Eight Tips to More Impactful Preaching

Part Two

Too many pastors work hard all week preparing a sermon only to be met with yawns and empty stares when they deliver it. So, how can you make sure this doesn’t happen to you?


While I’m certainly no expert when it comes to preaching, I have found that there are at least eight steps that help keep an audience engaged and produce a greater impact. If you missed part one of this post you can catch up here.

  1. Don’t take Yourself Too Seriously
  • Give your audience something to smile about.
  • Humor lowers defenses, making your audience more receptive to your message. It also makes you seem more likable, and people are more willing to consider what you have to say.
  • Avoid telling jokes. Jokes work only for professional comedians at the top of their game.
  • Starting a presentation with observational humor is the way to go.
  • Make it a point to listen to comedians or speakers who use a lot of humor. Jim Gaffigan and Jon Acuff are great examples.
  1. Keep Your Message Under 40 minutes, Under 35 is Even Better
  • I believe 35 minutes is an ideal length of time for a message. If you must create one that’s longer, build in soft breaks (stories, videos, demonstrations) every 10 minutes.
  • If you’re really concentrating, critical listening, is a physically exhaustive experience. Listening as an audience member is more draining that we give it credit for.
  • The rule of three simply means that people can remember three pieces of information really well; add more items and retention falls off considerably. It’s one of the most powerful concepts in writing and communication.
  • In writing and speaking, three is more satisfying than any other number. Take advantage of it. For example “Three Things We All Have in Common with the Prodigal Son”.
  • Time yourself preaching your message before you ever get in front of an audience.
  • Too many preachers grossly underestimate the time it will take to deliver their message.
  1. Get Creative
  • Deliver messages with components that touch more than one of the senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell.
  • Your audience is far more likely to recall information when it’s delivered in a combination of pictures and text rather than text alone.
  • When you hear information, you are likely to remember about 10 percent of that information three days later. Add a picture, however, and your recall rate will soar to 65 percent.
  • Text and bullet points are the least memorable way of transferring information to your audience.
  • Think about your message as a Broadway play. An award winning play has a wonderful story, intriguing characters, and relevant props. It’s very much like the Bible.
  • The next time you design a message, be imaginative about “touching” the five senses through stories you tell (sound), photographs or slides you show (sight), and the props you use (feel).
  1. Be True to Yourself
  • Be authentic, open, and transparent.
  • Share your failures as often, if not more often than your successes.
  • You can learn from others, but you’ll never make a lasting impression on people unless you leave your own mark.
  • You’ll never convince your audience of anything if they don’t trust, admire, and genuinely like you.
  • I can assure you that many people, even great communicators, are insecure about their speaking ability.
  • Good speakers aren’t just lucky or talented, they work hard.

* This list is largely adapted from the book Talk Like Ted: The Nine Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds by Carmine Gallo. If you’re looking to continue improving as a speaker I also highly recommend Communicating for a Change: Seven Keys to Irresistible Communication by Andy Stanley.

What would you add to this list? Let us know by leaving a comment below, and make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on leadership, church growth, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

8 Tips to More Impactful Preaching

Part One

Too many pastors work hard all week preparing a sermon only to be met with yawns and empty stares when they deliver it. So, how can you make sure this doesn’t happen to you?


While I’m certainly no expert when it comes to preaching, I have found that there are at least eight steps that help keep an audience engaged and produce a greater impact.

  1. Be Passionate About Your Topic
  • You stand a much greater chance of persuading and inspiring your listeners if you express an enthusiastic, passionate, and meaningful connection to your topic.
  • Sharing your passion makes you feel less nervous about speaking in front of an audience.
  • In order to do great work, you need to love what you do.
  • Passion is a positive, intense feeling that you experience for something that is profoundly meaningful for you as an individual.
  • It’s very difficult to electrify your congregation without feeling an intense, meaningful connection to the content of your message.
  • The passion that man has for his own personal growth is the most important thing.
  1. Tell Stories
  • You reach people’s minds, when you touch their hearts.
  • Take your audience on a journey.
  • The most popular presentations start with a personal story.
  • The ability to tell a personal story is an essential trait of authentic leadership.
  • Curiosity and mystery are powerful ways to get an audience’s attention.
  • Personal stories are stories about yourself, but they can also be stories about other people with whom the audience can empathize.
  • Empathy is the capacity to recognize and feel emotions experienced by somebody else.
  1. Have a Conversation
  • Practice relentlessly and internalize your content so that you can deliver the message as comfortably as having a conversation with a close friend.
  • Your uncertainty will reflect in your expressions and body language. So, practice, practice, practice.
  • Be willing to record yourself and watch it back.
  • The verbal equivalent of a highlighter is to raise or lower the volume of your voice, change the speed at which you deliver the words, and/or set aside the key word or phrase with a pause before or after voicing it.
  • Gestures actually give the audience confidence in the speaker.
  • Don’t keep your hands bound when you preach they should be free. One hand in your pocket is acceptable as long as the free hand is gesturing.
  • Your gestures should be natural, not forced, people will notice.
  • Make it a point to get out from behind the pulpit and move around the stage.
  • Movement and energy are intimately connected.
  1. Teach Your Audience Something New or Something in a New Way
  • You can’t change the David and Goliath story, but you can package it differently, or offer a fresh perspective on the topic.
  • As long as your message gives your audience something new they can use in their daily lives, you’ll hook them.
  • Sometimes the text you present might not be earthshaking, but that doesn’t mean you can’t deliver it in a fresh way.
  • You can grab an audience’s attention if you can teach them just one thing they didn’t know before.
  • Before you can teach something in a new way, you have to learn it yourself.
  • Constantly be looking for ways to learn. Read books, listen to other people preach, etc.
  • If you can’t explain your big idea in 140 characters or less, keep working on your message. The discipline brings clarity to your preaching and helps your audience recall the one big idea you’re trying to teach them.

To Be Continued…

Don’t want to wait for the next 4 steps? Subscribe to the blog to get the 8 Steps to More Impactful Preaching E-book delivered straight to your inbox along with tips on church growth, leadership, and more each week.