I was having a conversation with my friend last night about the power of pop music. Pop music has an uncanny way of making its way into our brains and sticking there for a long, long time. You don’t even have to know all the lyrics, you just have to know the melody of a chorus and it’s stuck. What’s that you say, you’re not a fan of 1-D (One Direction) and JT (Justin Timberlake)? Come on, there is much to be gained from taking a few cues from our pop-star-friends.
- Filter everything through the chorus.
The chorus is the moment where you hit your listener with a dopamine kick. I have found it helpful to clearly lay out a bottom line and filter every, single, word through my bottom line. The bottom line is that one takeaway that you want your audience to leave thinking. By clearly laying out the bottom line, it helps maintain a clear, consistent voice throughout your sermon. Pop stars—and their writers—know exactly what they’re going to convey and exactly the right time to hit that chorus home. This is why it gets stuck in our head because the writers have thought through the “voice” of a song. What song are you singing in your sermon? Is your audience leaving with a catchy tune stuck in their head, or are they leaving bored and confused?
- Make it sticky.
I’m not a huge fan of a three-point sermon; I’m not going to lie. I’m not sure if it’s too traditional or if I’ve seen countless, speakers rely too heavily on it. Sure, I think it’s helpful to structure your sermon, but there are ways to do that without saying the inevitable, “Which leads me to my next point, Jesus love Grace.” Pop Artists know the right combination of words to make something stick. Instead of using points, I have found it helpful to craft sticky statements, here are a few examples:
“What you say is whom you portray.”
“Wonder in the ordinary leads to the extraordinary.”
“Creating a home brings people home.”
“Don’t just say it, display it.” (when talking about faith)
Sticky statements are great, for me, because it moves away from points and it acts as a natural transition that people know exactly that you’re moving on from your previous statement. It’s freeing to not have to use three points. You should try it, artist are always rethinking the chorus and how to make it stickier.
- Structure it.
Gosh, I love that Coldplay song, “Fix You.” That song makes me want to spread my fingers outside of a moving car’s window and sing at the top of my lungs. I feel like Jack from the Titanic standing at the bow of the ship saying, “I CAN FLYYYYYY.” It’s so catchy and so emotive you can’t help but like it. Well, it’s because it was structured well.
It is important for something to stick that you have to structure it in a way that people can understand. With every sticky statement and bottom line, I have a structure I follow with most sermons (of course there are a few outliers). Here is what I do in each section.
ME (How I’ve experienced the point, maybe an anecdote)
YOU (How you might experience the point or struggled)
GOD (Point back to the verse and reveal God’s truth)
WE (How we then apply it to our life).
Point back to the bottom line.
You should find a structure that works for you, it doesn’t have to be articulated the same way I have articulated. It just helps me to see what I’m doing and where I’m going with each section. I highly recommend having a look at how other communicators structure their sermons and come up with your own style and structure that works for you. There are many helpful resources for discovering what other communicators are doing. I frequently look at sites, like SERMON SEARCH.COM to see what others are doing with their structure and how they’re harnessing their voice.
What song are you singing to your listeners, are you singing a hot mess or have you thought through what you’re communicating so your audience gets your bottom lines stuck in their head? God has called you and I to be compelling communicators of the gospel, let’s do it to the best of our ability.