Okay, we should be honest: whether you’re a pastor or new to a faith journey with Jesus, there is one concept that rings true for all of us in communication, “What you say is whom you portray.” For pastors and leaders, this portrayal is of Jesus Christ and the legacy that He left behind in his life. When we are pragmatic and calculated with what we say, we are caring for the platform that God has entrusted to us. It is incredibly important that we spend time working on the craft of communication because it matters. Your words can literally catalyze movement and vision. It can give those without purpose—purpose. Moreover, it can bring life to the lifeless. Words are important, with words the Earth was created. With words, Jesus spoke healing and hope into both Jews and Gentiles. We have a unique opportunity as communicators to be the mouthpiece of a shifting tide of Kingdom living, here, now, today. Therefore, I wanted to give you three more ways to communicate better. If you missed the first post of a three-part series, you can catch-up here.
1. Start with the End
I know it seems counter-intuitive, especially when crafting a talk, but it’s important to start with the end. Starting your talk with what you want people to leave knowing will guide your preparation to a definitive conclusion that supports the meat of your talk. By supporting the bottom line of your talk, you’re giving clear purpose and answering the “why” question. Far too often, I hear communicators failing to answer the “why” in their talk, and it leaves people wondering what the last half-hour was even about. It is virtually impossible to cast proper vision without answering the simple question of “why.” This is why I start with my bottom line at the top of my manuscript and notes because everything should lead out of what I want people to leave knowing.
2. Say Something with Everything
One of the biggest traps of communication is thinking that it has to be done with words. However, some of the most prolific communicators are those that can harness all communication mediums to convey an idea. There was a time where the Church was the center of creative arts. The church harnessed its large influence to commission artist and thinkers. Walking into an ancient cathedral could knock you off your feet because it was communicating a richer truth of a creative God. We have lost a sense of creativity in our churches and it must be recaptured. We can do this in practical ways from the stage, we can use: music, films, photography, or motions. I suggest utilizing the stage as a canvas, create sets that help support a series or a talk and change it out frequently. Create a team of creatives to help you execute what you say both on stage and off stage through art installations.
3. Get Feedback
This is a tough one for communicators, especially pastors and leaders. I get it; you already receive a ton of feedback on your communication. Many of us have been on the receiving end of an anonymous email or nasty side comments that leave us vulnerable, hurt, and demoralized. Seeking feedback can be difficult because of the fear of one more negative comment being made. Leaders, I am with you. With that said, I want to encourage all of you to find two or three people you really trust, those that you can depend on to give you HONEST feedback. Don’t pick people that will pander to you, but those that will give you loving critiques. I have three people in my life that I run every manuscript and every post-sermon podcast through for feedback. This seeking out feedback has made me a better communicator and has revealed areas in which I need to grow. Learners are growers. When we learn, we are taking an opportunity to better ourselves and we are honoring our gift. People that you trust and love probably love you back. If they love you, they will have your best interest in mind when giving you feedback. Thirty minutes is all the time you need to really sit down with a few people and get their opinion. In my most recent time of feedback, I was actually liberated. I know that sounds weird, so let me explain. I was told, by a trusted friend, that I relied too much on humor to make myself more comfortable with speaking. They were right, I used humor to make people like me. My use of humor was not to better the communication, it was for selfish gain. I learned from that trusted friend humor is best used to support the sermon, not to support my need for listeners to like me. As I did, we can all learn and be better for it. Find those trusted friends, create a committee or a creative team to help you prepare and debrief talks.