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.

 

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!

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.