Speaking and engaging an audience can be difficult.In fact, it is actually the most feared task in the world. Obviously speaking is hard if you don’t like it, but even if you do enjoy speaking it is still difficult. Unfortunately, many times in ministry we do not get to choose whether or not we will speak. Too often it is one of those things that comes along with being in ministry even if it is not your gifting. Some people find it terrifying, awkward, or very difficult, while others live for the opportunity to speak or teach. But whether it is your gifting or not, whether you enjoy it or put up with it, we should all be striving to learn, improve, and communicate in the clearest way possible.
As unfair as it might be, we all know there is a lot riding our ability to clearly present Biblical truths in an engaging way that will sink into the minds and hearts of those we present it to. Here are a few things everyone can do to improve their speaking and take it to the next level…
1. Personal Stories
When I first started in ministry and began speaking, I was privileged to talk with a man who is an expert at speaking. Josh McDowell has preached to more people live than anyone, ever. He attended our church when he was not on the road speaking (only about 3-4 Sundays a year!) and I once asked him what made a good speaker. His answer was simple, “stories, stories, stories.”
People relate to stories and they cause your audience to lean into what you have to say. Your stories should be personal stories, so people can connect with you and be more receptive to what you have to say. People listen when they have a relationship with someone, but how do you build a relationship with a room full of people while you are standing on stage? Tell personal stories about your life. Your life is a walking analogy, keep your eyes open for stories you can use in your speaking.
2. Specific Application
Too often we fall into the trap of telling people what but not telling them how. Rick warren tells of when he was younger in church always writing on the top of his outline YBH, Yes (what you are saying is right) But HOW do we put that into practice? We need to give very simple and specific instructions on how to apply what we have taught. The content is easy to teach, the application, where it really matters, is hard. Work to provide specific application, ask yourself yes, but how?
3. Proper Preparation
Do the work! I don’t care how smart you are, don’t just wing it. Yes, you, youth worker over there who is actually really good at winging it, stop! You are only doing yourself and those you are speaking to a disservice. Take the time to prepare properly and craft a message. Check out this post on how to write an engaging message for students.
Also, note that preparation is not just content but also rehearsing. Far too many pastors put a ton of time and effort into preparing content but never rehearse the presentation. This is a real issue because it doesn’t matter how good the content of your message is, people won’t listen if you are unable to present it in an engaging way. Do the proper preparation on the content as well as the speaking so you are not fumbling through your notes and coming up with what you are saying on the fly.
4. Authentic Presentation
Be real because people will see straight through you, especially students. Unfortunately you may be very real and authentic but the way in which you present may appear fake. This is where we need to be cautious and work on presenting in an authentic way. Try not to talk at people but rather talk to them. Act as if you are having a conversation with each member of your audience. Yes, you are up front speaking but make it feel like an authentic conversation.
This also means we must check our egos at the door. Just because we are the ones up front does not mean we are the star, Jesus is the star. Be humble, real, and authentic in the way you present. Remember, you too are an imperfect sinner saved by a perfect savior.
Speaking is not an easy task and we all have room to grow in some capacity or another. You may know these 4 steps but, like me, you need to constantly remind yourself of them and continually work toward them. If you would like to dive deeper or receive ministry coaching check this out!
Todd has been in youth ministry for 10 years and has a passion for reaching lost students and training youth workers to do the same. He is the founder of Stoked On Youth Ministry, a speaker, author, and pastor. When Todd is not writing or speaking he enjoys surfing, baseball and most importantly hanging out with his awesome wife and three beautiful daughters. You can connect with Todd on Twitter @TheTodd_Jones, Instagram @Todd_Jones or for speaking inquiries visit TheToddJones.com