Prepare To Preach By Creating An Elevator Pitch

Preaching is not pitching. However, pitching is communicating and so is preaching. Before you attempt to speak for 30-45 minutes, you should be able to deliver your main point in 90 seconds or less.

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What is the one thing you want people to take with them when they leave? This is your elevator pitch. By turning my sermon into an elevator pitch before I preach, I know exactly what I must communicate and I know how to evaluate my sermon when I’m done.

Try creating an elevator pitch of your sermon. Then fill in the gaps with supporting Scripture, compelling illustrations and practical next steps.

Check out this article by Ryan Robinson about crafting an elevator pitch that leaves a lasting impression.

Preaching is a skill which must be cultivated

No one looks back at their first sermon and says, “That was the best one ever. It’s only been downhill since then.”

Like most pursuits in life, we get better at preaching the more we preach. While preaching is a gift and some are certainly more gifted than others; the harder you work at it, the better you’ll be. Working on your preaching ability is as important as your weekly sermon preparation.

Every week I spend time reading about preaching, public speaking, writing, marketing, sales and even stand-up comedy. These disciplines all share commonalities with the weekly sermon and I have discovered one can learn much by listening to what others are doing. Below are a few links I have found helpful. Perhaps you will also:

How To Prepare A Sermon Well

This is a collection of a few preacher’s “best practices” for sermon preparation. Each pastor walks through the week and highlights his sermon prep practices for each day. Those who struggle to develop regular habits and discipline may find these lists particularly helpful.

(A few marketing links are sprinkled throughout, so be aware you may end up getting pitched the latest and greatest preaching software if you click too much)

Kevin Myers’ Sermon Preparation Tools

a-great-sermon-isnt-an-accident-300x300.jpgKevin Myers is the senior pastor of 12Stone Church, one of the largest churches in the U.S. and the nation‘s fastest growing in 2010. In 2003, he created these resources  for a Pastor’s Coach Article on www.DanReiland.com.

Many have asked for copies since it was published. When it was originally written, 12Stone had one campus and 3 services on a weekend (Sunday at 9am, 11am, and 6pm). As of 2014 we have 5 services (Saturday 6pm, Sunday 9am, 11am, 1pm, and 6pm) and we simulcast to the other 3 campuses. These thoughts are even more applicable now as when they were written.

Check out Kevin on twitter @KevinMyerspk.

4 Speaking Mistakes That Could Jeopardize Your Career

No matter the audience, presenting yourself as a polished professional is essential for long-term credibility and ongoing impact. The same verbal tics that are inconsequential in everyday conversation take on new significance in a preaching setting. This article highlights a few of the most debilitating speaking habits to be on the lookout for.

While this article is primarily targeted at public speakers, the advice offered is solid for all preachers. Those of us who have been given the most important message ever must be very careful not to damage the message because we didn’t work hard to present it well.

Ken Sterling is the author. You can see him on twitter @Ken_Sterling.

 

How I Use Pinterest To Prepare Sermons

Pinterest is likely not the first place most pastors turn for help in preparing their sermons. Pinterest may, however, be at least one place pastors turn before they finish preparing their sermons. Those who are willing to at least give it a shot and create an account may discover a trove of resources they never expected. I use Pinterest almost every week when preparing to preach. Here are three resources I regularly mine from this social media network:

Story-Telling Help

6dd9a3412b7a628418018e9c0b1ce9a5If you are a preacher, you are a story-teller. You should be regularly working to hone your story-telling craft. Pinterest is over-run with writers and aspiring writers who love to share their trade secrets with one another. Searching terms such as “story”, “writing” or “plot” will reveal lists, links, articles and charts all designed to make you a better story teller. I attempt to spend a little time each week reading story-telling material. I look for places in each sermon to implement the lessons I’m learning. Occasionally, when it works, I’ll structure a sermon as if it is one long story. While these skills can be learned elsewhere, a few clicks on Pinterest often proves beneficial and time-efficient.

Quotes

Quotations make great illustrations. Sometimes others have explained a concept using words that are much more sticky than anything I could manufacture. I may use an exact quotation in a sermon or I may refer to one and paraphrase it. I may discover a quote that prompts a line of thinking for me which leads me to an “aha” moment. I might just include a quote in the sermon follow-up materials I distribute via YouVersion.

Pinterest is a wonderland of quotations. Simply type in a topic or concept and begin scrolling. You will quickly discover many visual quotes and the more you click, the further down the rabbit hole you’ll go. Pinterest remembers your searches and your clicks, so the more you use the site, the better it will know you and it will sort your search results more efficiently. (You can see some of the quotes I’ve saved over the past few months here.)

Lists of Words

bf33e991ff6fa69bb22755396204e01cIn a 30 minute sermon, I’ll use anywhere between 3500-5000 words. I want these words to be chosen wisely and to effectively communicate my message. I don’t want my words to be a distraction because they are repetitive, imprecise or misused. In addition to avoiding “um” and “ah” (I’m still working on this one), I hate when I say “things” because I’ve demonstrated I wasn’t quite ready to communicate an important truth.

Pinterest is crawling with word charts. If you want to avoid saying “thing”, you can find 200 better words to use.  Do you want to communicate badness but want a better word than “bad”? Abhorrent, abominable and appalling are just 3 of the 100 words you can discover on Pinterest. I have a Pinterest board titled, “Expanding My Arsenal of Words.” Every week, I pull up one or two lists of words I’ve clipped and read through them a couple times. By filling my mind with alternative words, I’m growing my working vocabulary. This practice spills over into my preaching and empowers me to be more precise and concise.

Pinterest can feel like a non-preacherly site to visit. It may not work for you. However, if you give it a shot, you may discover a new source of material which will aid your sermon preparation process.

I imagine others use Pinterest as a piece of their sermon preparation process as well. If that’s you, I’d love to hear how you are benefiting from this site

The Three Temptations Of The American Pastor

I’m going to write a lot more about this some day and I envision it will be a parable-type story I might want to create… (like a Patrick Lencioni book)

I would call it The Three Temptations of an American Pastor (I know, Lencioni wrote one very similar to this…)

The Three Temptations

  • Building
  • Bodies
  • Bucks

I sometimes wonder how much our kingdom mindset is skewed by our devotion to these three measurements. In my experience, most people (especially pastors!) judge a church’s success based on these three temptations.

Church Success

  • How big is your building?
  • How many people attend on Sunday?
  • How sizable are your offerings?

Of course, this doesn’t exactly match the Jesus model…

  • Not only did He not have a building, He didn’t have a home.
  • More people left His ministry than stuck with Him. (He eventually became so unpopular, they killed Him)
  • The biggest offering His followers ever took up was the bribe Judas received for betraying Him.

Maybe instead of these temptations we should be teaching our people to be hospitable, missional, and generous?

–> These ideas are a methodological snack for us to chew on. I’d love to get your thoughts in the comments.

The Post-Sermon Play-by-Play

Every so often I have a Sunday morning experience that I am quite certain is not unique to me. I call it the “Yes|But”. Anyone who preaches on a regular basis has probably tasted the “Yes|But” at some point in their ministry.

The “Yes|But” sounds something like this, “Pastor, I agree with what you said, BUT…”

Sound familiar?


Before you decide I’m being overly critical of the “Yes|But”, please allow me to finish. I have discovered that the Yes But can teach me a great deal about the words I just spoke.

Sometimes, when confronted by the “Yes|But”, I find myself feeling defensive. I immediately begin planning my response. I look for ways to show the Yes Butter that they are clearly in the wrong.

You can be certain that this response clearly indicates that the words I just preached were not God’s, they were my own.

The more defensive I am of the words I preach, the more likely it is that they reflect my ideas, not God’s.

Sometimes, though, when confronted with the “Yes|But”, I don’t feel the least bit defensive. Sometimes I feel quite peaceful, and sometimes, I have found myself feeling a genuine concern for the spiritual journey of the person speaking to me. When I don’t feel the need to defend my words, it is likely that they were really Gods words.

The beauty of speaking the Word of God is that I never have to defend myself. As long as I can say, “I am simply preaching directly from the Word of God”, I never have to worry about the “Yes|But”. I can always respond (at least in my mind), “you don’t have to agree with me, but please make sure you aren’t disagreeing with God.”

Are You Ready For Easter?

Dear Pastor,

Are you preparing for Easter?

I know… You just got past Christmas, Easter is months away, you have other people to do that stuff, you need to focus on this Sunday’s sermon…

I know you are busy, and maybe Easter isn’t really on your mind. But the truth is, you are already behind.

On Easter Sunday, more people will visit your church than any other weekend this year. More people who are looking for a welcoming church community will visit on Easter than any other weekend. More people who need to hear and believe the Gospel will be at your church on Easter than any other time. Easter provides you with an amazing opportunity, but it also carries a grave responsibility.

Will you be prepared to present the Gospel in a clear and relevant manner?

Will your people be prepared to welcome the explorers who show up to join your community that day?

Will your gatherings be planned and executed in a way that minimizes distractions and maximizes focus on the simple power of the Gospel?

Will your teams be ready to cultivate new relationships and graciously pursue those who show interest in the Gospel or in your community?

Are the members of your church empowered to go to the street corners and invite anyone they can find to the “banquet”?

Are you ready for Easter?

Dear Pastor, please begin today. You will have no greater opportunity this year to present the Gospel to such a large and needy group as you will on Easter. Please be sure you and your church are ready.

Thanks.

Other People Have Great Ideas Too!

Proverbs 11:14 explains there is victory in a multitude of advisers. Because I want to be a better preacher, I am always seeking advice from a multitude of advisers. My counselors are not just other preachers I know, but many preachers I don’t know. I even seek advice from those who are not preachers, because they have great ideas for me also. Here are three pieces of preaching advice I’ve recently stumbled upon.

HOW TO PREACH WITHOUT NOTES.

Preaching without notes isn’t for everyone. The great benefit is more eye-contact which leads to a stronger connection with your congregation. The great danger is losing your train of thought, wandering off track and/or accidentally repeating yourself. I preach mostly without notes. I try to stay away from them, but they are up there with me just in case.

This blog was originally posted by the Rev. Dan Turis ’12, pastor of Colonial Church of Bayside in New York, on his site: http://danturis.com/. You can also follow him on Twitter @dturis.

5 WAYS TO MAKE SERMON STUDY MORE PRODUCTIVE

The time spent in prayer and study for messages is probably a pastor’s greatest challenge. There are just so many pastoral responsibilities that arise during a given week that time for sermon preparation must be guarded…and maximized. Here are five tips to help to you make your study time more productive for your congregation.

Paul Chappell is the pastor of Lancaster Baptist Church in Lancaster, California, and also serves as the president of West Coast Baptist College. Follow him on Twitter @PaulChappell.

MASTER THE ART OF STORY TELLING…

We can learn about the art of preaching from those who specialize in similar fields. Inspirational speakers, story tellers, writers and even comedians can teach us important lessons about communication.

People relate easily (and emotionally) to stories, and they remember them. Stories make facts more digestible and, in telling them, you, as a speaker, appear more human, more approachable and more audience friendly. The best speakers reach into their bag of stories and bring their presentations to life.

Emma Ledden is the author of The Presentation Book. She shares great advice for presenters and those who create presentation slides. Follow her @EmmaLedden

3 Questions to Help You Find Your Sermon’s Sweet Spot

Before you step behind the pulpit, turn on your wireless mic or fire up your iPad…
How do you know you have the right message?
 
Every preacher approaches their messages differently. We all have different methods and patterns and systems to help us create the final draft of our sermon. I’m not about to suggest there is only one way to do it (particularly because I use different methods just about every week); however, I am going to suggest three questions that might help you focus in on the most important things you need to say.
 
What has God said?
 
I don’t suppose this is a complicated question. What God has said is contained in His Word. I may be old fashioned, but I still think the content of every sermon ought to flow from the pages of the Bible.
 
If I want to preach the Words of God, I need to immerse myself in them. I need to study them, memorize them, meditate on them. I need to consult others to better understand them. Before I ever preach to others, I ought to have as clear an understanding as possible of what God has said.
 
Who are these people?
 
Not every congregation or audience is the same, and how I preach God’s Word to them ought to reflect who they are. Not everyone can always know exactly who their audience is, but if you are a pastor, you MUST spend regular time learning who the people are that sit in those pews every Sunday.
 
Every Monday I spend time reading notes, comments, prayer requests and praises from my brothers and sisters at The Gathering. They are kind enough to share their lives and thoughts with me by writing on the back of our “connection card” every Sunday. I try to email every one of them with a short note of encouragement so they know I enjoy hearing from them and want to hear more.
 
I also have other means by which I grow deeper relationships with the people in the pews. The method is not nearly as important as the outcome. If I am going to effectively preach to them, I must find a way to learn:
  • What is going on in their lives
  • How they are struggling
  • Where they have been victorious
  • When they have been disappointed
  • Why they are at our church
  • For whom they are burdened
How can I tell these people what God said?
 
I could easily spend 30 hours preparing for a sermon and then speak for an hour, dumping a massive amount of information on the congregation. I would walk away feeling good that I have taught and they have learned.
 
I choose to take the road less travelled.
 
For me, the most difficult element of sermon preparation is specifically crafting my words to particularly apply to my friends in the pews. I find it much more stressful to choose what I will not say, then to determine what I will say. Not everything I learn in my sermon preparation is what the people on Sunday need to learn. In fact, much of it is not what they need and could possibly distract them from what God truly wants them to hear.
 
(The Sermon on the Mount was NOT a 45 minute sermon!)
 
My general rule of thumb is as follows:
If I could preach this sermon to any congregation at any location; I still have work to do before I preach it to my congregation at my church.

Discover what God has said.

Determine to whom you’ll be speaking.

Discern what they need to hear from God.

Then trust the Holy Spirit to do the hard work!

Prepare Your People Before You Preach

Never forget that when you preach, you are preaching to someone. Have you ever grown weary of the attempting to deliver a life-changing message to people who haven’t prepared themselves to receive God’s Word? You should consider the concept that your sermon actually begins long before you stand up to preach. Provide your congregation with the tools they need to prepare themselves for Sunday morning. Below are some tools to help you accomplish this. Feel free to copy any of this material and distribute it to your own church:
Is Sunday morning the most important morning of your week? Most of us would say it is because Sundays are our time to come together with God and His people. Yet, I am often guilty of approaching Sunday with far less intentionality than the most important day of the week deserves. 
 
Today, I’d like to offer a few suggestions as to how you (and your family) can tweak your Sunday morning routine to make it the BEST day of the week!
 
HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR SUNDAY MORNING
 
 
Make your plans on Saturday night
It’s easy to sleep in Sunday morning, crawl out of bed, debate which service to go to and then finally decide to just take the morning off. Have a brief discussion with your spouse/family on Saturday night. Decide which service you want to attend (think about what the rest of your day looks like) and then set your alarms accordingly. You’ll be glad you did.
 
Spend a few minutes being quiet
Some time during the morning, find a quiet place in your home and relax for a few minutes. Spend some time talking to your Heavenly Father. Tell Him what’s on your mind and ask Him to show you what’s on His mind for you. Read a couple verses from the Bible. This time will empower you to have a calm and peaceful Sunday morning, which will enable you to have a meaningful and joyful experience at church.
 
Arrive at church early
Nothing is worse than arriving at the church, running in from the parking lot, racing through the child check-in process, speeding through the cafe and then sneaking into the service as the last song finishes up. By the time you catch your breath and your heart rate slows down, the service is over. Try to arrive early so you can enjoy your morning routine and feel relaxed and at ease when the service begins.
 
Enjoy coffee and a donut
Sometimes a Sunday service can be long and tiring with all the standing up and sitting down. Sometimes the preacher is less than exciting. You’ll have an easier time keeping your energy up and staying awake if you have a little energy boost before the service.
 
Find a seat before the service begins
If you get into the Worship Center before the service begins, you’ll have your pick of seats. Find something that works for you, but try not to isolate yourself. Once you’re seated, have a brief conversation with someone around you or take a minute and browse the information in your program. If the sermon passage is listed, you can read it before the service to give yourself a head start.
 
Make a new friend before you leave
Unless you know the name of everyone who attends your church (and none of us do), you always have a chance to make new friends. During the service, notice the people sitting near you that you’ve never met. Before you leave, greet them with a smile and introduce yourself. You never know what the outcome might be: you may never see them again or it might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Maybe all of these can be helpful for you. Maybe just one or two are beneficial for you. This Sunday is a great time to practice.

Is Eraser Day The Most Important Day of Sermon Preparation?

For four weeks, I compile as much information as I can. I study individual words, I brainstorm, I read commentaries, I create outlines, I dig around for quotes and stories. By the time I’m done, I have a thick stack of pages with charts, lists, drawings and web-clippings.

After a month of collecting, on Thursday, I start cutting.

By Thursday morning, I’ve narrowed my sermon down to four key movements and one main point. Anything that doesn’t fit into those movements or support that point gets erased. By the end of Thursday, I’ve erased enough to have a sermon that can be preached in less than 30 minutes and will hopefully equip people to take 1-3 next steps on their spiritual journey.

Someday I hope to write more about this process, but for now, it’s back to the eraser.