Pastors' Forum


Better Communication Skills

As a pastor, I preach and teach the Bible regularly, but I don’t always feel that I am connecting with the people. I observe other ministers who really seem to communicate and connect effectively with their audience. Can some experienced pastors share some thoughts with me about how to be a better communicator and how to really connect with my people? I know to “preach the Word” and to “be anointed,” but I guess I’m looking for other insights—maybe even natural things—on becoming a better public speaker.


Pastor Jeff Walker – Palm Springs, CA
A few thoughts that I share with up and coming preachers:
1. Never preach a sermon….preach a MESSAGE.  What is the message God is giving you for the people?

2. Before you preach, ask yourself, “So what?” about the message.  Will it answer questions that people are asking?  Meet needs that are real in people’s lives?  Are you scratching where the itch is?

3. Do you have enough stories and illustrations to hold people’s interest?  Brother Hagin used to say stories are windows into your message.  Use personal anecdotes, current events, a good Biblical illustration or your own parable.

4. Are you preaching too long?  Three rules:  STAND UP TO BE SEEN;  SPEAK OUT TO BE HEARD;  SIT DOWN TO BE APPRECIATED.  Abraham Lincoln was asked how long he took to prepare his speeches.  He replied, “For a ten minute speech, two weeks.  For a twenty minute speech, one week.  If you want me to ramble on for an hour, I can do that right now.”

5. Don’t “wander” into your sermon.  Start strong.  Preach strong.  End strong.

6. Tell ’em what you’re gonna to tell ’em.  Tell ’em.  Tell ’em what you told ’em.

7. Oral Roberts says about preaching, “I study myself full.  I pray myself anointed.  I hear from God directly in my Spirit.  And, I preach fresh new sermons from my study of the Word and from my own life experiences.”   (from Still Doing the Impossible, p. 41)
8. One model of preaching I learned in seminary was:  HOOK;  BOOK;  LOOK;  TOOK.  The “hook” involves capturing the interest of your audience.  Possible rhetorical questions like, “Have you ever experienced……” or an interesting story to draw people in.   The “book” is the application of God’s Word to the situation or need your message is addressing.  The “look” explains how your message will look in the everyday living of your hearer.  The “took” is a call to action on the part of your listener.  (Faith without “works” or the “took” is dead.)  (From R. Radcliffe, copyright1987)

9. Be mindful of the different learning styles.  The more variety of media used (e.g. skits, movie clips, overhead notes, handouts, etc.) the more likely you will be to “speak” to each learning style.

10. Have audience members “participate.”  People retain about 15% more information if they are doing something germane to the subject matter while listening.  You can hurt yourself here, as well.  If you push this idea too far, many will be uncomfortable, so consider participation requests thoughtfully.

Pastor Joe Cameneti – Warren, Ohio
Most are familiar with the cornerstones of effective and impacting communication: research, prayer, note preparation, and practicing our delivery (Not all necessarily in this order). Maybe we cover them in different ways based on our personalities or gifting, but all of us are familiar with what it takes to leave the audience wanting more.

Over the last 25 years, I’ve discovered two amazing keys that have increased my level of communication impact even further! They fall under the categories of research and communication, and they have literally revolutionized the way I approach my calling to communicate God’s word any time I take the platform!

Note preparation isn’t something that exactly gets the visionary juices flowing in most communicators, but it is the undeniable bedrock in the building of an effective message. Several years ago I was introduced to an approach called CAPSIA.  This model is an acronym that reminds us of the six things every message must include if we are looking to truly impact the listener. The difference made was a big one! Here’s what it looks like:

Central Point Attention Getter Problem Solution Illustration Application

I’ll be honest. Implementing this model was at first very awkward, but it eventually became as natural as breathing. It brought a clarity to my messages, and that in turn increased their impact. It gave purpose to every moment on the platform – not wasting one second of the people’s time and painting a picture that helped them capture the heart of God! Here’s what it might look like:

Before you begin to put your sermon outline together, you must first ask yourself what exactly the Central Point will be. Determining this up front and sticking to your guns is so essential in eliminating confusion and frustration as the real content is plugged into your outline. It will keep you from going down rabbit trails that stray further and further from what God is trying to say through you to begin with! You know the type… those rabbit trails that anger and confuse the crowd while simultaneously convincing them you have a learning disability!

On the other hand, we always want to remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit while delivering a message, allowing for small or big deviations from our outline. But let’s not blame our ADD on the Holy Spirit! Find the Central Point, and stick to it!

I strive to open every message with an Attention Getter. Something that will convince the listener that I’m worth listening to for the next 25 minutes! In preparing my notes, I often ask God to remind me of a life-experience, relationship or illustration that will set the tone for the rest of the message. This helps in tying the message together as well, bringing the congregation from my problem to the solution, and most importantly, showing them how it applies to them. This is relevance in its most basic form!

If you’re looking for some good examples, you can check out a series I just finished on the subject of renewing the mind. It’s called

“Synapse: rethinking thinking.”  Every lesson in the series grabs you with an engaging Attention Getter, and it really sets the tone for the rest of the message and series. It sounds funny, but I’ve found that one of the best indicators of a message’s impact is the compliments from parents whose Jr. High students love my stories. Their parents tell me that they can’t stop talking about them through the week. Now tell me that’s not an attention getter!

As I mentioned above, it really does help people remember at a higher level if you can present a Problem that needs solved. I typically present the Problem shortly after my Attention Getter. Once you know your Central Point it’s all the easier to identify this Problem (Step 3 in CAPSIA) that is ultimately in need of a Solution (Step 4 in CAPSIA).

When teaching Synapse, I presented a Problem in one lesson that many Christians could relate to. I talked about Christians who pray, worship and do everything possible to walk in the Spirit, yet still sin. They can worship for 30 minutes, feeling ready to conquer the world, and commit a major sin not two hours later.  Of course the Solution to this common struggle is to renew our minds! If we don’t, we’ll always struggle with sin, no matter how long we pray or worship. Sharing this Problem on the front end of the lesson created all the more pay-off when the Solution was finally presented. People are always more interested in listening when we make it about their problems first and then God’s solutions!

A great way to really give your ideas some “staying power” is by giving an Illustration in the middle of your message! I like to do this after I share and explain the key Scriptures for that particular lesson. A real life Illustration is always the best, but it is equally powerful to share someone else’s story if you are lacking one. This will help people see the Central Point more clearly.

There should always be a time and setting in your church for lessons laced with Bible history or knowledge. We like to do this on our Wednesday night services. It allows for a longer time slot and it takes place on the same night as our student services so that there is something for the whole family.

On the weekends, however, it is so important to deliver a message that goes beyond just information. Messages need to be applicable to life when we’re talking to the unchurched and those new to God (Think Jesus’ Parables).

In short, our people should never walk away thinking “So what?” We’ve got to ask ourselves, “What is the Application?” “How can they walk outside 5 minutes after service and start doing based on what they are hearing?”

Bottom line, if people can walk away knowing how to implement the message into their week, you’ve done your job! I always purpose to answer the “So what” at the end of every message (This way no one has to ask it).

The CAPSIA Model was definitely a challenge, but I would recommend it to anyone. I promise it will only take you to another level in communicating the heart of God!

The second thing that has made a major impact on communication within our church is the forming of a Creative Team to help me in doing just that… creating. We assembled writers, graphic artists, video production people and others who have a creative bent, and turned them loose on the weekend series.

As you can imagine, this was very awkward for me and just a little scary at that. After all, I had to turn over my messages to a team that was, on average, half my age! After 20 years of doing it on my own, I had to open myself to hear other’s opinions. But what a positive difference it made!

Everyone will use their creative team differently, and no one way is the standard. I come to my creative team with a simple series idea that is only in a rough outline form, and from there we develop a series. In the case of “Synapse,” I sat with them and said, “I want to teach on the subject of renewing the mind. Here are my five points I want to get across. Let’s package it in a way that will be unlike anything we’ve done before.”

By meeting’s end, we came away with an incredible concept for the series (Mentioned above) and an awesome title for each lesson! And not only that, my graphic artist and video producer left with inspiration for a look for the series!

Years before, I had taught on renewing the mind, and I called it, you guessed it, “Renewing the Mind!” This time, there was a diagram of the human brain projected on the scrim behind me as I spoke. The video intro was so cool, and my messages were much more creative! The difference in impact when you strategically place creative people around you is definitely noticeable! This team can include paid staff or volunteers, and it can be used at any budget level.

These are two things that have added impact to my messages, and I trust they will bless your life!

Pastor JD Henderson – Portland, OR
As I think about connecting with people from the pulpit, four main things come to mind that I think help.

1. Transparency

People need hope that they can do all and be all God has destined them to be. We have to be careful how much we share about our personal lives, but people need to know that we are ministering “to” them but that we are also working it out “with” them. Sometimes, I will make a vague comment like, “hey anybody else raising teenagers, let’s all pray in the Spirit”. I do it in a way that is good natured and doesn’t embarrass my family.  It brings a chuckle from everyone, but they know what I mean.  I will at times mention past issues that Lori and I worked through early in our marriage.  These are tasteful and I only touch the surface but it gives people hope.

2. Humor

Use your style of humor.  For me, I don’t do canned jokes as well as I do just impromptu things that come to mind about life that I find funny. I read jokes like others do, but some of the best humor has been the kind like you would tell a story when out to dinner with friends. Humor brings down the defenses of new people or people that aren’t sure what the whole church thing is about. People will let their defenses down when humor is used and it makes it easier to communicate heart issues that otherwise might not penetrate those defenses.

3. Simplicity

Some may disagree, but I think there are a couple of scriptures that talk about staying with the simplicity of Christ, like 2 Corinthians 1:12 and 2 Corinthians 11:3 where the Greek word here might be translated “singleness” or “single devotion” toward Christ. I believe the message is that things don’t have to be complicated, heavy, or deep to communicate who Jesus is and what He wants for our lives. Sometimes we may feel the pressure to impress people with a new “heavy revy” when they really just need to solve some problem with their family or at work. People may not remember what you said last week, let alone 3 months ago. Keep it simple and direct.  You will find most people want you to be straight with them. My wife and I recently did a night with only couples where we did a team teaching concerning sex and intimacy in marriage – we were tasteful and Biblical but very direct and people liked it.  We even took questions at the end…hello…that was interesting.

4. Sincerity Be yourself

I make a lousy TD Jakes, Bro. Hagin, Jesse Duplantis or Joel Osteen, but I can do a reasonable job of being me. People can tell when we are trying to be someone else. They can better connect with you when you are you. Obviously there are areas we can all change but your basic personality is going to come out in your preaching/teaching style and people want you to be you. I have had so many people come to our church and say, “I like you because you are funny.” Well, I wish it was my amazing silver tongued oratory, or my laser beam focus and accuracy concerning etymology, or my deep, profound Biblical revelations – but for me, they say I’m funny… embrace who you are.  You will find that faking is really hard work. You should be the same person when God is using you in your gifting as when we see you in the grocery store – that connects with people.

Pastor Mark Garver – Madison, AL
I think one of the best things that can be done is teach people do draw on your gift.  In other words, teach them to pray for you that a door of utterance would be given to you that you would open your mouth boldly to proclaim the gospel.  You definitely should pray this for yourself, but if you get them involved then they are invested.  When I do not feel the congregation is connected, I will stop and encourage them that this is a spiritual happening and that I do not want to teach just mind to mind.  Before I minister on Sunday morning I have them confess the Word.  I watched and learned from John Osteen and it does work.  It seems to pull everyone’s attention to the fact that the seed of the Word of God is about to be sown into their hearts.  I also think what can give you a good connection with your congregation is sharing personal accounts throughout your messages of how this works for you.  It does cause you to be vulnerable before your congregation, but it also causes a great closeness.  They will see that you have put the Word of God into practice and it works just like you are telling them.

I would say naturally, just be yourself.  The worst thing you can do is try to imitate someone else.  I had an acquaintance who went to every possible ministers conference and then would come back to his church and try to be that minister he had just heard.  One day the Lord spoke to him as he began to take his pulpit and the Lord said, “Who are you going to be today?”  Remember the Lord called YOU.  He knew your personality, the speaking style you would have, and all the insecurities you would bring with you, and He called you anyway.  When I realized that it set me free.  I can tell you for myself that I am not a naturally gifted speaker, as a matter of fact, in high school speech class I would shake so hard that my teeth chattered as I spoke.  In my college speech class I was a nervous wreck.  Today by grace, I am what I am.  I am even able to do TV today; not because I am a naturally gifted speaker, but because I am called and appointed by God.  Others may have some good natural advice – I am not opposed to that – but I would say ministering the Word has to do with calling, faith, anointing, and grace.

Pastor Dean Hawk – Colorado Springs, CO


1. First off, you must understand the different types of learners.  In all of our congregations we will have a mixture of each of the following three kinds of people.

VISUAL LEARNERS – 65%  (SEE):  They learn via diagrams, charts, pictures, and reading the written words. They need visual illustrations. This type of learner loves it when we do a Power Point to correspond with our message points.  They also enjoy fill-in-the-blank handouts to follow along with the message.  They want to write it down.

AUDITORY LEARNERS – 30% (HEAR):  They learn primarily through listening.  This is the group most communicators target in their communication.  This type of learner focuses their ears and attention on your words, listening carefully to everything you say.   They like to talk rather than write and relish the opportunity to discuss what they’ve heard.   They need you to use animation and diversity in your speech levels.  They love it when you have them “say it” or “repeat it.”  They will also value discussion questions about the sermon to take home and talk over with their family members.

• KINESTHETIC LEARNERS – 5% (TOUCH):  They learn better by doing. They want to have their hands on the keyboard, the hammer, or the test tube because they think in terms of physical action. This group learns best when they can practice what they’re learning.   They need to see it demonstrated and how the principle applies in everyday life. They love it when we pull people from the crowd up on the stage to drive home a point or idea.  Plus, they need something to take home to remind them of the message.   When I did a message on “Gold Medal Families” I gave each family a red, white, and blue ribbon with a plastic gold medal to hang on their refrigerator to remind them of their family goal.  I taught a message on unity and the body of Christ called, “Where do I fit?”  My illustration was a puzzle with missing pieces.  I gave each family a magnetic puzzle piece that said, “I Belong at RFC” (Rock Family Church)  Four years later I still see them on members refrigerators.

Here is a great analogy to understand the three types of learners in action.  Listening learners heard their mother, believed the information, and never touched a stove.  Seeing learners watched their brother touch the stove, and never touched it.  Experience learners touched the stove; but only once!

2. Visual Illustrations are huge.  How can I visualize this message to grab and keep their attention? Jesus used spit, seeds, weeds, farmers, camels, needles, stories, and illustrations throughout his ministry to convey his point.  He was connecting people to heaven with things from their culture!  Facebook is one of the hottest items in our culture today.  In January I preached an entire series called, “Facethebook,”  what happens to our life when we face the book of God’s Word?  Every time I pull out a sword, snake, coffin, forklift, gift box, or unicycle it captures people’s attention and pulls them back in so they will hear and remember the message.  I have come into service dressed in a police uniform (Badge of the Believer), Straight Jacket (Get Yourself Committed), a custodian jump suit (Garbage of the Mind), and a complete Santa Claus get up (The Man or the Myth Behind Christmas).  The message and the WORD remain the same, but the way I deliver it will cause people to hear it and come back for more.  If you need some help to get the creative juices rolling visit my sermon resource web site:

3. Get rid of the podium.  It creates a wall or barrier between you and the people.  Our over elevated stages and massive podiums convey a subliminal message that says, “I’m better than you.  I can’t get too close or mingle with the peasant believers.”  So where do you keep your notes?  I print mine on half pages of 8.5 X11 paper and keep them in my bible as I walk and share.  Others preach from a small notebook and type all of their scriptures into their outline.  How many times have we strayed from the podium and we can’t remember the next point?  I like to have my notes always right there with me which allows me to get off the platform some and get closer to the people.

4. People listen to their friends, not strangers.  Become their friend talking to them in the front driveway.  More people are won to Christ by friends sharing with friends than the street corner preacher.  Open up your life and share personal stories and insights about yourself – people love it   Allow them to get to know the real you as you communicate.

5. Speak from the “we” perspective versus the “you” perspective. It conveys to your crowd that you are on this journey as well.  When we overuse “YOU!” it can come across more condemning and negative depending on the topic.  When I say, “We need to grow and have a daily time with God.” It says, I’m doing it with you.

6. Listen to an audio recording or watch a video recording of yourself on a regular basis.  This will drastically improve your communication skills.  We are our worst critic.  But it does make us better.  It will kill those catch phrases, keep us off the rabbit trails, and inspire us to work harder next week in preparation.

7. Limit your speaking time to around 30 minutes.  We make fun of the people who try out for American Idol.  Most speakers believe they are better than they actually are.  Winston Churchill said, “When I have 30 minutes to speak I prepare for two days.  When I have an hour, I don’t prepare.”  It takes more work and discipline to plan a 30 minute sermon because you have to make every word count and be precise.  Your people will love you and visitors just might come back!

8. Prepare like every Sunday was a Super Bowl versus a peewee league game.  If you were ask by a national ministry to preach at a convention with 20,000 people how long would you prepare for that sermon?  Doesn’t your local church deserve your very best?  Most of us get caught up in the business of ministry and the area that gets sacked is our prep time.   Some of our so called “Holy Ghost services” are God’s grace and favor because He knows we didn’t prepare anything to share.  NOTE:  The “we” perspective used here makes you go, “Oh, he’s done it to!  I’m not such a bad person.”  Ha!

Pastor Gary Martin – Collinsville, VA
Probably the best advice I ever received regarding “how” to preach and/or teach came from a pastor of whom I have tremendous respect.  Bishop B. Courtney McBath mentored me when I was just starting in the ministry, and one point he made that I have never forgotten, was to “keep your sermons and teaching on a 6th grade level.”  Of course, some of you (like me) may say that comes naturally.  To better illustrate, I have used babies, children, adults, household appliances, rocks, dead fish, china, dentures, hearing aids, toilet paper, $100 bills, oxen yokes, etc. in my sermons. When I want to better connect with my congregation, I go to their problems where they are living and then try and show them the way out via the WORD.  In summary, I “LEAN INTO” their world as a 6th grader!  If they don’t understand, there has not been communication.

Pastor Sam Smucker – Lancaster, PA
I agree – it is very important to connect with the people we are ministering to. In a congregation, we have all ages receiving the same message.  It seems the emerging generations are more relational; therefore, they receive the most when we speak to them from how the Word of God has changed our lives which means we need to be living what we are preaching and teaching.  It is good to be transparent and authentic sharing from our own life experiences.  Also there seems to be a greater connection to the emerging generations with a more conversational style of sharing the Word of God.  I am not saying that there is not a place for preaching and proclaiming.  In a congregational setting where we are helping people build their lives brick upon brick, week after week, a more conversational sharing may be more fruitful.  The anointing of the Holy Spirit works through all styles.

Sometimes it is good to ask a few people who you have a close relationship with if there are any things you do in your delivery that hinder people from receiving.  Sometimes we as speakers have things we do – from being nervous, or from insecurities we have – that annoy the listeners. Also watching and listening to your own speaking is helpful.

Pastor Dan Morrison – Farmington, NM
As a young man I remember on occasion how someone would ask me, “So what did the pastor speak on today?”  I couldn’t remember to save my life.  As I grew older, I made it my goal to never be that type of communicator.

We must never forget that we live in a visual society.  An Ohio State University study cited that the average person only remembers 20% of what they hear but 50% of what they see and hear.  Stanford University research cited that 89% of what we learn is visual while only 10% of what we learn is auditory.  Because of this, I have used a variety of physical objects over the years to convey biblical truths.  Examples:  Fishing poles with evangelism; flashlights for guidance; snowflakes to illustrate your uniqueness.  And when an object is not convenient or necessary, I will share a story or illustration that will create a visual picture in the mind of the listener.  As simple as this might sound, I have found it to be very effective in helping people to grasp and apply what I am teaching them.

Matthew 13:10 records an instance when the disciples asked Jesus why he used stories and parables so much.  He responds to their question but then verse 34 says, “All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them.”  If it worked for Jesus, it will work for you too.  Never share another message or try to teach another point without connecting it to some sort of visual illustration.

I was sharing on the popular subject of “Holiness” one night and I knew that I needed an unforgettable picture of this to create a desire in the congregation for holiness.  My text was 1 Tim. 2:21, which speaks of being a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master.  Near the conclusion of the message, I brought out a plate with a slice of six layered chocolate cake on it.  I asked for a volunteer to eat the cake. I then presented 4 different forks and asked the person to choose a fork and begin eating the cake.  They hesitated and I questioned them as to why.  One fork had mud on it, one had dried egg, another had dried ketchup, etc.  You can see where I was going with this illustration.  People comment to this day about the chocolate cake and the subject of holiness because it was connected to something visual.  If God placed a symbol in the sky so that His people would remember His promise, then we can use illustrations and stories to be better communicators.

Transparency and relating to your audience are also essential.  Although I may be admired and revered as the pastor of the church, the people need to hear and see that I am an ordinary person just like they are.  I may have a calling to minister, etc., but they must hear through my life experiences that I have struggled with the same challenges that they have.  This has helped me to relate and to connect with my audiences over the years.

Pastor Michael Steward – Powell, OH
As Pastors we are, in part, in the communication business and we must be effective.  We live in a very visual and multi-media driven society.  Many people find using props and multi-media visual tools to be extremely effective, including myself.  However, I often feel as if I am held captive to the visuals.  There have been times when ministering that I have completely forgotten about the visual sitting on the stage…oops.

I also believe that you can have all the best props, bells and whistles and still not communicate effectively.  Several years ago I came across an article about communication that has really helped me in preparing messages, and in turn to communicate more effectively.  The article basically said, when speaking you need to answer these 5 questions the listener is silently asking.

1. What are you talking about?  Or What is your topic or subject?

2. Why should I care about this topic? Or what is the problem? Or how does this topic affect me?

3. What is the solution? Or how do I solve this problem?

4. How will this change my life if I believe what you are saying?

5. What should I do now? Or what is the next step?

Remember, this is what the listener is asking.  By framing my message to answer these questions, it helps keep my delivery focused.

Another thing I do on a regular basis is glean from other professional speakers.  I am referring to radio talk show hosts, television news commentators, and effective politicians, etc.   Many of these people get paid large sums of money simply because they are effective at communicating their agenda.  I may not agree with their agenda, but I am interested in how they deliver it.

Lastly, the most effective thing I can do is make a genuine heart connection with my congregation.  This one is hard to explain but if I am able to genuinely be passionate about my message and desire to see it make a difference in their lives to help them, then it resonates better.   I try to give them something that will help them in their everyday life when they leave that service.

Pastor Brad Allen – San Mateo, CA
To communicate a message well, a pastor or leader needs to:

1.  Like themselves and their audience

2.  Briefly establish one’s credentials

3.  Know their subject

4.  Be passionate about their subject and have good personal illustrations

5.  Provide a concrete application of the message

Jesse Duplantis says that he preaches to himself in the mirror before he preaches in public!  He tells himself “You’re anointed, You look sharp, You’re an awesome man of God, etc.”  I’ve tried that.  It helps!!!  The great John G. Lake always dressed well and would point to the mirror and say “The Spirit of God dwells in that suit!”

Joel Osteen begins his messages with a clean joke.  It works.  It relaxes your audience and puts them at ease.  It opens doors for them to receive more from you.

A pastor speaking to his own congregation doesn’t have to prove his expertise, but if he uses a current illustration of ministry during the previous week, it helps.  Also, a personal illustration up front really helps establish one’s credibility to speak on a certain topic.  Visiting ministers should very, very briefly state why they are an expert in their field.  This helps open doors for people to receive.  But if they brag too long, the same door will close quickly.

Always try to link your first words with the best of what has taken place in the service.  If you follow a special song, compliment that singer or musician.  If you are introduced by the pastor, compliment the pastor and his wife and the congregation.  Continuity and flowing with the Spirit is greatly helped by being polite and gracious.

Humor helps a message – but it cannot sound rehearsed.  In my pre-service preparation time, I prepare my heart and I actually ask God for humor to make the message entertaining and easy to receive.  We should pray for the real power gifts even more than for humor, but some of my best Sundays have been when I’ve prayed for humor.

You have to show people that you like them.  We’ve all heard ministers that were preaching for a paycheck and those that were bringing something from the heart of God.  Big difference.  When the guest speaker has a personal relationship with the pastor, he generally connects well with the congregation.  When he doesn’t know the pastor well, often he doesn’t connect with the congregation either.

There is no excuse for lack of preparation.  Bible reading and study time are vital.  Your message should have a concise and clear framework.  Stream of consciousness messages shrink churches.  Always have notes.  Think…”point, scripture, illustration, application…”

Listening to other ministers teaching via the internet can often provide fresh insights and applications that you may not have seen before.

Preparation is not all study and writing.  Pray and ask the Lord for insight and wisdom and direction as you prepare your message.

If your message is not in YOUR heart, you will never get it in their heart.

Live what you teach.

Provide clear illustrations on how you have applied this subject.

Rev. Mark Hankins said “Brother Hagin set me free from the fear of repetition.”   Small kids will watch the same video over and over again.  Good songs are played many times.  Good illustrations can be re-used many, many times.  Don’t apologize for re-using an illustration that everyone knows.  Repetition of a fact builds confidence and faith.

Smith Wigglesworth said every man should “preach his line of faith.”  Stay on topics that you are passionate about and bring in guest ministers or other church members to round out the year’s messages for balance.  You don’t have to preach on Revelations or the Book of Daniel if that’s not your strong suit.  Stay where you’re strong and passionate.  You’ll have more fun and so will your audience.

The difference between a good speaker and a great speaker is APPLICATION.  Great speakers show you through personal illustrations how to immediately apply the message right now.  Application comes through illustrations.  A good message will have 3 or more clear illustrations of people (preferably you – the speaker) applying the message to their lives.

Sermons point people toward action.  Excite, encourage, convict, and motivate people to stand up and apply the message as you conclude!

Finally, don’t go long!  Have fun!  Keep your relationship with God fresh and exciting and your messages will be too.

Pastor Dennis Cummins – Puyallup, WA
I think this is a great question and should be the continued endeavor for every Pastor that fills the pulpit.  We are called to persuade men, which is clearly different than to manipulate men.  I think we should do everything in our power to hone our public speaking skills so we will be able to effectively convey the message to the hearers.  In one of my favorite books dealing with public speaking, it says that 5% of what we are communicating is the actual words that are coming out of our mouth.  This means 95% of what we communicate is through vocal inflection, facial gestures and body posture.  One way that I continue to work on my presentation skills is by previewing every Sunday’s message that I preach.  It’s not enough to listen to our messages, we have to watch ourselves deliver our messages.  When I preview my sermons, I want to make sure that I am engaging, practical, not moving too much or too little, etc…  Another thing that I do is watch other powerful and anointed speakers that are engaging and glean from their presentation styles.  I also had a team of people that varied in their spiritual maturity and involvement in the church to critique my message on Monday mornings for 4 the past years.  While this was not always easy, I learned the difference between what I thought I communicated and what was actually perceived.  This really helped me to focus on my wording and delivery of my messages.

Some thoughts regarding the delivery: *I am presenting these as simple ideas to consider since every pastor has to tailor to their style.

1.  Opening statements and closing statements are highly pivotal.  An open statement should encapsulate the entire message and we should be able to state it within 8-10 seconds before moving into the main opening story or joke.  This builds confidence with the audience by giving them a quick glimpse that you are prepared and you know where you’re going.  Then closing statement should be a reminder of the verbal journey you took them through and should be 10-15 seconds and then transition into the altar call.

2.  How many points in a message?  One great orator said three.  Two points seem to lack one and four seems like one too many.  I know that goes against the four point sermon theory, but I would rather convey three points effectively than have them walk away with a faint memory of four.  My sermon points do vary in number, but I try to stick with the three point rule as much as possible.

3.  Inject videos in your message – make them yourself or get them from or other sources.  Maybe put one of your points on video, or dramatize one of your illustrations on video or live.  Anything to change it up and get them to re-engage.

A couple of books I would recommend: “You’ve Got to Be Believed to Be Heard, Updated Edition: The Complete Book of Speaking . . . in Business and in Life!”  by Bert Decker, and “Power Etiquette,”  by Dana Casperson.  Obviously take the wheat and throw out the chaff.

I also have to consider my audience.  Communicating our message isn’t only what we say and how we say it, but it is also having the perceptive ability to read the crowd that we are speaking to.  I have two distinct types of services on Sundays.  The early one consists of mature believers and the second one is filled with younger Christians and seekers.  So while I preach the same message, it is certainly tailored to the hearers of each service.

I think it is also important to develop the skill of reading your audience.  While I am preaching I am constantly scanning the crowd to see if they are engaged.  Are there people sleeping?  Are there people appearing there only in bodily form?  If so, than I make it a point to do something to re-engage them before I continue on with my message so they don’t miss something very important that God has for them.  I will have the audience repeat a phrase with me, or I will call someone by name and include them in my message (not the people that are nodding off), or I will make a drastic posture shift or move down in front of the platform.  My favorite thing to do is to interject a VIP (Video Illustrated Point) into my message.  This gives them an opportunity for their brain to light up again by giving them more sensory stimulus.  The Navy did a study years ago as to how long people can endure a lecture and still retain the information given.  The time came out to 18 minutes.  After 18 minutes people’s retention levels fell off the charts.  Through further study, they found that if they showed a video, gave a break, or a chance to shift their posture, the 18 minute clock would start all over again.  So I am a firm believer in giving people the opportunity to re-engage throughout the service.  I think that every Pastor should preach to the kids or youth at least once a year so they we won’t forget how important it is to connect with our audience.

Don’t be afraid to explore and get feed-back, and don’t be too quick to dismiss criticism.  When you first open the door, don’t be surprised or set back if you get a lot of negative feed-back right away.  But after some time passes so will the general negative consensus of our critiques; so long as we are listening and adapting.  We can’t help but to take it personal since it’s us (our mannerisms, preparation, and delivery) they are speaking to.  Thank them for their insight and tell them that you will prayerfully consider it.  Try to look for the thread of truth, take it before God and let Him mold you and take you to the next level.  You have posed a great question, go for it!

Pastor John White – Decatur, AL
Don’t use a lot of filler words like “Amen” and “uh,” and “Praise the Lord.”  Know the people you are talking to and minister on their level. A group of uneducated farm workers would not comprehend what a group of college professors would hear. You shouldn’t use a lot of slang words because some people will not know what they mean, especially in other parts of the country and world. In our society today, the walls of geographical accents and language bearers are being torn down. We have people from all over the country in our Church; you might hear a Boston accent in our deep-south church. The ease of travel and present-day work situations has truly made our nation a melting pot.

I find it is better to keep things simple no matter who you are talking to. I think Rev. Kenneth E. Hagin was a great example of this. He was simple but yet profound. He would capture your attention with a story or example that most could relate to and then insert what he was trying to get over to his audience. Jesus ministered much the same way.

Listen to the recordings of your sermons and critique yourself. Ask yourself the question, that if you were a stranger would you know what you were trying to communicate. Another good sounding board is your wife or husband or a close friend. Ask them if they knew what you were trying to say and if there was room for improvement. This is brutally hard on us sometimes but it will help us if we will listen and be honest with ourselves.

Communication is an area that I constantly work on and pray about for myself. It doesn’t matter how much I know if I cannot communicate it. Communication is more than talking. It is transferring information that can be easily understood from one party to another. It could be verbal or visual. Our five senses plus our spirit man all play a part in our ability to communicate. If you will keep these things in mind I believe that it will make you a much better communicator.

Pastor David Emigh – Sand Springs, OK
The ability to communicate the gospel is something we all have to grow in. One thing that is very important is to be familiar with your material and then we will come across as one with authority. I think it is very important to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help you communicate to your audience. It is important to mix in humor and illustrations to your message. Then I would encourage you to listen to recordings of your message and look for ways to improve. If you are really challenged in this area then you could look into toastmasters or a organization like that that helps you become a better public speaker.

Pastor Bill Ammons – Greenville, PA
It has been my experience and in talking with fellow ministers that we all feel from time to time that we are not connecting with our people.  It is true that there are many resources available that can help someone be a better communicator.  However, I would like to encourage you that God has placed you where you are because He knew you were the man to implement His plan and deliver His message in your area.  All ministers compare themselves to other ministers. They feel that other ministers are better preachers and communicators than they are.  The key to good communication is spending time with the Father and speaking the Words He gives you to speak.  When we are hearing God’s words and speaking them, we are communicating what the Father wants His people to hear and we can’t go wrong or be wrong with that.

I commend you for wanting to improve your communication skills.  However, as you know, if you are not communicating what the Father wants, all the skills in the world will not change how the people receive.  I encourage you to recall that Moses didn’t know what to communicate to the people and the Father gave him the words to speak.

Also, remember Jesus only spoke the words He heard the Father speak. And then, He said what the Father said.  I’d like to encourage you to spend as much time with the Father as you can and then, speak the words that He gives you to speak.  Then you will be the great communicator that you want to be.

Pastor John Brady – McAllen, TX
Communication is not a transfer of information, but connecting with the individual heart!  I have transferred great information, yet had little impact.  I found one of the problems I faced was I tried to minister like others.  I would try to be the deep teacher and expound line upon line.  I would study for hours and go to service and feel like I did not touch anyone.

One night I was driving home frustrated after a service! I was talking to God about how I was feeling and He impressed on my heart that he did not create me to minister that way.  I had to find the gift in me.  I have found great freedom in being who God created me to be.  I believe each one of us needs to find that communicator that God gifted us to be.  When you hit your stride there is a flow in what you do.  It isn’t difficult or a strain.   Please remember that audiences are different.  We have multiple services and one audience is easy while another may be a little harder.  I believe you can learn to connect with different audiences.

A couple things that I have learned, is to illustrate my points so that a “sight and sound generation” can grasp them.  People have been trained by our culture to have short attention spans and for the message to entertain them.  Most people are not use to putting a lot of effort in listening.

God will use you in a unique way to engage people in the message.  I believe one of the easiest and most affective illustrations is to tell a story.  Jesus used this method often and it has worked well for me.  I encourage you to practice your method of story telling.  Learn to use facial expressions, pause for emphasis, and most important, just be the person God created you to be.

The truth of the matter is they will remember that story more than the scriptural principle, but if you can tie that scriptural principle to a story you can hit a home run.

Pastor Stan Saunders – Chillicothe, MO
Our team gives much attention to how we present a message. We are communicating to change lives and to help people. We want to connect with them as effectively as possible. In our preparation discussions we ask what music, what visuals (video, skit, images), what testimonies or illustrations will help people grasp and remember the message. We search YouTube, Sermon Spice, Creative Pastors and other websites for any video or ideas that might support our message. We also produce our own videos. Sometimes teenagers will do a very good job for us. They can be quite creative. We try not to be predictable. We will not overuse any method. Sometimes I bring a dry erase board to help emphasize the message. Other times I simple preach without any props.

Music is a big consideration for us. We try to fit the music to the theme of our message, not every song, but one or two during the congregational singing. Our special music must fit the message for sure. We don’t want anything to detract the people’s attention away from the central theme of the day. During a song called “New Creation,” performed as a solo by our music leader, two artists painted him. They painted an abstract painting over his shirt, arms, and his shaved head while he sang the song. He ended up with a new heart painted on his chest. We do two Sunday services, so he had to clean up between services. The band played the song with the help of two students from the youth group playing bass drums that we borrowed from the local high school marching band. To set up a sermon called “Dream On,” our song leader performed Aerosmith’s song by the same name. We rocked the house that day, and the people loved it, young and old. We have used songs like, “We Are Family,” and “Lean On Me” to help emphasize our themes. People really enjoy hearing “secular” songs they know with good messages. We try to have a lot of fun.

I preach several illustrated sermons throughout the year, where I will use clothing (Goodwill is a good source) and other props to help people connect with the message. We do a message called “Farmer Stan,” another called “Faith Ladder,” and another called, “What To Do With a Giant’s Head” for a few examples. Most of our ideas come from someone else. We borrow ideas from everywhere–movies, other churches, television shows and commercials, YouTube, etc. We keep our eyes and ears open. Yesterday, in an unrelated meeting I got an idea that will be implemented into a message in the future I am sure. It has to do with iPhone apps. Most of our ideas do not cost very much money. What a big city mega-church does, usually can be adapted to our budget and platform.

I ask myself, “What ONE thing do I want people to know today?” There is usually one repeated phrase that I use during the message that I want people to remember. I usually don’t have multiple points. There is one thing I try to communicate and one call to action related to that one point. This is the “so what” moment. I have not effectively communicated unless the people know what and how to do what I have called them to do. This simplification of sermon preparation allows me to memorize my messages. The messages come more out of the heart this way. I preach about 30-35 minutes on Sunday. Shortening my messages has improved my communicating dramatically.

Pastor Thom Fields – Kennewick, WA
Connecting with your audience is obviously a task that every speaker must wrestle with. There have been, and probably will always be, those moments when it feels as if you’re attempting to carry a hundred dead bodies up an extremely steep incline. Yet, on the days when everything seems to click – there aren’t many better feelings than that one!

There are a number of techniques that can increase one’s ability to connect with his or her audience.  Eye contact, for example, is crucial.  Looking into the eyes of our listeners allows them to feel as if we’re actually speaking into their life.  For this reason, lighting, temperature control, sound levels and miscellaneous distractions are all elements that impact our overall effect.  However, when I prayerfully considered this question I was surprised at the answer that seemed to well up within my spirit. Even though all of these elements (and more) can make an impact upon connecting with our listeners, there is one other issue that we cannot afford ourselves the luxury of forgetting and that is to not disconnect from our audience in the first place.

I have found that by staying connected with my congregation, it is remains very easy to remain connected to my audience. Keeping in touch with a congregation can become an overwhelming task at times.  It isn’t always possible to roam the foyer and shake every hand prior to service time.  Walking the aisles and memorizing names isn’t much of a party for me, either.  However, pressing some flesh is simply on the list of job descriptions for me and each of my pastoral staffers.

It might be a good idea to sit down and refocus our schedules, if need be, to appropriate the tiny piece of time required to move amongst our congregations.  Waiting in a secluded room until after the worship service has begun in order for us to make our escorted entrance down to the front row could prove to be an indicator of our level of insecurity more than a display of our importance.  It might work for some and it might be appropriate some of the time, but if we’re losing the ability to connect maybe we should look at whatever it is that is causing the disconnect before spending too much time searching for a new way to connect.  Even if we find new and improved ways to connect, we’ll end up disconnecting fairly quickly any way.

Pastor Doug Foutty – Parkersburg, WV
I try not to be predictable. I like to put some variety in the way I deliver the Word of God. I am often allowed and led to use visual aids. This past Sunday was one of those times. The Lord was dealing with me to remind the people that He is looking at their hearts and He wasn’t fooled by outward appearance. I was led to put on my Rhema Teens—I believe—T-shirt. It simply says—I believe—on the front and—do you—on the back. The Lord led me to get some masking tape and cover the letters ‘be’ and the letters ‘ve’ which now made the shirt say—I lie. I was instructed to go out by the driveway and get some good ol’ West Virginia red clay mud and smear it on my shirt. Then I put patches of tape all over the shirt and wrote different sins that were issues of the heart, sins of wrong choices on the patches of tape. I’ll tell you the truth, I wasn’t feeling very confident. I had purchased a 36 inch gummy candy snake at the store. It was quite a miracle how that came about. I knew that I was supposed to keep the snake in a bag and wear a zip up wind breaker coat so that no one would see the shirt until the right time in the message.

Sunday morning came and I dropped my wife off at the church and went for a drive. My head was saying—this is stupid and you will look even more stupid in that shirt. My heart was peaceful and I knew that I was going to trust God. I will admit, the rapture would have been welcome at that moment. The mall isn’t far from our church. I drove to the mostly deserted mall parking lot and parked. I decided to take a better look at the candy snake. It had an information card that came with it. The Lord began to give me illustrations off of that information card that I would be using in a few minutes in our service. God can use anything to communicate His message if we will just give Him the opportunity to speak to our hearts.

I went back to the church. When I took the pulpit I began speaking about the issues of living an out of fellowship life as a Christian. I was asking why anyone would choose to do that when forgiveness had been made so easy for us. I was asking why anyone would come to church out of fellowship when it is so easy to get right with God and be ready to receive His word. There were several people not making eye contact at this time. I asked who they thought they were fooling. I reminded them that God is looking on their hearts and anyone with much spiritual perception wasn’t being fooled either. I began to speak on the goodness of God and how high a price that Jesus had paid for them to live above the problems of the world. I began to tell them that their Heavenly Father missed the fellowship with them. I told them that sometime we get cleaned up and dressed up and put a fake smile on our face and come to church and maybe fool everyone except the one we came for. I said that the Lord is stuck looking at this. I unzipped my coat and took it off to reveal the muddy shirt with all the sins written on it and the declaration of—I lie on it.

Tears began to fall from several eyes and several people had looks on their faces as if God had just revealed something personal to them. I asked, “how do you think someone gets into this sorry state?” I took the candy snake out of the bag—it wasn’t immediately evident that it was candy—and hung it around my shoulder and continued to teach. That visual aid alone brought more tears and more sober looks and far away stares.

I began to read the information card from the candy snake. The item itself was called—Big Fat Hissy Fit. I promise it’s true. I began speaking about people having big fat hissy fits in the car on the way to church and things like that that get you out of fellowship before entering the church. The flavor of the candy was called—APPLE ATTACK. I promise. I reminded the people that it was most likely not an apple that was the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden, but that most people associate that first sin with an apple. So I began to explain how that we are—Neither to GIVE place to the devil—that we must have given place to the devil somewhere to have come into church all muddy and out of fellowship with the devil himself comfortable enough to be hanging around our neck whispering in our ears. While sitting at the mall before church, I couldn’t get away from the number 36 on the info card. I kept saying it in my mind as three-six and not thirty six. I heard the Lord through the still, small voice say –Genesis. I thought, it can’t be that simple, can it?

Genesis 3:6: And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

Amazing! Absolutely amazing how God uses anything to illustrate His point. I went on to teach from the first few scriptures of Genesis Chapter 3 and would lift the candy snakes head up to whisper in my ear to help illustrate the point. I also emphasized the message on my shirt. If I am walking around out of fellowship most of the time and people cannot see the Jesus in me then I am doing something wrong. The statement—I lie—becomes true. When I don’t agree with God’s Word and choose to live out of fellowship with my Heavenly Father and choose not to receive the benefits that He paid such a high price for, then I am lying about who God is and what Jesus did for me by my actions. I should be proclaiming the truth of the gospel—I believe! I trust God no matter what happens in this life.

I illustrated the answer to the question on purpose. It has been a long time since I had so many people thank me for delivering a message. I have heard from people for days. God is so good and it is never smart to second guess Him. Follow your heart. Follow the peaceful leading of God.

Once again, I would encourage ministers to have some variety in your delivery. Use visual aids when they help people understand the point of God’s Word. I try to remember this. I haven’t taught if no one has learned. I am not the best and most dynamic speaker by any stretch of the imagination. My wife has that gift when teaching God’s Word. I am a teacher. I want the congregation to have scriptural proof of what is being taught and I try to illustrate it any way I can. I am there to help them. I am there to glorify God and be obedient to His leading. So, get out of the BOX. Take God out of the BOX. Be open to His leading and guidance and know that the Word does not return void.