Glossophobia is the technical term for the fear of public speaking. Up to 75% of people suffer from glossophobia (to varying degrees) making it one of the most common phobias around. In fact, statistics show that more people are afraid of public speaking than dying.
When I started out as a preacher, I was incredibly nervous on stage. To manage the anxiety, I would memorize my sermons from top to bottom and deliver them almost perfectly on stage. However, it would take an absurd number of hours to memorize the whole manuscript. It didn’t take very long for me to realize that I couldn’t keep up with that particular method (pastors have other things to do too!).
I don’t recommend memorizing your sermons. Save yourself the trouble. I’ve learned to cope with fear and anxiety through other means. Here are 5 ways to beat the fear of public speaking. And no, imagining your audience naked isn’t one of them. Who in the world came up with that idea?!
(1) Prepare well.
Nothing slaps fear in the face better than being well-prepared with a good sermon. If you don’t have anything prepared, you ought to be nervous and anxious. You don’t have anything substantial to say to the audience! Putting enough time and effort to come up with good content will increase your confidence because you don’t have to worry about a lack of things to say. Do your homework—prepare well.
Now even with a well-prepared sermon, you can still end up being nervous. It doesn’t necessarily eliminate the fear altogether. But at the very least, you won’t be nervous because you don’t have anything to say on stage. You’re apparently anxious about something else.
(2) Practice, practice, practice.
If you get nervous easily on stage, practicing your sermon several times will help ease some of the tension. Practicing helps you become familiar with the content. The more comfortable you are with your sermon, the more confident you become.
Pretend you’re delivering your sermon to your congregation. Imagine their faces. In fact, if possible, head over to the church and deliver your sermon to an empty audience. You may look awfully weird to any staff members who walk by but at least you’ll become comfortable and accustomed to the setting.
Practicing also helps you eliminate unwanted surprises. As you tell a story to an empty audience, you might realize that there’s a better way to say it. You can adjust the story to make it sound clearer or become more engaging. When you’re on the actual stage, there’s very little room for adjustments. It’s best to adjust things beforehand. Practicing will help you iron out those details in advance.
(3) Acquire more experience.
Preach whenever you get the chance. Accept as many invitations as you can. When I started out as a preacher, I would attempt to pass my scheduled preaching to other pastors (and they’d attempt to do the same to me). What we failed to realize is that experience would ultimately help increase our confidence and reduce our anxiety. The more experience you get, the more skilled and capable you become as a preacher. Also, you’ll get the chance to see what works well and what doesn’t. You’ll be able to constantly improve yourself and refine your preaching style.
I highly recommend that you evaluate yourself after every preaching engagement. Find out what you did well and capitalize on that. Find out what you did poorly and figure out ways to improve. Fair and concrete evaluations will help you on your quest to become a better preacher. To do this day, I’m constantly evaluating my own preaching style and making adjustments.
(4) Read a book or take a class.
When I started out, I had a vague idea of what public speaking was. I had seen enough pastors preach but I wasn’t familiar with the principles and mechanics behind some of their actions. I decided to broaden my knowledge on the subject and gather helpful advice. And so I read three public speaking books to help me get started. Reading those books proved to be incredibly valuable. I still apply much of what I learned from those books to my preaching style today.
Some pastors could use a public speaking book or attend a class on the subject. Learning the art of public speaking will help equip pastors with tools and methods to make their communication skills more effective. In turn, this will allow them to deliver God’s message in clear, relevant, and memorable ways. You can have confidence that your sermon is being received by the audience in a way that they understand best.
Read a good public speaking book or take a class today! Unfortunately, there aren’t many Christian books out there that specifically talk about speaking methods for preachers. This is one of the reasons why I started this blog.
(5) Pray. Pray again. And again.
I believe that the most neglected aspect of sermon preparation is prayer. Pastors simply don’t pray enough. In my experience, what eliminates fear the most is a genuine understanding of the presence of God. The Holy Spirit will be there when I preach and He will be stirring the hearts of people. When I pray, I don’t ask God to grace us with His presence. I claim His presence! Knowing that God, Himself, will be there on Sunday morning brings a confidence that human tools and methods cannot. Therefore, don’t neglect prayer. Step up to the pulpit with complete confidence that God is with you.
Join the discussion: What have you done to combat glossophobia or the fear of public speaking?
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See other preaching ideas here: Thoughts on Preaching