By Andy Cornett 

You’ve done this. You open up a file or flip through the pages of an XP3 script for the week.  You start to think – how am I ever going to do that? You know it’s one thing to get a tool out of a box; it’s another to figure out how to use it in the best way.

At our church, we use XP3 for both our midweek middle and high school programs. That means a basic 3-step process for any series.

  1. We read through the whole package and make some decisions about whether to tailor its focus/theme, how many sessions we’ll do (sometimes we stretch it or subtract), whether to retitle them, and how to incorporate the XP.
  2. Since the same person speaks at both environments, one person primarily reworks the content for each week.
  3. We target the content first to high schoolers, then edit it for middle schoolers, and then condense and rewrite the questions for our small group leaders (we shoot for only 6-8 questions).

Let’s circle back and look at #2.  The thing I love about XP3 stuff – its thoroughness, detail, and communication flow – also presents its biggest challenge: how to take all this material and own it and contextualize it for your church environment and the students you get to love.  Here’s how I handled the first session of the “Guardrails” series.

  1. Try to remember the great, 4-part advice under “How to find your own voice!” and pray for God’s leading here as you prepare!
  2. I read through the outline structure in detail (to get an idea of the key points and flow) and then read through the whole text, starting to mark what I can skip, keep, or change.
  3. Since we try to keep our midweek talks to only 15 minutes, I do a good bit of editing. In this case, I cut out about half the talk, condensed/rewrote some, and ended with something about 2000 words or 40% of the original size. Yes, I felt bad. (Here, I cut out the part of Scripture and application on drinking – and subbed in a different illustration – because we planned to add a week and focus on that issue as its own session).
  4. I spend a lot of time rethinking the bottom line – trying to make it shorter, more memorable, and (if needed) closer to the Scripture. Here, “God wants you to set up some protective barriers to keep you out of the danger zone” became “God wants you to set up guardrails to keep you ON the road and OUT of danger.”
  5.  Once I have this, I try to write the key paragraph around it: these are the words I want to get right and repeat throughout the talk (defining guardrails and show why you, why now).
  6. I usually change the first two sections of the talk to use both a personal story of mine and imagery or video that relate. I had tons of fun here showing pictures of guardrails in dangerous places and how they keep us on the road and out of danger. (HS student had this nailed, MS needed more pictures – then told me I should have talked about “bumpers” in bowling lanes instead.)
  7. Write it, rehearse it, pray for the students, pray for God’s wisdom and grace, and go for it. There’s not a week that goes by that I don’t feel inadequate or wish I’d had more time to change things.

[For the record: Andy Stanley and Lane Jones’ “Communicating for a Change” is a tremendous resource for helping you think about how to use these talks in your own church.]


Andy’s bio

Andy is the Associate Pastor of Youth and Families at Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church.  Though he can talk your ear off about most things, Reverend Andy Cornett doesn’t really like to say too much about himself.  His aim is to follow Jesus in a life that passionately loves God and loves people.

Andy’s own great passion is to see students and families become life-long disciples of Jesus who shine like stars in this world.  The church and the family work are meant to work together for the sake of that mission, growing deeper in knowledge of who we are in Christ and spreading outward in love to those around us. It’s always an adventure – and never a waste. (1 Cor. 15:58).   Connect with Andy on his twitter and blog.


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