4 Practical Tips for Better Sermon Deliveries
Many people know that communication is partly non-verbal; a person’s mannerisms, facial expressions, and body language can covey a message just as clearly (sometimes more so) than the actual words they are speaking. While preaching cannot be compared in all respects to public speaking, it is still a form of it, and we preachers would do well to learn from those who are good communicators, wether they be within the secular world or not.
In this post I am not dealing with the backbone of good preaching: biblical faithfulness, doctrinal accuracy, leading from the Holy Spirit, a good outline etc. Here I am assuming that these main pieces are already in place. Instead, I’d like to offer 4 practical tips for better sermon deliveries that serve more as added flavour, not the main course.
1. Be comfortable. A good sermon can be ruined by a preacher who is preoccupied by unnecessary distractions. Take steps ahead of time to ensure you will be as comfortable as possible while preaching. Some ideas include wearing clothes that are comfortable (not itchy, no annoying tags, no shoes that hurt to stand in etc.), testing the mic ahead of time (especially making sure a headset mic fits properly), having room-temperature water handy (cold water constricts vocal chords), going on the platform ahead of time (to get a feel for lighting, walking room etc.), going to the washroom ahead of time, and anything else you can think of.
2. Find your style. Some preachers use manuscripts, while others use minimal notes. Some preachers like to “work the stage”, while others prefer to stand behind a pulpit. Some preachers are naturally funny, others not as much. Some use a paper Bible, others a tablet or iPad. There is all kinds of variety. Please don’t try to copy your favourite preachers! Instead, discover what works best for you and do that. It takes some tinkering and practice to figure it out.
3. Preach like a TV show. Ok, this one sounds a bit weird, but hear me out. A TV show usually has about 7 minutes worth of show followed by a brief commercial break. This is because TV people have learned that about 7 minutes is what the average person’s attention span is. So, they break up the content. Sermons should work the same way. Figure out ways to reset your audiences attentions span every 7 minutes or so. Phrases that do this well are:
- “This makes me think of a story…”
- “I learned this for myself when…”
- “If you could imagine for just a moment…”
- “Now, at this point you might be thinking to yourself…”
- “Let me take you back to the setting this takes place in…”
- “A good illustration of this is…”
Statements like these naturally perk people’s attention because they break the flow of a sermon. It acts much like a reset button.
4. Use word pictures. The Bible is jam-packed with analogies, metaphors, and illustrations. It is part of what makes the Bible so interesting and, many times, easy to understand. For example:
- Jesus teaches using parables (stories) and object lessons (ex. “a good tree bears good fruit”)
- God is described using understandable titles (King, Father, Judge, Counsellor etc.)
- Truths are taught with images (ex. the Church is like a body, discipleship is like walking a straight path, God’s Word is like a lamp that lights our way)
A good preacher makes use of the Bibles word-pictures in his sermon. It helps truth take on new forms and stick in people’s minds. This can be achieved through illustrations, object lessons, storytelling, or simply spinning a visual phrase (ex. “those who receive Christ are flooded with grace”).
There are, no doubt, a hundred other good tips that could be shared here. Hopefully this is a helpful addition to that list. What others might you add?