How Long is Too Long? 5 New Sermon Length Trends

One thing is for certain regarding the proclamation of God’s Word: preaching is still primary for both pastors and church members.

Because of the centrality of preaching in most churches, it is always fascinating to learn what developments are taking place in the preaching ministry. I recently conducted another social media survey on sermon length. This time, however, I asked an additional question. The two questions were as follows: What is your typical sermon length? Has it changed over your ministry?

We received nearly 1,000 responses. With that volume of great feedback, we were able to see five clear trends:

  1. Pastors are, for the most part, changing sermon length over the course of their ministry (Trending Up ⬆). Over eight of ten pastors indicated they had made significant changes to their sermon length in their ministries. There were a number of reasons for the changes, but the most common was adapting to listening patterns of the congregation.
  2. Sermon length is down slightly over the past four years (Trending Down ⬇). The median length of the sermon of those surveyed was 27 minutes, down from 29 minutes four years ago.
  3. Though a number of respondents indicated changes to sermon length were longer than previous years, by a 3:2 margin more pastors were moving to shorter sermons (Trending Down ⬇). Since this point is similar to number two above, you would expect more pastors moving to shorter sermons than to longer sermons.
  4. Many of the pastors who were resistant to shortening the length of their sermons were compelled to do so when they went to multiple services, multiple sites, and/or multiple venues (Trending Down ⬇). This pastor said it well: “I preached around 50 minutes until we added a second service. I had to trim the length by 10 minutes just for logistical reasons. It about killed me!”
  5. The number of pastors whose sermon length is an outlier (fewer than 15 minutes or greater than 50 minutes) is small but stable (Trending Stable ⬅➡). Fewer than five percent of the pastors who responded preach sermons whose length is an outlier because of its brevity or longer length. The number of outliers has not changed significantly, but the advocates of either extreme tend to be clear and eager to verbalize the benefits of their sermon lengths.

Thank you, first, to the Church Answers’ community for starting this discussion. And thank you to the hundreds of you who responded.

What is your typical sermon length? Has it changed over the course of your ministry?

> Read more from Thom.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.  He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively.  The Rainers have six grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, and Bren. He is the author of twenty-four books, including Breakout Churches, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, and Essential Church.  His latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, was released in 2014 by B&H Publishing Group.

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— Bolstering your Leadership Armoury-Part 2- Leadership series – Toyer M–All things testing
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

How To Handle Communications When Crisis Hits: Part Two

There are few guarantees in ministry today. Unfortunately, one of them is the inevitability of a potential crisis occurring in our country, your community or even your church that could have a major effect on your congregation and even your reputation.

A crisis is an event, precipitated by a specific incident, natural or man-made, that attracts critical media attention and lasts for a definite period of time. Recent church crises include a devastating hurricane in Houston, a gunman in Nashville, or a public moral failure of a national leader.

When your church finds itself in the midst of a crisis, the ripple effects can disrupt lives and operations for the foreseeable future if public opinion is not properly addressed and stewarded.

Skillfully managing the perception of the crisis can determine the difference between an organization’s life or death. In the pitched battle between perception and reality, perception always wins.

If this feels ominous and overwhelming to you, take heart. There is a solution – you can prepare for the inevitable crisis by a proactive and preventative method for preempting potential crises. Finding yourself in a crisis situation is bad; not being prepared when a crisis occurs is devastatingly worse.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Crisis Management by Richard Luecke

All organizations are subject to crises. Leaders whose organizations encounter a crisis must act quickly, yet few leaders receive any formal training in this critical area.

In today’s volatile work environment, avoiding disaster is more important than ever. Crisis Management helps managers identify, manage, and prevent potential crises.

Full of tips and tools on how to prepare an emergency list and how to utilize pre-crisis resources, this book shows managers how to shepherd their teams from crisis to success.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION – Craft and communicate your response.

There is no one who can speak effectively for you and your organization than you. If your organization finds itself in a crisis situation – and even more so if you are the victim in a crisis – both your constituents and the public need to hear your voice.

Failure to make yourself heard in a crisis is a very risky move, almost as much as failure to communicate at all.

It is inevitable that there will be a time in the future when you find it essential to take your important and time-sensitive message to the public. In most cases that will involve communicating your message through both mainstream news media and social media platforms.

Those who reach out on behalf of your organization should be well briefed on not only what to say but what questions might arise and how those questions should be answered so that the entire organization is speaking with a single voice.

Communication through the media – newspapers, television, and radio – must be used to accurately frame the crisis in the public’s mind. Fail to deal with the media effectively, and your side of the story may never be heard.

Give intense attention to how you communicate with the public through the media. Your messages should be accurate and candid. They should also represent your point of view and include facts that support it. If you get your messages out early and often, there is a good chance that you will successfully frame the story in the public’s mind.

Give Them the Facts

One way to get across the story you want told is to (1) anticipate the questions that news reporters are likely to ask and (2) make a list of the five questions you would least liked to be asked and then be prepared to answer them. Be assured someone will ask those difficult questions. By anticipating media questions, you can form and articulate clear, complete responses that present your side of the story.

Use the Right Spokesperson

Who should be the spokesperson? In most cases it should be the identifiable leader, usually the CEO. When the crisis involves highly technical issues on which the CEO is not a credible authority, consider a team approach to speaking with the media. In this team approach, the CEO provides context and an overview of the situation. He or she will then ask a more technically knowledgeable subordinate to fill in the details – in nontechnical terms, you hope.

Segment Your Audience

Audience segmentation is the basis of an effective communication plan. First, segment your audience by interests. Once you have segmented your audience, you will have a better idea of the messages you need to develop and convey to each segment. You will need to develop different messages for different audiences. Just be sure those different messages are consistent and do not contradict one another.

Select the Most Appropriate Media

As a crisis communicator, you must match the media to the audience. Do this by first answering these questions:

  • With which audience segments should I communicate?

  • Which are the best media for reaching each segment?

  • What particular information will each segment value most?

Richard Luecke, Crisis Management

A NEXT STEP

If you have a Crisis Management Plan (see Solution #1 above), make sure the individual in charge is following the above suggestions when dealing with the media following a crisis.

If you do not have a Crisis Management Plan, designate a senior team member or board member to be the spokesperson in a crisis situation. Once this person is selected, convene your leadership team and board for a working session to work through the above points. This process will give the designated spokesperson the relevant information needed to convey to the media in any future crisis.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 92-2, released May 2018


 

This is part of a weekly series posting excerpts from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix book excerpts for church leaders.

Each issue SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; each solution is taken from a different book. Additionally, a practical action step is included with each solution.

As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS Remix provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

> > Subscribe to SUMS Remix <<

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company. He joined Auxano in 2012.

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— Bolstering your Leadership Armoury-Part 2- Leadership series – Toyer M–All things testing
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

When It’s Time for Some Spring Cleaning in Your Communications

It’s still spring. Time to upgrade things going out of style, time to store the things that don’t fit right now and time to retire the items we’re not using anymore. You can do this with your wardrobe if you want, but I’m not interested in your closet. I’m talking about your communications activity.

I have to ask, are you taking inventory of all the content and materials you’re generating and measuring the ROI at least once a year? If not, you should.

People change. Culture changes. Just because something was a great resource before doesn’t mean it is filling the need now. Sacred cows make the best steaks.

TAKE INVENTORY

Take a look at all your activity in every channel. What are you mailing, handing out, posting, rendering, hanging, designing, emailing? With an open mind, honestly ask yourself:

  • Does this still fit? Have we outgrown this? Is it still us? Does the vocabulary still work?
  • Is this out-of-date? Is this soooo last season? Is it in tune with what people are looking for?
  • Is this appropriate to wear in public? Does it help at least 80% of our congregation?
  • Is anyone using this? Is it solving a problem? Would anyone notice if it was gone?
  • What are the consequences if this went away? Are there alternative solutions?
  • Is it too much? Is there any way to simplify this; can we make it easier to find or use?

This only works if you’re able to honestly evaluate with an objective lens. Don’t plan this exercise if you’re in a mood or short on sleep. Bring your best, constructive brain to the table.

AVOID THE TWO EXTREMES

DON’T KEEP IT just because people are used to having it around. Some of the things we keep around have long outlived the problem they were created to solve. If it isn’t solving a current problem, it’s time for it to go. [Member mailboxes, I’m talking to you.]

DON’T KILL IT for the fast visual relief of decluttering or shortening a task list. If we cut things out without taking the customer journey into account, we risk closing the only channel where guests and members easily find out what’s happening from week to week. [Maybe you should try organizing the information in your bulletin better before you get rid of it.]

MARK YOUR CALENDAR, MAKE A PLAN

Spring time may not be the best time to clean your communications closet (though it could be the best time). Whatever your season of choice may be, mark your calendar now for when you plan to make it happen. And, then. Make it happen.

Consider the team players who need to be part of the conversation. Find a customer advocate who has permission to review what is helpful and what isn’t for your audience. Evaluate all activity at once; with no personal agenda or bias. Solicit feedback. Spend two power hours (with pizza) to go through the questions. Make sure everything you’re creating (or using) is still solving a real problem

  1. Gather the facts.
  2. Get objective input.
  3. Review your findings.
  4. Decide what needs to go and what needs to take its place.

A good strategy demands that you make a choice to move in one specific direction. It demands that you prioritize what’s most important and focus your resources there – trying to have it all will leave you struggling. – Good Strategy Bad Strategy. The Difference and Why It Matters. by Richard Rumelt

Pro-tip: If you’re not sure about whether you can afford to retire something, consider a “pilot pause.” Discontinue it for a season and see what happens. Based on the response you get (or don’t get) you can decide what’s really needed.

> Read more from Kem.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kem Meyer

Kem Meyer

Kem Meyer has spent almost three decades working with small business, big business, not for profit, tech, finance, PR, advertising, schools and churches. They all have issues with communications; for better and worse. And, learning from them all, she's developed quite a knack for finding the simple themes that increase organizational clarity and remove barriers that get in the way of our messages.

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— Bolstering your Leadership Armoury-Part 2- Leadership series – Toyer M–All things testing
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

3 Ways to Turn Boring into Fascinating

I’m fascinated how someone can attend two similar church services (maybe even with the same Pastor) and have the 30-minute sermon seem long and boring in one while the other can feel interesting and not enough time. And it’s the same amount of time. And maybe similar content!

Or you can watch a YouTube video and be fully engaged with it for several minutes while another will drive you to close the window after a couple of minutes. Even if it’s the same subject.

Or there’s a website that can captivate you for a long time versus the website that loses your interest in about 30 seconds.

Communication is tough. Our audience has changed. Their attention-span has gotten shorter and shorter. In fact, according to a 2015 Microsoft study, humans lose interest in most things after only 8 seconds. This is astounding since a goldfish has a 9 second attention span. We’re doomed.

Our audience certainly isn’t changing, so we need to tackle things differently with our communication style.

Here are 3 things we (as communicators) must understand and change to turn boring into interesting:

  1. Make it matter to your audience. This is key. In the first few seconds, in the headline, or first sentence, speak to a pain that you know your audience faces or a challenging goal that they seek. Then deliver as quickly as possible the hope of a solution in your communication. Or a straight-line path to their goal. This requires you to know your audience extremely well. So do everything within your power to discover their pains and goals.
  2. Edit your content as short as possible and present it the way your audience wants it. Do the difficult work of eliminating everything that’s unnecessary or redundant. Get your communication to the basics and don’t overdo the details. Then, based on your communication channel, deliver it in a style you know they’ll enjoy. For in-person or on video, that’s an interjection-style that captures the wayward attention and holds it by bringing people back into the conversation. For printed or static web content, give in to their propensity of scanning. Create eye-interruptors (headlines, subheads, bullets, captions) that tell most of the story and lead to the deeper content so they can read more.
  3. Deliver it so you seek engagement. Remember you’re not just telling. All content today should engage. Drive them to other locations through links and suggestions. Allow them to process or do things so they interact with your content. Where possible, let them respond. This engagement says you care about them and want them to fully understand. This relationship of love and empathy will allow your audience to overlook flaws and truly be interested in what you have to offer.

Summary? Make it about THEM and less about YOU. Say it as quickly as possible. They’ll feel the love. That’s the role of all church communication today.

> Read more from Mark.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark MacDonald

Mark MacDonald

Mark MacDonald is a Bible Teacher, speaker, best-selling author of Be Known For Something, and communication strategist for BeKnownForSomething.com and the Florida Baptist Convention. He empowers churches to become known for something relevant (a communication thread) throughout their ministries, websites, and social media. His book is available at BeKnownBook.com and amazon.com.

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comment_post_ID); ?> Excellent information, thank You
 
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— Bolstering your Leadership Armoury-Part 2- Leadership series – Toyer M–All things testing
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Why Talking Starts with Listening

You would think listening would be easy. After all, we spend a good chunk of our lives doing it. We listened to our parents when we were children. We listened to our teachers in school. We listen to the radio in the car, and we listen to the tv while we are watching it.

To go a step further, the Bible tells us that we ought to listen – that we ought to be “quick to listen”, in fact (James 1:19). Listening, then, is not just a skill – it’s a matter of obedience for the Christian.

But even though we have done it for so long, and even though we do it now, and even though the Bible tells us it ought to be our practice, many of us don’t. At least not really. Oh, we hear sounds, but there is a difference between hearing things that happen to be around us at a given moment and actively, intentionally listening. The first happens without effort; the second comes through discipline and practice, and this is where we often fail. We find ourselves, especially when we are hearing something or someone we don’t agree with, not really listening but instead tolerating sound, just waiting for our own chance to talk.

So what are some of the barriers that keep us from really listening to another person? Allow me to suggest three:

1. Our own insecurity.

We are all, at some level, still living middle school. We all have our own particular insecurities that are constantly in the background. We are concerned about our appearance, our intelligence, our ingenuity, or something else, and those long held insecurities affect us more than we think we do. One of the ways they do is they make us assume a posture of defensiveness. We feel attacked even if we’re not. So when we find ourselves in a conversation with someone who doesn’t think, believe, or behave as we do, we take it personally and are quick to move on that perceived attack.

When we are moving to defend ourselves, we stop listening because we feel compelled to respond, respond, respond. The deeper answer, then, to our inability to listen is not just skill development; it’s confronting our lingering insecurities through the power of the gospel. For in the gospel, we know that we are fully accepted in Christ. We are the chosen sons and daughters of God. And the confidence that comes from that knowledge, among other things, bolsters our ability to listen.

2. Our view of another person.

CS Lewis once wrote: “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” It’s easy to forget that, isn’t it?

When we are engaged in a conversation with someone we don’t agree with, we can quickly make the shift to thinking of that person as an enemy. Or a target. Or a potential opinion to change. When we do that, we stop listening because we stop focusing on that person. They have become a shell of a human – just another talking head to be responded to – rather than remembering that at the core, this person is a human being created in the image of God. When we revert back to this mindset, we are compelled to listen because really listening is a simple way we recognize the dignity that every person is rightfully due.

3. Our confidence in God’s work.

One final barrier to listening is our lack of confidence in God’s work. One of the reasons we are slow to listen and quick to speak is because we feel compelled to defend God to someone else. I want to be careful here to not imply that we should not defend God, or the Bible, or doctrine. We can, and we should. But there is a great difference in defending what we believe from the posture of confidence and defending what we believe from a posture of insecurity.

In our hearts, we might not fully believe the Bible is true. Or that God can really change hearts. Or that He is actually all powerful and all loving at the same time. We aren’t secure in His work, and so we argue, and as the saying goes, we doth protest too much and in so doing reveal we aren’t quite as secure in what we believe as we claim.

In the end, we don’t change someone’s heart. And in the end, God doesn’t need us to defend Him. In such moments, we have the opportunity to demonstrate patience, grace, and charity, and actually win a hearing for the truth of the gospel.

Listening is important. It’s more than just a skill. In fact, it might well be worth considering, if we have trouble listening, the real reason why it’s so difficult. And as we do, we will mercifully be led back to the God who never fails to listen to us. In Him, we will find the security and confidence it takes to truly listen to another.

> Read more from Michael.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Kelley

I’m a Christ-follower, husband, dad, author and speaker. Thanks for stopping here to dialogue with me about what it means to live deeply in all the arenas of life. I live in Nashville, Tennessee, with my wife Jana who is living proof of the theory that males are far more likely to marry over their heads than females are. We have three great kids, Joshua (5) and Andi (3), and Christian (less than 1). They remind me on a daily basis how much I have to grow in being both a father and a child. I work full time for Lifeway Christian Resources, where I’m a Bible study editor. I also get out on the road some to speak in different churches, conferences and retreats.

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Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

3 Reminders that Get People Moving

How do human beings make decisions?
What is it that causes us to move from a prospective buyer to a loyal customer?

Is it understanding certain features and benefits? Maybe.
Is it price? That certainly plays into it.

What many people don’t realize is that the decision-making part of the brain is the emotional part of the brain. While some people certainly process more logically than others, the final buying decision is much more closely tied to emotion than anything else.

“I read through the brochure and it just felt like the right fit.”
“I looked at their website and knew in my gut that they were the right company for us.”

Those are the kinds of things we say when we’ve made a decision … because our final decision is based on “feeling good” about something. The question is, what does it takes to get your buyers to the point where they are “feeling good”?

If we understand this, then our marketing messages should both begin and end with more emotive language. The features and benefits descriptions still need to be included, but they should come in the middle, not at the end.

When we’re ready to make the call to action, we need to appeal to the emotional part of the brain. Here are 3 things to keep in mind when writing your call to action.

  1. Be clear.
    No one feels good about a fuzzy decision. So make your ask direct and clear.
  2. Be concise.
    The call to action, the final ask, can’t be long and drawn out. “Buy Now!” “Get Started!” “Learn More.”
  3. Use emotional language if possible.
    The lead-up to the call to action needs to address any fears and invite the audience to get moving … and that means emotion. This is why scarcity (“Only 3 more left!”) and urgency (“Sign Up Today!”) can work effectively if used well. They’re tapping into the emotional side of the brain.

Features and benefits are important. Getting people the right information matters. But ultimately, the thing that will move people into action is an emotion.

> Read more from Steve and the ID Digital Team here.


 

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steve Finkill

Steve Finkill

Steve Finkill is the Chief Messaging Officer at ID Digital, a verbal, visual, and marketing company. Dream Vacation: Driving the Pacific Coast Highway with my wife. Stopping for great food and some golf along the way. Ice Cream Flavor: Vanilla with real peanut butter mixed in. Favorite Films The Shawshank Redemption, The Empire Strikes Back, and Tombstone. Surprising Personal Fact: I was the Table Tennis Champion of my middle school. Favorite Album: The Firm Soundtrack, Dave Grusin. Coffee: Never. Beverages are meant to be cold.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I ask: “How long have you been coming here?” It’s works in every situation.
 
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Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

3 Ways to Keep People Listening to Your Sermon

Preaching is tougher than ever these days. For one thing, we can’t assume that people come to our churches with a basic understanding of the Bible like they may have in the past.

But it’s also tougher because of all the media we interact with on a daily basis—from television to email to social media. It seems like someone is always trying to sell us something or convince us about a new idea.

Just open your email, and you’ll likely see a full selection of pitches asking you to buy anything from lunch to a new fishing pole to a vacation. Turn on the television, and the pitching from commercials continues.

Because of this, when unchurched people hear you preach, they assume you’re trying to sell them something. They believe you’re trying to sell them on religion.

That’s not your purpose, but your listeners often don’t know that.

Every week you’re preaching to people who are more skeptical than ever before.

You used to be able to turn up the volume when you had a weak point and keep people’s interest that way. But you can’t do that anymore. It won’t work.

People don’t want you to preach at them. They want you to talk to them. That’s how you keep their attention.

Here are three ways to keep people listening to your sermon:

1. Be open about your struggles and weaknesses.

Don’t try to hide the pain you’ve experienced—or are experiencing right now. Be transparent.

It’s called confessional preaching, and it can increase your credibility. Your confessions will encourage others when they’re going through tough times.

I remember one time, as I preached on anger, I told the church, “You know, it bothers me that sometimes I say the most hurtful things to the people I love the most, such as my wife and kids. Does that bother anyone else?”

Now, I could have just told people that they should be nicer to the people closest to them. I could have made it a command, but that would have immediately put my listeners on the defensive.

When you start with a confession, people will follow along because they see you as someone like them. Your confession will help your message resonate with authenticity and authority.

One key to effective communication is the ability to drop your mask and share real emotions. People will catch your heart. You don’t get this when you yell at them. You get it when your preaching allows others to see what’s going on in your life.

2. Share how you’re making progress.

People grow best through models. Several times in the New Testament, Paul tells readers, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” I used to read that and think I could never do it. It sounded egotistical.

Paul wasn’t saying he was perfect. If you have to be perfect to be a model, we wouldn’t have any models in the world. Frankly, I’d rather have people following me than following someone who isn’t honestly trying to follow Jesus. And so now, I don’t apologize for trying to be a model for others.

We need to follow Jesus’ example in incarnational preaching—where the Word becomes flesh. The way we communicate has changed. Our message isn’t validated by the text alone. It’s validated by the messenger.

Most of the people you’re preaching to aren’t asking, “Is the Bible believable?” They’re asking, “Are you believable?” They want to know whether you have any credibility because if you don’t, they won’t listen to you even if you’re holding up a Bible as you preach.

Our message, on a weekly basis, should be something like this: “Here’s how God got me through another week.”

If you’re not ready to model your message, you’re not ready to preach it.

3. Say it in an interesting way. 

I actually work hard on preaching in an interesting manner. The Bible says, “When wise people speak, they make knowledge attractive” (Proverbs 15:2 GNT). It’s foolish to bore people with the Bible.

Too many preachers get stressed out about the idea of entertaining people as they preach. Do you know what the definition of entertainment is? Capturing and holding the attention for a period of time.Do you want your preaching to do that? Of course you do—and you shouldn’t apologize for it! Making your sermons interesting doesn’t mean you have to do a song and dance; rather, it means you help people understand that the Bible is relevant to every little detail of their lives.

To the unchurched, dull preaching is unforgivable, and there is no reason for it. Our message is too important to deliver with a take-it-or-leave-it attitude.

The problem with a boring message is that your hearers won’t just think you’re boring. They’ll think God is boring.

How do you preach in a more interesting way? It’s not about your charisma. You can learn to do it. Start with these three practices.

– Vary your delivery. Nothing is more boring than a monotone preacher who gets stuck on one speed and volume and never comes up for air. Vary the speed and volume of your preaching to make your sermons more interesting.

– Don’t make a point without a picture. People love stories. Pull them from your life. Pull them from the people in your congregation. Pull them from the news.

– Make people laugh. Humor is good for people. It makes a painful truth more palatable. It creates positive emotions like joy and happiness. By the way, you don’t have to tell jokes to be funny. The best humor is usually found in real-life stories.

Every week you get the opportunity to preach God’s Word to people. It’s an extraordinary opportunity. Keeping people engaged in your sermon is how you can get God’s Word into the lives of your listeners, and God’s Word will transform their lives.

That’s certainly worth the effort.

> Read more from Rick.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rick Warren

Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

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The Vital Need to be a Church Unique

Have you noticed? Products and services are dropping from existence regularly. Toys”R”Us have closed their doors entirely and more than 5000 individual stores closed across the country as major retailers decide it’s best for their bottom line. What’s happening?!?

Even worse, 4000 evangelical churches disappeared from the United States. I wonder if many even notice?

Why all the closings? Because another organization started to supply the community’s needs in a similar or better way. Toys”R”Us used to be “the” place to go for toys. Kids would see it as a fun destination where they could dream and wish. Parents knew if they wanted something entertaining for their kids you could find it in one of the aisles. Plus they were local and easy to get to.

Then competition arrived and offered similar benefits. Followed by the internet allowing you to search for toys in the comfort of your home. Then Amazon promised quick shipping. Then people stopped going to the physical stores that were riddled with personnel and inventory issues. Oh, and we won’t even talk about pricing. Toy”R”Us was simply an option that didn’t stand out anymore. They weren’t different.

If you have a local church that are like all the other community’s churches, offering similar ministries, then you’re setting yourself up for comparison and eventually closing. Your community will simply decide where to go based on proximity, denomination, leadership personality, and maybe how your buildings look. It may even be your landscaping that becomes the issue.

There’s a better way.

You can create a different kind of church and become known for something very different and bold apart from the others in town. People will overlook most other things and drive great distances for something that’s different.

You need to be different.

But for the church; be sure that your difference is biblically sound, and most importantly, needed by enough people. Be known for being relevant and an essential benefit to your community. Then your church will be around for a long time.

You just have to effectively communicate your unique thread. Be different. Be needed. Be relevant.

> Read more from Mark.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark MacDonald

Mark MacDonald

Mark MacDonald is a Bible Teacher, speaker, best-selling author of Be Known For Something, and communication strategist for BeKnownForSomething.com and the Florida Baptist Convention. He empowers churches to become known for something relevant (a communication thread) throughout their ministries, websites, and social media. His book is available at BeKnownBook.com and amazon.com.

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What Your Church Sign May Say About Your Church Vision

I recently heard a pastor compliment another church for being a church that was actually moving forward, being “alive” and “contemporary,” brushing away the ecclesiastical cobwebs and making a Kingdom impact. Leaning in to hear the breakthrough, he said: “What was it, 13 years ago? Why, they were the first church in the county to have a digital sign out front!”

Oh my.

It would be easy to hear such a statement and snicker.

I didn’t.

I grieved.

I could imagine that small church sacrificing to invest in the digital sign. Discussing it at business meetings. Experiencing growing excitement when installation began, and coming that first Sunday after its launch expecting new attenders and a fresh wind of the Spirit. I could imagine them feeling proud that their church was actually doing something; that life had come to their sleepy enterprise. Even something “modern.”

Again, I don’t write a single word of that in condescension.

I write it as a lament.

Why?

We all know the sign did next to nothing. There isn’t a sign in the world that could—not in the face of the American church’s situation.

A new study from LifeWay Research has found that “6 in 10 Protestant churches are plateaued or declining in attendance and more than half saw fewer than 10 people become new Christians in the past 12 months.” Approximately one out of every 10 had none. The study also found that most Protestant churches in America “have fewer than 100 people attending services each Sunday.” One out of every five has fewer than 50.

There are many reasons that could be cited for this declining state of affairs. But let’s state one of the more obvious ones:

The digital sign mentality. 

Let’s paint the church, restripe the parking lot, put in new carpet, freshen up the landscaping. And if we want to be radical, put in a digital sign out front that can flash service times and pithy spiritual sayings. The sentiment is that whatever the church needs is cosmetic. 

It’s an alluring idea. Cosmetic touches are easy on the existing constituency. They cost nothing in terms of the real sacrifice needed, which is dying to themselves and living for a mission. Cosmetic changes do not represent real change, only the illusion of it.

The problem with the American church today is simple: It’s turned inward toward the already convinced instead of outward toward those far from God and, as a result, does nothing of an informed nature in terms of strategy or tactics to reach those far from God. Even those growing are, for the most part, doing it through transfer growth at the expense of other churches.

Shameless plug: We’re offering a pair of identical Pastor’s Workshops at Meck on how to improve communication to the unchurched, raise strategic resources for Kingdom expansion, and grow numerically from the unchurched. I hope that sounds like something worth an afternoon. You can get details HERE.

So mourn a digital sign.

Not simply for the squandered expense,

… but the squandered vision.

> Read more from James Emery White.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

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Make Your Brand Contagious

Some church leaders consider “brand” to be a four-letter word more appropriate in the marketplace than for churches. The concept of branding has undergone changes in the last decade that demand church leaders not only accept them, but also lead forward through them.

Branding in today’s cultural context is less “this is what we can do for you” and more “this is who we are.” Here is the challenge: your brand isn’t what you say it is; it’s what your “customers” say it is. (If you want to read more about this, download SUMS Remix 81).

THE QUICK SUMMARY

What makes things popular? If you said advertising, think again. People don’t listen to advertisements; they listen to their peers. But why do people talk about certain products and ideas more than others? Why are some stories and rumors more infectious? And what makes online content go viral?

Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger has spent the last decade answering these questions. He’s studied why New York Times articles make the paper’s own Most E-mailed list, why products get word of mouth, and how social influence shapes everything from the cars we buy, to the clothes we wear, to the names we give our children.

In Contagious, Berger reveals the secret science behind word-of-mouth and social transmission. Discover how six basic principles drive all sorts of things to become contagious, from consumer products and policy initiatives to workplace rumors and YouTube videos. Learn how a luxury steakhouse found popularity through the lowly cheesesteak, why anti-drug commercials might have actually increased drug use, and why more than 200 million consumers shared a video about one of the most seemingly boring products there is: a blender.

Contagious provides a set of specific, actionable techniques for helping information spread—for designing messages, advertisements, and content that people will share. Whether you’re a manager at a big company, a small business owner trying to boost awareness, a politician running for office, or a health official trying to get the word out, Contagious will show you how to make your product or idea catch on.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

People love to be a part of stories, and to tell stories – the latest “news” on the neighborhood, a great new restaurant opening nearby, the awesome vacation they just returned from.

People also like to tell the darker side of stories – gossip, a terrible meal experience, or the lousy and expensive vacation they had.

Then there are the online stories: social proof, provided by peer-to-peer recommendations of products and services, is a powerful way to persuade your potential customers.

Take a look at these results about online reviews by BrightLocal, a social media agency:

  • 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation
  • 90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business
  • 74% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more
  • 58% of consumers say that the star rating of a business is most important

Word of mouth – literally, in conversations face to face, or figuratively, in online conversations, is a primary factor behind many of the decisions we are making everyday.

How can your church tap into this important vehicle of conversation going on all around you?

After analyzing hundreds of contagious messages, products, and ideas, we noticed that the same six “ingredients,” or principles, were often at work. Six key STEPPS, as I call them, that cause things to be talked about, shared, and imitated.

Principle 1: Social Currency

How does it make people look to talk about a product or idea? What we talk about influences how others see us. It’s social currency. So to get people talking we need to craft messages that help them achieve these desired impressions. We need to find our inner remarkability and make people feel like insiders.

Principle 2: Triggers

How do we remind people to talk about our ideas and products? Triggers are stimuli that prompt people to think about related things. People often talk about whatever comes to mind, so we need to design ideas that are frequently triggered by the environment and create new triggers to prevalent cues in that environment. Top of mind leads to tip of tongue.

Principle 3: Emotion

When we care, we share. So how can we craft messages and ideas that make people feel something? Emotional things often get shared. So rather than harping on function, we need to focus on feelings.

Principle 4: Public

Can people see when others are using our product or engaging in our desired behavior? Making things more observable makes them easier to imitate, which makes them more likely to become popular. So we need to make our ideas and products more public.

Principle 5: Practical Value

How can we craft content that seems useful? Given how people are inundated with information, we need to make our message stand out. We need to highlight the incredible value of what we offer, and package our knowledge and expertise so that people can easily pass it on.

Principle 6: Stories

What broader narrative can we wrap our idea in? People just don’t share information, they tell stories. We need to make our message so integral to the narrative that people can’t tell the story without it.

Jonah Berger, Contagious: Why Things Catch On

A NEXT STEP

The six principles of contagiousness listed above contain Social Currency and are Triggered, Emotional, Public, Practically Valuable, and should be wrapped in Stories. Enhancing these components in messages, products, or ideas will make them more likely to spread and become popular.

While it is convenient to imagine the six steps as the acronym STEPPS, don’t think of them as a “recipe” that has to be followed precisely. Not all six ingredients are required to make an idea contagious. View them more like toppings for a salad: choose what works for you, fits your situation, and you will still have a good result.

Write the following on the top of six chart tablets, one principle per page, allowing plenty of space for notes.

Principle 1: Social Currency

How can we talk about our church in such a way that unchurched people desire to be connected?

Principle 2: Triggers

What community triggers have we created to raise our visibility? How can we share the gospel in ways that trigger engagement?

Principle 3: Emotion

What messages are we sending that connect people emotionally?

Principle 4: Public

How can people see when others are excited about what God is doing? How are we leveraging sharable media?

Principle 5: Practical Value

What gospel content have we created that is useful to people outside of the church?

Principle 6: Stories

What larger cultural context exists in our community? How are we communicating the gospel as the solution?

Set aside a two-hour brainstorming time with your leadership team, and work through each of the questions listed.

After working through all six questions, go back and highlight the top three ideas or actions the group agrees are most important.

Create a cross-functional work group, bringing in other leaders and church members as appropriate, to take the resulting 18 ideas and actions and create an action plan with timetables and responsibilities.

As each idea or action is completed, evaluate its effectiveness and adjust as needed.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix Issue 83-1, released January 2018.


 

This is part of a weekly series posting excerpts from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix book excerpts for church leaders.

SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; each solution is taken from a different book. Additionally, a practical action step is included with each solution.

As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS Remix provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

> > Subscribe to SUMS Remix <<

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company. He joined Auxano in 2012.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I ask: “How long have you been coming here?” It’s works in every situation.
 
— Russell C
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Excellent information, thank You
 
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— Bolstering your Leadership Armoury-Part 2- Leadership series – Toyer M–All things testing
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.