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What’s the Big Idea?  //  Make your message memorable by making it about one thing.

What’s the Big Idea?

I remember the first time I went hunting. I went once with my in-laws and they gave me a shotgun. I didn’t have any experience with firearms, but hey, this was Georgia so who cares. During my time in the tree stand, I saw three deer pass off to my right. There were several small trees and some brush between me and the deer so I didn’t shoot. When we all reconvened I told them about what I saw and that I passed up the shot since the deer were in some brush. Then one of them said, “Yeah but you had a shot gun, just shoot and something will probably get through.”

The Buckshot Approach to Teaching Teens

I think this is how most student pastors approach teaching. We treat it like we are shooting a shotgun by peppering our messages with as many little nuggets of truth, our pellets, as we can. Then we just hope that maybe one of them will get through to our students.

But is this really the most effective way of communicating? Do our students walk away retaining what we want them to?

I would suggest not. Many times Buckshot teaching is unmemorable or worse yet simply confusing. The teachings that have stuck with me for years are the ones that were laser focused and had a singular message. They were more like a rifle shot than a shotgun blast.

Honing in on a Big Idea

In our Student Ministry we call these rifle shots the Big Idea. Each week in our gatherings we aim to have one Big Idea. This is the one main message we want our students leaving with by the time they exit our doors. We don’t want anything in our gatherings to distract from that Big Idea. If we can, we try to get the games and activities to support it, the worship songs to support it, the message to hit it clearly, and our small groups to drive it home. As we’ve lived out this approach, we’ve seen an incredible impact not only on our students, but also our leaders and teachers.

There are a few things we have learned along the way for how to craft a good Big Idea.

1. Make It One Sentence

You want your Big Idea to be one that can be said without having to take breaths. If your Big Idea takes 2-3 sentences to say, it isn’t a Big Idea anymore, it’s a Big Concept.

2. Make It Memorable

The point is for students to actually remember what the central truth, or Big Idea, is. So consider the cadence of the sentence, use rhyming, use alliteration, use whatever tricks you need to make it memorable.

3. Make It Everyday Language

If you use words that students use in everyday language to craft your Big Idea they will be more likely to remember it. Your Big Idea for a gathering could be “God Is Omnipresent” or it could be “God is Always with Me.” You get the point.

Here are a few of my favorite Big Ideas we have used over the years:
  • Compassion Requires Reaction.
  • When You Stop Hiding, You Start Healing.
  •  Don’t Follow Jesus SOME Day, Follow Him TOday.

Remember, you can go about preparing teaching with a shotgun approach and maybe one of the pellets will hit someone. But odds are most will get lost in the brush.

Jason Mitchell
Campus Pastor at LCBC Church
Jason is a Campus Pastor at LCBC Church (Lives Changed By Christ). He loves taking runs, drinking coffee, listening to all things rock and roll, and spending time with his wife Jenny and their two kids, Sienna and Silas.
  1. Neck pain relief01-25-12

    Thanks for the informative article, it was a good read and I hope its ok that I share this with some facebook friends. Thanks.

    • Jason01-26-12

      Would love for you to do that! Thanks for the interaction!