How to Communicate Using Your Body

How To Communicate Using Your Body

In a previous post I shared with you the 7-38-55 rule for communication.  This rule says that effective communication is 7 percent the words you say, 38 percent the tone of voice that you use, and 55 percent your body language.  I was looking back at that post recently.  As I read, I realized that I failed to discuss appropriately the body language that makes preaching effective.  Therefore, today we are going to begin a consideration of how to communicate using your body when you preach.

I want to acknowledge at the beginning of this post that I am deeply indebted to Brandon Hilgemann and his treatment of this subject in his book, Preach and Deliver.

What Not To Do

If 55% of our communication is our body language, then we’d better learn how to use our bodies well in our preaching!  Let’s begin with looking at what we should not do when we preach.

Don’t Slouch

Body language experts tell us that when we slouch, we are communicating that we are nervous, insecure, or bored.  You may need to look at a video of yourself preaching in order to determine whether this is part of how you communicate with your body.  Keep your shoulders and head up when you preach.

Don’t Look Uptight

One of the pastors from my childhood determined not to use any gestures in his preaching lest he draw attention away from the Word.  As a result, he stood behind the pulpit in our church holding  a big Bible, and never moved any part of his body.  This stance communicated that he was uptight when he preached.  Here’s a thing to notice when learning about how to communicate using your body in your preaching: that pastor may not have been uptight, but he was communicating that he was.  Do you see the difference?  He may have chosen this style because it made him comfortable, but what he was communicating was that he was nervous.

Don’t Put Your Hands On Your Hips

This action conveys an arrogance, the idea that the preacher is talking down to you.  It’s kind of like a parent scolding a child for the tenth time for a wrong behavior.  People will first cringe, then begin to reject your message with this kind of posture.

Don’t Cross Your Arms

Remember the last time you were talking with someone and they crossed their arms?  Do you remember your

reaction?  Usually this aspect of body language communicates that you are building a wall, cutting yourself off from the other person.  Some might even perceive that you are hostile if you cross your arms.

Don’t Put Your Hands In Your Pockets

A preacher in my area used to carry a rock in his pocket when he preached.  Because he was especially nervous when he preached, he would reach into his pocket and touch the rock.  This action reminded him that God was the rock, and that he was going to be at work in this message.  That’s a nice idea, but body language experts would say that wha ws being communicated was nervousness.  And to make it worse, people wonder what’s in your pocket.

How To Communicate Using Your Body in Preaching

That’s quite a list of things to avoid when you preach!  Use a video of yourself to evaluate how you are communicating with your body will be extremely helpful to cutting out bad body language.

So practice.  Practice your sermon with good body language.   Stand with your back straight, your head up, your chest out, and your feet firmly planted about shoulder width apart.

In the next post we’ll consider how to communicate using your body through gestures.