If you are anything like me, then you are always striving to improve your communication skills. I want to do whatever I can to present the truth in a more accurate, convicting and convincing way.
Communication is a craft that is developed over time and these are six avoidable mistakes that every preacher makes. If you have made any of these mistakes, then you are in good company because I have certainly been guilty of this entire list.
1. Presenting Too Much Information.
Most people who speak publicly love information in general. The problem is that most of our audience just want the bare essentials. I call this concept “putting the cookies on the bottom shelf.”
This means that you present the pertinent information and cut out the rest. Don’t make people feel like they are drinking from a fire hydrant when they are listening to your sermon. The additional valuable information that you retained from your studies can overflow into a small group discussion, a one on one counseling session or into another area of conversation. It does not all have to come out in the sermon.
You are a chef that needs to present a well balanced meal. You don’t need to show or talk about all that went on in the kitchen during the preparation.
2. Not Using Various Voice Volume During Presentation.
Your talk needs to have a balanced dose of excitement, energy, passion and level-headed speech. If you enunciate every single point, you won’t be able to accentuate that one point that is super important, because it sounds just like everything else you said.
You also need to speak in a way in which you yourself are convinced of the subject matter. This is exactly what Paul told the Thessalonians church when he preached to them. He said that he came to preach to them about the gospel of Jesus and preached in a way that he himself was convinced about what he was saying.
If you are not excited about what you are preaching about, what makes you think the audience will be? Throw into your sermon pregnant pauses, a moment of silence, a direct instruction with the temperament of an army general and couple that with the gentle voice of a wise fatherly sage, giving counsel to his gathered disciples.
3. Apologizing To The Audience.
This has got to be one of my biggest annoyances with people who speak. Believe me, no one in the audience knows if you had a crazy schedule and did not adequately prepare for the message, if you missed a point in your outline, if you skipped a thought in your notes, if you went over the allotted time you gave yourself or whatever other excuse speakers usually come up with.
You don’t need to fill the awkward silence with awkward speech. If you missed a point, go on to the next one. No one knows you were going to talk about it anyway, so why fill up precious pulpit time with pleasantries that no one cares about.
Follow the advice of one of the best speakers of all time: Be clear, be brief, be seated.
4. Not Paying Attention To Your Body Language.
Recently someone tweeted at me and told me that I move my hands around so much during my sermon that I need some handcuffs to hold them down.
Each person has their own personal favorite. Whether it is scratching their head, fidgeting with their wedding ring or flailing your arms in the air like you are drowning in the ocean. Ask your friend to critique you the next time you speak. Perfect your craft and look to see how other preachers who are great at what they do, behave in the pulpit.
You will see that most mature and seasoned guys have a very well-tempered cadence and rhythm within their sermon. Study that and apply that which you think will make you a better preacher.
5. Using Illustrations That Horrify Or Embarrass The Audience.
No one wants to feel awkward after an illustration that you used. If you are married and want to use your wife for an illustration, make sure to clear this with her first. Trust me on this and you will thank me later.
This next one is fairly obvious but I have heard it more times than I should have which I wish was never: Speaking about yourself in the shower. Don’t do it. No one wants to image their pastor taking a shower, especially during a sermon.
By all means, find another illustration or skip the shower scene all-together. Your church, your audience, your wife and your family will be very thankful. I guarantee it.
6. Not Knowing How To Land The Plane.
Preachers are perennially known for extending their sermon and going into overtime. Guys like Spurgeon, Stanley, Chandler and Driscoll can preach for well over one hour with the audience alert and listening. 99% of us can’t. It is much better to speak for a shorter amount of time and have your audience desire to hear you more, rather than have your audience silently pray that you would end your sermon.
The moment that the audience begins to think about what they are going to have for lunch, is the moment that the clock is working against you. If you are a beginner, I would always err on the side of shorter rather than longer. At my church, my sermons are usually thirty to thirty five minutes in length.
Because I suffer with the sin of being long-winded, I have solved this by downloading an app to my iPhone and iPad called the Presentation Clock. I set the clock to begin counting down at 32 minutes. When I have 15 minutes left, the clock will turn yellow. When I have 5 minutes left, the clock will turn red – notifying me that I need to begin concluding my sermon. If I go into overtime, the clock begin to count negatively and the full screen becomes red.
If you have ever watched the Catalyst conference or other similar conferences, you will see that every speaker uses this type of system. Figure out the exact point in your sermon when you will land the plane and land it right there. Don’t keep circling or hovering over the same points.
Question: What other avoidable mistakes that preachers make would you add to this list? Leave a comment below.