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7 Foolproof Tips For More Creative Sermons

7 Foolproof Tips For More Creative Sermons

Lead pastors, preachers, and teaching pastors, your job does not come easy. There is an incredible amount of pressure to deliver excellent messages week after week. You spend a ton of time and energy preparing to deliver sermons that you just pray will connect with your audience. Then, you hear stats like 90% of unchurched people choose a church based on the pastor or preaching. (Thom Rainer) You have my respect.

Because of this high demand for engaging sermons, I set out to offer my most practical tips to add some creativity to your messages. My hope is that they will inspire you and help make your sermons fresh and unique for your audience.

1. Tell More Stories

People love a good story. From the dawn of time we have shared stories as a method of communication and that’s because they work. Audience members who have checked out in the first ten minutes will spring to life when you say, “Recently, when I took my family on a camping trip…” or “I was reading recently about Stephen Spielberg’s first days in the movie business…” If a story is well-chosen and told effectively, you’ll get your point across in a way a normal lecture never could.

2. Brainstorm With A Few Creative Friends

This works hand-in-hand with the previous tip. Have you ever attended a church so long that you learned all of the pastor’s go-to stories? I have. I’ve been the person sitting in the pew thinking, “Seriously? You’re telling this story again?” Keep this from happening by inviting a few trusted friends into your sermon prep. This immediately adds to your illustration arsenal. For example, your last point may be about integrity and your colleague may have the perfect story to really drive that idea home.

3. Include Movie, TV, or Audio Clips

Playing clips from popular movies, TV shows, or even songs can be a powerful way to enhance sermon points. It gets people excited about your message and creates memorable teaching moments. Not to mention you get to leverage the skills of Hollywood’s most talented storytellers. Luckily, it’s fairly easy to obtain the rights to play clips like this with a simple CCVI license and there are clip services like WingClips.

4. Show A Mini-Movie

Similar to playing a clip from a feature-length film, mini-movies are a great way to communicate ideas in a powerful way. What makes this option so effective is that these clips are specifically created to be used in churches. Far too often I see these videos only used by pastors on special occasions like holidays. I would encourage you to build these into your normal preaching schedule or aim for at least once a month. Take a regular visit to WorshipHouse to see what’s new or consider a subscription from Igniter or Centerline.

5. Incorporate A Prop

Several months ago, I visited a Sunday service to hear a pastor friend of mine speak. For full disclosure, I’ll admit that he is one of my all-time favorite preachers. One thing that he has always been amazing at is including a prop in his sermon. On this occasion, he brought out a simple umbrella for his illustration and, yes, he opened it! The moment that umbrella opened every eye in the auditorium was focused on him. He first used it to complement a story of his family stuck in the rain but then brought it back to illustrate the covering of God’s protection. I’ve seen everything from baseball gloves to pizza boxes to medieval swords used like this. Don’t be afraid to get creative to make a memorable moment.

6. Show A Testimony Video

I recently visited a church where the pastor communicated a fantastic sermon on giving. Weeks later I’m still feeling encouraged that my giving makes a difference in both my life and in the Kingdom. But as I look back, I cannot recall the pastor’s exact sermon points or give you a list of specific scriptures. What has stuck with me, however, is a 3 minute testimony video of one of their members sharing how tithing changed their life. It was an incredible video that validated everything the pastor had been preaching for 30 minutes. (Watch it here.)

7. Include More Photos

One of the best ways to make your sermon more alive is to display photos to accompany your words. For example, if you’re sharing a quote from C.S. Lewis, why not show a photo of him alongside your quoted text? Or if you’re telling a story of a snowstorm from a few years back, why not display a photo of just how deep it was. It can even be helpful to lighten the mood with a funny photo of your kids or something that you saw during the week. The key to all of these is to be intentional that it all has a purpose and that it adds to your message rather than distracting.

 

Have you tried any of these tips? Is there anything that you would add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!

 

How A Simple Style Guide Can Change Everything

How A Simple Style Guide Can Change Everything

I’ve always been a great doer. I’ve never had a problem putting in the long, hard hours to make our church’s media, website, print, or whatever else look great. But, as I’ve set out to be a leader, I’ve struggled with giving things away. Lately, this side of me has began to rear its ugly head.

You see, our new church plant is filled with amazing, fully-capable leaders. It’s incredible, really. Our Launch Team is made up of the kind of leaders that pastors dream of having in their churches. We don’t just have musicians, we have some of the best musicians that I know. We don’t just have administrators or teachers or creatives. We have leaders who spend their spare time helping other ministries improve. We’re not perfect, but I can easily say that we are incredibly blessed by the team that God has given us.

This amazing blessing of these fully-capable volunteers has brought a unique challenge for me. If I want this awesome team to stick around, I’ve got to stop being a doer and focus on being their leader. This means that I’ve got to get my hands off of projects and spend my energy equipping others to get their hands dirty. Quite honestly, this does not come easy for me. I’ve spent years in the habit of handling things myself without letting others in. This has led to several hard lessons in this season of getting established in this new organizational structure.

A few weeks ago, I requested for one of our church’s volunteers, a local photographer, to snap photos at one of our events. I went about this in pretty much all the wrong ways. I asked him to do it very last minute and never even discussed what I was looking for. The worst part? I got frustrated when his photos didn’t align with the vision I had for the project. But, wait. How could I be upset with him for not meeting expectations that had never been communicated to him? I then realized that he wasn’t the problem. I was.

So, before our next event, I requested a meeting with him where I apologized for how I had handled the previous project. I then presented to him a PDF style guide that I had created that thoroughly laid out exactly what I was looking for in his photos. This simple guide (that only took about an hour to create) communicated all of the vision that I had locked away in my head and made it clear for him to follow.

Guess what? That changed everything. Not only was our relationship strengthened, but his photos at our next event blew me away. Was he able to capture hundreds of perfect moments in that short amount of time? Of course not. But he submitted just enough photos to show me that he took my style guide to heart. He had caught the vision. More importantly, I had communicated a plan, took my “doer” hands away, and allowed him to work in his area of passion.

Moving forward, I will be creating more of these style guides for many areas that fall under my creative department. God has given me a big vision for our church and I’m learning that it’s much greater than me. To accomplish what He has called me to do, I must do less and lead more.

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Have you ever created a style guide for your volunteers?

20 Great Ways To Use Instagram At Your Church

20 Great Ways To Use Instagram At Your Church

Instagram has proven to be a major player in the social media world and an extremely valuable tool for ministry. Since we are such a visual culture, this is a great avenue for sharing your church’s story that goes beyond traditional text posts. Here are twenty creative ways that I’ve seen churches utilizing this great network. My hope is that you will be inspired and perhaps add them to your social media strategy. Enjoy!

1. Promote Your Service Times

2. Advertise Your Sermon Series

3. Show Newcomers What Services Look Like

4. Announce Your Volunteer of the Week

5. Share Testimonies From Your Congregation

6. Promote Your Online Stream

7. Highlight Moments From Your Service

8. Share Encouragement

9. Promote Upcoming Events

10. Set Up A Photo Booth In Your Lobby

11. Promote Outreach Opportunities

12. Show Ways To Get Involved

13. Introduce Your Staff

14. Provide Shareable Invite Cards

15. Share Your Church’s Vision

16. Showcase Your Various Ministries

17. Share Your Worship Setlist

18. Share Quotes From Your Sermon

19. Highlight Water Baptisms

20. Show What’s Happening In Your Kid’s Ministry



Do you have any other ideas for using Instagram at your church? Let us know in the comments below!

How To Create A Social Media Posting Schedule

How To Create A Social Media Posting Schedule

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been analyzing the effectiveness of our church’s social media posts. Our main networks of focus have been Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (in that order). However, we also post regularly on Google+ to aid our search engine rankings. I’ve discovered that our greatest seasons of social interactions have been when we have posted every day around 10:30am. Our interactions also significantly increased when we posted images or video. With all of this in mind, I created this custom posting schedule for all of our church’s social networks.

A posting schedule is the easiest way to laser-focus your church’s social media efforts. When combined with a social manager, such as Buffer or Hootsuite, you can build an online community that regularly interacts with your posts and spreads your message to their followers.

How can you create this for your church? Simple. Start with what I have here. I give you permission to take Piedmont Chapel’s posting schedule and run with it! Give it a try for a few weeks and see how it goes. I will give the disclaimer that this is not the kind of posting schedule that you’d find a large church using. Since we do not have someone who can work full-time on this, my desire was to create a simple schedule that would fit into a volunteer’s spare time. My biggest goal was to make sure that we were posting something everyday. If you can post more, go for it! This is simply a foundation.

I’d also encourage you to build in posts that promote your current events. Keep in mind that Piedmont Chapel does not begin having weekly services until September 7th. This is simply our pre-launch posting schedule. A church that is meeting on a weekly basis should be posting what’s coming up on Sundays and recaps from your latest events.

Social media is an ever-changing field. There are no concretes here. Your posts and schedule should reflect what’s unique about your ministry. Regularly evaluate what posts your audience responds to and adapt from there.

Download a PDF of our posting schedule here.

To keep up with Piedmont Chapel, follow us here:
Facebook  •  Twitter  •  Instagram  •  Website

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Do you have a posting schedule for your church’s social media?

How To Copy Other Designs Without Stealing

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A few days ago, I received a message on Twitter from a concerned graphic designer. He had just discovered a church using an obvious knock-off of the Game of Thrones logo for a sermon series.

My eyes rolled.

“Isn’t this considered stealing,” he asked. In short, after seeing the design, my answer for this particular case was a no. US copyright laws can be relatively liberal on what’s considered “parody” and it would require the author to press the issue for any legal issues to arise. However, it did leave me shaking my head.

In my time working in graphic design, I’ve had my fair share of requests for parody pieces and for downright copying. I’ve been that guy making a “Joy Story” design for a kid’s event and a “Faithbook” graphic for a youth camp. (Try not to think too less of me. Sometimes parody pieces are what pay the bills.) But as I’ve matured as an artist, I’ve realized that copying/stealing will only take you so far.

Don’t get me wrong. You’ll never meet anyone more in favor of pulling inspiration from various places. I love getting inspired by designs in television, movies, websites, stores I visit, and even other churches. But, I believe there is a key to pulling inspiration from other designs that many inexperienced artists miss. To go beyond simply mooching off of someone else’s hard work, you must make it your own.

Whitney George once said, “Originality doesn’t exist. It doesn’t matter. There’s nothing new under the sun. Authenticity is what matters.” Great artists are able to see good designs and envision how they can be used to fit their context. This subtle difference in approach makes a huge difference in execution. It’s what takes you from creating identical copies to designing legitimate works of art. When someone looks at something you’ve created, they should be able to see you in it. Your art should reflect your creativity and tailor fit the goals of your project.

I’ve long preached that, as followers of Christ, we should be the most creative people on Earth. After all, we are connected to the Master Creator. It’s because of this that it pains me to see the Church stuck in a habit of simply duplicating whatever’s trending.

Here are three tips for being inspired by other designs without stealing:

1. Regularly Visit Places of Inspiration

Make it a regular, if not daily, practice to visit various websites for design inspiration. My favorites include Dribbble, Behance, and Creation Swap. Sometimes I’ll even find things I like on Instagram and Pinterest. The more ideas you take in, the more references you’ll have in mind when it comes time to design.

2. Combine Several Ideas Into One

"The Blessed Life" Sermon GraphicRather than copying one specific design, find two or three pieces that reflect the style that you’re going for and combine them. Examine the individual components that make these designs great. It’s common for me to pull a color palette from one piece, a shape or pattern from another, and a font from a design I saw six months ago. After the design is complete, you’ve created an entirely new piece that looks nothing like your initial inspiration.

 

3. Look For Inspiration In Other Industries

Light Bearers LogoOne of the easiest traps to fall into as you design graphics for your ministry is only looking to other churches for inspiration. While there is value in seeing what other ministries are doing, there are a million other industries that are making great designs, too. Some of my favorite projects have been inspired by designs that have nothing to do with Jesus. You may find a great design for a restaurant and repurpose it for a sermon graphic, or turn an online ad into a kid’s ministry logo.

Overall, I would simply challenge you to go deeper in your designs. You’re better than mooching off of other graphics for everything you do. Be creative. Be unique. Be you. I give you permission to copy from other great designs, but I encourage you to put in the hard work to do it the right way.