For the past year and a half, I have studied divinity at Luther Rice Seminary. In addition to being an intellectually rewarding experience, my studies have helped me gain confidence in my ability to deliver interesting, informative sermons. After having given three sermons over the course of this semester, I realize there is room for improvement with respect to things like exegetical analysis and delivery. At the same time, however, I recognize that the act of preaching is sharpening these skills. In my quest to make all of my sermons better, I realize that there are three things I can do to accomplish my goal. I think these strategies will work for you also.
1. Include Technology.
This strategy seemed to work well for me several weeks ago. In giving a sermon about the dangers of premarital sex, I included several YouTube clips featuring firsthand accounts of individuals who had stories to tell regarding their own perspective on faith and sexual purity. I though this was a great shift away from the traditional message in which the pastor preaches an entire message from sermon notes and the Bible alone. In offering advice about how to use technology in a sermon, Pastor John Bjorge notes that “Less is more. A few good images can do more than a plethora of images. Images can function like sound–don’t shout!” This is good advice, as is his assertion that you should make sure the images you display parallel the overarching theme of your message.
2. Share A Personal Story.
Sometimes pastors feel the need to impress their congregations with their knowledge of biblical scriptures. This oftentimes entails the production of sermons that sound very erudite and detached. Unfortunately, these types of sermons don’t always leave people feeling passionate about the principles and personhood of Christ. On the other hand, openly discussing what God is doing in your personal life can inspire and enliven people. Why? Because when you share personal stories from your life that pertain to God, it gives people tangible evidence that He is a real and very active agent in the world. During the last message I gave, I spoke about how my relationship with God has enabled me to overcome my concern about what people think of the fact that I have a sexual past. When you discuss God in this type of relational context, people tend to become interested and excited.
3. Make It Interactive.
As many social media experts know, the power of communicating with people through channels like Facebook and Twitter is that they are social. This means that they are predicated on conversations between people. These dialogues can range from the exchange of ideas to the selling of goods, but the important point to note is that they are interactive. This interactive method of dialogue is effective because people thrive on building relationships and communicating with one another in social settings. This principle is as true and applicable for the church setting as it is in the arena of social media. You can make your sermon delivery interactive in several ways, including through the use of a call-and-response dialogue. To make my most recent sermon more interactive, I asked members of our Young Adult Ministry how they had been applying the principles taught over the last couple of weeks to their lives. The response was overwhelmingly positive and I actually had to cut the message short because people were asking questions and sharing their personal testimonies. (You can learn more about this style of sermon delivery by reading my blog post entitled Let’s Review!)
My personal philosophy of life incorporates the notion that I will always be a work in progress and thus should constantly strive for personal improvement. If you are a pastor and this is your outlook on life as well, you may greatly benefit from the sermon strategies I’ve listed above. Good luck!
About The Author
Jocelyn Crawley is a 28-year-old college student currently pursuing a Masters of Divinity degree in preparation to become a pastor. While her writing interests are diverse, topics of intrigue include politics, history, literature, and religion. She holds B.A. degrees in English and Religious Studies. Her work has appeared in Jerry Jazz Musician, Nailpolish Stories, Visceral Uterus, Dead Beats, The Idiom, Thrice Fiction, Four and Twenty, Kalyani Magazine and Haggard and Halloo. Other stories are forthcoming in Faces of Feminism and Calliope.