Preaching Community: The Journey

A summary of what we've covered in our get-togethers.


Thursday 27 June 2019

We met at the Smith’s for Session 2 of 2019, amid the scent of a Jamie & Aidon candle (insta: @aidonandjamie)

 

Shaping hearts

The impact of preaching

Some people shared about talks they’d heard that impacted, encouraged or resonated with them. The challenge: to pick a ‘Favourites’ chocolate that summed up the effect the talk had on them, and explain why. We heard about talks that were ‘old gold’, talks that gave people a ‘boost’ and talks that inspired people to ‘dream’.

Jars of clay

We look briefly at 2 Corinthians 4:5-7:

Jars+of+clay

This encourages us in that we don’t need to wait until we are ‘perfect spiritual specimens’ before God can speak through us, as it is His light that will ultimately shine through. It also challenges us to remember that preaching won’t work if we try to rely on ourselves alone.

 

Building skills

We looked at structuring a talk, with a brief look at what makes a talk ‘biblical’.

Structuring a talk

Understanding and embracing structure

  • Structure doesn’t have to mean rigidity, or constraint, or predictability. 

  • If you have negative feelings about ‘structure’, try thinking about structure as simply the shape, form or flow of something. 

  • Every talk will have a structure; there is always something we will say first, something we will say next, and something we will say last.

  • The question is not ‘does my talk have a structure?’; the question is: ‘Does the structure of this talk help people hear what God is saying, or does it make it more difficult for people to hear what God is saying?’

Example of the power of structure

A good structure can make your content ‘land’, or resonate well with your audience. 

EXAMPLE: Stand-up comedians

Good stand-up comedians are masters at structure; by structuring their observations and stories well, they get a better laugh than if they had simply spoken out their observations or stories at random. As an example, we watched this Michael McIntyre segment on ‘Names’. Notice how he structures this segment, and how it helps him get the laughs:

In the group we reflected that: 

  • He repeated key points

  • He built up the story progressively

  • He circled back to his punchline: “what a waste of life”.

If you have time, watch this clip of Michael McIntyre delivering the same basic joke but in an earlier setting. Notice the slight difference in structure in the second half, and the slightly smaller laugh that follows:

EXAMPLE: TED Talks

TED curator Chris Anderson offers four tips for TED speakers, which can also be helpful for preachers preparing a talk:

  1. Limit your talk to one major idea

  2. Give your listeners a reason to care

  3. Build your idea out of concepts your audience already understands. You start where they are.

  4. Make your idea worth sharing

Watch the 8-minute video here:

Samples of different structures

We listed three structure examples:

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Exercise

We broke into pairs and looked at various passages or topics. Each pair came up with one or two options for how you could potentially structure a talk on that passage or topic.

 

What makes a talk ‘biblical’?

When structuring a message we might wonder how to make sure our talk is ‘biblical’. 

Biblical teaching does not mean:

  • Only structuring talks in a way that steps through a bible passage verse by verse. This may be a good structure for some talks but it is not what makes a talk ‘biblical’.

  • Filling a talk with lots of bible verses. We can cram lots of bible verses into our talk, but if these verses are not thoughtfully chosen or if they are taken out of context, our talk may not actually be very ‘biblical’!

Instead, Ali Martin in the ‘Loud and Clear’ resources gives an illustration of a tree planted in a garden, surrounded by a flowerbed.

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The roots of the tree run so deep that if we wanted to uproot the tree, it would be impossible not to ruin the surrounding flowerbed. No matter what our talk structure, we want the Bible to be so central to our talk that if we tried to remove the Bible from our talk, our talk would be ruined. 

If our talk can remain intact without the Bible, have we just crafted a motivational message with some Bible thrown in?

Listen to Ali explain this in Loud and Clear video session 2: Having a Focus (around 41:30 to 44:30):

 

Gathering Support

Team preaching

Brent explained the concept of ‘team preaching’ and invited the group to volunteer to preach soon. The first preaching team was formed: Andrew, Shaun and Julie, who will preach a three-week series on ‘Faith, Hope and Love’ in July/August 2019.

Praying for each other

We prayed for people who had upcoming speaking engagements.

 

Next get-together:

Wednesday 18 September 2019, venue TBC.


Thursday 4 April 2019

Our first get-together in a while! We enjoyed seeing some new faces and were encouraged by the unique personalities but common heart in the room.

We introduced ourselves and shared why we had chosen to be there. We heard different back-stories but a similar desire to learn and grow in preaching, from those who had never done it to those who already do it regularly,

We then looked at:

 

Shaping hearts

  • Why preach? We looked at a range of verses from the Bible that talk about preaching and shared what resonated with us.

  • Heart attitude: humility. We reflected on the fact that an attitude of humility helps not only our audience but our confidence too. If we heed Paul’s advice to imitate Christ’s humility, we will not only be better representatives of Jesus but will also be more confident as we’ll be less concerned with ourselves and more concerned with what God wants to do with the people we’re speaking to.

 

Building skills

We heard some suggestions of what we want to learn about, including:

  • Structuring a talk

  • How to know how to end a talk - e.g. to simply wrap up, to pray, to go into a time of prayer ministry etc.

  • How to be expressive (body and face) in an authentic way

  • Getting better at articulating what we want to say in a clear way

  • Being succinct; not waffling

  • Establishing rapport / engaging with audience

  • Deciding what to speak on

  • Discerning whether something is just for your own spiritual growth or if it’s something to share with everyone

  • Exploring why we should stand up the front and speak at all; why that method of communication?

All are encouraged to keep the suggestions coming; speak to Jill or contact us.

We then took a quick tour of some bitesize hints and tips, to give an example of the sorts of topics we’ve looked at so far. We looked at:

Preparation:

  • What to speak on? Ask the question: “Lord, what do you want to say to these people at this time?”

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  • Research tools: Some free research tools including Bible Gateway (go to ‘Resources’ > ‘Commentaries’), Blue Letter Bible (to translate into original Greek or Hebrew) and Brent’s library (feel free to ask him for resources that might help you).

 

Delivery:

  • Nerves: Nerves aren’t the enemy, and in some ways they can actually help you. See our Stand and Deliver resources for more on managing nerves, including links to external resources. Also, see our March 2017 journal entry below for more info on stress from Lani.

  • Stance: We had a quick look at some aspects of how we stand up the front, for example - don’t hide near the side door, use the persian rug as a guide for where to stand, be careful of crossed ankles and use common sense with other body language such as crossed arms. To see what your physical mannerisms are, you can film yourself speaking then watch it back with sound off and on fast-forward.

  • Filler words: A few filler words won’t ruin a message, but using filler words can be a symptom of something else, e.g. lack of preparation or an unnecessary fear of silence. See our Stand and Deliver resources for more on filler words, including links to external resources. Also, see our August 2017 journal entry below for a clip of Korske and the Chief Minister speaking for World Photo Day, to illustrate filler words in action.

 

Gathering support

We looked at two ways we can support each other, including:

  • Listening faces: Be aware of our ‘listening faces’ when others are speaking up front! While we don’t want to rely on audience feedback in our preaching, we can make things that little bit easier for new preachers by being mindful of how we are looking at them.

  • Giving feedback: We shared examples of feedback we’ve received in the past that has helped us improve. Before you preach, ask someone to give feedback. Ask someone who can be both kind and honest!

We prayed for Julie (preaching soon) and Blake (speaking at an event soon).

 

Next gathering:

Tentative date - Thursday 27 June 2019.

In the meantime, don’t hesitate to talk to Brent or Jill if you would like support, need resources or want to talk through any upcoming preaching or speaking.


Monday 5 March 2018

We met at Brent and Jill's; a small but enthusiastic bunch fuelled (physically) by wine, cheese and chocolate. 

We covered our goals:

Shaping hearts

  • The heart of preaching at Redhill.

  • Sharing testimony with each other of how the Word is impacting our life.

Building skills

  • Sermon preparation techniques.

  • Making ourselves understood.

Gathering support

  • One-on-one chats with Brent about upcoming talks.

  • Praying for each other

Specifically, we looked at:

 

The heart behind our preaching at Redhill

Brent shared briefly on the heart of preaching at Redhill, and our excitement at seeing the preaching ‘load’ shared among many wonderful people. We are all in this together!

 

Sermon preparation techniques

We discussed some examples of different sermon preparation techniques from the suggested resources, including practical examples from Tara Beth Leach (podcast), Billy Graham (YouTube) and Ali Martin (YouTube or SoundCloud).

We discussed different approaches that we have each taken so far in preparing for preaching, communion and other types of talks. We noted some things that we have found helpful, for example:

  • Letting the topic/passage ‘percolate’ in the back of our minds as we go about our week.

  • Writing down a few points a couple of days prior to leading communion, then coming back to it on the day to look over it again.

  • Knowing the topic well (so much easier to speak freely when we know it well!).

>> For more on sermon preparation techniques, check out our Stand and Deliver resources B4. Preparation Techniques and Tips.

 

Exercise: Making ourselves understood

We took turns sharing a bible passage that had encouraged or challenged us recently. We had to explain why we chose that passage, then others had to paraphrase our explanation back to us. In doing this we:

  • Practised testifying to how the Word is impacting our life.

  • Practised getting our thoughts and ideas out in a way that others could understand, and understand well enough to be able to paraphrase it back!

  • Practised active listening, as good speakers should also be good listeners!

As part of the exercise we also considered some other questions that might be helpful to ask ourselves when preparing a talk, for example:

  • Does this passage relate to another passage in the Bible?

  • Where is Jesus in this passage?

  • Has this passage prompted us to take action or make a change?

  • If we had to choose ONE thing that most stood out to us about this passage, what would it be?

 

One-on-one chats

Each person spent 15 minutes with Brent one-on-one talking through ideas for their upcoming speaking opportunities. Brent has emailed these summaries out to each person - if you didn’t get it let us know!

 

Praying for each other

We prayed for each other’s upcoming speaking opportunities.

 

NEXT GET-TOGETHER

TBC. Will be sometime in May-June 2018.


Monday 4 December 2017

We sat in the glow of little Christmas-y fairy lights and enjoyed red wine and festive nibbles. We looked at:

 

Shaping hearts

A season for sharing good news!

The heart of preaching is to share the good news! In the spirit of Christmas, Jill shared a reflection on the Christmas carol ‘Carol of the Bells’, and how it can be heard as a metaphor for sharing the peace, hope and joy of Jesus.

Hark how the bells, sweet silver bells,
All seem to say: "throw cares away"

Christmas is here, bringing good cheer,
To young and old, meek and the bold.

Ding dong ding dong, that is their song
With joyful ring all carolling.
One seems to hear words of good cheer
From everywhere filling the air.

Oh how they pound, raising their sound,
O'er hill and dale, telling their tale.
Gaily they ring while people sing
Songs of good cheer, Christmas is here.
Merry, Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas,
Merry, Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas.

On on they send, on without end
Their joyful tone to every home.

While this carol was not written with this gospel intention, as we hear it and sing it we can reflect on how we, like the bells in the carol, can carry our ‘joyful tone’ that is the good news of Jesus, over hill and gale, on and on, to every home!

 

More on 'Carol of the Bells': See this blog post on ‘Carol of the Bells’ from 2016 for more including suggested tracks to listen to.

 

This Christmas season is a season of good news, and as we gather with family and friends we have the opportunity to share the good news as we celebrate Christmas, sing carols, say grace at the dinner table or talk with people about the year that has been.


Building skills

1. Sharing a bible verse about our year

We each shared one verse that was a key verse for us this year, with a short explanation about why. The purpose of this exercise was twofold:

A. Practising the discipline of ‘honing in’

As we’ve talked about before at our gatherings, there will usually be more to say than we can fit into one talk. We will always have to make choices about what to keep in, and what to leave for another day. Remember our key question: “Lord, what do You want to say to these people at this time?”.

In this exercise, by forcing the choice of a single verse, we had to make choices to leave out other verses. By giving a time limit of two minutes, we had to make a choice about how much detail to go into. While in real life preaching situations we won’t have to limit ourselves to one verse (and in fact we generally shouldn’t, given the importance of reading Bible verses in context!), we will have to make choices about what to focus on, and what great ideas we need to sacrifice in order to enable the best idea to hit home.

B. Practising sharing the good news

In sharing about these verses we are practising talking about our year in a way that communicates the goodness of God. In the Christmas season we will no doubt be asked multiple times: “How was your year?”. Our answers are an opportunity to share the good news. Hear those carolling bells again!

Of course depending on the situation we may not necessarily talk in detail about specific bible verses, and we won’t use our Christian jargon when talking to friends of family who don’t speak that language! But we can still communicate the peace, hope and joy of Jesus when we talk about our year, whether in obvious or subtle ways.


2. Tips on using a screen

We briefly looked at a few tips for preparing slides to accompany a talk.

Before we began, we looked at an example of things going very wrong with screen technology...

Redhill screen tech specs:

  • For Redhill, provide your slides either as a PowerPoint presentation or as a series of images that we can insert into OpenSong (the program we use for announcements and song lyrics).

  • If preparing slides as images, any of these dimensions is fine: 4:3, 16:9, 16:10.

  • Provide your slides: if sending by email, before midday on Sunday, or if bringing on USB, bring the the sound desk before 3pm.

Basic tips for preparing slides:

 
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Keep words to a minimum. The screen isn’t a script! Displaying lots of words and reading directly off a screen can lose your audience. (Pictured: too many words!)


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Use high contrast colours. For example, white or a very light colour on a dark background, or black or a very dark colour on a light background.


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Careful with text over pictures. Text over detailed images can be hard to read. Either reduce the detail of the image (e.g. add blur, decrease contrast or add a semi-transparent overlay) or just use the image alone. (Pictured: thin text over detailed images is hard to read)


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Insert blank slides. Unless you are moving immediately from one slide to the next, insert blank slides in between. This will prevent your audience from being distracted by the image related the previous point when you have moved on to another point.


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Include slide transitions in your notes. Write in your notes when you need to click to the next slide, or you will likely forget!


Presenting slides:

  • Learn how to use the clicker. Arrive before 3pm to ensure you have time to practise using the clicker. Don’t turn it on until right before you speak (batteries run down quickly).

  • Remember where the audience is. Try to not spend too long turning around to look at the screen!


Gathering support

We each shared something that is coming up in the next year in the area of preaching, speaking etc, and spent time praying for each other.


Monday 23 October 2017

We met in the Smith’s granny flat for conversation, learning and trying the inexplicably flavoured ‘Slow Cooked Lamb with Barossa Shiraz’ chips.

 

Shaping hearts

In keeping with our church’s current focus on the Holy Spirit, Brent recapped some of Sunday’s talk where he spoke of the Spirit being the one who inspires the Word, preserves the Word and reveals the Word to us.

The Spirit is the one who inspired the Word. The people who physically wrote the words did so inspired by the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit is the one who preserves the Word. Throughout generations, the Spirit has enabled the Word to be recorded, passed on and communicated.

The Spirit is the one who reveals the Word. We can read the words of the Bible on our own, but it is only through the Spirit that we will come to understand what it really means. As preachers, the Spirit is the one who will reveal the meaning of a passage to us. When we prepare a talk, we can ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth of the Word to us.

As for our audience - when we preach, we do our best to explain things well, say things clearly and engage our audience. But ultimately it is the Spirit who brings that deep conviction or encouragement or revelation to people’s spirits. So we do our best and serve faithfully, but ultimately what happens in people’s hearts is not up to us. That’s the job of the Holy Spirit!

 

Building skills
 

In this section we looked at:

  1. Unpacking a Bible passage

  2. Using notes


1. Unpacking a Bible passage

We looked at two passages: Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 and talked about how we might unpack them if we were preaching on them (remembering that it is the Spirit who guides us in this, as above).

Candace and Korske had each read a passage beforehand and they shared some reflections on what stood out to them. We noted that since these passages are packed with content, if they were preaching on them they could use these things that ‘stood out’ as a starting point to focus their talk.

For each passage, we asked the two basic questions we’ve looked at previously: “What did it mean?” and “What does it mean?”.

As part of asking “What did it mean?”, we asked questions like...

  • What comes before it, and what comes after it?

  • Who is the audience (when it was first written)?

  • How does this passage link to Jesus?

  • Where else is this theme talked about in the Bible?

  • Were there any tricky words or weird phrases that we want to find out more about?

As part of asking “What does it mean?”, we asked questions like...

  • How we would apply this today?

  • What does this passage remind me of? (e.g. something from my life, a recent world event, something in nature, a story from someone else’s life)

  • How would I explain this passage to a five year old?

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We used two free apps during our discussion - Bible Gateway app and Blue Letter Bible app (both free on App Store or Play Store).

  • We used the Bible Gateway app to look up what some commentaries had to say about what the ‘Roman’ audience would have been like, and the background to Paul writing to them. Wikipedia may have also played a role! (takeaway point re: Wikipedia - it’s fine to start our research on Wikipedia, as long as we don’t also end our research on Wikipedia!).

  • We used the Bible Gateway app to quickly compare what words the different bible versions used in 1 Corinthians 12:31 (“eagerly desire the greater gifts”).

  • We used the Blue Letter Bible app to look up the Greek word used in 1 Corinthians 12:31 that the various versions translated as “greater”, “most helpful”, “higher” etc. By looking at the original Greek word as well as the different translations across bible versions, it helped us think through the meaning of this verse in a fresh way.

We noted that this research is really useful for us in our preparation as it helps us discover the fullness of what the passage is saying, but we don’t need to spell out all this research in our actual talk.


2. Using notes

We talked about how we all use different types of notes in different contexts. Brent and Jill held up examples of different types of notes they have used for recent talks. The examples varied, ranged from fully typed pages to hand-written scrawl to short dot points to typed sections with handwritten notes around them.

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Summary points on notes:

  • Some preaching resources will advocate strongly for not using notes, or advocate strongly for always using notes or a particular type of notes. We would say that there is not 'one' right way to use notes - you need to consider what works best for your unique brain, and what works best for the context.

  • The presence or absence of notes doesn’t determine your engagement with your audience. You can engage very well while using notes, or on the flip-side you can engage poorly while not using notes!

  • Don’t worry about comparing your notes (or lack of notes) with others - different brains will work best with different types of notes, and different types of talks require different things.

  • If using a notebook, consider spiral-bound so the pages stay open flat.

  • If using multiple pages, number them so you can easily put them back in order if need be.

 

Gathering support

We prayed for people who had presentations coming up that are outside of our church context:

Lani (relating to her counselling course), Jordan (seminar at ‘Be:Alive’ retreat), Korske (short talk at Festival of Ambitious Ideas) and Dion (devotion or short talk at school).

 

Next get-together

Monday 4 December 2017 - our final get-together for the year!

We will be in touch to talk about whether we continue this in 2018, or whether we finish up in December.


Monday 28 August 2017

We met in the Smith’s granny flat, drank wine from an assortment of beverage holders because we couldn’t find regular wine glasses, and noted the way Candace broke up the Kit Kat chocolate cross-ways rather than length-ways. It’s not wrong, it’s just interesting.

Introductions

We shared who some of our favourite teachers were at school/college/uni, and why. We heard about teachers who encouraged us, who were consistent in their discipline, who infected us with enthusiasm for their topic and who called us to go deeper and higher.

Shaping hearts

There’s no one like Him; there’s no one like you - acknowledging our unique personalities and styles as we approach our preaching.

We talked about how we are all wired differently and that this will affect the way we approach and prepare for preaching. It’s helpful to know where our natural inclinations are, not so we can just box ourselves in there and never leave, but so we can be aware of growth areas where we might be able to challenge ourselves, in order to expand our preaching skills and to enjoy the process more!

For example:

  • In the room we had some people who are more likely to over-prepare - i.e. to beaver away well in advance and prepare lots of material (sometimes too much) and to get frustrated if we feel we don’t have enough time to prepare things exactly how we want them, or stressed if things change at the last minute.

  • In the room we had some who are more likely to under-prepare - i.e. to leave it until the night before, not do much concentrated thinking or research, rely on winging it and to revel in the opportunity to be spontaneous.

The 'ideal' version of ourselves as preachers will be someone who is both awesome at preparing and awesome at thinking on our feet and being flexible in the moment. We can all get better at both! So...

If we are more inclined to over-prepare, then the discipline of preparation may come easy to us. But we can challenge ourselves to get better at loosening our grip on our carefully planned message and being willing to change direction if we need to, or to develop strategies to help us not to panic when things change at the last minute.

If we are more inclined to under-prepare, then spontaneity or ‘going with the flow’ might come easy to us. But we can challenge ourselves to allow more time in the lead up to our preaching to actively listen to what God is saying, and to make more use of our God-given creativity, imagination and intellect to deliver His message.

 

Building skills

In this section we looked at the following:

  1. Teach us how to teach (with Candace)

  2. Structure (brief)

  3. Filler words (brief)


TEACH US HOW TO TEACH

We heard from Candace, a college English teacher with a decade of teaching experience who genuinely loves lesson planning. She shared her process for preparing and delivering a lesson.

You can listen to Candace here (approx 16 minutes):

Otherwise, see a summary of her points below, which includes under each point short notes from our discussion about how Candace's experience relates to preaching.

Attention spans

Candace shared her research on attention spans: it is not as dire as we think! Despite the headlines our attention spans aren’t necessarily getting shorter; we are able to pay attention when we find something interesting.

 

Know your goal

Candace decides on a straightforward and achievable goal for each lesson - e.g. “that students would know what intertextuality is”. She doesn’t necessarily tell the students what the goal is but she knows it herself. This helps focus her attention in planning and keeps her on track when delivering the lesson.

For preaching:
Once we know what we are preaching on (see Stand and Deliver B.2 Deciding what to speak on), we can think about our goal for the talk. For example:

  • That people will understand more about “x”.

  • That people will leave here having experienced God’s love in a deeper way.

  • That people would want to go away and discover more about “x” for themselves.

By having a goal it can help us focus our attention and get rid of any unnecessary content that is cluttering up our talk.

While we have a goal in mind, we are still very open to God doing something unexpected through our message!

 

Hook

Candace finds a ‘hook’ for each lesson - something that will engage their attention, pique their interest or something they will remember. Could be a picture, quote, or a quick question to discuss with the person next to them.

Examples of ‘hooks’ we could use in preaching:

  • A funny story at the start of the message.

  • An image or video clip on screen.

  • A phrase that’s repeated throughout the message.

Further learning: Read Loud and Clear Chapter 8: Bringing Life to Truth - Illustrations.

 

Outline

Candace will often share the broad outline of the lesson with the students at the start, to help them know where they are going. Candace will also include the “why” of the lesson - i.e. why it is important for you to know this - to help get the students on board and invested.

For preaching:

  • While we won’t necessarily spell out our sermon outline in detail, sometimes it might be useful to give people a broad roadmap of where we are taking them, e.g. “today we are going to look at <x>, what Jesus said about it, and how we can apply it today”.

  • When doing a series, we can help our audience stay with us over the weeks by making it clear where we have been and where we are heading.

  • Candace reminded us of good essay technique that can be applied to preaching: say what you are going to say, say it, then say what you’ve said.

  • Even the most attentive listeners will have their mind wander occasionally. By including our outline throughout our message we enable people to jump back on board, e.g. “So we’ve seen how <x>, now what about <x>?”

 

Strategies to engage

Candace uses a range of strategies to keep it interesting and engage her students, and she gave examples that she uses in her classroom.

Examples of interactive engagement for sermons:

  • Asking the audience questions, either to answer out loud (works in a small setting) or answer in their head.

  • “Turn to the person next to you and…”

  • Physical actions that people can easily do in their seats.

We discussed the concept of engaging with an audience in preaching and how even when we use interactive engagement, a preacher often won’t get as much immediate feedback as a classroom teacher due to the different setting.

We talked about the difference between seeking audience engagement vs. seeking 'approval of man' - for example, excessively asking for an “amen!” or artificially hyping up the crowd to give you the response you want. We want to engage the audience for their sake so that they can benefit, and not just in order to stroke our own egos!

We can use brilliant engagement strategies but it will ultimately be the Holy Spirit who reveals and convicts. Jesus talks about this in Matthew 13, “Whoever has ears, let them hear…”

 

Recap

Candace recaps what they covered and checks the students understanding, and invites them to ask questions later.

For preaching:

  • Recapping at the end of a talk is an important way of helping our audience to consolidate the flurry of ideas we’ve put out to them.

  • If doing a series, we can recap what was covered the previous week. This is an important way to include people who weren’t there for the previous talk.

  • Even the most attentive listeners won’t remember everything you have said! This is normal. But recapping can help enforce our most important points.

 

Review

Candace asks herself what worked and what didn’t. She asks herself: “Were students involved and engaged?” If not, was it because of something beyond her control (e.g. the timing of the lesson in the day) or was it something she could address? Candace and her colleagues share their successes and failures, and gain encouragement and ideas from each other.

For preaching:

  • Let’s keep asking for feedback from each other! Let’s try to remember to ask someone before we speak.

  • Let’s celebrate with each other when things go well, and also be there for each other when things don’t go like we’d hoped.

  • Let’s keep sharing with each other about what works well for us in our preparation, so we can learn from each other.

Thank you Candace for sharing your knowledge and experience with us!


STRUCTURE

As an exercise, we asked you to think about how you could potentially arrange an ideal cafe/restaurant/bar space. We heard great ideas ranging from a multi-level space with booths than had roofs, a dog at each table, books on a shelf that anyone could take, nice leather chairs, coffee tables, social justice fundraising, mismatched furniture, tables at a good height for laptops and other ideas about vibe, layout and more. This was to get our heads into a place of thinking about how the way we arrange things has an impact on people.

Structuring a message means arranging our content in a way that people can understand it, engage with it and take it away.

Structure isn’t just something that the ‘ordered and logical’ personalities have to think about. For all of us, whenever we preach we have to make decisions about structure. Whether in our preparation or on the spot, we will always have to decide what to say first, what to say next, and what to say last. So let’s try and arrange our content in a way that helps our audience!

For more about structuring a message:


FILLER WORDS

We watched short clip of Korske and ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr from World Photo Day (1 minute duration):

We noted two points:

1. It’s a good example of one of our own speaking in a way that’s professional and succinct, but also relaxed. Well done Korske!

2. It illustrates some points about filler words:

  • A few filler words doesn’t ruin a message, particularly in a short speech in an informal and relaxed setting. Most people who watched this didn’t notice the ‘um’s (or ‘ah’s) until we pointed them out afterwards.

  • Using filler words doesn’t mean you are a bad speaker. Korske only used one filler word every 6.5 seconds, whereas Andrew Barr used one filler word every 2.5 seconds. Andrew is an experienced public speaker, but even he isn’t immune from filler words!

  • We are less likely to use filler words when we know our topic well. Even though Korske has far less speaking experience than Andrew, he has been living and breathing his topic!

Take home message: Don’t stress about filler words! A few here and there won’t ruin your message. But knowing your content will help keep them to a minimum.


Gathering support

We didn't do practical exercises as we ran out of time.

We reiterated the invitation to ask each other for feedback, and to learn from how Candace and her teacher colleagues share successes, failures and ideas.

We prayed for each other.


Monday 19 June 2017

We were a small (but quality!) group, meeting in the Smith's granny flat. 

Shaping hearts

Sharing stories

A couple of people shared about a time in their lives where God revealed something new of Himself to them. We talked about how we can pay attention to these moments or seasons, because if God is revealing something new to us it may be that He wants to be revealing these things to others as well. 

Personalities, postures and preparation - how we approach our sermon prep.

We acknowledged that some people are by nature 'uber preparers', planning things well in advance and thoroughly mapping out what they will speak on. Others are by nature more likely to want to go with the flow or 'wing it', possibly leaving preparation to the last minute. Most of us fit somewhere between, and will shift around depending on the context and life season. Both ends of the scale can be great strengths and should be celebrated! But both extremes also have potential stumbling blocks that it helps to be aware of.

All of us present were naturally closer to the 'winging it' end of the scale, so we talked specifically about some things that people like us should be aware of. We will mention these briefly next time, and will also address those who are more towards the 'uber prepared' end of the scale.

For more on the heart and attitude behind preparation, see Stand and Deliver B1. Why Prepare?

 

Building skills

Unpacking a bible passage - Part 1

We looked at one method of unpacking a bible passage, using as an example Luke 15 (parable of lost sheep). 

  1. We read the passage.

  2. We asked: Is there any particular word or phrase in the passage that jumped out to us? If so, let's note that and consider if that might be end up being the focus of our talk.

  3. We asked two 'unpacking' questions about the passage: "What did it mean?" and "What does it mean?"

    • What did it mean: We asked questions about the historical context, what came before and after it in the bible, who Jesus was talking to and the significance of the sheep/shepherd imagery.

    • What does it mean: We asked questions about how we could apply these things to life now. If the shepherd did that for the sheep, what does Jesus do for us? If the sheep were valued in that way, how does Jesus value us?

We mentioned two free apps that can be helpful in unpacking a bible passage:

  • Bible Gateway - as well as multiple bible translations, it has a small selection of commentaries and bible dictionaries. In the app, go to menu > Resources. On your web browser, go to Bible (in top menu) > More Resources.

  • Blue Letter Bible - gives the original Greek and Hebrew words for every verse, with definitions and links to where else in the bible those words are used, plus links to free commentaries.

Structure - Part 1

We introduced the idea of structure, i.e. deciding which order to say things, and how it all connects together. We want to say things in a way that helps our listeners understand what we mean. There is no one ideal structure for a sermon. Structure will depend on the content and the audience. 

We looked at a couple of examples of how a talk might be structured.

Note: We don't need to consciously choose one of these structures and build a talk around it. But thinking about structures in these visual ways may help some of us get our heads around how we might get our message out in a way that's understood.

Structure examples:

Flower structure

Present a main idea, then each point is like a 'petal' that comes off that main idea. The points might be personal stories, other parts of the bible that link to the main idea, illustrations or quotes. Whatever they are, they all link back to the main idea.

 

Narrative structure

This happened, then this, then this... Or 1, 2, 3, 4... Narrative structure makes sense when telling a story - e.g. preaching on a story in the bible, or giving your testimony.

 

Baseball structure

Taking people progressively through a few key points, then 'bringing it home' by tying it all together. 

 

There are many other potential structures out there too! We will look at others in later gatherings. 

 

Gathering support

We prayed for each other, including for some upcoming speaking-related things. Korske is having a business meeting with a potential supporter/partner on Thursday, Julie is leading communion on Sunday, and Dion is possibly speaking at school in Term 3. 

 

Next get-together

Monday 28 August, 7.30-9.00pm at the Smith's (snr) granny flat, 36 Werriwa Cres, Isabella Plains.


Monday 8 May 2017

We met in the Smith's (snr) lounge room. We polished off the wine and cheese, sampled Candace's 'fruchocs' and enjoyed our biggest turnout so far!

Shaping hearts

We looked at the context of our preaching in the bigger picture of God's kingdom work. Key points:

Our preaching is not nothing, but it's also not everything

  • Our preaching is significant. It's an important responsibility that's not to be taken lightly. James 3 talks about how people who teach will be judged more strictly! When you're speaking up the front people will listen, so we want to be speaking truth and not leading people astray.

  • God isn't relying on our preaching alone. He's always at work in more ways than one. While we take the preaching responsibility seriously, we don't need to weigh ourselves down thinking that everything relies on our one talk. Our preaching is one of many things that God will use as part of His bigger kingdom story!

  • When we remember the significance of our preaching, it helps us take our preparation seriously. When we remember the bigger picture around our preaching, it helps ease some of the anxiety that can come with preaching.

A good sermon is like a good meal

We each shared about one of our most memorable/best/tastiest meals. We heard great stories of hobbit meals in NZ, devouring a stackload of oranges in the Nullarbor, tucking into a whole shoulder of lamb, enjoying kid-free and responsibility-free meals, cooking things in fires, exotic and tasty treats and making friends over food.

While we remember a few meals in our lives, there are many more meals in between that we won't necessarily remember but were still really good for us. Meals that nourished us, fuelled us, brought comfort. A good sermon is like a good meal. It will nourish the soul, fuel people for the days ahead and maybe even provide comfort. Some sermons we give may be a stand-out memorable sermon for someone. But the sermons in between are still important, necessary and good.

 

Building skills

Deciding what to speak on

  • We will always have to make a decision as to what to speak on. This applies even if we're given a theme or passage to speak on.

  • Every preaching opportunity is an opportunity for revelation - both for us and for our audience.

  • Whether we're prompted with an idea directly, or whether God prompts someone else to ask us to speak on something, we need to ask the Spirit to show us to what to do with that idea.

  • A good question to ask: "Lord, what do you want to say to these people at this time?" Unpacking this:

    • What do you want to say - We start with what He is saying. We don't start with what we want to say, then try to find bible verses to back it up!

    • ...to these people - Some of our thoughts or ideas might be great but they might be just meant for us personally rather than this audience, or they might be for another 'audience' such as your colleagues, family or friends.

    • ...at this time - There will always be many many things to say and we won't be able to fit it all into one talk. We need to ask for wisdom for what to say now, and what to leave for another time.

For further info on deciding what to speak on, see the Stand and Deliver resources: B.2 Deciding what to speak on.

First steps in preparation

We looked briefly at a couple of things we can do in the initial stages of preparation. Some are covered in the Stand and Deliver resources: B2. Deciding what to speak on and B4. Preparation techniques and tips.

We will talk more about developing content and practical preparation techniques in future get-togethers.

Filler words

We looked briefly at a couple of tips to reducing filler words such as "um, ah, like"

  • Know your content. When we shared our 'great meal' stories we didn't use too many filler words. We knew our content (because it was about us!)

  • Try to reduce the pressure you place on yourself. When we shared our 'great meal' stories we weren't worried too much about sounding polished, and this lower stress helped us use less filler words. Remember the 'bigger picture' around our preaching - the weight of the world doesn't rest on this one sermon!

  • Accept that silence is okay. Jill suggested that for those that don't like silence, try to challenge ourselves to allow short silences in our conversations with people (even if only for two seconds!). By getting more comfortable with silence, we may reduce our filler words.

For further resources on reducing filler words, see the Stand and Deliver resources page on filler words.

 

Gathering support

Asking for feedback

Tips on asking for feedback:

  • Ask someone before you speak to give you feedback, rather than asking them afterwards what they though. This way they can listen more intently.

  • Ask someone who is both kind AND honest.

Praying for each other

We prayed for those that have speaking things coming up soon: Jeremy and Jill (preaching), Candace and Ursula (communion) and Korske (investor pitch meeting).

 

Next get-together

Monday 19 June 2017, 7.30 - 9.00pm, venue to be confirmed.

Topics: let us know what you are keen to talk about!

Complete this quick survey so we can get an idea of what people's priorities are.

Suggested preparation TBA.


Tuesday 28 March 2017

INCREASE PEACE

We looked at a few things that can increase peace in our hearts as we preach or prepare to preach: remembering the 'why?', attitudes, and understanding stress.

 

Shaping hearts

Remembering the 'why?'

We looked at the 'why?' of our preaching/speaking. People shared some speaking tasks they've done recently or have coming up, and the purpose of each of those speaking tasks. By remembering the 'why?', we can increase peace in our hearts as we can focus less on ourselves and our worries, and more on the people we are speaking to. 

Attitudes

We briefly looked at the importance of love and humility in our preaching. We were reminded that humility in preaching is not thinking "I'm no good", but rather it's focusing more on the audience and our message and less on ourselves. Humility can help us be more confident preachers, as an attitude of humility helps us recognise that we're all in this together and we don't have to be super-spiritual or have all the answers when we preach. This takes some of the pressure off!

>> For more on the 'why?' and our attitudes in preaching, see Stand and Deliver: Part A - Getting Ready.

 

Building skills

Lani delivered a presentation on understanding stress. We looked at stress because it is a part of all our lives, and as preachers it is something we will deal with - either stress in preparation or stress while getting up to speak (i.e. nerves or 'stage fright').

We looked at:

  • Stress in itself is neither good nor bad. Some level of stress is beneficial! Too much stress over a long period can be harmful.

Some level of stress can be beneficial.

Some level of stress can be beneficial.

  • Stress manifests in a range of ways - physical, behavioural, emotional, spiritual. We brainstormed some ways we are affected by stress.

  • Septic tank illustration: we need to ensure we have adequate outlets for stressors in our lives.

This septic tank image did make sense - ask lani to explain if you missed it!

This septic tank image did make sense - ask lani to explain if you missed it!

  • We brainstormed ways we can release/manage stress generally. These included going for a walk, removing ourselves from a situation, deep breathing, allowing adequate time for things, asking for help.

  • A few tips for managing stress related to speaking/preaching (i.e. nerves).

>> For information on managing stress in a preaching/speaking context, see Stand and Deliver Part A.3 - Managing Nerves.

 

Gathering support

Support when stressed

We discussed how we can support each other when someone is experiencing stress. Examples included the preaching community (for support in preaching-related stress), offering to help people practically (i.e. getting a preacher a glass of water, or offering to mind someone's kids) or contacting professional organisations (for a list, see Lani).

Giving feedback 

We practiced giving feedback, by giving feedback to Lani on her presentation.

 

Potential future topics

While we will cover most topics eventually, you are invited to suggest topics that you want to look at sooner rather than later. Examples of topics include:

  • Connecting with an audience

  • Unpacking the Bible

  • Using the screen

  • Deciding what to speak on

  • Preparation techniques

  • Reducing "um" and "ah"

  • Structuring a message

  • Being interactive

  • More on managing nerves while speaking

  • Illustrations

  • Following the Spirit's lead

  • Practical application

  • Microphones

  • Your voice

  • Dealing with distractions

  • Body/gestures

Let us know if there are topics you want to prioritise!


Monday 27 February 2017

INTRODUCTIONS, PERSONAL SHARING

We kicked things off with an evening introducing the themes of our preaching community, explaining some details and starting the conversation about what motivates us to preach.

 

Preaching community themes

Each time we meet we will cover something from each of these three themes:

Shaping hearts
Good preaching is not merely an accumulation of skills. If we want to proclaim the good news, we have to have the good news! We will look at why we preach and the attitudes and motivations we bring to our preaching.

Building skills
While preaching isn't only about skills, we want to do our best with what God has given us and build practical skills to help us best communicate God's truth. This will include sermon preparation techniques, managing nerves, use of voice, working with notes, visual aids and more.

Gathering support
We want to support each other as we grow in preaching. We'll have opportunity to seek feedback from the group, and we will make an effort to actively encourage each other when we speak at Redhill.

 

Why we're here

We shared why we are interested in growing in preaching. Some of our reasons included:

  • The Holy Spirit is prompting you to try this

  • You feel convicted to share His goodness

  • You want to build skills for speaking to students

  • You want to gain confidence in speaking in front of peers and people older than you

  • You want to get better at articulating God's truth

  • You want to build skills for work presentations

  • You want to move from simply teaching to also 'preaching'

  • You've been given opportunities to speak and want to use them well

  • You want to go deeper in your understanding of the Word

 

Recommended resources

We recommend the 'Loud and Clear' resources by Ali Martin. 'Loud and Clear' is a book and YouTube series where Ali provides teaching on a range of aspects of preaching. We will refer to the 'Loud and Clear' resources regularly when we meet together. 

Ali Martin

Ali Martin

Loud and Clear available here: YouTube series / ebook / paperback

We encourage you to listen/read/watch a variety of preachers. If we only listen to one preacher or one church style, we can miss out on the broad array of styles and skills that God has created!

 

Bible inspiration

We looked at a range of verses related to preaching. Some passages that stood out to you were:

1 Corinthians 2:1-5
I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

1 Corinthians 2:12-14
What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 

Galatians 2:7-8
I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised. For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles.

2 Timothy 4:2
Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.

Luke 4:18-19 (referencing Isaiah)
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

Ephesians 3:8-11
Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ… 

 

What makes a great talk?

We shared examples of sermons/talks we've heard in our lives that have impacted us or stuck with us. Some of the reasons why those talks stuck with you included:

  • The topic was exactly what you needed to learn about at that time

  • Visual illustration was powerful

  • The Holy Spirit clearly convicted you at that moment

  • Memorable 'catchphrase' or 'slogan' stuck with you

  • Personal story of the speaker

  • The speaker spoke about Jesus in a way you hadn't heard before

  • Clear instruction on a particular point stuck with you

  • Practical application was relevant to your life

We reflected that there is not one particular speaking mechanism or style that makes preaching powerful. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts the listener, and God can use all types of sermons, techniques and speakers to do that.

 

Giving feedback

We explained that we can seek feedback from each other in a few ways:

  • Group feedback - we can all give feedback to you as a group when we meet together.

  • Specific feedback - you can ask the group for feedback on a particular aspect of your speaking, e.g. the pace of your speaking, how well you make eye contact, how well you integrate personal stories. This can be less confronting than having everyone give feedback on your whole talk.

  • Individual feedback - you can ask one or two people from the preaching community to give you feedback one-on-one, so it's not so confronting as the whole group. Ask them before you speak so they can be listening attentively!

We explained a simple way to think about giving feedback - the feedback sandwich:

Positive/encouraging comments
Constructive criticisms
More positive/encouraging comments

We explained that we don't always get immediate (or any!) feedback when we speak, especially if you start to do it regularly and people grow familiar with you up the front. We need to learn to be okay with this! We remember that:

  • We don't preach for the praise of women and men but for the glory of God!

  • We don't measure our preaching 'success' by the number of compliments we receive.

 

Simple ways to show support

We can show support to others in the preaching community by:

  • Making an effort to thank them or offer encouraging words after they speak at Redhill.

  • Praying for them if they let you know they are speaking at an external event (e.g. a work presentation or school camp), and asking afterwards how it went.

  • Being aware of your 'resting face' when listening to each other speak at Redhill, and making an effort to make eye contact and stay awake!

people's natural 'resting faces' aren't always encouraging for a speaker!

people's natural 'resting faces' aren't always encouraging for a speaker!

 

Next steps

Think about what specific goals you have for preaching in 2017. 

Do you want to preach at Redhill this year? We'd love to give everyone in the preaching community the opportunity to do this.

Other goals could include:

  • Leading communion at Redhill

  • If you're involved in missions activities, giving missions updates

  • Giving announcements about church activities you are involved in

  • Developing a specific 'skill' in your preaching (e.g. getting better at weaving in personal stories, improving eye contact, going deeper into Bible passages etc)

Let us know your specific goals and we can talk about how we can best support you in that!

 

Next get-together

To be confirmed.