For some of the more seasoned communicators these steps will be elementary, however certainly a good reminder. For those of you that are just starting your call to ministry, I find these steps helpful in my preparation. I hope you find them helpful too. Communication is your opportunity to creatively connect the dots between people’s experience and faith, so do it justice. So here are three steps every communicator should take to prepare a talk.
- Do your homework.
Pastors, I beg you—please do your homework. Spend time with your talk; let it stew in your brain for a few days (at least). Read as many secondary sources as you can get your hands on for your topic, read, read some more, read commentaries, listen to music, and watch movies on your topic. You should never write your talk the day before you’re giving it, that doesn’t do justice to creating space for God to communicate through you. Be ahead of your sermon by at least one week, meaning you should have your sermon written the Sunday before it is given. This will allow you enough time to make major edits and to rework areas that simply don’t work.
There is nothing worse than hearing a communicator that hasn’t thought through the implications of her or his words. Clearly lay out what you’re attempting to convey by crafting the single most persuasive thing you want to leave your audience thinking and go from there. By starting at the end, you know the direction of your talk. Write exactly what you want to say so that you’re not deviating from the point of your talk.
I realize that some of you are great at speaking off-the-cuff and sensing the movement of the Spirit. However, I’m willing to bet that this is not a gift of a majority of communicators. For those of you that have a habit of sensing God calling you to add points to your sermon at the last minute, I would recommend resisting the urge to edit while communicating. Trust that God has illuminated in advance, what he wants your congregation to hear. Don’t get yourself in trouble because you haven’t thought through what you’ve added last minute (this includes terrible jokes).
- Outline and Memorize
Congrats, you’ve made a manuscript now shrink it to an outline and start to memorize key points. By outlining your talk, you’re assuring that you don’t lose your voice. Far too often when reading directly from the manuscript we start reading instead of communicating for understanding. I’m very guilty of this, but I’ve come to realize that it’s a crutch for our own comfort. Memorize key points and transitions from your talk, it will help things flow nicely and you can walk away from your outline and make stronger connections with your audience. Don’t just say it–show it.
What have you found helpful when preparing a sermon or talk?
I’d love to know for my own communication habits.