Have you ever attended an event with a speaker that you thought, “She gets me. I’m pretty sure we could have coffee and hit it off.”? How about the converse? You sat through a whole message and just knew that the speaker had no idea what your life is like. She was polished and professional and may have even given a good message, but you left feeling deflated, lonely and discouraged.
As speakers, one of our main goals should be to connect with every person in the room. That’s a high bar to set. It’s a struggle to connect with all the ages and stages of life that may be represented, but it’s not impossible.
Several pastors from the Sermon Rocket webinar addressed the difficulty of connecting with so many different people and gave suggestions for tackling the problem. There were 2 solutions that struck me as things I want to try.
- Develop your own creative team. These are people who are willing to listen to your message ideas and help you develop them. Perry Noble explained how his team helps him out of his box. Left to his own devices, Noble said that most of his illustrations would come from football. Knowing that his entire congregation won’t follow (0r be interested in) those illustrations, he gets other ideas from his team. When he was preaching about the wreckage of sexual sin, he gathered a group of women to ask them about their experiences. Even though I’m sure that wasn’t completely comfortable for anyone in the room (!), Noble said that it was one of his most impactful messages ever because of including the women’s perspective and stories. I’m not on a church staff, so I don’t have a ready-made team. I started brain-storming, though, and I definitely have people around me who can be helpful–my husband and boys with the male perspective, my best friends who are creative types, my friends who have had other life experiences. These are people we can seek out for help as we develop our messages.
- Run it by your “ghost friends”. Jud Wilhite, a pastor from Las Vegas, said that he imagines a variety of people sitting around his desk as he writes his messages. Although they are not there in person, they are real people in his life. He asks himself, “What do I need to include for Tim, my friend going through the nasty divorce? What about for Tina, my single friend who longs for children? What do I need to say to address Sheila’s needs as she cares for her mom in her last days?” He goes around the room of his “ghost friends” and thinks about what he needs to include to biblically encourage each in their situation.
Both of these approaches are helpful. The main thing that we need to keep in mind is that we want to reach out beyond ourselves and our experiences to connect with the whole room. We need to compel people to step into our messages instead of listening dispassionately from the outside. Stepping in, engaging and identifying is the only way our listeners will be moved toward transformation. And transformation is the goal.