19 Tips for Preachers

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)

11. You’re not preaching in the first century.  From time to time, I meet people who say, “Jesus didn’t need PowerPoint.” That’s true. (He would have used Keynote or ProPresenter anyway)  But Jesus was preaching in a first century context that didn’t have electricity.  You didn’t ride on a donkey to church or ask the congregation to bring grain to the alter.  It’s okay to use modern methods to communicate a timeless message.
12.  Preach to who is NOT there.  If you want guests, address guests.  If you want to reach men, talk to men.  If you want to reach the educated, add a little more intellect.  Preach to who is NOT in the room, not just who IS in the room.
13.  Summarize your sermon for twitter.  Your sermon needs a central theme or a big idea.  J.H. Howett was right when he wrote, “I have a conviction that no sermon is ready for preaching not ready for writing out, until we can express its theme in a short, pregnant sentence as clear as crystal.”  We’ve got a free webinar that will help you craft these simple statements.
14.  Find common ground.  People don’t think preachers have real lives, real marriages or real struggles, so the fact that you’re a preacher is NOT instant credibility.  Make sure you find common ground with your audience to let them know that you share some their struggles, doubts and feelings.  
15.  Talk about your failures, not just your successes.  John Maxwell said if you want to impress people, talk about your success, but if you want to impact them, talk about your failures.   When you appropriately share your struggles, mistakes and failures, and communicate from a place of humble brokenness, you’ll make a far greater impact on your congregation.
16.  Make people laugh.  Everybody wants to laugh, and you don’t need to disrespect God’s Word or be a comedian to make people smile in church.   Proverbs 17:22 says a joyful heart is good medicine, so let’s not talk about a boring God with lifeless sermons and give people the impression that God has no personality.  God created laughter…it’s okay for it to happen in church.
17.  Present Jesus as the hero.  Not the audience, not you, not even the church.  No matter your topic, you can find a way to point to Jesus.  By the way, that’s exactly what Jesus did when he opened up the Old Testament scriptures and connected the dots for people.
18.  Preach to inspire action, not just to inform.  What do you want people to DO as the result of hearing this message?  When Peter finished preaching in Acts 2, he told the people exactly what they should do (repent and be baptized).  Make sure you’re not just presenting information but calling people to action.
19.  Add some visuals.  Whether it’s a graphic, or a slide, a prop or an object lesson, look for ways to make your words visual.  Study after study shows this is the key to remberability.  If this doesn’t come natural to you, fight through the hard work…it’s worth it.One of the most significant things you can do as a communicator is work ON your skill and develop your calling.  This is very different from working on your next message.  It’s why we created the Preaching Rocket Core Coaching Program.