When we were first starting Cobblestone Community Church, I would host an occasional “speakers’ breakfast” in an effort to train home-grown speaking talent for our teaching ministry. In developing the material for those informal workshops, I drew up a checklist of 20 questions that I asked each speaker to use to evaluate his or her planned message. It remains a mental checklist (though more intuitive for me than mechanical) that I try to apply to my own speaking. Here are the 20 questions:
Do I grab the listener’s attention as soon as I start speaking?
Does the talk start where people are (with their culture, needs, problems, issues, questions)?
Does it come on too strong, too fast?
Am I teaching the listener something he didn’t already know?
Am I communicating what God says, not my opinions?
Have I included an introduction of myself and words of welcome to the listener?
Have I included a restatement somewhere in the talk of either Cobblestone’s mission (“loving people into life-changing encounters with God”) or distinctives (community-oriented, student-friendly, seeker-aware, outward-focused)?
Have I offered an elementary (but not condescending) explanation of the text that will help even a Bible newbie find it without feeling stupid (as well as avoidance of “church lingo” as much as possible)?
Have I revealed anything of myself in the talk without revealing anything inappropriate? (So much the better if it’s vulnerable, self-effacing and/or winsome.)
Do I interact with my listeners in the talk (e.g., mentioning people’s names, asking for responses, etc.)?
Have I included humor?
Am I being realistic instead of shallow? Will my listener believe I understand what he’s really going through?
Have I touched (not manipulated) my listener’s emotions?
Is my talk focused enough (instead of rambling)?
Have I played a part in meeting a felt need?
Is the “solution” I propose realistic? Life-related? Biblical?
Does the structure of my talk logically lead to the conclusion/application?
Have I left out anything important, crucial?
Have I given clear application for both a seeker and a Christian that answers the question, “OK, what am I supposed to do with this information now/today/this week?”
Have I made reference to how my listener can find further help (e.g., prayer counselors)?