Don’t write this post off just because you don’t preach regularly!
If you communicate in public in any way: presentations at work, teaching students, training co-workers, writing content, speaking to organizations and groups, I think these ideas can help you.
Think about these realities we live with:
- TedTalks and easy access to millions of speakers online have pushed our expectations for public speaking way up.
- Shorter than ever attention spans demand we be more focused in our messaging.
- Hundreds of online videos, posts, ads, and emails cloud the landscape we are trying to communicate in.
It’s a difficult spot to be in, but I think it’s also a great time to be a communicator.
Lee Kricher is the pastor of Amplify Church in Pittsburgh, PA. In his career, he has also been a corporate change coach. In his book, For A New Generation: A Practical Guide To Revitalizing Your Church, Lee talks about the change roadmap we must follow if we expect our church (or organization, team, etc.) to move forward into the future in a healthy way. He says that there is often a gap between where we currently find ourselves and where we could be with God’s help. It reminds me of the old Army slogan, “be all you can be.” Maybe it’s a little cheesy, but I think it also speaks to the truth that God is always calling us to transformation, growth, and fruitfulness.
So, how do you elevate your preaching…or public speaking or writing?
Here are 7 ideas…
NARROW YOUR FOCUS – Don’t try to communicate everything at once! Split up your content in a series of 3 sermons (or lessons, or blog posts, or lectures, etc.) Keep one big idea at the center of your message. When it comes to preaching, especially in mainline contexts, narrowing your focus necessitates not reading in worship all of the four assigned lectionary texts (The lectionary is a 3-year rotation of Bible texts with an Old Testament, New Testament, Psalm, and Gospel reading every week). Reading and preaching on all of these passages is distracting. People need laser focused communication.
REVIEW YOUR WORK – I spend a ton of time reviewing my words prior to presenting them but growth and improvement also require debriefing our work after the fact. Find a way to record your presentation or sermon and review it after the fact. What got a response? What connected? What was too long or complicated?
GET INSPIRATION FROM OTHERS – Don’t live in a bubble but listen/read/watch other preachers and speakers and teachers and writers. I have a handful of leaders I listen to while stuck in Atlanta traffic or at the gym. Change it up every once and a while…and maybe listen to some people from a different tradition or fields of study. Currently, I’ve been listening to Andy Stanley, Leonce Crump, Stephanie Williams O’Brien, Scott Rains, and Rob Bell.
MAKE IT LAST BEYOND THE MOMENT – Let your content last beyond your delivery. Publish a slide or quote or idea on Facebook later in the week, build an archive on your website, or create a conversation guide for your groups or participants to use later on to discuss and apply your presentation (see an example from my current context). All of these things keep the conversation going beyond the weekend or workshop or session and helps to embed your message more firmly in people’s minds.
START EARLY – Don’t wait until the last minute to start working. Keep the text/theme/idea in your mind. Find the time when you are at your creative best – early morning, midday, afternoon, late night – and schedule time in your calendar to make it happen! I just listened to a great interview Carey Nieuwhof did with Daniel Pink about Daniel’s book, “When” which is all about discovering when we should get our work done.
DON’T WRITE ALONE – Poll your Facebook friends. Talk through ideas with friends, family, co-workers. We are better together. Inviting others into your process will help you see angles and issues you couldn’t on your own.
USE VISUALS – This last point is worthy of another whole blog post – but I will say, nothing makes a message stickier than visual media! Our culture is so visual and yet we in the church especially, continue to operate with a “spoken word only” mentality. Use movie clips, pictures, illustrations, etc. Jesus used parables to bring his preaching to life and, I’m convinced, he would use video if he were around today.
What do you think? I know that’s not an exhaustive list. Share your ideas in the comments below!
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