Monday, February 16, 2009

I've Learned a Couple Things in Three Years

I recently learned something else about my Pastor and another Nazarene pastor. When this other Nazarene pastor starting preaching about three years ago (hey, that's when I started preaching too, but this isn't me because I'm not a pastor. No, Cole, I'm not), my Pastor gave him some books to read and use when writing and preparing sermons. This Nazarene pastor used those books for three Sundays and realized that they weren't him at all. That they were actually keeping him from using his style and his way to get God's Word out. I am going to assume that those books were keeping him from listening to what God wanted him to say because he was too busy trying to prepare the "right" sermon.

So, in light of the fact that people are always going to be preaching and speaking, I thought I would share a couple of the tips of the trade that I have learned in my past three years:

1. Before speaking, if you feel your voice tense, take a deep breath. Now I don't mean a wimpy deep breath that some crazy person has asked you to do for breathing exercises. I mean a deep breath that pushes your stomach out. Really, the main goal is to push your stomach out as far as possible. It will really help loosen your voice. It's hard to be relaxed, especially if you are nervous, but this will help.

2. This is probably going to be a little weird, because this isn't at all what my Pastor taught me. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Don't write your sermon (or speech) out exactly like you would say it. If that works for you, great, I'm glad. However, I have found with myself that I depend on my notes more when everything I want to say and how I want to say them are written out compared to just having an outline. Writing just an outline allows for you to have to really know what you are saying and so then you are able to make a lot more eye contact with your audience.

3. Practice. Everyone in your entire life has probably been telling you to practice and it's annoying, but there is a reason they are all telling you to practice. That reason? Because that's exactly what you need to do for just about everything. Preaching and speaking gets easier in time, but that doesn't mean you don't get nervous. When I say practice, I don't just mean do it a lot over time, I mean say it all out loud beforehand. If it sounds stupid when you hear the words, it probably will be stupid when you say the words later too. What I do is I always try to go to the empty church the next before for a couple hours before (my family cleans the church, so I always have a key) and say the whole thing like I want to when I actually have to. I really can tell the difference in the delivery of the sermon when I have done this and haven't done this beforehand. It makes a huge difference.

4. When you are speaking, you may look back at the clock and realize you are going to go too long or it's going to be too short. I will admit for me, it's really easy to go too short. But here's something my Pastor taught me that I will always take with me: What material you have is all you have. Don't try to add something to make it longer or cut something important out to make it shorter. I once spoke for the evening service at my church and it was probably closer to the length of a devotional than a sermon, but I knew that I didn't have anything else to add and I definitely knew that no one else wanted me to get off on some tangent just rambling on to make it ten minutes longer. God placed something on my heart and that's really all there was to say. Even though I got comments like "well, at least I didn't have time to fall asleep," it was okay, because I had said all that I needed to say.

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