1. Get feedback on your message BEFORE you preach it. Feedback after the fact is great, but if you seek input before you preach, you can make your message better. This could be as simple as sending it to another pastor, another staff member, or a volunteer or two in your church. Chances are, there are people in your congregation who would review your message seriously and be a great help to you. Ernest Hemmingway said the first draft of anything is #$&*@, so make sure you never preach your first draft.
2. Don’t waste words, especially at the beginning. The first words in your message are some of the most important. Don’t waste them with small talk, referencing the preceding song, or commenting on the weather. Start with something strong right out of the gate. Here is a free webinar on how to get the most out of your first five minutes.
3. Finish on time. Whether you use a countdown clock or a watch, it’s a good idea to stick to the allotted time. The Gettysburg Address has 300 words. Nobody remembers the other guy who spoke that day (who spoke for a couple of hours). Besides, nobody ever got mad at the preacher for finishing a few minutes early.
4. Don’t hide in the greenroom. Connecting with real people before your message is one of the most powerful things you can do. Last minute study is a sign of poor preparation and while some last minute prayers are always appropriate, that doesn’t mean you can’t speak a few words to people in the congregation. Leave the green room mentality and shake hands with people.
5. Pick a point. Most sermons try to cover too much information, so pick a point and stick to it. One 30-minute message isn’t going to be the final word on any topic. If you want to learn how to make that point memorable and sticky, here’s a free webinar that might help.
6. Be interesting. Helpful content that doesn’t engage the audience won’t have the desired effect. In other words, be interesting. Boring presentations, lifeless information, and passionless points will sail right over the head of the congregation. And over the head misses the heart every time. It’s absolutely imperative that you have accurate, Biblical content. But it’s equally important to present it in a way that connects.
7. Stories say it best. You’ve listened to speakers too, and, chances are, when the speaker told a personal story, your interest level increased. There’s something about stories that cause people to lean in. So make sure you tell a story every ten minutes or so. “Stories are the most powerful delivery tool for information, more powerful and enduring than any other art form,” writes Nancy Duarte.
8. Know your material. Before you preach your message to anyone else, you should preach it to yourself. Be familiar with your content so you can preach from your heart. A reliance on notes could be a sign that you don’t know your material. That’s why we teach members how to finish early in the week so the message can sit in a crockpot.
9. Get better as a preacher, don’t just work on your next message. Watching yourself on video is a great way to improve. Joining a community of people committed to improvement might also be right for you. For most churches, the sermon is the most visible thing you do and a key component in the discipleship process. So don’t get stuck in a rut, get better.
10. Speak to everyone. Those football stories you tell are awesome, and about 30% of the audience really relates to them. Referencing 2 Peter commandment on the fly is cool, but unchurched people think you’re talking about a race. You’ve got a diverse audience – that calls for diverse application and varied illustrations. Make sure your message is sensitive to your audiences (yep, you have more than one)