something we can ask students to think about without explaining it a little?

Imagine you were listening to a physics lecture. How many unfamiliar terms would you have to hear before you started to zone out?

Again, you're not dumbing-down your message when you take time to define and explain terms.

You can deliver incredibly deep and challenging messages without incorporating the Seminarian's Dictionary. In fact, the better your students understand what you're saying, the more likely they are to respond.

What are the ways you fall into the trap of too much knowledge? Leave a comment below and share your story.

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