The Sunday Morning Huddle

Last week, I wrote an article outlining the various things I do before the service begins. One of the things I mentioned is that I gather the team together and brief them with what’s about to happen that morning. It’s crucial that everybody is on the same page in order for the worship service to run as smoothly as ever. This article will look at some of the things that should be discussed during that Sunday morning huddle with your team.

(1) Who’s who?

When you gather your team together, make sure that everybody who’s participating in the service is present in that huddle—worship team members, the preacher, the tech crew, ushers, and anybody else who’s got a part in the upcoming service. This also includes those with special roles just for that day like giving a testimony or making a special announcement. Make sure everybody knows each other’s names and what their particular roles are.

(2) Do a rundown of the events.

The next thing you want to do is make sure that everybody knows what exactly will take place at the service and in what sequence. Again, everybody has to be on the same page for the service to run smoothly. Go through the sequence of events one-by-one. Take the time to highlight elements that don’t normally take place (like a special testimony for that day). The last thing we want to see happen is anybody getting caught off guard especially when it can be avoided.

Additionally, have a look at the sequence of songs. I once made the mistake of switching the sequence of two songs and forgetting to inform the tech crew who scrambled to fix the error on the spot. That could have been avoided if we had looked at the final sequence during the team huddle.

(3) Highlight special instructions.

Every worship service is different and a good team huddle highlights the differences so that everybody is aware of them. For instance, the ushers might be given special instructions to hand something to the congregation. Perhaps the preacher would like a short video clip to be played upon his or her cue. Perhaps the stage needs to be cleared for a special dance number. It’s crucial that instructions like these be discussed during the team huddle.

(4) Pray with your team.

Of course, don’t forget to pray with your team. In the end, we’ll need divine intervention to accomplish everything that we set out to do in the mighty name of Jesus.

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The Pre-Game Warm Up

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Like a basketball player who warms up before a big game, I have my own “pre-game” warm up routine to help me get settled in. Here are some of the things I do before a “big” sermon:

(1) Arrive early.

I try my best to arrive 30 minutes before the service starts. This gives me plenty of time to settle in and accomplish the rest of the items on this list. Arriving 15 minutes before the service begins always means I’ll be rushing to get things done.

(2) Greet people.

Whenever I get to the church, I like to chit-chat a bit with whoever’s there. Oftentimes, a simple “Hi” or “Hello” is enough to appreciate and encourage people. At the end of the day, we’re a community—we’re all family here. It’s nice to find time to catch up with one another.

(3) Give the AVP.

One of the important things I do upon arrival is give my audio-visual presentation (i.e. PowerPoint slides) to the tech crew. This allows the crew to make sure that the AVP is in good working condition and gives them time to troubleshoot any technical problems that may arise. This is especially important if you’re planning to show a short video clip. Video clips are one of the things that are frequently prone to technical issues.

(4) Walk around the stage.

Whenever possible, I take some time to get a feel of the stage. This helps me become familiar with the area I’ll be preaching at. This also allows me to spot any obstacles in the way—the lectern might be too high, cables may be haphazardly scattered around, important equipment like microphones might be missing, etc. Additionally, walking around the stage may help reduce some of the stage fright that you may be experiencing.

(5) Do a sound check.

In addition to walking around the stage, do a sound check with whatever microphone you’ll be using during your sermon. You want to make sure that the microphone is in good working condition and is amplifying your voice in the best way possible. I see microphone issues all the time and a sound check before the service begins might help reduce those problems.

(6) Brief the team.

I always take some time to gather everybody who has a role in the upcoming service. This may include the worship team members, the tech crew, the ushers, and everyone else who’s got something to do. I normally run through the various components of the service highlighting important reminders and special requests. It’s crucial that everybody is on the same page before we begin the service. When all the preparations are done, pray together with the team as all of you enter the Lord’s service for that day.

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Why You Should Visit Churches in Advance

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Whenever I’m invited to preach by a church I’m not familiar with, I try my best to attend one of their Sunday services prior to the engagement. There are plenty of good reasons for doing so and here are some of them:

(1) You get to worship with them.

One of the best things about visiting churches is that you get to worship with other believers in the Kingdom. It’s so much fun to meet other Christians and get to know them. In the end, we’re all family here.

(2) You can build rapport.

Visiting a church in advance allows you to enter their community as a believer and not just somebody who’s there to do them a service. You get to converse with them and build friendship. The congregation will become more at ease when you preach since a positive relationship has already been established.

(3) You get a sense of their needs.

One of the marks of a good sermon is its relevancy. You want to show people that the Word of God is ultimately relevant to whatever they’re going through. And so getting to know the audience is crucial for understanding what their needs and struggles are. You can best show how God’s message applies to them if you’ve been in their community and have heard their stories.

(4) You can gather important information.

As you worship with them, you’ll be observing important things that will be helpful for when you preach there. You can observe how many people are in attendance and what the demographic is. This might help shape how you deliver your sermon. You can also see what equipment they have. Do they have microphones? Do they have a computer and a projector to display visual presentations? Is there a lectern or a pulpit? You can also find out what attire is appropriate in their setting and dress accordingly.

(5) You get to ask questions and make requests.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions or make requests (like moving the lectern forward so that you can stand closer to the audience). I find that most churches are quite accommodating especially if you ask nicely.

Whenever possible, I highly recommend visiting churches in advance. Such a practice can only help make your sermons much clearer, more relevant, and more memorable in the end.

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EDITED: This article has been edited (01/17/2014). In the second subtitle, the word repertoire was replaced with the correct term rapport. Thank you to Pastor Jon for pointing this out.

See other preaching ideas here: Thoughts on Preaching

Types of Microphones

In the years that I’ve been preaching, I’ve come across various types of microphones used on stage. I’ve found that there are four main types which you will encounter. I’ll outline them here and point out the advantages and disadvantages of each one. Do note, however, that the choice of which type of microphone to use is not always within your control. Oftentimes, it depends on what a church has available. Here are the four types:

(1) Hand-held Microphone

This is the most common type of microphone for public speaking. They’re relatively cheap (although there are expensive varieties) and quite durable. In my experience, hand-held microphones that use a cable (or wire) seem to be the least susceptible to technical issues. You can always rely on a good hand-held mic.

There are obvious limitations with using hand-held microphones. You won’t be able to make use of both hands for gesturing. If you’re using a wired hand-held mic, your movement on stage is also limited. You can only move as far as the length of the cable. And although I haven’t witnessed it yet, it seems possible to trip on the cable if you’re clumsy.

(2) Lapel Microphone

This is a tiny microphone that is clipped to the shirt or coat in the upper chest area. They come wired to a transmitter that you can place on your belt or in your pocket. They’re relatively expensive because they use more complex technology and they’re quite susceptible to technical issues.

Lapel microphones are great for those who need lots of flexibility on stage. You have the free use of both hands for gesturing. You can move about the stage with ease. Additionally, lapels are the most concealed type of microphone. The only portion that is visible to the audience is the tiny receiver on your shirt.

The one big issue with lapel microphones is that your voice tends to be unevenly amplified. This happens when you turn your head in different directions. Since the microphone is steady in place, a loss of volume occurs whenever you move your mouth away from the receiver.

(3) Headset Microphone

This microphone is worn on the head with a receiver protruding towards the mouth. (I like to call these “Britney mics” since Britney Spears popularized them while singing on stage.) They’re wired to a transmitter that you can place on your belt or in your pocket. Like the lapel variety, they’re relatively expensive and quite susceptible to technical issues.

Headsets give the same amount of flexibility on stage as lapel microphones. Both your hands are free for gesturing and movement on stage is unrestricted. The advantage of headsets over lapels is that your voice is evenly amplified. Since the microphone is worn on your head, it doesn’t matter if you turn in various directions. The receiver will always stay close to your mouth.

However, there are a few annoyances of using headsets. Firstly, they’re a little more tedious to put on. Several adjustments need to be made to ensure that the microphone fits well on a speaker’s head. Secondly, they’re the most visually distracting. It’s clear to anybody that you’re wearing a headset. Lastly, it’s a lot less comfortable than using a lapel microphone. However, it is slightly more comfortable than holding a microphone in your hand.

(4) Lectern Microphone

Occasionally, a microphone will be attached to a lectern or pulpit. This may be a hand-held microphone placed on a mic stand or a specially designed microphone for the lectern. The one advantage of lectern mics over hand-held ones is that you have free use of both hands for gesturing. However, the freedom to use both arms comes at a cost. Movement on stage is severely restricted because you can no longer walk away from the lectern or pulpit without complete loss of volume.

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What Pastors Should Consider Doing in 2014

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As the New Year rolls in, people all over the world will be taking a hard look at themselves and making decisions that will hopefully change their lives for the better. Pastors, I hope you’re doing the same. How can you become a better spiritual leader this coming year? Here are a few suggestions to help you get started in 2014:

(1) Read.

I used to dislike reading because the materials I read were mostly required by professors. Requiring something always seems to take the fun out of it. I’m sure some of you feel the same way. Now that I have the freedom to choose the books that I want to read, I’m making the most of that opportunity. I cringe at the thought of pastors declining to read books because they mistakenly believe that they already know enough to get by. Reading books opens up a whole realm of experiences that would take years for a person to attain on their own. Broaden your horizons by reading more. This will help you learn from the experiences of others and hopefully help you dodge some major setbacks in life.

Your reading materials don’t have to be limited to pastoral and theological books. Go ahead and read a biography, a leadership book, or a fictional tale. I’ve learned an equal amount from books that aren’t theological in nature. When you realize that there are too many books in the world and far too little time, you know you’re hooked into reading.

(2) Meet.

One of the fascinating things I learned last year is this: if you want to build friendships, you’ve got to initiate. I’ve met all kinds of interesting people and heard all kinds of interesting stories because I initiated to meet up with them and have a conversation. I’ve found that most people are very much willing to meet up with you. This is because they’re also looking to build some genuine friendships with others.

It’s not too difficult to initiate a meeting. I’ve found that a simple email or a text message is sufficient. You don’t have to be so formal and there doesn’t have to be an agenda. Simply get to know another person.

(3) Experience.

This coming year, go beyond your own little world and explore. Travel to a faraway land. Take up a strange hobby. Go bungee jumping. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Not only will this give you stories to share at the pulpit but it will also change the way you see the world around you.

(4) Improve.

Lastly, make a concerted effort to hone your skills and abilities. Don’t just rest on your laurels. So many people settle for just being good enough without realizing the greater potential they possess. Figure out what you do well at and capitalize on them. Advance those strengths to even higher levels. Also figure out what you do poorly at and improve them a single step at a time.

I hope you have a great start to the New Year!

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Turn your iPads to the Gospel of Luke

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Every time I ask the audience to bring out their Bibles, it amuses me to see how normal it is now to take out a smart phone and open an app. Only half a decade ago, it was seen as rude and inappropriate to bring out a cellphone during a worship service. Today, more and more people are doing so without a flinch. Here are some of my thoughts on the use of electronic devices during take-off:

(1) I still prefer the book edition.

Call me old school but I still prefer to hold a nice leather-bound Bible in my hands when I preach or when I’m sitting in the audience. It’s not as old school as some of you may think. If you want to be really old school, try bringing papyrus—or better yet, memorize the thing!

(2) A book-bound Bible has a dedicated purpose.

There’s something different about having the book edition of the Bible. I believe it has to do with its dedicated nature. A book-bound Bible has a singular purpose: to contain the Word of God within its pages. On the other hand, a tablet or a smart phone has a myriad of purposes: communication, web browsing, games, etc. A book-bound Bible’s dedicated purpose is most evidently seen when preaching. When you want to emphasize a point, you might want to raise your Bible for the audience to see. For instance, saying, “The Word of God is living and active” while raising your Bible is a powerful gesture. Raising the book edition makes complete sense. Raising a tablet makes complete nonsense.

(3) It’s OK to use devices.

Having said that I prefer the book edition, I don’t mind when the audience brings out their tablets or smart phones to open a Bible app. In fact, I say up front that it’s OK to use those devices. Having a Bible on your iPad is better than having none at all. Additionally, some people like to take notes on their tablets. I highly encourage note-taking and if a device helps, go right ahead.

(4) Note the danger.

When I tell the audience that it’s OK to use their devices for reading the Bible, I also warn them of the danger of being distracted. Looking through your email is just a click away. This is a great reason to lean on the dedicated nature of a book-bound Bible. I normally quip to the audience that if I catch anybody doing miscellaneous things on their device, I’m taking it home with me. I’m in need of a new iPhone. You could also ask those with devices to turn to their neighbor and say, “Keep me accountable”. That will help device-users know that there are people keeping tabs (no pun intended) on them.

(5) Have a backup plan.

Many preachers have started using tablets or other gadgets to display their notes while they speak. Hooray for saving trees! However, there are downsides. One of the downsides is that tablets are quite susceptible to technological issues (an app may not open, the battery may run out, etc.). Always have a backup plan. The last thing you want to see happen is get on stage and find out that your device won’t turn on.

Join the discussion: What are your thoughts on using tablets and smart phones during the worship service?

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Glossophobia: 5 Ways to Beat the Fear

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