Church renewal hinges on good communication. Surveys have found that 83% of people choose a church home because of the quality of the sermons. It is consistently the top reason people say they select one church over another. For that reason, investing time in learning the art and science of communication is crucial.
- A few weeks ago, I wrote about how my experiences leading musical groups prepared me to be a church renewal pastor. This week, I want to share lessons I learned from the world of broadcast news that I use every day in my church.
Five Principles Pastors Can Learn from Journalists
Principle 1: Get to the Point Quickly
- In journalism school, professors taught us to put the most important information first in our stories. They taught us this key principle: “Don’t bury the lead.”
- The goal is to craft a compelling, engaging introduction that gets to the point within a few seconds. People’s attention spans are very short, and they want to know what’s in it for them within the first few sentences. If it’s unclear, they will check out and possibly never fully re-engage.
Principle 2: Speak Simply and Clearly
- Journalists learn to prioritize clarity over almost everything else. To convey ideas clearly, use simple words, not unnecessarily complicated and flowery language. That type of speaking may make you sound smart, but it can also make you lose half your audience. Journalists aim for the goal of writing on an eighth-grade level to make sure they reach as many people as possible.
- Preachers often speak to incredibly diverse audiences — a wide range of ages and experience levels with Christianity. The best way to reach them all through simplicity and clarity.
Principle 3: Remember There Is No Rewind Button
- When writing for TV or radio, journalists strive to make their story make sense the first time you hear it. Why? If something is confusing, you cannot go back and re-read it or listen again.
- Similarly, when you’re preaching, your congregation has no rewind button. If your words don’t make sense to people the first time, they will be confused and disengage. I try to speak conversationally and to keep my sentence structures very simple (Subject – Verb – Object). This makes it easy for people to follow along and to not get lost.
Principle 4: Eliminate Filler Words
- People are inundated with content all day long — overflowing email inboxes, endless social media feeds, and ever-present text messages. To cut through the noise, you will have to be concise.
- Filler words are a common culprit of weak writing. Using stronger verbs and simpler sentence structures can cut down on the total length and make for crisper writing.
Principle 5: Harness the Power of Visuals
- Most people today are visual learners. You might have heard that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and your experiences probably prove this is true!
- Many preachers choose to use photos, videos, graphs, charts, or tangible objects in their sermons. The key is carefully choosing elements that supplement what is being spoken. If there is a mismatch between what you say and what you show, people will get confused and tune out.
I’ve found these principles apply, not only to sermons, but also to other areas of church communication. For example, the message of the church’s outreach materials must be carefully crafted. Also, internal communication to the congregation should be thorough and compelling as well.
Capturing and keeping attention is not an easy task. Good communication is an art and a science that must be learned and continually refined. Want help with your church communications? Reach out to us! Center for Church Renewal can help.