Eight Tips to More Impactful Preaching

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.

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