Pastors, Preaching

Sermon Tips from Mike Cunningham

The following tips are from Mike Cunningham, Youth Pastor, New Hope Community Church, Chula Vista, CA:

Sermon Writing Tips

Find a place where you can think, dream and focus.  It could be your office, but I would recommend finding a place outside of it since you are already in the office a lot, handling other things and people can stop by which can be distracting.  I find going to a public place always stokes my creative juices because I have to focus more. Plus I learn a lot from just watching people.  Go to a coffee shop, Panera bread, McDonalds, wherever you can get going and, of course, a place with good iced tea!

Don’t overcook your sermon, meaning designate a certain amount of time each week to get all your prep done and once your done you are done.  Let the Holy Spirit bless what you have put together. (Thank you Craig Groeschel for that tip!  It’s always stuck with me!)

Study your audience.  Know who they are and where they are at in life. Get to know their family situations when you can.  If you don’t have time to do all this then make sure you find out what the audience is like.

Use multiple Bible translations.  I would choose one that you firmly believe is a solid literal translation, but don’t be afraid or bias to sprinkle in other translations as you study.  Helps text come to life more

Pray, Pray, Pray!  It sounds cliché, but it’s so true.  When I’ve prayed I can tell a distinct difference in the impact of the messages.

Get feedback from your congregation.  Find out what’s troubling them, what issues are they dealing with.

Lectio Devina!  Read through the text multiple times and with each time pull things that stick out to you.

Always be on the lookout for personal stories and applications throughout your prep process for that week and the future.  People always connect with personal stories.  God uses your story to impact others.

It’s always good to have a spouse or confidant who you can practice on and have them proofread your sermon.

Practice your sermon at least once.

Stay up to date with culture and the news because many people in your audience do, and it’s good to relate it all together and show how Christ-followers should respond.

Sermon Delivery Tips

Don’t try to be other people.  Be yourself.  You can take little things from good speakers, but in the end, be yourself.

Move around.  It helps keep people’s attention and keeps them interested.

Object lessons are very powerful!  Have a display of phone books, or phones, or other devices when you do a series on God’s Call in your Life and leave it on stage until you’re done!  Helps them remember.

Use a lot of media.  In today’s age, it can add so much power and impact to your message.  Don’t overuse it, but looks for multiple ways to interject media like photos, videos, interviews, games, etc.

Audience participation.  It helps break the ice and reminds people that you are one of them, just in the journey together with them.  Get them on stage, ask them questions, etc.

Voice inflection – know when and how to use your voice in a sermon to make a stronger impact.

Personal stories.  Make sure they are appropriate and don’t be afraid to get emotional.  Let them see that you are humble and human.

Always ask for feedback.  It helps you continue to grow in your ability.

Be animated.  Tell jokes. Move your hands, but don’t overdo it.  That’s why it’s good to practice on somebody beforehand to get a response.

Look at people. It can make a bigger impact than you know!

Don’t be afraid to make fun of yourself.  It’s not only funny, but once again it reminds them that you are not the focus, God is!

Try to tie in all the aspects of the service to your message.  It helps enhance the message.


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