Does the Good News sound like good news in your public speaking?

When presenting the gospel to people in your ministry setting does it sound like good news? Sometimes as christians we get so used to our christian language that we present the gospel as it was presented to us, not realising that culture and language has changed. Recently I heard an evangelist say that is so hard these days to get people to understand how sinful they are and much they need a saviour. Whilst this is the heart of the gospel perhaps it is an outdated style, it certainly doesn’t sound like good news to me.

Our culture has shifted and we are no longer living in a christian society. The phrases and language that used to make sense to christians no longer has the same meaning in our society today. The self help industry doesn’t promote sinfulness and our inability to help ourselves, it promotes self help and your ability to work yourself out of any situation. The 24 hour news cycle promotes a constant flow of negative news and stories or horrific tragedy all the time. Perhaps people don’t need more negative news such as “you’re a sinner”, but that need some good news such the God who created the universe loves you personally.

For example Judah Smith, the pastor of City Church in Seattle, presents and speaks in a way that seems to captivate a younger audience and even the hipsters. When you listen to him he is constantly talking about Jesus yet it is hopeful, positive and motivating. Recently at a conference Judah Smith stated that we have to preach the gospel in a way that sounds like good news to an audience who doesn’t understand “christianese”.

As ministry leaders we have to be aware of the trends in language and culture so that we can speak into it. We need to communicate the Good News in ways that people understand. It is very clear in the New Testament, start in 1 Corinthians 1-2, that the gospel can make sense to everyone; you shouldn’t need a theology degree to understand it. So my suggestion is that the next time you have to give a talk, a keynote or a sermon ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Would a non-Christian think this is good news? Even if you are speaking to a room full of christians we need to constantly practice speaking in a way that non Christians will understand. This will also train our audience to invite non Christian friends because they can trust that you will speak to them.
  2. Is there a sense of hope? Some ministry leaders are technically correct with their theology but there doesn’t seem to be any hope in their message. You can’t fault their theology but people don’t put into practice that theology because there doesn’t seem to be any hope. Being constantly reminded of our sinfulness doesn’t teach us to be new creations in Christ or that we can do anything because Christ strengthens us (Phil 4:13).
  3. Have I motivated people to want to know more? Some sermons leave people feeling “if that is what christians are like I don’t want it”. You need to motivate the audience to find out more about Jesus and the Gospel. Perhaps you can share your passion for the gospel as a way of motivating them to learn more. Perhaps you need to be upbeat and positive rather than factually correct. Perhaps you need to add in life based examples rather than examples from Christian history.

A word of warning – the bible is very clear that we are not to “tickle the ear” of others when we present the gospel. Whilst the Gospel should sound like good news to those who hear it, we still need to present the truth of gospel and not some feel good pop psychology. No matter what language we use, the gospel is going to be difficult for some people to hear because it challenges then out of their comfort zone.

Presenting the Good News is not easy in a world with so many conflicting messages. However if we are truly going to make an impact in your ministry, you need the Good News to sound like good news to an audience who doesn’t understand all the christian buzz words and images. Try to think through your language and adapt it to the community and setting that you’re ministering into.

Please leave a comment on how you have done this in your ministry setting.

markoffaith, Mark of Faith, mrmarkmcdonald, Mark McDonald

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3 steps of an engaging presentation

What does a scenic flight in an aeroplane have to do with presentation skills?  If you reflect on the three stages of giving a presentation, there are a lot of similarities to an aeroplane flight.  There is usually a starting point to any flight the same as there is always an introduction to any talk, speech or presentation.  There are usually a couple of points of interest in any scenic flight, and in any presentation there should be a few points of interest too.  Every scenic flight must come to an end as should a good presentation.

Have you ever heard a talk that never really grabbed your attention?  Perhaps the introduction never got off the ground.  Or perhaps you have heard a talk or speech that went on and on and on; they didn’t know how to “land it”.  So here are three simple tips for giving a great presentation in your ministry setting using the image of an aeroplane flight:

1. The Take off:  When an aeroplane is getting ready to take off it uses the most amount of energy of the entire flight.  When you begin your presentation you will have to use a lot of energy to get the attention of the audience.  If you loose people in the take off you may not get them back, but they are stuck listening to you.  Even if you know your topic really well, you must give some thought to your introduction.

How you can kick off your presentation?

2.  Cruising: when an aeroplane gets into the air it aims for its cruising altitude and then turns down the engines to cruising speed.  An aeroplane doesn’t fly at full speed for the entire flight but cruises at an efficient speed.  In the cruising part of your presentation you might have to come off the energy level a little.  People can’t keep their energy up for the entire presentation so adapt the pace in the middle section.  Just like an aeroplane flight there are usually only two or three points of interest.  In your middle section don’t confuse people with 10 or 15 key points.  You want two or three key points that get you to your destination but add interest along the way.

What are the 2 or 3 key points of your presentation?

3. The Landing:  when an aeroplane takes off it knows where it is going to land.  A long “holding pattern” before landing can be hard for the passengers.  When you are giving a presentation you must know how you are going to land or finish before you begin.  What is your final destination, what is you final point?  Keeping the audience wondering when you are going to finish is not a good idea.

How are you going to finish your presentation?

These are three really simple stages to any presentation.  There is one more thought to add using the aeroplane analogy:
How many planes can a pilot fly at once? 
A pilot can only fly one plane at any given time.  So too you should have one only one key theme each time you present.  Some people will get up and talk for the allotted time, packing in as many themes and topics as they can.  Apart from confusing the audience, each theme is undervalued because it is not explored properly.
So the next time you are giving a presentation, preaching at church, giving a talk to young people or sharing the vision for your ministry remember the key stages:
  • fly one plane (theme)
  • give energy to the take off (introduction)
  • have 2 or 3 points of interest while cruising (body) and
  • nail the landing (conclusion)

markoffaith, MarkofFaith, Mark of Faith, mark of faith, mrmarkmcdonald, Mark McDonald, markoffaith.net

Never use “and finally” unless you are finishing

Have you ever been listening to a long presentation and heard the magic phrase “and finally” which you thought meant they were finishing but they spoke for another 10 minutes?  Recently a speaker who was really boring used the phrase “and finally …” and I wanted to yell out “it’s about time”.  But some people use the term “and finally …” to state their last main point before they begin their 10 minute conclusion.  In my mind if you use the phrase “and finally” I expect you to be done in 2 minutes.

The trick that many speakers don’t understand is that there are some phrases that mean one thing to a presenter and mean something different to a listener.  A presenter might use the phrase “and finally” to sum up their argument but it is often perceived by the listener to mean “I am finishing up”.  If you use this phrase then you have about 1-2 minutes to finish or you will lose your audience.

So here are a few phrases that should only be used in the last 2 minutes of a presentation:

  • And finally
  • To finish up
  • I will finish with this
  • To wrap up
  • So next week
  • The worship team may come up

“My last point” is a grey area because I think it is the same as those terms listed above.  If you have four points use the word “four” to describe the fourth point as the phrase “my last point” implies you are in your conclusion.

So why is this important?  Because people remember your conclusion if it is done well and they switch off if it is done poorly.  You want to drive home your message in your conclusion with what the audience should do next; so it isn’t helpful for the audience to switch off.  If a speaker goes on for too long then the listener is trying to predict when the speaker will finish rather than listening to the message.

So finally work on your transitions so you don’t use these ending phrases midway through your presentation.

How NOT to promote events at Church

Have you ever sat through a talk at church where someone was promoting an event and you thought “they are butchering this chance”? Even worst have you heard someone do such a bad job at promoting an event that you thought “I won’t be attending that event”?  There are some basic mistakes that people make when promoting events, perhaps because people are new to a position or maybe nobody has ever workshopped their presentations.

One time that really sticks out in my mind was a ministry leader who was promoting a youth camp at our church.  This person kept referring to the ministry as “my ministry” which straight away made me feel distant as though I wasn’t part of this.  Then they complained to the church that they didn’t get enough helpers last time and then said “I can’t do this all alone, if I don’t get more helpers I might have to cancel”.  At this point I wanted to encourage them to stop talking before they did anymore damage.  Whilst the dates of the camp were clear this ministry leader didn’t give any clue as to how we could help out or how the youth could register for the camp.

Recently we looked at three styles of promoting events, so now lets look at four things to avoid when promoting events:

  1. Don’t be vague – sometimes you only get one or two shots at promoting your events so be very clear about the information other people need to know, which is:
  • When is the event
  • How do people register
  • How can people assist with the event
  • Where they can find out more information (website, Facebook, foyer etc)

2. Don’t doubt the event – it is so important to sell the event with confidence.  Never say that the event won’t go ahead if we don’t get numbers because people won’t register until they know you have the numbers.  Don’t promote this as the best event in the world but you should promote the highlights of the event in a way that is attractive.

3. Don’t be disorganised – if you haven’t got a flyer, Facebook group or webpage set up then never get in front of your church or ministry to promote an event.  You should present a well prepared talk or video clip to your church or ministry when promoting events, don’t make it up on the spot.  The minute you say “more details to come later” people switch off and think “then I will pay attention later”.

4. Don’t make it about you – you are trying to get other people to attend an event so make your presentation about how others can attend rather than how much help you need.  You have to convince the audience that they should either attend the event or ask someone in the target age group to attend.  Don’t make people feel sorry for you having to do all this work to host the event.

Perhaps you can extend this list by leaving a comment on the mistakes you have made in promoting events.  Whilst we learn from our own mistakes, perhaps your mistakes can help someone else get it right the next time they have to promote an event.

How to promote ministry events when speaking

Let’s face it, if you are involved in ministry then at some stage you will have to promote an event.  It may be an event that you are running or it may be an event hosted by another group.  Either way there are three different ways to promote events:

1. You should go – some people promote events where all the work is on the other person.  This style of promotion usually involves phrases like:

  • There is a great weekend coming up, you can check out all the details on the website
  • If you want to attend the event then registration forms are in the foyer
  • The talk is going to be awesome you will really love it

This style of promotion places all the emphasis on the other person to get involved.  Whilst you might be keen for people to attend, this style can come across as impersonal.  However you can use this style effectively to pass on all the invitations you get via Facebook and email.

2. I am going – some people use this style to promote events in a way that is more personal, I am going do you want to join me.  This style encourages others to attend because they know at least one other person is going.  Many young people don’t want to go to an event alone so it is wise in youth ministry to say that at least you will be attending.  This style of promotion usually involves phrases like:

  • I am attending this event and I can tell you more about it in the foyer
  • On the weekend I am attending the camp, if you need a lift come and see me

This style of promotion is great for building a team.  As the ministry leader it establishes you are the peer leader; you are on board with the event and you want others to join you.

3. We are going – when your ministry gets bigger (bigger than your core group of leaders) then you should move to this style of promotion.  This style states up front that this community/ministry is attending the upcoming event, if you belong here then you will be going too.  It might seem a little bold but people want to be part of something popular and this style implies “everyone” is going.  This style of promotion usually involves phrases such as:

  • We are attending the camp next month please think of someone new that can join us.
  • We are hosting a guest speaker, please sign up to help set up or pack down the event.
  • On the weekend we are having an event for all those we haven’t seen for a while so pick up some flyers off our team in the foyer.

Whilst this might be the best system to use when promoting events, you need to have some track record of “everyone” attending events.  If this is the fifth time you use this style and nobody has turned up to any of the events before, then perhaps people may doubt that “we” are really going.

Pick your promotion style wisely so you know when to use each of the three styles.

  • Use the “you” style to pass on community events that you get in the mail.
  • Use the “I” style when you are attending an event and you want some others to join you.
  • Use the “I” style to build a core leadership team as it builds your place as the leader
  • Use the “we” style when your group is bigger and you want everyone to attend.

In the next post we will look at some things not to do when promoting events.

Leave a comment of how you have had success in promoting events.