You’ve done your research, and you’ve nailed down your big idea. You’ve researched sermon illustrations and found several perfect for your sermon and you’re confident in your conclusion. Now there is one minor step left. You’ve got to decide how to preach it.
There is a lot to consider when thinking through how to preach a sermon, namely the delivery and presentation, while simultaneously processing how to communicate biblical principles and God’s written word to a diverse audience.
It could be an audience of 400 or 40,000; it doesn’t matter. The same considerations apply.
You will have people of all age groups, social status, marital status, parents, empty nesters, etc., and it is your responsibility to know how to preach the gospel to all the above and everyone in-between.
But before you throw your hands up in the air and walk away, we have some practical (and proven) insights to help you prepare for preaching a sermon well from start to finish.
Practice Delivering the Sermon
The most important part of preaching a sermon comes before you step a foot on stage. Practice. If the first time you practice a sermon is preaching it on stage to your people, it is doubtful that your sermon will have the desired impact and outcome.
“It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”Mark Twain
Three weeks is not a reasonable expectation for pastors (though Tim Keller might beg to differ), but you do want to be well prepared by being well practiced. Your reward for this work will be so much more than feeling comfortable and confident on stage. Your reward is the opportunity of seeing people’s lives impacted and possibly transformed by the words you choose, inspired and directed by the Lord.
If you are here because you are exploring how to preach for the first time, the first tip we have for you is to get in front of a mirror and run through your entire message multiple times until you feel comfortable. Read through the scripture portion of your sermon to become more familiar with the text and less likely to stumble over the words as you preach a sermon.
Practice so that your message is cohesive and clear.
Practice so that great content is not stymied by bad delivery.
Practice so that you don’t go viral for saying something wrong.
Bring Your Message Back to Your Big Idea
When preaching a sermon, continually reference your big idea. This will help your people remember the main topic as they leave the service and make their way to the parking lot. They may not be able to recite your big idea word for word, but they should be able to tell someone what the sermon was about.
The late Winston Churchill was quoted saying:
“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver, hit the point once, then come back and hit it again, then hit it a third time – a tremendous wack.”Winston Churchill
Make sure you clearly articulate your main point. Drive it home again and again.
Use the Power of Restatement
It is important to state your big idea over and over throughout your sermon, but find different ways to say it, rephrase it, and boil it down.
If you are explaining a passage or a section of scripture, stop and say something like, “If I had to sum this up….” Or, “If I had to explain what Paul said in one sentence, it is this….” Then connect that passage directly to your big idea and bring clarity to the message.
Continually say the same thing in different ways.
Use Your Sermon Outline-Based Notes When Preaching
One question many ask when exploring how to preach a sermon is what type of notes to use.
A complete manuscript?
Or a pared-down manuscript, more outline-based?
Honestly, it depends on the person, but a strong recommendation is outline-based.
If you start your writing by outlining your sermon, that outline could become your notes for preaching.
If you do preach while reading a complete manuscript, make sure you stay fully engaged with your audience as you preach. If you are using a full manuscript and are struggling, try something different. Write out the manuscript, but as you practice and internalize your notes, hide about eighty percent of your manuscript, effectively turning it into an outline for preaching a sermon.
Again, the key here is to practice and rehearse.
How to Preach with Body Language & Nonverbal Communication
Pitch, pauses, body language, and nonverbal communication: consider all these together when preparing to preach a sermon.
Pay attention to your gestures and your pacing. How quickly do you find yourself walking across the stage? Are you making the audience dizzy?
Make sure your voice isn’t monotone and that your cadence and volume have natural ups and downs.
Practice and record yourself to see how you move and sound on stage.
Make sure your movements, vocal tones, and inflections are not distracting. Gestures should add and reinforce what you are communicating, not pull thoughts away.
When Preaching, Make Sure You Have Ample Lighting
People understand what they hear, but they believe what they see. You may have the right words, but if the audience can’t see the lights in your eyes, it will not be as strong of an impact.
Have someone go up on stage and walk where you would walk, with the lighting set as it would be during your sermon. See what you see. Is the lighting too dark? Are there shadows that make it hard to distinguish facial expressions?
Appropriate lighting can make a difference in the audience’s understanding, but even more so, it impacts their belief.
How to Preach A Sermon Using Vocal Expression
Think of your voice like a roller coaster. As you preach a sermon, you want vocal ups and downs. You don’t want to be Gilbert Godfried yelling the whole time or Ben Stein teaching Ferris Bueler (Anyone? Anyone?).
If you emphasize everything, you emphasize nothing. Think about your punch lines as you practice (seeing a theme yet?). Where do you need to pause for laughter? And where do you need to pause to give your audience time to reflect or soak in what you just said?
Sometimes you can ruin a good message by talking, so recognize when you need to pause and let the last statement settle in.
Watch your cadence, how fast or slow you speak. Like volume, cadence should vary throughout your sermon.
Your cadence should match the urgency, excitement, or anticipation of what you are saying. As you reach the climax in your story, your volume and cadence increase until you reach the peak, then there is a pause, a drop in volume as you let that main point sink in.
Critique or Edit Your Message Before You Preach
When thinking through a message, critique and edit before you go on stage. If you finish writing your sermon ten minutes before you step on stage as the worship band is beginning their second song, you haven’t had time to think deeply about what you are saying, what you need to cut, clarify, or expand upon.
Would an author write a book and publish the first draft? Not if they hope to have a long career as a writer.
When learning how to preach, even as you become comfortable with preaching, it is imperative to have a healthy dose of self-awareness and to continually look for opportunities to improve.
Watch a video of yourself preaching. Yes, it may be painful, but if you don’t watch videos, you won’t see the opportunities to improve as a communicator. If you don’t humble yourself – watch and learn – it is a disservice to yourself and your audience.
Ask a trusted staff member or your spouse for honest feedback. What made sense, what needs clarity, or maybe what didn’t fit? Use that feedback in learning how to preach the gospel in a way that will impact your audience and possibly transform lives.
No matter your best intentions, if you preach regularly, there will be misses. There will be weeks, for whatever reason, the message just falls flat.
But with intentionality, an earnest desire to research how to preach the gospel, learning how to outline for preaching a sermon, and a commitment to practicing, you can walk confidently on stage knowing you have done everything in your power to equip yourself to preach the word of God.
How to Preach Your Sermon from Hello Church! Podcast
You want every eye watching and every ear listening. You want the attention of your people on the message you are delivering through the power of the Holy Spirit. All you need to do now is get out of the way and the way you do that is through an intentional delivery. The research is complete. The outline is filled in. The writing is finished. And you’ve practiced your sermon. Your delivery is the final stage of your sermon and everything from your cadence, to your appearance, to your gestures goes into a strong delivery.
In this episode of Hello Church! Podcast we talk through simple but powerful delivery details to help you optimize the other aspects of communication that have nothing to do with your words.
The message you are preaching has eternal significance and the last thing you want to do is distract from the work of the Holy Spirit.
0:00 Welcome to Hello Church!
1:22 Practice Delivering the Sermon
4:25 Bring Your Message Back to Your Big Idea
5:52 Use the Power of Restatement
6:54 Use Your Sermon Outline Based Notes When Preaching
9:04 Body Language & Nonverbal Communication
10:24 When Preaching, Make Sure You Have Ample Lighting
11:33 Use Vocal Expression
13:06 Critique or Edit Your Message Before You Preach
15:51 Share Your Preaching Tips With Us
16:14 Talking About Easter Sunday