We’ve compiled a list of 7 practical tips to help you sharpen your preaching skills in the coming year. These suggestions are designed to not only improve your delivery but also deepen the impact of your message.
With 2024 right around the corner, many of us are beginning to reflect on our goals for the new year. If you are a pastor or someone who regularly engages in preaching or teaching, one of your goals may be to enhance your skills in this important area of ministry.
As a teacher myself, I am always keenly interested in how to improve my communication abilities in order to better articulate the gospel. Preaching is an art form – a unique blend of inspiration and skill. And while we should undoubtedly lean on the Holy Spirit’s empowerment and guidance in our preaching, we’re also called to diligently steward the gifts God has entrusted to us for the sake of our congregations and the world.
With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of 7 practical tips to help you sharpen your preaching skills in the coming year. These suggestions are designed to not only improve your delivery but also deepen the impact of your message.
7 Tips for Improving Your Preaching Skills in 2024
#1 Spend Time in “People Work”
How many hours do you spend in sermon preparation each week? While deep study and scriptural understanding are fundamental to the process, preaching is about more than just points and subpoints. It is about bringing the inspired Word of God into the tangible realities of everyday life.
The late Timothy Keller put it this way when he discussed his own preaching preparation with Preaching Today: “The main way to become a good preacher is to preach a lot, and to spend tons of time in people work. That’s how you become something more than a Bible commentator; you become a flesh-and-blood preacher.”
Ultimately, one of the most effective ways to enhance your preaching is to genuinely spend time with your congregation. Engaging with people on a personal level allows you to understand their struggles, questions, and joys. This connection ensures that your preaching remains practical and deeply impactful.
#2 Become a Storyteller
My father has always been an incredible storyteller. Growing up, I have vivid memories of my siblings and I huddled in the living room, hanging on to his every word as he shared tales from his own life. Each story was more than just a tale, however. These stories were packaged with profound life lessons. My father understood that a story is a conduit for deeper truths, and he used storytelling to teach us.
As for me, storytelling doesn’t come as easily. I’ve always loved intellectual lectures and thought-provoking quotes, and naturally, this preference colors my teaching style. Even so, I recognize the value of storytelling. I recognize that even Jesus used this method to communicate complex spiritual truths. And, accordingly, storytelling is something I’m working on getting better at in 2024.
In your own preaching, embracing the art of storytelling can help forge a meaningful connection between the wisdom of scripture and the realities of daily life. It can also help your congregation feel more connected to you as you vulnerably share from your own experiences. If you do one thing this year to improve your preaching, begin incorporating storytelling!
#3 Prepare to Pivot
Preaching involves a lot of detailed preparation, but equally, it’s about being receptive to the Holy Spirit’s guidance in the moment. While it’s a good idea to map out the key points of your sermon before you preach, adhering too rigidly to a memorized script can sometimes hinder the spontaneous flow of your message. If you’ve ever played basketball, flexibility in preaching is kind of like getting in your pivot position – you’re grounded and stable, but you are also ready to turn and adapt swiftly as the game unfolds.
Being prepared to pivot means you’re open to the Spirit’s leading, even if it takes you off your planned course. This could mean altering your sermon examples to better resonate with your congregation on that particular day or pausing to emphasize a point that suddenly feels more relevant. Such moments of improvisation can often lead to the most impactful and memorable parts of your sermon, resonating deeply with your audience. In essence, while preparation sets the foundation, flexibility allows your message to remain dynamic, engaging, and aligned with the Holy Spirit’s agenda.
#4 Continuously Seek Feedback
Actively seeking feedback from a variety of sources – be it trusted mentors, fellow pastors, or members of your congregation – can significantly help you become a more effective preacher. Don’t hesitate to ask questions like, “What resonated with you in today’s sermon?” or “Was there a point that wasn’t clear?” after you’ve preached. This demonstrates humility and a genuine desire for growth, qualities that are both admirable and necessary for effective ministry.
Remember, feedback isn’t just about hearing what you did well; it’s also about being open to hearing what didn’t work and why. This kind of openness to ongoing learning and development enhances your preaching and models a posture of continual growth to your congregation. By showing that you value and act on feedback, you foster a culture of open communication and continuous improvement within your church community.
#5 Stay Updated on Current Events
Karl Barth, a renowned theologian, famously said that we should “preach the gospel with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.” This is a call to balance the timeless truths of scripture with a keen awareness of the world around us. By doing so, pastors stay relevant to the daily realities and struggles of their congregations.
Incorporating current events into your sermons isn’t about bringing politics into the church; rather, it’s about demonstrating how the gospel speaks to every aspect of life – from global crises to local news. In essence, staying informed and integrating current events into your preaching makes your message applicable and relevant. This approach makes your preaching more relatable and grounded, showing that Christianity is not just a faith of the past or the future but one that actively engages with the present world.
#6 Be Authentically Yourself
I know that “authenticity” has become an overused buzzword, but when it comes to preaching, authenticity really is invaluable. The temptation to replicate the style of other preachers is common, especially when they resonate with us or possess qualities we admire. However, it’s crucial to remember that God has created each one of us individually, giving us our own unique voice and approach to communicating.
Consider the diversity in styles of effective communicators like John Mark Comer and Miles McPherson, or Annie F. Downs and Rebekah Lyons. Each of these individuals brings something different to the table, largely because they are unafraid to be themselves. Attempting to imitate someone else’s style can inadvertently water down the power and authenticity of your message.
Moses’ conversation with God in Exodus 4 comes to mind when I consider this point. He was self-conscious about his speech, to the point of arguing with God about his ability to lead. While God ultimately let Aaron help Moses, He also committed to helping both Moses and Aaron speak and know what to do next (Exodus 4:15–16). Ultimately, Moses’ authority had nothing to do with his eloquence – it has to do with his obedience to God.
In your journey as a preacher, embrace your unique personality, your experiences, and your way of expressing ideas. When you preach from a place of authenticity and dependence on God, He can and will use both your strengths and your weaknesses. Remember, the most impactful messages come from a place of honesty and authenticity, not polished imitation.
#7 Don’t Underestimate the Power of Consistency
Finally, remember that improving your skills in anything is a process, and it takes consistency and patience! Christine Caine, renowned for her dynamic preaching and passionate advocacy against human trafficking, shared a thought-provoking quote on her Instagram that underscores the importance of steadfast commitment to daily, consistent efforts.
“Never underestimate the power of consistency. Every “suddenly” I’ve experienced in my life has taken an average of 15-20 years of behind-the-scenes constancy.” This profound statement serves as a powerful reminder of the often unseen, gradual process that underpins significant achievements in our lives. As you go on the journey of honing your preaching craft, remember to lean into the small, daily efforts. It will pay off!
Get Ready for 2024
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By Breeze Blog|2023-11-30T11:27:01-08:00November 30th, 2023|