The Sermon Writing and Delivery Tips entries (February 2010) have gotten a lot of hits on my blog, so I’ll add to them from time to time. If you have tips, feel free to click “Leave a Comment” and share them. Here we go…
- When I use sermon props, I’ve started using a black museum-style pedestal (42′ tall) to display small props during the entire sermon. It sits a couple of feet away from me on the platform, so I can reach it easily when I’m ready to use the prop. Displaying props during the whole sermon builds anticipation as people wonder what you’re going to do with it and also ties the sermon together around a visual image (Rob Bell, The Art of the Sermon/Poets Prophets Preachers). I purchased the pedestal at Home Decorators, and it was a higher quality product than I expected… http://www.homedecorators.com/P/Wood_Square_Pedestal/210/.
- Small props, even when displayed on the pedestal, can’t be seen in a large congregation. When the point comes in the sermon when I actually use the prop, I put a photo of the prop on the projection screen behind me, so everyone can see it in detail. For example, I’m going to be using a business size envelope with print on it as a prop in an upcoming sermon, and people in the back will not be able to fully see it without a pic on the screen.
- It’s good to be funny in a sermon, but remember that you’re doing something sacred, and an element of preaching is providing pastoral care to the congregation. My attitude has been a little too cavalier when preaching at times, so I have to remind myself of the sacredness of what I am doing and show that in my attitude. Steve Sjogren writes in Community of Kindness, “Don’t be cute. Be profound.”
- If you use projection during your sermon, look at the screen occasionally to reference quotes, clips, etc. Looking at the screen occasionally has the psychological effect of joining you with the congregation who are looking at the screen. You and the congregation are experiencing the same thing together.
- Make sure you properly set up video clips that you’re showing. I have seen pastors who thought it was a cool dramatic effect to play videos without setting them up at all. I thought it just looked dorky and disjointed. Set the clip up so the congregation sees in the clip what you want them to see. Explain to them why you’re showing it before you show it. Then after the clip, unpack the meaning of the clip. Again, clips should only be 1-2 minutes long, so they don’t become the sermon instead of adding to the sermon (Adam Hamilton, Unleashing the Word).
- Recently, I have put extra material from my sermon on my blog and then referenced my blog in the sermon. I print my blog address in my sermon notes in the bulletin. You can teach people more than you can fit in your sermon by pointing them to your blog.
- It’s okay to give people homework occasionally (not every week). A sermon might require the congregation to do some reflecting, devotional work, action step, etc. when they get home. That’s a good thing! It keeps them thinking about the sermon after they leave the worship gathering.
- This is a repeat from the first Sermon Delivery Tips entry. Eliminate repetitive words, phrases or ticks from your preaching. Using a catchphrase in every sermon, saying “um”, clearing your throat, etc. is very distracting to the congregation. Every time you do it, they are thinking about your repetitive habits instead of your sermon content. Be ruthless in eliminating these. Ask for feedback,and when people give you feedback, don’t defend yourself. Just say, “Thank you”. Their honesty helps you, so don’t punish them for it.
- Vary your sermon structure from week to week. Do you always, or usually, start sermons the same way? Do you use a video clip every week? Do you use a prop every time? Are your sermons always structured the same way? I used to know a pastor who started every sermon the exact same way. He would give a 2-3 minutes intro then say, “Today, I would like to speak to you on the subject (sermon title)”. If you do not vary your structure and delivery, your habits become the focal point instead of your sermon, and what you think is your “style” becomes a running joke to other people.
Think of new creative ways to vary your delivery. I’ve heard it said that’s it’s a sin to bore people with the Gospel!
- Have the congregation text something to someone during a sermon.
- Show your Facebook page on the projection screen and invite people to friend you and share questions they have about God.
- Invite a juggler to be a live illustration for you.
- Include a live animal in your sermon (put plastic down, so the trustees don’t complain about animals pooping on the carpet. They thought coffee was disrespectful to “God’s house”!).
- Put up a portable basketball hoop on the platform and have a volunteer shoot baskets as an illustration.
- Play 3 minutes of a popular TV show (with the volume up) on the projection screen while you preach to talk about distractions in our lives.
- Have a very good pianist or guitarist play a complicated song as an illustration of the power of discipline and practice.
- Decorate the platform according to the theme of your sermon (Lifechurch.tv and Fellowship Church are the best at this).
- Take a trip to somewhere; then use video footage from your trip as an illustration (Adam Hamilton, cor.org)
- Plant a fake heckler in the congregation (think Saturday Night Live), and interact with that person to illustrate turning the other cheek or conflict management. Mic the person, maybe a local actor, so the congregation knows its staged. It will still be hilarious if done with some intelligence
Make your sermon remarkable- worth your congregation remarking to their friends about (Seth Godin, The Purple Cow). Of course, everything you do should make sense, or it will be just another running joke. Be intelligent and profound.