Tricks of the Trade

Tricks of the Trade

In the last post I looked at the first two “tricks of the trade” that we can learn from television production that will improve our preaching.  We saw that cross promotion and editing are two of the keys for effectiveness.


what it means to evaluateA third of the tricks of the trade is evaluation.  I wrote about this earlier in a post that I called “Listening to the Listeners” , and you can read that for the thoughts there on how to do this.  In this context, though, as we think about tricks of the trade for television, we need to know that part of the effectiveness of television is that they constantly evaluate programs.  They do it by a rating system.  Within a few hours after a television is broadcast, a network knows what the rating of the program was.  They brutally consider these ratings, because if people aren’t watching the show, advertisers won’t buy time.  That will result in a program’s cancellation.

People in church do something similar: they evaluate your message.  If what you present is not engaging, they’ll tune out.

What do you do for evaluation of your preaching?  There are two parts to effective evaluation: the evaluation of the people listening to you; and your own self evaluation.  You should have a system in place for both of these.

Evaluation from Your Listeners

The first is easily done.  On some regular basis (monthly or quarterly), have people evaluate your sermons with a questionnaire.  Here is a link to one such evaluation that Calvin Seminary provides for its students.  You can develop something like this for your setting and your people.

Evaluating Yourself

You should also develop a process for evaluating yourself.  This, too, is easily done.  Record a sermon and listen to it critically.  Or, if you have access to video equipment, you can evaluate more than your vocal variety and the content of your message.  You will also be able to see if your gestures and body language fit your message well.

This is humbling, I have to admit.  For a time, I listened to a recording of every message I preached.  I heard that there were a couple of phrases that I repeated way too often.  “In this day and age” got way too much use.  So I began to find other ways of expressing this.  I used phrases like, “In our culture”, or “our world today”.

And then there is video.  When Richard Nixon was president of the United States, he said in an interview that he never looked at video of himself.  Why?  He saw too many things that needed correcting.  I know how he felt.  When I look at video of my preaching, I invariably find gestures that become distracting.  But the process of looking at the video gives me a chance to correct them.

Evaluating is a trick of the trade that preachers would do well to learn.

Instant Replay is a Trick of the Trade

Another trick of the trade that television uses is the instant replay.  Last night I watched a basketball game between the Michigan State Spartans and the Penn State Nittany Lions.  After a time-out in which there were many commercials shown, the producer of this television broadcast showed a series of replays of key shots and dunks that demonstrated that the Spartans were coming back after a 15 point deficit.  It was clear that there was a new energy in the players, and some plays were so key that they showed them from different angles.  Those instant replays gave me some new insights as to the flow of the game.

repetition is the mother of all learningIn a similar way, a preacher who restates his major points reminds people of what is important in the message.  If you find ways not just of repeating what you have said, but finding different ways of saying it (that’s what I mean by restating it), you will be able to drive home your major points in an effective way.

There are still a couple of tricks of the trade that I’ll write about next week.   For now, here’s another blog on preaching, with a reflection on the importance of repetition in preaching.

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