How to Preach More Conversationally

Preach More Conversationally

People can spot a fake from a mile away.

This should concern us preachers because people can spot a fake when we turn on the “preacher voice.”

The “preacher voice” comes in all shapes and sizes.

It can be overly polished.

The cadence is different.

The tone is different.

To say it bluntly, it looks, sounds, and feels unnatural.

Preaching with a “preacher voice” makes people uncomfortable (not in a good way, toe stomper).

It makes people disconnect from what is being said.

It makes people wish the sermon was half the length of a TED talk.

It comes up far, far short of the level of preaching that you’re capable of.

Preaching conversationally, though, is far different.

When you preach conversationally, people feel like you’re speaking directly to them.

People can, more easily, connect with what is being said.

People can, more easily, hear a word from God undistracted by the preacher.

Think about it: what if your “preacher voice” was distracting people from hearing from God?

Would you want to ditch the “preacher voice” and begin preaching more authentically?

Let’s talk about it.

How to Preach More Conversationally

First off, what does it mean to preach more conversationally?

Preaching conversationally means that we preach more naturally. We preach, not with an embellished tone, but with an increased energy level of our natural speaking voice.

This is important because when I say we should preach more conversationally, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t increase our energy level. Speaking in front of people necessitates that we bring more energy because if we don’t, people will perceive us as lethargic.

I’m also not saying that we shouldn’t vary our volume, cadence, and tone. These are all important things to do if we want to communicate well.

So let’s look at how to preach more conversationally.

Smile More

Any good conversationalist knows the importance of facial expressions. What you communicate isn’t just about what you say, it’s how you say it.

So if you want to preach more conversationally, smile more. Especially in the sermon introduction. Smile at people when you speak to them. When you smile, people are more drawn to what you are saying.

But don’t smile all the time. That would be weird. Don’t be that guy.

Get Out of Your Head

Some preachers, especially those first starting out (and those who never worked at this enough) can become so fixated on saying things the way they want to say them that they are still in their own head when they are preaching.

When a preacher is in their own head, they speak with an unvaried cadence and unnatural polish.

The words they say are quite good. The problem is, many aren’t hearing what they’re saying because they’re distracted by the way they are speaking.

So in order to get out of your head, first ask for feedback. Ask someone to give you feedback on your preaching. It’s scary, I know. But it’s necessary.

Then work at shifting your focus from yourself and what you are trying to say to the people you are speaking to and what God wants to do in their lives.

And then ask for feedback again.

Focus Less on Your Notes

Notice: you don’t have to preach without notes completely to preach conversationally. But you do need to depend on your notes far less in order to preach more conversationally.

How do you do this? As Carey Nieuwhof has advocated, seek to understand your message rather than memorize your message. Because as I’ve already said, you need to get out of your head in order to preach more conversationally.

Beyond working at understanding your message (outlining your message before you write it and then writing a full manuscript will help with this–but don’t preach from it), the best way I know how to focus less on your notes is to take fewer notes with you on stage.

Preacher, it’s time you trust that the work you put in over the week, the effort you took to read over your manuscript, the time you spent in prayer, and the work of the Holy Spirit will be enough.

At the end of the day, taking fewer notes with you is going to be one of the most freeing things you can do in your preaching. It will infuse new energy into your delivery and you’ll be freer to talk directly to the people in the room rather than making sure you say everything exactly how you think you should.

Look People in the Eye

What do you do when you’re speaking to someone in-person? You look them in the eye.

If you want to preach more conversationally, look people in the eye when you’re preaching.

Yes. Actually look at someone and talk to them for a second before moving your eyes to someone else.

There’s a real difference between looking at a section of people and looking people in the eye.

There’s a real difference between looking above people’s heads and looking people in the eye.

I promise… This will make a huge difference in the way people receive what you are saying.

Making real eye contact with the people you are preaching to connects you to them in a way that no other communication tactic can. To say it simply, eye contact is a must if you want to preach conversationally.

Want to improve your preaching even more? Check out our book, Preaching Sticky Sermons.

Incorporate Your Sense of Humor

Maybe you are quick-witted.

Maybe you are sarcastic.

Maybe you are dry.

Maybe you are a storyteller.

Maybe you are a joke teller.

Whatever way(s) you use humor in everyday conversations, let that come out in your preaching.

For example, I am quick-witted, I love sarcasm, and I love to tell a good story with a funny punchline (the self-deprecating ones are the best).

So sometimes I’ll tell a funny story.

But my humor comes out the most on the fly. As I’m preaching, things will just come to me and I’ll often throw them out there for a good laugh.

Whatever your sense of humor is, let it come out when you are preaching.

If you’re not a joke teller, don’t tell jokes. Be you.

What would you add?

What would you add? Leave a comment below, send us a tweet, or join the conversation in our Facebook group for pastors.

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Written by Brandon Kelley

Brandon Kelley is the co-founder of Rookie Preacher and the author of Preaching Sticky Sermons and Crucified to Life. He serves as the Lead Pastor of First Church of Christ in Bluffton, IN. He also writes at BrandonKelley.org. You can follow him @BrandonKelley_. Watch his sermons here.

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  1. One of the best pieces of advice I received on conversational preaching was this: Preach so a middle school boy can understand you.

    That was super helpful to me as I tried to find my own voice as a preacher.

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