1. Be as Prepared as Possible
In general, when speaking in public, one of the most important things you can do is be as prepared as possible. This means knowing the material. If you are good at memorization, I would recommend trying to memorize at least your opening line, your main points, and your closing line. Then, of course, you can use your sermon outline for reference during your delivery.
Here are some keys to being prepared to preach:
- Read the scripture(s) over and over again.
- Memorize your opening line, your main points, and your closing line.
- Pray for wisdom, anointing, and power from God.
2. Know the Time Slot You Have Been Given
When you are invited to preach, you will likely be given a time slot. If you are not directly given a time slot, there is usually an implied time slot. Churches vary on their average sermon length. Some churches prefer an hour long sermon every service, while others stick to a thirty-minute message. It is the job of the preacher to understand the appropriate time slot, and deliver in the designated time frame.
Managing your pulpit time is a skill that develops with experience. This skill can become quite challenging to improve on, especially when your personality tends more toward the talkative side. For those who always talk a lot, and drag things out in everyday conversation – from the pulpit, you need to learn to condense a sermon. Likewise, for those who are more reserved and short with their words – you need to learn to expand your message to fit the appropriate time slot.
It is important to always be considerate of the time slot you have been given. Try to go the full length, but don’t go over. Be respectful of the hearers and their time. If you are a disciple, there is no reason your leaders should have to monitor your time. No one should have to worry about how much longer you’ll go over if they don’t cut you off. Be respectful, or you’ll likely lose out on many opportunities to minister.
3. Don’t Waste Time While You Are Preaching
Every second of every minute counts. Therefore, make the best use of the time. Do not waste time with unnecessary thanksgiving to the pastor for allowing you to minister. Do not waste time saying “Amen” after every 3 words, or saying, “Oh, when I heard I was going to preach today, I started praying and asking God what He wanted me to say...”. Get to the point; get right to it. As a side note, saying “Amen” or “Hallelujah” after every other word is unintelligible. Consider how you sound to those listening in the congregation, and to those who may listen to your recording online. Speak intelligibly, and you’ll likely see more doors open for you.
Lastly, be mindful of the important parts of your stories, and your illustrations in general. If I am telling a story about my wife being told she was going to die in the hospital while giving birth to our son – there is no need for me to explain how she got pregnant, or when she got pregnant, or what we ate for breakfast. In other words, get to the point.
4. Maintain Composure
Maintain composure, even if you feel nervous, or lose your place, or lose focus, or can’t find the right words, maintain composure. Avoid saying things like, “Uh, uh, uh, I can’t find my place”, “Uhhhh, where was I?” For example, if you lose your place, simply find your spot in your sermon outline, and continue when you are ready. Furthermore, you must learn to control yourself when the audience communicates back. When you are in front of a group preaching, sometimes you will see people yawning, laughing, talking, walking out, and so forth. In such cases, it is important to maintain composure. Stay in control of your message.
5. Use Appropriate Body Language
Be mindful of your body language. The way that you present yourself, and the movements you make (or don’t make), have a tremendous impact on the overall effectiveness of your delivery. Here are some things to consider:
- Make eye contact with as many people as you can throughout the message.
- Learn to stop and breathe. Pauses in speech and in movement can add dramatic emphasis.
- Make appropriate gestures. When you are talking about something going down, you don’t want to raise your hands up high in the air. Incorporate hand gestures for sure, but use them appropriately.
- Try to avoid nervous tics, like fiddling with the microphone cable.
6. Preach with Authority
When you are behind the pulpit, you are looked at as a leader, as someone who has knowledge, someone who has wisdom, someone who has experience, and someone that people should listen to, someone to learn from. So act accordingly. When you are preaching, remember, you are the man (or woman) of God for that time. Act and walk in that authority.
Don’t lose credibility. Don’t say things like, “Sorry, I’m not as good as Pastor”, or “I can’t teach like Bob”, don’t say those things. Don’t put yourself down, or talk like you don’t know what you’re saying. When you make statements like that, it makes people wonder why they should listen to what you have to say.
What will help you to preach with authority is having confidence in your understanding of the scripture(s) you are preaching. Therefore, I would recommend that you do your due diligence in studying, and understanding what the scripture says, and gleaning from other people’s interpretation of it.
7. Speak in Humility
Sometimes, as a preacher, you will find that others look at you in high regard. Your hearers will sometimes assume that you have it all together, that you are doing everything right, reading and praying all the time, living this blessed and holy life. And in some regards, that should be true of you. However, the danger is, that when you preach, you can begin to talk at people, rather than including yourself with them. As such, you might tend to refrain from exposing any faults or sin that you have dealt with. Listen, do not be afraid to expose faults in your life, or things that you have struggled with, or even sin. People like to follow real people. It is comforting and reassuring to know that your leaders have gone through similar situations, and have dealt with similar sins. You are not above anyone. You may be at a different level in the sanctification process, but nevertheless, you are in need of Jesus and the Holy Spirit just as much as anyone else.
Along these lines, avoid using words like, “you”, or “you guys”, or “you people”. Instead, include yourself by saying, “we” and “us”. For example, you don’t want to say, “You guys need to change.” Rather, it would be better to say, “We need to change.” Doing so puts everyone on the same level, and demonstrates your acknowledgement that everyone can use some improvement. The key is to be humble, and watch out for prideful thoughts and motives that might creep in.