B1. Why prepare?
If you care, prepare!
Preparation is important. Some people know this and wouldn’t even consider not preparing. Other people are more likely to want to play it by ear or ‘wing it’ rather than spend time preparing. While ‘winging it’ can be a valuable skill and is sometimes necessary, if we care about our message and our audience it really is best to prepare if we can!
(We'll provide some tips for 'winging it' at a later section in the future).
God is in the preparation
One reason some of us may be wary of preparation is that we associate thorough preparation with relying on our own strength or intellect. We may think that more preparation = less trusting God. But preparation is not the opposite of allowing the Spirit to lead us. In fact, good sermon preparation is giving more opportunity for the Spirit to lead us.
If we ask the Spirit to lead us as we prepare, He is in our preparation just as powerfully as He is in our mouths when we get up to speak. He is moving in power on Monday as well as Friday as well as Sunday. He can guide us in our reading and our scribbling and our speaking. By setting aside time to prepare, we are setting aside time for the Spirit to guide us. (We'll talk about what this might look like later).
Yes, there will be times when God gives us words or inspiration 'in the moment'. And there may be times when we prepare a message but at the last minute He prompts us to change our plans. But this doesn't mean we don't prepare. It means we prepare prayerfully, hungry for the Spirit's lead, but willing to change direction as He prompts us, whether during our preparation phase or while we're holding the microphone!
Preparation doesn’t kill spontaneity; structure doesn’t kill freedom.
One of the reasons some of us might avoid preparing is because we are concerned that too much preparation may restrict us. We may worry that too much preparation or structure may prevent us from ‘going with the flow’. But preparation doesn’t mean restriction. On the contrary, preparation can actually allow for better spontaneity and structure can allow for greater freedom.
Consider how a worship band prepares. Even in churches where there is an emphasis on ‘free’ or ‘spontaneous’ worship, the worship band has still prepared for this. By rehearsing the songs and agreeing on keys and arrangements, they are able to be better at being free and spontaneous than if they had done no preparation at all. They are free to improvise and ‘go with the flow’ because they have a basic structure in place, know how to play their instruments and know each other’s cues.
If we prepare for speaking, we will know our material. We may not have memorised every word, but we’ll ‘know’ our message broadly speaking. We can have the freedom to be more spontaneous or ‘go with the flow’ without worrying about whether we’ve got our message across, because the heart of our message will be secure in our mind. We can spontaneously throw in a new thought or story, confident that it will support our main point because we know our main point well. We can speak without looking too closely at our notes because our message is embedded in us, so we’ll be able to enjoy more connection and interaction with our audience. We won’t be stressing about what to say next, so we can relax a bit and be open to how God might want to lead us as we speak.
Remember this: Good preparation is not a strong box that you lock yourself into. Good preparation is a strong framework which you can then be free to build on!
Preparation is usually possible
Most of the time, we will have the opportunity to prepare. It’s rare that we will be plucked out of our seat to speak in front of people. Even if it’s only two minutes in between someone asking us to give an announcement and the announcement time itself; it’s still two minutes in which we can have a quick think about what we need to say and how we might be able to say it. If we’re preaching or doing a youth group talk or a seminar at a conference, we’ll probably have at least a couple of weeks to prepare.
Most of us are busy and have many other things going on in life that can eat into our preparation time. We have to make a choice to set aside time to prepare. For ideas about what your preparation might look like, see B4. Preparation techniques and tips.
If you genuinely haven’t had time to prepare
There will be occasions where you genuinely have no time to prepare, or too little time to prepare. We may be called out of our seat to give an announcement straight away so we don’t even have two minutes to think. Or we may be asked to speak or preach with only very short notice, rather than the usual longer lead time.
It’s in these moments that we get to see how God can work through us no matter how unprepared we may feel! He is with us in these unprepared moments and we can trust Him to work through our unpolished speaking just as effectively as He works through our diligently prepared messages.
But there are some things we can learn to help us in these unprepared moments. For some tips to help you communicate clearly with no or little preparation, stay tuned for our tips on 'winging it', coming soon!
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