by David Fleer
If preaching is already challenging in a post-modern culture, the challenge has been greatly heightened with COVID-19 isolation and dependence on technology. Beyond the technical aspects of online communication, we must consider the manner in which the preacher communicates. Simply being a talking head for an extended period of time can be monotonous and frankly, disengaging if not boring. Here are a few tips for enhanced communication.
- Be yourself. Give yourself a break.
Authenticity is key. People trust you because of who you are. You are not a news anchor professional and don’t need to be. If you mess up, acknowledge it, laugh and go on.
- Look sharp.
At the same time, pajamas and shorts are verboten. The setting of your home or office already communicates more “laid back” than ever. “Business casual” should be your standard. “Shower, shave and use Aqua Velva.”
- Be careful what you advertise
- The congregation may well remember your office or home décor long after the words you speak. What is your backdrop saying?
- While tempting, this is no time to give a “shout out” to your favorite ball team with a bobble head doll or pennant.
- During March and April from my home in Michigan (with snow and freezing temps outside) I imagined the backdrop of a roaring fire in the fireplace would evoke thoughts of national comfort from FDR’s “fireside chats” and so titled the series of sermons. But by the end of the second month the temps were soaring close to the 90s my Alabama congregation the fire evoked a different image than what I’d intended (they thought I might be wearing a bifurcated tail).
- Get back to basics
This season calls for sermons from the gospels, the book of Acts and the paradigmatic narratives of Scripture (the “weightier,” of “first importance,” the greatest” or “He has told you, oh mortal, what is good and what does the Lord require . . .” kind of passages). Remind the church of who we are and how we are being called to live. Above all, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus . . . .”
- Say it clearly
Is this really what I want to say? Does it matter? Is it worth it?In two short single sentences write out the sermon’s focus and function statements. What do you want the sermon to say (focus)? What do you want the congregation to do (function)?
- Say it concisely
Be aware of the length of your message. 30 minutes of a “talking head” may feel like an hour. Simple and clear sentence structure is essential. This may be the season to learn to keep the sermon well under 20 minutes.
- Fosdick v. Barth
- Barth infamously advised preachers that if a fire devastated the community on Thursday, make every effort to NOT mention it in the sermon on Sunday: “Aim above the hill of relevance.” Fosdick, in sharp contrast encouraged preachers to approach the sermon with the Bible in one hand and the news in the other.
- Choose Fosdick! COVID 19 is everywhere and on everyone’s mind. Don’t “aim above it.” Keep it in your scope.
- Be the Hands and Feet (and heart) of Jesus
- The coronavirus is an equal opportunity infector, some communities (specifically those of color and the aged) are much more vulnerable to the devastation of the disease.
- “What would Jesus do?” is a viable question, especially for churches who desire to be the “hands and feet of Jesus.”
- How might the church be the “headlights” and not the “taillights” in this crisis?
- Pre-Recording is advised
- Use editing capabilities to vary scene/setting/camera angles for variety.
- If speaking to a camera makes you feel wooden in communication, have a few people safely spaced in the room.
- Use full screen power point for longer readings/passages and or consider using someone else who reads well.
- Pay attention to the cadence, tone of your voice and facial expressions.
- Vary inflection, energy, and emotion.
- Look into the camera as much as possible, particularly during key moments of emphasis or application.
When in doubt, seek help. Contact us and we will be glad to provide a resource person to assist you.