Archive for the ‘Teaching’ Category

Memorable Messages

During an all staff meeting, I asked our staff how we could make our sermons and messages sticker. In other words, what makes a message memorable? Here’s some of their responses.

1. Humor and personality make it easier to connect and pay attention.

2. Audience participation. One time, we asked people to text in things during the service, and that was a memorable experience.

3. Personal stories. People connect and relate to personal stories. Emotional connections, not informational connections, are more powerful.

4. Aha sermon illustrations. Smashing plates, building a bunker, and giving a tattoo…everyone remembered these illustrations and the points that they represented.

5. Props. Jesus illustrated a point by causing a fig tree to wither up. I can’t really do that, but props and object lessons are often pretty sticky.

What would you add to this list?


Teaching Calendar

A couple of months ago, our team went away to lay out the teaching calendar for all of next year.  We will make a few adjustments throughout the year, but we know where we’re going on the weekends from now all the way until Easter of 2010.

We use Google Docs to keep track of everything.  Not only do we lay out the series titles, we put in the key Scriptures, the big idea, announcements we know we need to make and any notes.  This document is shared across all of our staff (and a few key volunteers) so everyone can see the big picture.  This system works great for us and it’s my job (Michael, Lead Pastor) to keep this document up to date.


How Long Do You Teach?

My staff gives me a hard time, because they think I talk too long. But since the sermon yesterday was via video, there was no way I could go long. 33 minutes flat.

So I decided to do a little research. I looked at my podcast times and realized that I clocked in an average of 41 minutes. I thought it was closer to 35. Then, I looked at the last 10 podcasts of some of the guys I listen to on a regular basis.

Andy Stanley = 41 minutes
Steven Furtick = 49 minutes
John Piper = 46 minutes
John Burke = 37 minutes
Perry Noble = 52 minutes

All these, plus me, averaged together equals 44 minutes. So while I might teach a little too long, it’s technically shorter than average. What about you? Average your last 10 message lengths together and let me know how long you teach.

How to Be a Better Teacher

My two primary jobs at Oak Leaf Church are teaching and leading. I don’t think I’m the best teacher out there, and I’m always trying to get better. When we survey our people, way more than 50% say that the primary reason that they attend is the teaching. I’m convinced that people come because of an invite or some kind of promotion, but they primarily stay because of the teaching.

1. BOOKS. I would recommend two books that will give you a good starting point. The Revolutionary Communicator and Communicating for a Change.

2. LISTEN TO OTHER TEACHERS. Listen to other great communicators. There are tons of podcasts out there….subscribe to some of them. Don’t just listen for content – listen for delivery. I regularly listen to Perry, Steven, Mark, and Rob. I think Adrian Rodgers was one of the best preachers ever. I also mix things up and listen to new people. During the month of January, I’m trying to listen to a different message every day.

3. LISTEN TO COMEDIANS. These guys and girls know how to engage an audience and can hold peoples attention for a good bit of time. Listen to them and see how they deliver. Brian Regan, Jim Gaffigan and Mitch Hedberg are some of my favorites. You don’t find many wasted words with comedians. Also watch other public speakers…politicians, artists, professors, etc. You can find a lot of famous speeches online.

4. LISTEN TO YOURSELF. When you teach, make sure you go back and listen to what you said. Even better, watch yourself. Nearly every Sunday night, I watch the video from Sunday morning and critique myself. I listen to what I said, how I said it and watch my mannerisms. Coaches ruthlessly break down game film…I think we should do it too.

5. ASK OTHERS TO LISTEN TO YOU. I actually do this in advance as we’re preparing messages. I ask people on our team for input on the sermon. Between services, I’ll ask a couple people if they think I should do something different.

Team Planning

No matter how you write your messages, I recommend getting your staff or some kind of team to help you process.  In a few weeks, we’re doing a series called “Issues,” where I’m going to talk about abortion, homosexuality, drinking, divorce and porn.  Tough topics to tackle.

Last week, four of us on the Lead Team got together for a focused meeting on content for these messages.  Everyone came prepared with a one page “report” and then we just talked.  I took lots of notes and we had lots of discussions.  It will really help me as I prepare for these talks.  Even if you can’t do it every week, try a big old content session with some people for an upcoming series of messages.  You’ll appreciate the perspective.