Pausing Power: Benefits of Pausing


As I mentioned in the first article in this series, there’s a lot of power in a well-placed pause. Here are some of the benefits of good pausing:

(1) It helps with clarity.

Well-timed pauses help with the overall clarity of your sermon by giving the audience time to take in information and process it. A speaker who moves too quickly from point to point without giving enough time for contemplation runs the risk of confusing people in the end. Most statements made in a sermon are built upon previous statements. So if people are confused about a statement that is made, chances are that anything that comes after will be just as confusing. Give the audience a few seconds to process important information that needs to be understood well before proceeding.

(2) It allows for self-reflection.

A good pause gives people time and space to reflect on themselves in relation to what you’re saying. This is most evident when asking questions to your audience. Of course, you’re not expecting people to shout a reply from the stands but you would like them to think about those questions. So when asking, give the audience a few seconds after each question or after a series of questions that are similar in nature for some self-reflection.

(3) It adds emphasis.

One of the natural things that a good pause does is grab people’s attention. Because people naturally expect you to say something on stage, silence becomes a powerful gesture. Saying nothing on stage actually says something to people—it tells them to pay attention to what you’re about to say next. A well-placed pause can help grab attention so that you can emphasize an important point that you want the audience to remember.

(4) It makes a story interesting.

Pausing is a useful element in storytelling. Use the pause to grab the audience’s attention before you resolve the conflict of your story. This will move the audience to the edge of their seats, almost begging for you to give the resolution. That should make the story a bit more interesting. Of course, don’t forget to end the story with the point that you’re trying to get across.

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Series: Pausing Power


Currently Reading: Everyday Church

Tim Chester and Steve Timmis - Everyday ChurchTim Chester and Steve Timmis’ book, Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission¹, reinforces an observation I’ve had for years about churches: plenty of them (particularly in the West) are growing not necessarily because of evangelism but because of the movement of Christians from one church to another—or in other words, transfer growth. This book is an attempt to stem the tide and bring the church back on point—to go and make disciples.

Chester and Timmis propose that we need new approaches to evangelism and discipleship especially in this post-Christian culture that we live in. And they believe that the best approach is in the context of genuine community—what the authors refer to as “everyday church”. This book will be helpful in shaping my idea of community as I engage in church planting this year.

¹Chester, Tim and Steve Timmis. Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012.

What good books have you read lately?

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See more books here: Currently Reading

Pausing Power: Why do we avoid pausing?


In the previous article in this series, I mentioned that a speaker’s natural tendency is to fear dead air and to avoid it at all costs. Preachers (especially those who are just starting out) tend to stay away from gaps of silence for a number of unfounded reasons. Here are some of those reasons why preachers avoid pausing on stage.

(1) It means I have nothing to say.

Preachers subconsciously believe that silence equates to having nothing to say. Whenever dead air occurs, they start to wonder if the audience suspects that they’ve become confused, or lost, or have forgotten what to say next. And so speakers tend to move from one idea to the next in a very abrupt fashion in order to convey to the audience that they know what they’re talking about.

Now it may be true. Silence may mean you’ve become confused, or lost, or have forgotten what to say next. It happens to the best of us. But a gap of silence does not automatically convey that blooper to your audience. In fact, audience members rarely notice dead air unless somebody points it out or if it’s been going on for an absurd period of time.

(2) It seems awkward.

Some preachers feel that a long pause generates an awkward atmosphere in the room. The longer the pause, the more awkward it gets. And so to avoid the awkwardness of the moment, they simply avoid pausing altogether. Now it may feel awkward. But the truth is, it’s usually awkward only to you. Once again, the audience rarely notices any gaps of silence. In fact, their natural assumption is that any pauses that happen in your sermon are natural and intended.

(3) It feels too long.

Even if a preacher does pause, it’s oftentimes not long enough. This is due to the warped understanding of time when you’re on stage. A 1-second pause can feel like 10 seconds at the pulpit. A 5-second pause can feel like an eternity for a speaker. And so even though a preacher decides to pause, it’s usually too short to be of any value. On the other hand, a 1-second pause feels like 1 second to the audience and a 5-second pause feels like 5 seconds. Keep in mind that what may feel long to you isn’t necessarily what may feel long to your listeners.

Again, the reasons to fear dead air and avoid pausing are simply unfounded. They’re mostly based on what we assume about the audience: that they sense we have nothing to say, or that the atmosphere has turned awkward, or that a five second pause is way too long. Those simply aren’t true. You need to understand that the audience isn’t out to get you. They’ve gathered together because they genuinely want to hear what you have to say that morning.

In the next article, we’ll look at the benefits of a well-placed pause during a sermon.

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Next Article: Pausing Power: Benefits of Pausing | Series: Pausing Power

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.

Join the discussion: What else should take place during the Sunday morning huddle?

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See more preaching ideas here: Thoughts on Preaching

Pausing Power: Introduction to Pausing

I recall one of the earliest encounters I’ve had with preaching. I was given the chance to speak at a large congregation in Manila—the very church that I grew up in (and in many ways, still call home to this day). After the first of four deliveries that Sunday, the stage manager approached me. He commended my energy and suggested that I pause once in a while. In order to help me in my quest to pause, he handed me a water bottle and told me to take a drink on stage here and there. By the end of the fourth delivery, it’s suffice to say that I still had a full bottle of water in my hand. That episode succinctly reflects what many public speakers fear while being on stage—they fear what is referred to as dead air.

Dead air refers to any gap of silence coming from the speaker’s end. A speaker’s natural tendency is to fear dead air and to avoid it at all costs. We tend to think that since we find ourselves on stage, we better open up our mouths and say something (anything!) to the crowd that has gathered. And so we tend to fill in gaps of silence with fillers (i.e. “um…”, “er…”, “ah…”) or to speed onto the next sentence as quickly as possible. Pausing during a speech or a sermon is seen as something negative and we tend to avoid at all costs.

In this new series, we’ll examine the importance of pausing in a sermon. Contrary to what many inexperienced preachers believe, pausing is actually necessary and quite beneficial. I find that there’s incredible power in a well-placed pause.

In the next article, we’ll look at some unfounded reasons why we tend to avoid pausing during a sermon.

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Next Article: Pausing Power: Why do we avoid pausing? | Series: Pausing Power

The Pre-Game Warm Up


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.

Join the discussion: What are some of the things you do before a “big” sermon?

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See more preaching ideas here: Thoughts on Preaching

Start Strong: Final Thoughts

Let me end this series with some final thoughts on opening your sermon with a strong introduction.

(1) Keep it short.

As I’ve mentioned several times in this series, your introduction simply gives the audience a glimpse of what’s to come in your sermon. You’re not going to divulge everything just yet and so there’s no good reason to have a lengthy introduction. I find that a 5-minute introduction is more than enough for any sermon. If you find that you’ve gone beyond 5 minutes, consider cutting it down. There’s still much to cover in your sermon.

Also, if you’re introducing yourself to the congregation, keep it to a minimum. As much as the audience appreciates your presence, they ultimately came to hear from God that day.

(2) Transition well.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to transition well from the introduction of your sermon to the body. The transition will make or break your introduction. Remember, if the congregation doesn’t see the connection, they will end up in confusion. Make sure that your transition is as well-thought out as the rest of your introduction. A good transition explicitly tells the audience how your hook connects to the sermon and gives a glimpse of what’s up ahead.

(3) Open with a smile.

Lastly, open with a smile (and wait for the audience to smile back at you). This will put both you and the congregation at ease with one another. It will also help slow you down so that you don’t rush right into your sermon.

Some pastors look so gloomy whenever they step up to the pulpit. Sometimes, it’s because they’re going through a rough time and we should encourage those pastors in whatever way we can. Other times, it’s because they dread the act of public speaking. In either case, pastors should always remember that they’re delivering good news that day and their disposition should naturally reflect that.

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Series: Start Strong