Here are some teaching tips from ministry leaders across the country.
JAMES MACDONALD // Senior Pastor, Harvest Bible Chapel
Write down your thoughts on the specific passage line by line, leaving space in between for future notes and additions.
CHUCK SWINDOLL // Senior Pastor, Stonebriar Community Church
Memorize your opening statement!
On the introduction and conclusion of a sermon: “It’s like taking off and landing a plane. You have a real good takeoff – the flight may be a little rugged – and a real good landing: it was a good flight. A message is like that.” – Chuck Swindoll
JIM GILBRETH // Associate Pastor, The Grove Community Church
Write out the passage you’ll be sharing by hand, leaving space in between lines for notes.
“Never over-speak on the passage. Know more than you speak. Simplify your message down to the essential points. Application is paramount!” – Jim Gilbreth
PHIL MABERRY // High School Pastor, The Grove Community Church
Never teach longer than seven minutes without changing the flow in some way. For example, transitioning from teaching the context of a passage to sharing a personal story that relates to the truth you’re highlighting. (An idea that originally came from Josh Griffin, a fellow youth pastor)
Every lesson should have what is called a sermonic idea, which is a simple, one-sentence summary of what you want your kids to know as they leave your small group. Everything in your lesson should point to that single statement.
DANIEL BISHOP // Lead Pastor, The Grove Community Church
Write down your message word for word. You may not use it during your lesson/sermon, but it helps you form your thoughts in a way that’s easier to remember.
Daniel tries to practice every sermon at least five full times before he actually delivers the message.
TREVOR CHRISTMAS // Young Adults Pastor, The Grove Community Church
As he prepares his sermons, he draws a line down the middle of a blank sheet of paper. On one side, he writes all the questions he has while reading and researching the passage. On the other side, he writes all of his observations.
As you’re preparing any form of spiritual teaching ask yourself: is it biblical, true, clear, and relevant?
MATT FURBY // Men’s Pastor, The Grove Community Church
Matt uses what is called a storytelling map. He cuts index cards into smaller pieces and writes down every thought, passage, or personal experience that he might consider sharing in that specific sermon. He lays them all on the floor and re-arranges them in a way that he thinks will flow the best. He’ll even use it to figure out what he’ll keep in his sermon outline and what he’ll remove. (NOTE: This can also be done with sticky notes or other small pieces of paper.)
Matt views each sermon as a journey. There is a starting point where you identify the problem, and the sermon is a search for a resolution. You’re moving from a dilemma to a practical conclusion.
Every speech or sermon has two elements: science and art. Science refers to the facts, or in this case, the passage. Art alludes to the presentation of those facts. It’s important to remember that both are critical, especially in a church setting. It doesn’t matter how strong your supporting argument is if your people are too bored too listen. On the other side of the spectrum, it doesn’t matter how engaging and creative your presentation is if it doesn’t hold Biblical Truth, for that is what changes lives.
ANDY STANLEY // Senior Pastor, North Point Community Church
Every sermon Andy ever prepares follows his structure of: me, we, God, you, and we.
KERRY WARREN // Children’s Pastor, The Grove Community Church
“I like to spend some time with the passage. When I prep for teaching I like to review the material a little bit everyday as opposed to waiting until the last minute. God brings illustrations and examples over time to mind for me. … Props are handy too, especially with kids.”
JEREMY O’NEILL // Kids Pastor, Church @ The Springs
In educator parlance, use an anticipatory set to grab kids’ attention. An anticipatory set is an attention-getting statement, gesture or activity that piques the curiosity of your audience and begs a question. For example, a politician might use a staggering statistic to introduce a felt need that needs to be addressed.
There are two approaches you can take for lesson prep: a top down or inside out approach. A top down approach means you start with your conclusion and essentially work backwards in developing the rest of your lesson. An inside out approach starts with the body of your message, then the introduction and conclusion.
Use index cards as a quick reference for the day of.
Use sticky notes to write each of the main points in the passage you’re sharing. It will be helpful to move them around as needed during the planning process to carefully craft your message in a manner that flows well.
Personal is practical. Share stories to help the message become more relatable for your audience. Continually ask yourself the question, “So what does this mean for you and me?”