I get it. Each week it seems like you can’t find enough time to prepare a sermon for Sunday. Thinking about ways to be a better preacher is to overwhelming, because you can barely get from one Sunday to the next with another passable sermon, let alone carve out time to think about how to be a better preacher.
But one of the most important responsibilities of a preacher is to explain and communicate the Bible in a helpful way. Certainly there is a spiritual component to that where God works in ways we don’t often understand. However, God in his wisdom has also decided to work through the skill and effort of the preacher. So it stands to reason that we should view preaching as a craft and find ways to do it better.
Here are seven tips that will help just about everyone be a better preacher. And since I know you don’t have a lot of time, just pick one or two to try out in the next couple of weeks.
1) Slow down
One of the biggest critiques people have of my own preaching is that I go too fast. When you preach, you always will think you are talking slower than you really are. So if you think it’s a good pace, it’s probably too fast. Try slowing it down to the point where you think it’s too slow. In addition, try pausing about five seconds every time you say something you really want people to remember.
2) Study longer
I know this one might make you groan, especially if you feel like you’re strapped for time. But when you understand and believe what you are preaching, your delivery will go better. In fact, if you make a habit of not allowing yourself to start writing your message until you’ve studied a bit longer than you normally would, you’ll likely find that actually writing your message will take less time.
3) Watch yourself
Yeah, I know: it’s painful to watch video of yourself preaching. But the reality is that you are your harshest critic, and if you watch your messages (or at least listen if your church doesn’t record video), you’ll come up with at least a few things that are distracting to your audience you should stop doing immediately.
4) Ask someone to critique you
This one’s also pretty painful, at least if you find someone honest enough to do it well. But if you want to be a better preacher, why not ask someone to evaluate you who actually has to sit through your sermons. Extra credit: Ask someone who doesn’t go to church to watch or sit in on a message and give you some feedback.
5) Work ahead
If you find that you usually run out of time when trying to prep your sermons, why not try working on them more than a week in advance? Working ahead will allow time for God to shape ideas in your mind and heart, and you’ll be more creative. You’ll also have more opportunities to bounce ideas for messages off of other people, rather than locking yourself in your office at 9pm on Saturday night to try to crank a sermon out.
6) Don’t preach so often
If you’re a solo pastor at a small church, I know this one sounds impossible. But no matter the size of the church you serve, there are other people with whom you can share the pulpit. Taking a week off of preaching at least every other month—if not every month—is a great way to get ahead on sermon preparation and be refreshed.
7) Focus on one point
We’ve all done it at one time or another: preach a handful of sermons in one, single Sunday message. Every one of the five points you make might be true, and each one might even make an impact in someone’s life. But no one in the room—including you—will remember all five points on Monday morning. In addition, you won’t have done justice to any one of those points. Whatever text you are preaching from, focus on one thing God is prompting you to preach on. If you find you could talk forever on three or four things from that text, great news: you’ve got yourself a three- or four-week sermon series.
What else would you add to this list?