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Cosistency or Power?
When you are coaching someone, or leading someone into greater personal effectiveness, the question you need to answer to be successful with them is “Consistency or Force?” Which is the most effective means to help someone bring about life change? Many of us read everyday about this or that “30 Day Challenge” or “60 Day Challenge”, etc. The idea behind all such programs is that we are going to “challenge” you with a really difficult task, and for 30 or 60 days your life will be totally focused upon this challenge, or difficult task and then, we will suddenly have a break-through and succeed! But is that the way it really works? How many people actually complete such a challenge? And once having completed it, how many are then ready to make that level of work and motivation a regular part of their life routine AFTER the 30 day challenge is over?You see, success is not about FORCE or POWER; it is about CONSISTENCY.Imagine a train pulling 100 cars of coal behind it. When it is at a dead-stop, which is the best way to get it moving, 60 seconds of full-power, or 30 minutes of steadily increasing power? The inertia of tha train is so great, that it will take a long steady pull to get it up to full speed; not a quick burst. YOU ARE THAT TRAIN! Inertia will kill you; but momentum will thrill you.
It’s your choice: you can let inertia (which is the tendency of objects at rest to stay at rest) stop you. Or you can put momentum (which is the tendency of objects in motion, to continue in motion) work for you. Inertia or Momentum. Force or Consistency. These are the same concepts.
So how does this translate into changing your life, or helping someone else to change their life?
To change a life, you put together a HIGH CONSISTENCY, LOW POWER plan. Or to phrase it another way, put Momentum to work, to overcome Inertia. You do this by setting a series of highly achievable goals all building towards the ultimate goal. “Highly achievable” means that you do NOT give people a “30 day challenge”. You start with something easy; give them an easy-to-do task at which they can succeed. You give them a series of WINS, not disappointments.
Successful people are successful because they have developed a habit of winning. And then one win builds upon another one. It is the same way when you are coaching someone, or yourself, to succeed.
So, step-by-step, here’s how to coach someone to victory:
1. Set an easily achievable goal.
2. When they pass it, create a plan to CONSISTENTLY pass the SAME GOAL.
Don’t increase it yet. Let them win, and win, and win, on that goal.
3. Then when they have developed the lifestyle routine to consistently win on that single, simple goal, THEN increase it slightly.
Make sure that you are not “challenging them” with a killer goal which will take everthing within them to win, because then they will eventually fail, and you begin losing momentum.
4. Keep building Momentum.
Make sure that they can achieve EVERY SINGLE GOAL THEY SET.
5. Keep this pattern going for 60-90 days.
6. Then you have a lifestyle.
CONSISTENCY is the key to victory. Practice it, and live it, and you will win! Yours for better life coaching success.
The Importance of Transitions
It’s All About Flow
The difference between a sermon with “flow” and a sermon that feels chunky and disjointed is the word “transitions”. The ‘transitional statement’ is the statement which alerts your listeners that you are now moving the logic of the sermon forward in some way. It may be words like “so then”, or “therefore”, or “because of this we can see”. It could even be “in summary”. The main thing is that you give your listeners a verbal clue that something new is happening. You are letting them know that they should listen closely because something new is about to be entered into the content or logic of the sermon.
When transitions are executed effectively the sermon just feels like it is moving along nicely, with a good flow. People are moved gradually from point to point until you bring them inexorably to the conclusion and application which you have in mind for them. They may not even be aware of the progression towards and ultimate climax but they realize once they are there that they have arrived in a perfectly logical and commonsense manner. The whole sermon just “makes sense” as you have moved them from the content of the text to its ultimate conclusion upon their lives.
An Example of a Transitional Statement
If transitional statements are not well executed then the listeners will find themselves listening to a certain point, and asking, “How did we get here?” For example, you may have a three-point sermon with the proposition, “God has shown His love for you.” Then your mains would be: 1. He created you; 2. He cares for you; 3. He called you to Himself. If you just jump from point to point, when you are done with point number one, you would just say, “2. He cares for you” without any introduction. After going through all your supporting material in point #1, the listener is jerked back to the Mains without any warning.
On the other hand, a helpful transitional statement would be added to the mid-point at the end of your first Main, and just before your second Main Point: “Not only has God shown His love for you by creating you, but He also shows His love to you, secondly, by caring for you. So my second point is that God Cares for You.” Or, just before the third Main Point, you would say something like, “Not only has God shown His love for you by creating you, and by caring for you. But third, He Called You.” See how that feels much smoother? You are taking them on a quick trackback through the Mains of the sermon, before you move onto the next Main Point.
The Power of Flow
Do not underestimate the power of a good transition to keep your sermon flowing, and to give the listener verbal warnings of “sudden turns” or new topics ahead. Transitions can help you to be a more polished presenter of the Word of God.
Yours for great preaching!
Five Mistakes to Avoid in Strategic Planning
Everybody wants to do it, but few do it well. I am not here to convince you of the value of strategic planning; either you do or don’t see it’s value. I’m guessing that if you are reading this you at least see some value in strategic planning. This article will help you to do it well, and avoid the common mistakes made by many church leadership staff and boards.
Mistake #1: Failure to Identify Your Church’s Gifting & Passions
People have spiritual gifts, and church’s have gift clusters. Just as the first place to start with someone who wants to know God’s will is their spiritual gifts, so the first place to start for a church that want’s to know God’s will for them is their gift cluster.
A “Gift Cluster” is a concentration of spiritual gifts around some common abilities. This concentration of spiritual gifts is God’s divine plan for your church. For example, I was serving one church which had a high concentration of people with spiritual gifts of Mercy and Helps. And the Senior Pastor had the gift of Encouragement. The church, not coincidentally, had a large number of nurses and doctors in it. They started a parish nurse ministry which was, not surprisingly, well received by church and community. They had the right cluster of gifts to make it successful, including a Senior Pastor who could encourage the whole ministry forward.
If your strategic planning process fails to identify the church’s gifts and passions, you will be fighting an uphill battle, both in terms of ability to do the mission, and in terms of congregational support and interest in the mission.
Mistake #2: Not Discovering Your Community’s Need
Strategic planning cannot be done in a vacuum. If your church is going to make a difference in the world, it must first discover what in your world needs to be changed. What is the ‘pain point’ in your community? Find it, and meet it.
Mistake #3: Failure to Request Alignment of all Staff & Ministries
If it is a strategic plan for your church then you will need to have your entire church involved in the effort. Too many churches make strategic plans which interest and excite those in leadership, but the rest of the church ministries continue forward just as though nothing were happening. I remember Bill Hybels sharing about the time they were working on their 2.0 vision as a church (I believe it was nearing their 25th Anniversary.) He said that he would occasionally have members of his various ministry teams say something like, “How’s your 2.0 Vision Plan coming along?” It was then that he realized that some in his church ministries were not expending effort to achieve the vision.
Mistake #4: Not Breaking the Strategic Plan into Tactical Projects with SMART Goals
Great and grand strategic plans are fine, but they don’t mean anything unless they get translated into action steps. So once the Strategic Plan is developed, it must be broken down into Tactical Projects. Each project must have identified Key Result Areas (goals) which are written in the SMART format.
Mistake #5: Inability to Engender Congregational Ownership, Conviction, and Commitment towards the Strategic Plan
Finally, the congregation as a body must get involved. They must gain ownership of the strategic plan, or it will remain a nice plan in a binder on the shelf. The way this is accomplished is by developing convictions related to the Strategic Plan. These convictions will lead to commitment and all of its related benefits of prayers, finances, energies, dreams, conversations and common actions towards the Strategic Plan.
A final comment in parting: any strategic plan will need to be central to what the main Leadership Board does in your church. It cannot be a side or adjunct effort. While an implementation team or long-range planning team, or whatever you may call it, may need to exist, it must substantially involve the main leadership board of the church.
God’s best to you as you seek to give your best planning efforts for Him,
How Coaching Can Help to Translate Intangible Goals Into Measurable Results
I continue to be amazed at the power of non-directive coaching to help people identify very tangible results for their lives. Take this following example of a goal set by a worship pastor:“To glorify God in our worship ministry”.
So we began to unpack this a little bit and find out what God had placed on his heart. What was he looking for in this team, and how did he feel this would bring honor to God’s name? We spent a fair amount of time just letting him talk and dream out loud about what kind of a team he wanted to develop in this worship ministry.
The questions which I asked him centered up what could be seen, and heard, and felt, by members of the team. What could we identify as tangible indications of a possible internal or spiritual circumstance?
Here are some specific items which he developed to clarify to himself if he was achieving his goal:
This gives some measurable ways of identifying if they as a team were glorifying God.
The next part of the coaching process moved from the Goals he wanted to achieve, to the Actions he would have to take to achieve those intangible goals. Here is what he developed during our coaching session for Actions Stepstowards Glorifying God:
So now we have the very intangible goal to “glorify God”, with some specific metrics to see if they were on track, and some concrete actions which he could take to work towards this goal.
It is, of course, still up to him and his team to achieve such a goal. But now he has a track to run on, and he has a sense of confidence that it is achievable.
That is the power of non-directive coaching, where I as the coach do not tell anyone what to do. I draw it out of them so that each person develops and chooses their own goals and actions. And the end-result of that is much greater progress towards one’s life goals.
You may contact me if you would like to try a free one hour coaching session. You will be convinced of its power just as I have been.
Yours for the Kingdom of Heaven,
The Three Types Of Expository Preaching You Could Use
Hey Preachers and Teachers!
There are three types of Expository sermons: Book Exposition, Biographical Exposition, Topical Exposition.
I know that there are various definitions of ‘expository preaching’, so just to clarify, when I say ‘exposition’ I am referring to a verse-by-verse study of a particular passage of Scripture. You work your way through a single passage of the Bible; you don’t jump around all over the place; you teach the Word of God where it stands, letting the text before you form your major points and even form the structure of your sermon. That is expository preaching. Having said that, even with that definition, there are three different ways you can do this style of preaching.
Let’s look at each of these:
This is the one which most people are familiar with. You take a book of the Bible and work through it from the first verse to the final. In some cases, you may take key passages which communicate the main message of the book. This is sometimes helpful for larger books when you don’t have time in your church calendar schedule to work through every single verse. For example, years ago I worked through the Book of Joshua. The book has 24 chapters, but I took a 9-week expositional walk-through of the book by hitting the 9 Key Faith Themes from Joshua. It was called “Living on the Edge of Faith” and was very good. You can get that series, by the way, at my HighPowerResources.com site.
So that is Book Exposition; well-known and well-loved.
This is a bit more tricky and requires some advance prep work before you get into the series, because you have to find all the relevant places in the Scripture where the person is referred. It could be all over the Old and New Testament, so you will want to find your key themes first, then prep your major points, as your create the Series. For example, think of how Daniel is referenced in various places in both the OT and the NT. Then, once that prep work is ready you can do an exposition of that person’s life by taking each of the key passages about him or her, and doing a complete exposition on each passage.
Does that sound like a contradiction to you? How can it be both topical and expository? Well it can, but you have to be careful on how you handle it. Sometimes this third version is called “textual topical” just to emphasize that in expository topical preaching the Text is still primary. You see, in much topical preaching, the teacher simply pulls out a concordance, and locates all key passages where that topic is used and then in the course of one sermon, takes you on a hunt throughout the Bible. While that is always a lot of fun, it is not expository topical preaching; that is just plain ‘topical’. In ‘expository topical preaching’ you stay with one passage, which is focused on a key topic. For example, think of Paul’s argument about the power of Sin in Romans 7. That would make a good passage for an exposition of the topic of Sin.
Topical Exposition has its own dangers, so we will address those in a future blog. For now, give some thought to each of the three types of Expository Preaching, and give them a try if you’d like.
Yours for great preaching!
Coaches are Change Agents
Coaches are the ultimate change agents!
You are not just changing an organization; you are helping an individual to change their life!
This is not to be underestimated. Do you realize how many people form New Year’s resolutions, and never take a single step forward after that? Or how many people start diets, and never succeed. Or how many people make exercise goals, or plans to read through the Bible in a year, etc. and it never happens.
Coaches are change agents because they help people to follow through on their personal convictions and motivations and help them to achieve.
How does this happen?
Before I answer that, I need to explain what I mean by change agent, versus what most people think of when they hear the phrase ‘change agent’.
Most people here the phrase ‘change agent’ and they think of somebody who comes into an organization or church or home, and just starts bossing people around, telling them what should be done. This is not what I mean when I say ‘change agent’. Because the example cited is somebody who is attempting to coerce change from the outside by instituting policies or procedures or rules, or just plain fear of punishment in order to institute change.
A Coach is a change agent who is more like a catalyst than a coercion force. A catalyst is a change agent which interacts with existing chemicals and brings about a complete and long-lasting change. When a Coach interacts with team members or employees, the Coach helps the person whom they are coaching to bring about the change themselves – well not just by themselves, or they wouldn’t need a coach. But the Coach provides the encouragement, the motivation, the environment to help the person to succeed changing themselves.
So back to the question, ‘How does this happen?’ That is, how does a Coach bring about change in a person’s life?
A Coach does this through the ORA principle, which is pure gold!
O stands for Observation
A Coach needs to be courageous enough to make some observations about a person’a life. This, of course, does not happen immediately, but after the Coach and client have developed a relationship with each other. Here is an example which shows you why the process of Observation takes courage: “I noticed that you made a commitment to yourself this past month that you would lose 4 pounds, when, in fact, you gained 1 pound. Could you tell me about that?” This is simply the Coach making an observation, in a non-accusatory or non-guilt inducing way. With as little emotion as possible, the Coach simply needs to observe a fact which perhaps no one else in their life might have the courage to do. But for the coach, that is his/her job; that is what the client is asking of them. Observation is a powerful tool for self-awareness of those being coached.
R stands for Reflection
I do not mean reflection in the sense of personal reflection or intro-spection. I mean reflection as in being a mirror. A Coach is a mirror. S/he lets the other person see themselves as they really are. And they do this, not be commenting and sharing their opinion. They do it by asking open-ended questions. For example, “What do you consider to be your best character quality?” Note that the client provides the answer, but the Coach, just in asking the question, becomes the mirror which causes the person to reflect upon who they are. Or for example, the Coach may ask, “What is the part of your job which is least satisfying to your soul?” This causes the client to reflect, to think, to look in at their life, and to come to their own conclusions. Again, the Coach does not dictate or force change; the Coach simply asks powerful questions which cause the client to reflect or to think about their own life.
The final part of the ORA principle is “Accountability”
Now I like to use the complete phrase “gentle accountability” because most people are quite scared by the word ‘accountability’. They picture someone reprimanding them for failing to achieve their goals. But for the Coach accountability comes merely from being there; from being in the room, or even at the other end of the telephone line. It simply means that the client recognizes that at a certain specified date when the next coaching session is to occur, they will have to ‘give account’, or simply talk to someone about a goal they set for themselves. If they achieved the goal, they will feel good about themselves; if they did not achieve the goal, the coach will simply ask them to figure out what happened to prevent the goal achievement. But just that simple question is enough accountability to move someone forward.
For example, let me explain this to you from my perspective. When I hire a Coach to coach me, I decide that there are certain goals which I want to achieve, but which I have been unable to make happen on my own. So I hire a coach, and I tell him what I want to achieve. Then I work like crazy all month to make progress on the goals, because I don’t want to have to report to the guy I hired – essentially my own ‘temporary employee’ – the Coach, why I didn’t live up to my own ideals! It is crazy, but it works! Give it a try.
The ORA principle contains the golden elements which make coaches effective change agents.
O = Observation of the client’s life
R = Reflective questions which cause the client to engage in self-examination
A = Accountability gently applied
God’s best to you as you seek to change your life for Him!
Pastors and the Apple MacBook Air
Technology is a tool that can be used in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We want to avoid two equally damaging errors when it comes to technology:
The First Error concerning Technology & Pastors – Believing that Tech is a Necessary Evil
I use the term ‘evil’ specifically because those who read the Book have good reason to believe that some key aspects of technology will be used against the Saints in the future. The mistake then, is to avoid all possible good uses of it now because of its impending corruption. But this can be said of all things which God creates, and which are to be enjoyed with a spirit of thanksgiving. The Devil does his work, but we can also use tech for good use. Let us do good while we can.
The Second Error concerning Technology & Pastors – Jumping onto the Tech Bandwagon like a bunch of Fanboys
Believing that all things new are good. Remember, however, that it was God, not Steve Jobs, who said, “Behold I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5)! So let’s follow God and use technology while we can for the good of the Kingdom of Heaven.
So, to the point then about the MacBook Air and Pastors: this device is a cool tool which can help pastors do their work from anywhere.
Now I don’t have one, but I am watching it from afar and noting its distinct advantages over other laptops.
People are buying this tool in droves. AppleInsider reported on March 5, 2011, that Apple has shipped over 1 million Airs in its first quarter. The Air now represents about one-third of the Mac portables being shipped. So somebody is seeing something good about this new offering.
My problem has been that it ships with such a small storage system. Yes, it is fast, being flash-based, but it is nothing compared to the 500 Gig HD which I have in my current MacBook Pro.
However, as I’ve given this more thought, there is a great solution for pastors which will allow you to leverage this technology for use in your ministry without being hampered by the storage issue. If you combine the Air with DropBox, you have an unbeatable combination for using your laptop wherever you may be and still have access to your files.
DropBox is free for the first 2 Gigs of storage, I believe. I use it now for files which I want to access from anywhere (even with my iPhone or iPad). It’s great for portability. If you are in a ministry which requires you to travel a lot, you may not want to lug around that over five pounds worth of MacBook Pro anymore. AnAir would free you up tremendously, and tapping into the mobility of DropBox you would be on your way to keep doing great things for Jesus without wrecking your back in the process.
Give it a thought. It might be the solution you need.
Yours for the Kingdom of Jesus!
One Great Tip for Managing Staff
Leaders have a tricky job of trying to walk the thin line between getting work accomplished in ministry through other people, but also not micro-managing what they are doing. Some leaders err on one side, some on another. If I may generalize, leaders who are more task-driven (such as high “D’s” or “C’s”) may have a tendency to step in and be a little more directive about the details of a ministry. On the other hand, leaders who are more concerned about the relational side of things (such as high “I’s” or “S’s), may just let some details slide in the interest of good relationships with staff.
Is there a better way? Must we choose between offending through micro-managing, or not offending and allowing mediocre performance?
I recently came across a great four word solution to this problem. It solves both problems. If you apply this solution you will not have to worry about micro-managing details of people’s work, nor will you have to settle for mediocre performance in the name of ‘niceness’.
Here is the great tip for managing staff: “Manage Agreements, not People”.
Now, this requires that your job descriptions are written with outcomes in mind. That is, you need to make sure that the work agreement which you begin with explains what you would like the staff person to accomplish. It will need to be fairly detailed so that it can be objectively determined if they have accomplished their job or not. Once that is done, you are half-way there. We have a sampleMinistry Description in our Coaching Resources section which contains the section, “A Description of Success”. It is here that you explain in detail what you want to see this ministry accomplish.
Now if work performance is not satisfactory, the conversation will go something along the lines of “According to our original agreement, you said that you would accomplish the following goals, A,B,C; but unfortunately, Goal C is not satisfactory. How would you like to address this?”
The conversation has shifted now from worrying about specific details which you want him or her to do, to the outcomes you would like to see, which they agreed to accomplish. This frees you from micro-managing.
It also allows you to preserve the relationship through an objective discussion of outcomes, rather than expressing dissatisfaction with the employee specifically.
Hope that helps you with your staff oversight.
God’s best to you and your church!
How to Prepare a Sermon: Part 10, Create the Title
We are working on our ten-part series on How to Prepare a Sermon. We’ve already given you all ten steps of sermon preparation, and Part 1, Praying about your Sermon; Part 2,Textual vs. Topical; Part 3,Study the Passage; Part 4, Read the Commentaries; Part 5, Arrive at the Proposition; Part 6, Develop the Mains; Part 7, Provide Supporting Material, and Part 8, Write the Conclusion, Part 9, Write The Introduction.
CREATE THE TITLE
Finally, you can choose the title. The only point of the title is to advertise and promote the sermon and let people know in a very brief way what it is about. If you choose your title too early, you may find yourself preaching to the title, rather than the text. Don’t confuse the two.
The Title that you choose can simply be descriptive, like the one I heard this weekend for Sanctity of Human Life Sunday: “The Privilege and Responsibility of Being Human” by Dr. John Crocker at Crossroads Church in Albert Lea, MN.
It could be a portion of Scripture, like “Songs in the Night”, the famous sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon of the London Tabernacle. The phrase “songs in the night” is from the Book of Psalms.
The Title could be a very directive title, “How to be the Spiritual Leader of your Home“, a message which I taught a while back, mainly to fathers, but also to single moms.
USE THE TITLE
Once you have taken the time to write the sermon, you want people to come and listen to it!
So make sure you spread the title of your sermon far and wide so that everyone knows what you will be teaching on. This is your chance to use the title of the sermon to encourage people to come and hear the Word of God being taught.
What are some ways to do that?
- Whenever I am teaching in a series, I always put in a little teaser near the end of my sermon, about what I will be teaching in the next one. That way people can see how the series is tied together, and will keep coming back, it is hoped.
- Also, list next week’s sermon in this week’s bulletin.
- If your church advertises in the newspaper, list your weekly sermon title in there. Many people out there do not want to come to a strange new church unless they have at least some idea of what it is all about. For example, if your sermon title is on parenting, “How to be a great Dad”, that is one thing. If the title, on the other hand, says something like, “How to pick up snakes during worship”, that would tell them something else.
DON’T PREACH TO THE TITLE
Your job is to preach to the Biblical text, not the Title. The only purpose of the Title is to let the people know what you will be speaking about. It is just there to advertise. Don’t get distracted by it; stay focused on the Biblical text.
Well, there you have it. That is the last of this ten-part series on How to Prepare a Sermon. I hope you enjoy it, and find it useful, as you teach God’s Holy Word!
For great preaching,
How To Prepare A Sermon: Part 9, Write The Introduction
Hey Up-and-Coming Preachers!
We are working on our ten-part series on How to Prepare a Sermon. We’ve already given you all ten steps of sermon preparation, and Part 1, Praying about your Sermon; Part 2,Textual vs. Topical; Part 3,Study the Passage; Part 4, Read the Commentaries; Part 5, Arrive at the Proposition; Part 6, Develop the Mains; Part 7, Provide Supporting Material, and Part 8, Write the Conclusion. Today: How To Prepare A Sermon: Part 9, Write The Introduction.
Yes, the introduction often comes right at the end, after you have written the Conclusion. The main goal here is to get their attention and to introduce the topic, thus “introduction”. Once you know the main thrust of the sermon and the main points, it is much easier to write the introduction.
Consider the Goal
The Introduction must fit strategically with the rest of your sermon. Too many pastors think that ‘attention-getting’ is the only goal, and thus try to do something lame like just share some cutesy humor or joke which they discovered on the internet. But once you have written the Conclusion, then the Introduction is the most natural next step. This is because, having written the Conclusion, you know where the sermon will end up, and so you begin with the end in mind. If your Introduction and Conclusion have a similar theme, then your sermon has parallelism; there is a natural matching between the two. People’s minds will come back to what you began with and begin drawing conclusions, which is what you want to happen. This is why in our SermonBase Message Planning Software, it is possible to view the Conclusion and the Introduction on the same screen so that you can view the connections and similarities between these two parts of your sermon.
Connect with the Listeners
During the Introduction, you must identify with the listeners. If you can make an emotional connection with the listeners in the Introduction, then they will be prepared to receive what you have to say in the rest of the sermon. If you are going to say something challenging in the sermon, then it is all the more important to relate to the audience so that they can connect and identify with you as a person.
Form a Natural Transition
The Introduction must lend itself naturally to the topic of the sermon. There must be an easy and logical flow from the topic of the Introduction to the topic of the sermon. It must make sense. Don’t give the listeners whiplash where you are talking about one thing over in this direction, and then suddenly we are facing the other way and talking about spiritual things with no warning. For example, a personal story about a recent sports injury may lend itself naturally to talking about physical and then spiritual health.
Introduce the Text
The purpose of the Introduction is to move people’s minds from the everyday mundane to the sacred Scriptures. So the topic must lead to the Scripture text upon which you intend to teach. Now it is important to note that in the Introduction you introduce text, you do not explain the text. That comes later during the Main Points of your sermon. Just introduce the text at hand, and explain why it relates to what you are going to discuss for the day. Then move quickly from the Text to the Proposition to the Main Points.
Don’t go too long
Some preachers spend way too much time on the Introduction. Use it as a tool to get you to where you need to go, which is the Proposition. Then launch into your sermon. Preachers make the mistake of going to long when they lose sight of the purpose of the Introduction, which is “introduce”, not “explain”.
If you have already followed through on the other eight parts of the sermon preparation process, then the Introduction portion should come pretty easy. For by this time, you have a clear sense of purpose; you have the Proposition, the Main Points, the supporting material, and the Conclusion. The Introduction will then almost jump out at you as to how you might begin the sermon.
The final article in this series relates to the Title, which can trip you up if you don’t know its true purpose.
God’s best to you as you prepare to share God’s Word with His people!
How To Prepare A Sermon: Part 6, Write the Main Points
Hi All, especially up-and-coming preachers! We are working on our ten-part series on How to Prepare a Sermon. We’ve already given you all ten steps of sermon preparation, and part 1, Praying about your Sermon; Part 2, Textual vs. Topical; Part 3,Study the Passage; Part 4, Read the Commentaries; part 5, Arrive at the Proposition. Now, today we are looking at that part of the sermon which will be the most memorable part to your listeners, the Main Points.What separates great! Mains, from so-so or ho-hum Mains? Here are some guidelines you need to follow to write good mains which will captivate your listeners:
1. The Mains explain and unpack all the powerful concepts which are stuffed into your Proposition.
Remember that your Proposition, is actually the “sermon in a sentence”. What that means is that the key ideas for your entire message are already inherent in your Proposition. The Mains then, help to explain, unpack, unravel, and reveal all the concepts already hidden in your proposition. If the Proposition is the “sermon in a sentence”, then the Mains are simply the sermon in three, four, or five sentences.
So when you write each of your Main Points, you need to be asking the question, “Does this Main Point unpack my Proposition?” If it helps to make your Proposition more understandable, then it may be a useful Main Point (if it meets the following conditions as well).
2. The Mains should not introduce a concept or idea which was not inherent in your Proposition.
The reason for this is that it destroys the Focus of your sermon. If your Mains do not contribute to explaining your Proposition, then you have not clearly figured out the main point of your sermon. The Mains explain your Proposition, they do not confuse or expand into new territory which is not inherent in your Proposition.
3. The Mains need symmetry to be most helpful to your listeners.
The Mains need to have a sense of flow and direction. Mains can help your sermon to be understandable, memorable, and even beautiful.
4. The Mains are most powerful when they are phrased as actions to be taken.
There are a number of different approaches which you can take when designing your sermons. Some sermons are inspirational, some are informational, some are action-oriented. All three are needed. I personally have a bias for action-oriented sermons. Many people need to know how to live the Christian life in a God-honoring way that helps them to truly follow God. I believe a preacher’s job is to help them do that. So sermons which are addressed specifically to people to take certain actions will often have verbs in them. For example, your Mains may be something like this: “Trust God during tough times,” “Follow God during rough times”, “Obey God during all times”. This is just a quick example, but it shows the key idea of placing an action step for each main. This pulls people into it, because you are talking to them directly.
5. The number of Main Points should usually be from one to five points.
Finally, there is debate about just how many points a sermon should have. Andy Stanley makes a great case for just one main point. I think it is found in his book “Communicating for Life Change”. But some people prefer to take a more traditional approach to the Mains. In those cases, you need to have enough points to explain your Proposition, but not so many as to overwhelm the listener. Usually, from one (a la Andy Stanley) to five points is normal.
So there you have it. How you put your Mains together will make a big impact on your listeners. The Mains carry your content forward in an understandable fashion. Good Mains make for a good sermon.
Yours for better preaching!
Four Attributes of a Healthy Church Culture
I heard a great quote recently (not sure from whom), “Culture will trump strategy every time.“What does this mean? You can make all the plans, goals, and strategy which you like, but if your church culture isn’t healthy, it will not go anywhere. You can not strategize your way to health; you can only grow or develop people towards health.
So how do you know if your church is healthy? What are the marks of a healthy culture?
George Barna recently spoke at the Rejuvenate Marketplace conference in Louisville, Kentucky. A summary of his comments are made in the November 2010 of “Rejuvenate”. Here’s what George Barna identifies as the marks of a healthy culture; see if it describes your church culture:
Four Attributes of a Healthy Culture:
Modeling and rewarding positive behavioral habits
Unhealthy churches allow negative behavior with no consequences. Healthy cultures model positive behavior, and they lift up and showcase those who are living according to the church’s values.
Maintaining a team orientation, rather than a focus on individuals
Church life is all about community; fostering community is the name of the game. Rather than highlight and focus upon just one person, maybe a “star player”, healthy churches are all about the Body of Christ working together.
Fostering free-flowing communication
As Dr. Lou Diaz of the EFCA loves to say, “People are down on what they’re not up on.” So they need to be kept informed. Better to over-communicate than under-communicate. It takes a lot of communication to get above the ‘white noise’ of all the media and culture cluttering people’s lives.
Creating a unique language that bonds people within a culture
Language captures and explains values. A healthy group develops their group language which binds them together.
There they are. Think about your church, and ask yourself which of these four are your strengths, and which need a little bit of work. Do you agree with these? Are there other factors which should be considered?
God’s best to you and your church,
How to Prepare a Sermon: Part 4, Study the Commentaries
We are working on our ten-part series on How to Prepare a Sermon. We’ve already given you all ten steps of sermon preparation, and part 1, Praying about your Sermon; Part 2, Textual vs. Topical; Part 3, Study the Passage. Today, we will talk about using commentaries and other references well.
In part 3, Study the Passage, I warned all budding preachers not to run to the commentaries first.You must study the passage on your own, and let God speak to you first. I outlined a number of different exercises which you can do to study the passage. Now, once you have completed those studies on your own, you may certainly feel free to open up the commentaries and learn from those who have gone before.
What can Biblical commentaries give you that you can’t get on your own?
- Historical Information – to see where this passage fits in the flow of Biblical and world history
- Cultural Background – to understand the passage more thoroughly
- Original Language Insights – even if you already know Hebrew and Greek, the insights of a language scholar can be very helpful
- Linguistic & Grammatical Nuances – you may know the Hebrew or Greek word, but a good scholar can help you understand the unique nuances of the usage of said words in this particular passage
- Related Texts – where else in Scripture this passage or theme is addressed
How can you use this information in your sermon?
The big mistake is to turn an inspirational sermon into a college lecture. That is not the purpose of the information you gain from the commentary. This “hard data” which you learn in commentaries is likened to the bones of a body. Bones give a body structure; no bones, and you have a jelly fish. Yet bones are often covered in soft flesh. So too, the information you gain from commentaries is there to give structure, strength, and content to your message. It is there to support your Big Idea or Proposition, and your Main Points. It is supporting material to the message which God has already given you as you executed Part Three of Sermon Preparation: Study the Passage.
What else can be used to study the Bible?
There are lots of great tools out there besides Biblical commentaries. Here’s a few:
- International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
- Greek & Hebrew Interlinears – provides English translation above the Greek and Hebrew words for each passage
- Dictionary of NT Theology
- The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim
Check out the reference section of a Christian bookstore for lots more.
So get a few commentaries and references and make good use of them; not as a crutch, but as a supplement to your own work and and study.
If you would like to keep your sermons organized, be sure to check out our “SermonBase Message Planning Software“.
God’s best to you as your preach God’s Word!
Dr. Bill Miller
How to Prepare a Sermon: Part 3, Study the Passage
We are continuing on this series of How to Prepare a Sermon. I’ve already given you the Ten Steps to Sermon Preparation to lead off the series. Then step one, “How to Pray about your Sermon“, and step two, “Select your text and topic“. So today let’s talk about studying the passage.
Studying the passage on which you want to preach is key. Listen, you can’t have quality preaching without putting in the time to study. It doesn’t matter how much you think you may know about the topic or text, there is always more to learn. Shallow study makes for shallow preaching. so put in the time and do it right. But how do you study the passage?
Number one rule, don’t run to the commentaries first! Study the passage on your own, and let God speak to you through it; then later on you can apply the commentaries to get the historical, grammatical, cultural facts you would not otherwise know.
So, what are the steps to studying a passage of Scripture in preparation for preaching a sermon on it?
- Read the passage multiple times.
- Read the passage in a few different translations.
- Read the entire book.
- Read it in Greek or Hebrew, if you are familiar with the original languages.
- Identify the key verbs.
- Identify key themes.
- Look for repeated words, comparisons, contrasts, conclusions, assumptions.
- Look for historical references to previous Biblical history and locations.
- If necessary, diagram the passage.
- Outline the passage.
To begin to make sense of all this Biblical data, you can ask and answer three questions:
1. What does this passage say?
2. What does this passage mean?
3. What does this passage mean to me?
Once you have organized the sermon by answering the above three questions, you are ready to move on to Step Four of sermon preparation.
Yours for great preaching,
How to Prepare a Sermon in Ten Easy Steps
Hey Preachers, and Future Preachers,
In this post, I’ll just summarize for you the main elements of sermon preparation. Then if you want to look at any of these elements in a greater way, take a look at the “Sermon Tips” category of this website.
Sermon Preparation in Ten Steps:
If you want to be engaged in a spiritual exercise like preaching, you will need spiritual power.
2. Select your Text & Topic
I believe in pursuing a more textual approach to preaching, rather than topically-based. See the post “Sermon Preparation: Textual vs. Topical”. The text will determine the topic; but if you choose topic first, then you need to make certain that you are addressing a significant portion of Scripture so that the text of God’s Word directs your message.
3. Study the Passage
Before you open any commentaries it is important to read, meditate, dwell upon the passage at hand. Study its layout. Make an outline of the flow of thought. Identify key themes; important verbs; repeating ideas. That is, thoroughly immerse yourself in the passage so that you know it really, really well. This is one of the most important parts of the sermon preparation process. It is here that you learn the message which God is trying to deliver in the passage. Find God’s message for you here, so that you achieve Focus.
4. Read the Commentaries
Once you have completed step three, then you can read the commentaries to learn the historical, socio, grammatical context of the passage.
5. Arrive at the Proposition
This is key. The better you do here, the easier the rest of the sermon will fall into place. What is theProposition? The Proposition is the entire message squeezed into one sentence. It is the ‘sermon in a sentence’; also known as “the Big Idea”. And please note that I said that you “arrive at the proposition”. You don’t create the main idea of the passage; you discover it. You don’t go to it; it comes to you. It IS the message. Then the Mains and supporting material are just unpacking that single idea.
6. Develop the Mains
Your sermon can have anywhere from one to five Mains; usually no more. However, I did listen to a message by John Piper which had 17(!) points. But that message was aimed at pastors, so maybe you can break the normal rules in those cases. The Mains explain and unpack all the powerful concepts which are stuffed into your Proposition. The Mains need symmetry to be good Mains.
7. Provide supporting material
This is the main content of your message which supports each of your Mains. It is here that you are teaching the Scriptures, explaining, illustrating, applying, comparing, contrasting, etc., all to make a point.
8. Write the Conclusion
This is where you want to take it home. The conclusion must be powerful, personal, and memorable. This is where you touch the heart.
9. Write the Introduction
Yes, the introduction often comes right at the end. The main goal here is to get their attention and to introduce the topic, thus “introduction”. Once you know the main thrust of the sermon and the main points, it is much easier to write the introduction.
10. Create the Title
Finally, you can choose the title. The only point of the title is to advertise and promote the sermon and let people know in a very brief way what it is about. If you choose your title too early, you may find yourself preaching to the title, rather than the text. Don’t confuse the two.
So, there you have it. How to prepare a sermon in ten easy steps. Now all you have to do is take a lifetime to master it.
Yours for great preaching,
Sermon Preparation: Textual vs. Topical
A sermon should be text-based. By that, I mean that you would be teaching the Bible. That is the philosophy of ministry, and church tradition from which I come. People don’t come to hear me, they come to learn from God’s Word. Other churches may have other feelings, but this is mine.
I am of the firm belief that almost every sermon should be clearly centered around a certain text of the Scripture. Now I do not object when other supplemental texts are brought in to enhance the message, but I believe that the primary reason why people come to church is to hear a message from God. And there is no other clearer way to demonstrate that a message is from God than by using a good-sized chunk of Scripture in your message.
I am very aware that there are some very famous preachers out there who use a lot of little verses to support what they have said on a certain topic. And I do that occasionally also. But for the sake of congregational health, I believe you want to do what you can to deliver portions of God’s Word to the people when you preach. Here’s why:
1. People read less Bible during the week than you think they do.
Most people in ministry enjoy reading the Bible and spend time every day in the Word. For many of the people out there in the seats, that is not the case. Their weekdays are often filled with rushing off to work, first thing in the morning, and then coming home to busy activities with the kids and family, before falling into bed exhausted to do it again. This is not to excuse people who do not regularly read the Word. It is just reality, and I believe that it is good for preachers to be aware of reality. So when they come to church, I like to give them the Word.
2. People need to understand the Word in context.
When you teach from a portion of Scripture, you are better able to explain the context. Context includes historical, cultural, linguistic, and Biblical context. If you speak to a lot of different texts in your message, it is very difficult to provide that much explanation for each of the many verses you pursue.
3. If the sermon is more text-based, then there is likely to be less of my thoughts, and more of God’s thoughts.
Frankly I don’t have a lot of faith in the high-quality impact of my thoughts. But I have a lot of faith in God’s capacity to speak to the depths of the human heart. “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) So I like to give them a nice portion of God’s Word in my messages.
4. It is easier to prepare a text-based sermon, than a topically-based sermon.
If you believe in expository preaching, then you know that your sermon outline should simply reflect the outline of the passage. This makes preparation much easier than trying to develop your own set of mains and subs. Let the Bible speak for itself, with its particular emphasis. The end result is that your message will be more powerful.
5. A text-based sermon delivers sustaining power long past the sermon.
If I preach on a topic, they may forget the message. But if I preach on a passage, then the next time they read that passage, portions of my message will come back to them. It could be the application of that message, for example. But as they read God’s Word, their understanding of His Word will increase, because they have already had someone teach them the contextual, historical, linguistic aspects of that passage of God’s Word.
This is on on-going topic, and while I lean towards the textually-based sermon, I have done both textual and topical. But if I had to choose in terms of sustaining impact and power, I would choose the textually-based message every time.
For powerful preaching,
Sermon Tips: Focus
Some preachers only kind-of, sort-of, know what they want to say when they get in the pulpit. And by that I am not saying that they don’t have a manuscript or notes. What I mean by FOCUS is, has the message captured your heart? Has God gripped your soul with what you want to say today to God’s people in God’s name? Focus is when the Big Idea (the Proposition; the Sermon in a Sentence) has gripped your soul and it won’t let you go, until you let it out.
If the message has gripped your soul, you will have Focus. When you have Focus, you have a powerful message.
What is the result of having Focus to your sermon?
1. People will feel the power of your message upon THEIR hearts.
They will be gripped by it as well, and they will focus on you. This is important. I sit at the back of church when I am not preaching, and I see how the people at the back are really easily distracted. It takes a powerful message with a strong focus to capture and keep their attention. The further they sit from the pulpit, the more the Focus is important to maintain their attention.
2. Your message will be delivered to their hearts like a laser, and not like a soft-white diffused fluorescent bulb.
People will feel like God is speaking to them about something specific. God’s application is always very specific. A focused message helps to deliver God’s truth into people’s hearts.
3. Every point in your message will supplement your main point and sharpen the focus.
The Mains will sharpen, clarify, and strengthen what you have to say. They will sharpen the Focus, not soften it.
How do you know if you don’t have Focus in your sermon?
1. You will ramble!
If you don’t have anything specific to say, then, just about anything will do. Rambling generalities never changed anyone’s life.
2. You will try to make too many applications.
When a preacher is not sure of what s/he has to say, they often pull out the easy applications and start hitting people about the same old sins. But Focus helps a sermon to point to one specific life change which God’s Word is calling them to do.
3. You will lack passion.
The people will sense it, and you will feel it. The right words may come out, but not with the same punch or power. Focus adds passion.
How to get Focus in your sermon:
This is the tough part. How can you make sure that week in and week out, you have clear Focus? You need to have clearly written goals for your sermon. I use SermonBase Message Planning Software® to help me frame up my goals for every single message. I determine the main goal for the entire message. (And please note, that this is NOT the same as the Big Idea or Proposition.) Then I determine three sub-goals: Intellectual, Emotional, and Behavioral. Asking these questions helps me to sharpen the Focus of my message.
Hope that helps!
Here’s to good preaching that grab’s people’s hearts in the name of Jesus!
Sermon Tips: Symmetry
Symmetry is a description of how you write your Main Points. “Symmetry” means “balanced proportions”. If your sermon displays symmetry, it’s main points will be balanced and proportionate. That is, each main point will seem to have an equal and valuable relationship with all of the other main points. No main point will dominate, either in terms of importance, impact, or the amount of time you spend on it.
The three main benefits of sermon symmetry are:
Main Points with symmetry, make your sermon easy to follow and understand.
It is easy to remember a sermon with has symmetry flow. I’m writing this blog from memory, based on the sermon symmetry I heard last night.
Main Points with symmetry, are a thing of beauty. (Note how the three points of this blog also display symmetry.)
Sermon Example: Take a look at this sermon which I just listened to last night from Dr. John Crocker at Crossroads Church in Albert Lea, MN:
He was speaking on 2 Peter 1:1-12. His mains were:
- Establish Your Identity (2 Peter 1:1-4)
- Exercise Your Responsibility (2 Peter 1:5-8)
- Erase Your Uncertainty (2 Peter 1:9-12)
This sermon contains symmetry. Each main is a command verb (Establish, Exercise, Erase). Each main begins with the letter “E”. Each main is focused on You. Each key word at the end has a symmetry as well, with each one ending with a “-ty” ending.
This is not just word play. This gives a sermon memorable power and greater impact in people’s lives.
Yours for better preaching,
Coaching Alphabet Soup: The 6C’S of Coaching
We are on our final installment of the Alphabet Soup series when it comes to coaching. We have taking you through a lot of different processes and systems and acronyms to help you be a better coach.Let’s summarize:
SEA – Support, Encouragement, Accountability
(This is what a coach provides.)
EFG – Evaluate, Focus, Grow
(This is a simple three-step method for a coaching session)
GET – Generate Options, Establish Solutions, Take Action
(This is another simple three-step method for a coaching session)
IDEAL – Identify the problem, Define the problem, Examine options, Act on one of them, Look at the results
(This is a five-step process specifically focused on problem-solving.)
TLC – Transformation, Life, Coaching
(This is my philosophy of ministry concerning coaching.)
Finally, let’s look at the 6 C’s of coaching. This is the six-step process which I use in HighPower Coaching sessions. I have found that to do a really robust and comprehensive coaching session, a fuller set of tools is necessary. Whether you use all six of these in your coaching sessions with your staff or coachees is up to you. But you can consider each of these as potential “tools in the toolbetl” for your coaching sessions.
1st – CONNECT & CELEBRATE
- Re-establish the coaching relationship through dialogue and news.
- Review past accomplishments & forward progress.
- Choose special focus for this session.
2nd – CHECK THE MISSION
- Refocus thoughts & energies towards the LifeMission.
- Review LifeGoals for adjustments.
3rd – CLARIFY REALITY
- Clarify exactly where we are in terms of status quo reality.
- SWOT Analysis – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Traps
4th – CHART GOALS
- Review current goals
- Define new goals
5th – CHOOSE ACTIONS
- Select a specific set of actions.
- SMART Action steps – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-specific.
6th – CONCLUDE & COMMIT
• Reflect on what was learned, what was helpful, next steps.
To see the complete list and description of the Six C’s, take a look at this coaching document over in the Coaching/Resources section of the HighPower Coaching website called “Coaching Session”.
So that is the Coaching Alphabet Soup for all of your coaching needs.
If you would like to discover the power of coaching to help you achieve your goals, then contact Dr. Bill Miller for your free coaching session.
Yours for the Kingdom of Heaven,
Coaching Alphabet Soup: T.L.C. Process
We are nearing the end of our series on Coaching Alphabet Soup. We’ve covered S.E.A., E.F.G., G.E.T., I.D.E.A.L., each being an acronym to help you remember how to coach well. Any pastor can use these techniques to help coach, manage, and guide staff so that they can be motivated to perform effectively.
But what is the goal of it all? The goal is Life Transformation. There’s an acronym for that too; TLC or Transformational Life Coaching. (There is a book written by Dr. Cherie Carter-Scott called “Transformational Life Coaching”. I’ve never read that book, and this blog is not referencing that content.) TLC is simply an acronym which I use to remind me of a few key goals in my coaching sessions.
T = TRANSFORMATION
The Goal of Coaching is Life Transformation.
The reason why people seek out coaching is because they want to see a change in their life. They are not happy with something about their life and they want to make it different. It is very easy to measure then, whether the coaching is successful; if it is successful, people will make progress in their lives.
Coaching is very action-oriented. The focus is on doing something different to improve one’s life. And the goal of good coaching is to make that change permanent. That is called ‘transformation’. The person enters the coaching relationship at one point in their life, and they come out at the other end as a changed person. The change may be small or large, depending on the focus of the coaching, but the result is still a positive and permanent change in their personhood. That is powerful! That is the focus of the TLC process.
But how do you measure it? This is a tricky proposition. But one tool which I use to try to get a measure on the transformation is called the “Base-Line Assessment”. It is a session in which through a combination of subjective questions and scoring, we have the client assign a numeric value to seven key areas of life (which are from my “Seven LifeGoals” tool. They receive a score from 7 to 70. Then after a selected period of time, we go through it again, and see what kind of progress they can measure in their life.
L = LIFE
The Focus of Coaching is a person’s life.
Life is not made up of objective and unchanging formula’s. It is a messy complicated affair which is invested not only with goals and outcomes, but also emotions, thoughts, and interruptions.
A coach needs to be flexible, and ready for anything new coming his/her way. There is no identical process to pursue with everyone. That’s why a coach needs a large set of tools in the toolbox, which can be pulled out at any time to help a coachee. Take a look at the free resources which I have available for you in theResources section. They cover 9 different areas of life:
- HPR Coaching Tools
- HPR Ministry
- Leadership Development
- Ministry Planning
- Personal Growth
- Sermon Planning
- Small Group Training
- Time Management
The focus of coaching is on the coachee’s life; not the coaches. Therefore, the coach needs to keep his/her personal reflections to a minimum and focus on eliciting personal observations from the coachee.
C = COACHING
The Method of Coaching is non-directive.
I know that some coaches practice more of a mentoring focus. But I have been completely blown-away by the power of non-directive coaching. When you believe that the coachee either already has the tools to find their solutions, or else that they have the resources at their disposal to learn what they need to do, it transforms your coaching style.
Through powerful questions, careful observations, and gentle accountability, you can help your coachees to succeed in their life.
Finally, the acronym TLC also reminds us that we as coaches need to care for the people we are coaching. That is the golden touch that will transform a coaching relationship from a business exchange into a relationship with real power to help a person transform. Use TLC to help shape your coaching philosophy into a powerful method of helping people transform their lives for the better.