Christian Churches of God
(Edition 1.0 20030126-20030126)
The purpose of these guidelines is to help speakers avoid some of the pitfalls many public speakers fall into. It points out some of the logical steps one should take in order to give a comprehensive and easy to follow message, which is beneficial to his audience and fulfils God’s instructions to give a clear sound, so people can learn and be prepared. (1Cor. 14:8)
Guidelines for Speakers
The purpose for public speaking is to transfer ideas from the speaker to the audience, regardless of whether these ideas originate in the Bible or elsewhere.
In the Churches of God, the speakers have an audience, which has been commanded to be in attendance, but we cannot take for granted that they will absorb what is being said. It is therefore the speaker’s responsibility to make his audience not only listen to him, but also want to hear and understand what is being said. In order to accomplish this, there are some tested guidelines we should work within. Just as a builder has to start with the foundation of the structure and proceed from there with the floors, walls and finally the roof, so a speaker must follow certain guidelines to make his speech a success, regardless of how long he speaks.
We all have experienced the ramblings of a disorganised speech or the dumping of endless, seemingly unrelated scriptures or other information, usually resulting in the sincere and well meaning speaker going far beyond his allotted time. These sessions become endurance tests, rather than the uplifting, stimulating and helpful sermons they should be. Our task is to instruct people in the truth of God. Webster says instruct means “to impart knowledge, to teach, to inform, to furnish with direction, to educate”. Our job is to make it plain and simple, interesting and easy to understand. The guidelines are given to aid speakers in avoiding some of the most common pitfalls.
Since we are planning to expound the word of God, the first thing we need to do is ask for God’s help and inspiration. After all, we are in His service and we want to be motivated and inspired by His Holy Spirit.
Choose a subject that you feel particularly inspired about. When you are new to public speaking, you should limit your time to 15 minutes. When you become more experienced, you can give longer messages. Therefore you need to choose a subject that can easily be expounded within your allotted time.
For a 15 minute sermonette, you should try to use no more than 3 scriptures. In a 60 minute sermon you should limit the amount of scriptures to approximately 15 or 20. Any more will limit your ability to thoroughly expound them. Often you will need to mention a few more scriptures as a form of support for personal study later. All the relevant Bible points on a subject should be covered in the papers on a topic. Amass your information first. Then divide your Scriptures according to importance to the core of the topic. Use those that are most important and list those that support the topic. Limit your time and the Scriptures according to that time.
Specific Purpose Statement
After you have selected your topic, the first thing you need to do is write down the Specific Purpose Statement. In one sentence, without the word “and” in the sentence, write what you intend to get across. Without this S.P.S., your speech will lack clarity and purpose and rambling will result. Reflecting on this SPS will also give you an indication if your subject is suitable for the allotted time. The SPS is perhaps the most important part of your public address and this should be given shortly after the opening statement, so that your audience will know what to expect.
Body of the Speech
Next you will want to work on the points of the main body. Though there should only be one main purpose for the message, you probably will want to have 3 or 4 points to achieve that purpose. It is said that a speech should move in a straight line, meaning that each idea leads to the next idea. Each idea will be understood clearly. Preserve an expected sequence and relationship between ideas. Let the audience know how the ideas relate to one another. It is most important that we lead the minds of our listeners in a logical, step by step sequence of how we came to the conclusions we did. If we jump around from one point to another, without a logical sequence, the audience will lose interest and miss the point.
Next comes the preparation of the conclusion. It is best to write out in full, both the SPS and the conclusion statement. Especially in longer messages, it is easy to spend more time than one had intended. It is therefore of the utmost importance to have a conclusion statement. All your points have been leading up to this and when you find yourself running out of time, you can skip one of your points, go to the conclusion and still have a perfectly rounded off speech. This is much better than insisting to give all your prepared material, because you will find yourself having to rush through it or go beyond your allotted time. You will most assuredly lose your audience’s attention in this futile effort. Your conclusion should drive home one more time in capsule form the main point you have been making.
The last part in preparing your speech or sermon is the opening statement. As suggested before, it might be helpful to write your opening statement out in full. The opening statement should grab your audience’s attention and make them want to listen to what you have to say. You could start with asking a question or making a profound or thought provoking statement. If you can create a problem in the minds of your audience, and then promise to give the solution, you are almost sure to have created a desire in them to listen to you. For example: The Bible states that we are not under law but under grace. On the other hand, it states that the law is not abolished. How can we reconcile these seeming contradictions? Make sure that your opening leads naturally into your subject and SPS. Avoid starting with a joke or story, which is totally unrelated to your message. It will distract rather than help your audience focus on the subject, though it is tempting to make an impression.
Following the above guidelines in speech/sermon preparation will help your delivery to be easy to follow and get God’s message across in a logical, understandable way. Above all, your audience will benefit from being able to take notes and remember the points you are making since they relate one to another in a logical sequence.
Philippians 2:3: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. (NIV)
This scripture instructs you to have a very humble attitude as a servant of God delivering a message, which did not originate with you, but with God after you asked Him to inspire and help you. Be sure not to “talk down” to people, in an attempt to glorify self, but rather lift them up. You need to consider them better than yourself.
With this in mind, we should consider some ways in which we can show respect when we are called upon to speak.
Dress and grooming
In North American and British Commonwealth culture, wearing a shirt, tie and jacket, is considered appropriate dress, with the exception perhaps of a few areas such as Hawaii and some other places. Africa and Asia other than Commonwealth nations have no such culture so dress appropriately. You are God’s representative when you speak from His word and should therefore dress accordingly showing respect to this calling. We should be dressed and groomed to the best of our ability for this reason. Proper dress also shows respect to our audience and demonstrates proper self-respect. The way we dress and groom expresses our attitude. When we dress and groom carelessly or casually we demonstrate that type of attitude.
Eye contact with your audience shows sincerity. It makes them aware that you are talking to them. In private conversation, when the person talking to you keeps looking away you wonder if he is really interested in you. The same applies to public speaking. Direct your gaze over the whole audience, and not just to one spot on either your left or right or worse still, on the ceiling. If you were to fix in your mind, that only those people you look at are being addressed, you would be more inclined to look at the whole audience.
Respect for the next speaker and audience
When the speaking schedule calls for you to finish at a certain time, show respect by adhering to that. If you are the first speaker, you will show respect by quitting on time to give the next speaker his full allotted time. If you are the last speaker, you will show love and concern to the audience by stopping on time, realising they have already been trying to absorb a lot of information. More information, regardless of how important you might think it, is will only give spiritual indigestion. Better leave them wanting more than over feeding them.
Show love and respect during your speech
Always be polite.
Use proper language expressing what you intend to say, so people don’t have to guess what you mean and are left with more questions than answers.
Be concise. Avoid long drawn out stories or unnecessary repeats. The use of a story is only helpful if it clarifies or helps fix a point you are making.
Use forms of support.
Scriptures are your best forms of support, but if needed, quote from well know sources. If the source is not well know, briefly introduce it and demonstrate why this source can be trusted and why you are using it.
Don’t belittle or embarrass anyone.
If a wrong needs to be brought to light, use only the facts to demonstrate the errors. Avoid using personal names. Remember that we need to show love even to our enemies. Don’t accuse. Satan is the accuser and we should not be too ready to help him in that.
Be uplifting. Always hold out hope.
Leave self out of the picture as much as possible. You are only the instrument in God’s service
Remember that you have a great responsibility before God to tell these people the truth and to help them understand His will and laws. Only God can open their minds to this. You just give the message as clear and concise as possible and let God do the rest.
Above all be doctrinally sound and if in doubt ask. Read the relevant paper on the subject if there is one and use that as a guide.
Practice makes perfect.
Without some practice it is difficult to improve your skills as a public speaker. Without some evaluation and help from others it is equally difficult to improve.
It is therefore suggested that if you do not have a congregation or group you can practice on, you write out your speech, using the guidelines as mentioned above and e-mail them in to be evaluated for your benefit.
If you do have a group you can speak to, ask someone in the group, preferably someone with public speaking experience, to study the guidelines and evaluate you privately after you have given your message.