I am a communicator, it is my passion. I really believe that what we communicate and how we communicate it, actually matters. What we say isn’t just a formality; it is an opportunity to see transformation in our listeners’ lives and it can affect the movement of our world. In this first installment of a three-part series, I want to pass along tips that I have found useful in my communication technique. The tips I’m offering were never taught to me in seminary, but these are things I have learned from GREAT communicators I have sat under. So, here are three ways to communicate better.
1. Concise information receives nice feedback.
We are living in a post-modern era whether we like to admit it or not. Because of globalization and technology, we are receiving information at a more rapid pace. Rapid communication has catalyzed social media companies like Twitter, Tumbler, and even Facebook—although, we all have that friend who loves to type out master-manifestos on why we should all eat broccoli instead of popcorn. Our hyper-connected lives are leading to shorter attention spans and communicators must adapt. Keeping your sermon at 25-minutes has three benefits: First, your congregants will remember more of what you say because it will force you to be concise. Second, you can consistently get your congregants out on time, which will make you a good steward of their time. Third, your weekly services will be more consistent, which your volunteers will love.
2. Save the Greek for salads.
I’ll never forget the first time I tried to use a Greek word before my formal seminary training, it was a train wreck of a transliteration-word-jumble that caused more question marks over the heads of onlookers than vocal outburst of, “AMEN!” I agree that many congregations love a scholarly approach to communication, but for most, without formal seminary training, the Greek and Hebrew words really do not make a difference to the bottom line of what you’re attempting to convey. If you have done your exegetical homework and have thought through your talk, you can get to your bottom line without using the actual Greek and Hebrew words. Now, please don’t take this as a pass for not doing the work of exegesis. I really believe that good preparation and scholarship is important to communication. I’m merely saying that most people aren’t impressed with our knowledge of ancient languages. After all, don’t forget that we’re communicating to see transformation in people’s lives. We’re not communicating to show others the vast knowledge of our understanding in the ancient languages. On a further note, in the church culture we have enough words and liturgy that makes newcomers feel like we’re speaking a hidden language. By keeping the Greek and Hebrew words out of your sermon, you’re actually practicing hospitality to newcomers or those returning to church for the first time in a long time.
3. In conclusion, stop saying “in conclusion.”
You are waving the white flag of surrender when you say, “in conclusion” at the end of your talk. By saying those two simple words, you are giving your listeners permission to start thinking about lunch at Chipotle instead of what you’re trying to articulate. Usually, when we verbalize that inevitable phrase we have another 5 or 10 minutes of notes giving our last pitch of why the previous 20-minutes of your talk were important. The “why” or the “now what” of our talk is incredibly important and crucial to people contemplating and applying your message throughout the week. Why would anyone undermine their final thoughts with plans of a tasty burrito?