I love teaching and preaching. It’s something I’m truly passionate about and an area in which I believe God has gifted me. As I’ve reflected over my time in ministry (almost 20 years now…yikes!) I’ve seen how my teaching style and mentality have evolved.
When I first started out in paid vocational ministry I was extremely rigid in how I presented and I followed the traditional approach to preaching and teaching (i.e., don’t move around and keep all messages to three points that have phenomenal alliteration). If you were to compare my early sermons and style–those videos exist somewhere I’m sure–to today, you’d notice a lot of differences in how I present and try to engage with the audience, as well as various other aspects.
As I was reflecting on the change and evolution in style and approach, I’ve noticed there are aspects that have been constant throughout my time in ministry that I believe can help us to become better teachers and preachers. Today, I want to share those ideas with you in hopes of encouraging you as you speak and lead in ministry.
Connection is necessary.
Whether I was the one speaking or part of the crowd being taught, I’ve come to realize that connection is key. Being able to connect with the people you’re speaking to is a necessary part of being a teacher because it allows you and the crowd to be able to relate more personally with one another. When you are able to understand and relate to the people you are speaking to, it creates a relational connection and allows the truths you are sharing to not only hit home but also to connect with your audience on a deeply personal level.
Look at your audience not through them.
When I was in undergrad, I was taught to look at people’s foreheads instead of their eyes to avoid feeling nervous or anxious. As I progressed in my career I heard from other leaders to look past the audience toward the back of the room. Still others told me to look straight at people. Here’s what I have learned through my years: look at your audience not through them.
How that looks when you speak is up to you, but always find ways to look at your audience and not past them. This is another way to connect with people and allow them to be seen and known. When people are seen and a connection is established they feel validated and loved. So don’t look past people or through them, but truly see them and look to connect with them as you speak. This may feel uncomfortable for you at first but finding a way to connect with your audience visually is key to growing as a speaker and establishing a relational connection.
Utilize stories and humor.
One of the best things you can do when you’re teaching is tell stories and bring humor into your message. Stories captivate audiences and help them to remember the points you are highlighting, and humor allows for connection and a unique way to illustrate your points. These two aspects of teaching will help you create opportunities for your audience to connect with you, and will help them to remember what was shared as they seek to apply it to their lives.
Use various forms of media.
It is important to remember that people relate and connect to teaching and teaching styles differently. So the more variety you can incorporate through different forms of media, the greater your chance of engaging and reaching people. This could be through pictures or videos. It may be with different props you bring on stage, through musical elements or times of reflection. It might be through creative questions and interactions during the teaching, or even your posture and where you stand. All of these will engage people differently and also help make the focus and application of the message more memorable.
Be creative and innovative.
You may be quick to dismiss yourself as “lacking creativity” or you may say “I’m not innovative.” But the truth is each of us, in our own unique ways, are creative and innovative. How you see things, comprehend information, understand and tell stories, and allow Scripture to permeate your life is innovative and creative. These aspects are important to share with your people because there are most likely those who relate to God’s Word, His calling, and mission in the same way you do. The ability to make the Bible real and applicable from your perspective is an aspect that only you can bring, and one that can help many people in their comprehension of Scripture. So share that with your audience and allow the Bible to come alive through your messages.
Be authentically you.
So often I remember being told in undergrad, “Don’t try to be a famous pastor, just be you because you are who God called to minister.” God doesn’t look to have clones of certain individuals. He is looking to utilize you and your gifts to connect, minister, and point people to Jesus. Embrace who He made you to be as you carry out His calling for your life.