5 Ways to Kill a Message by Jeff Henderson

At the Orange Conference, Jeff Henderson from Gwinnett Church which is part of North Point Ministries shared about “The 5 Ways to Kill a Message.” After years working for the Atlanta Braves and Chick-Fil-A and now in ministry, Jeff has helped others become better communicators whether it was for a business presentation or a sermon. Here are some of his thoughts:

1. Failure to adequately prepare. You and I will never have enough time, so we have to get ahead of time. How effective would your message be if you could get 5 days ahead or even 3 weeks ahead? Set aside a non-negotiable planning day or morning to write the message 5 days ahead or 3 weeks ahead of time. We make it too easy to cancel meetings with ourselves.

Ask these questions:

  • What do I want those listening to do because of this message?
  • What do you want those listening to remember?

Begin writing the answers to these questions. Allow yourself to write badly. You can always edit it later.

Between the day of preparation and the day you speak, illustrations and insights will come. It is like a simmering crock pot where the longer it simmers, the better it is.

2. The message goes too long. Often our messages go too long because we are not prepared and find ourselves rambling trying to make our point. Often we take so long because we don’t understand ourselves the point of our message well enough.

Jeff encouraged a colleague who was given 30 minutes for a business presentation, to communicate this to those in attendance: ‘This idea is so powerful and simple, I can share it with you in 15 minutes followed by a 5 minute time for Q&A. I will give you back 10 minutes so you can take a break or jump on your smartphones.’

The goal should never be to fill the time. No one complains if ever go short.

Remove jargon that needs to be explained. Practice at simplifying by speaking to junior high kids. This is a humility test! Do you want to communicate the insight God has for those in attendance or show how smart you are?

For example, “iPod – a 1000 songs in my pocket.”

3. Too many good ideas. Don’t let the information in your message water down or confuse your main idea. For example, “Eat More Chicken” vs. a billboard with sentences all over it.

What would be the tweet describing your message? If you cannot summarize your message in 140 characters, you have more work to do.

Don’t give a 5 part series in one message.

4. Too few stories. Jesus was a master storyteller. Great content without a story does not communicate as effectively. Stories are important for the following reasons:

  • Stories hold our attention. A brain gets tired of listening after 10 minutes, and a story helps the listener re-engage.
  • Stir our emotions.
  • Help us remember.

5. No clear action step. People ask themselves: ‘that’s true, so what?’

What do I want the listener to do? Make the action step clear.

For example, in a few weeks Jeff is sharing a message at North Point where the goal is to have people ask those closest to themselves: ‘What is it like to be on the other side of me? What is it like to be married to me? What is like to work for me?’

Final thoughts:

When you can, record the message and watch yourself to look for ways to improve for the future.

Mark 13: “Don’t worry about what you will say…” was in the context of facing death not preaching on a Sunday!

“Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” = working at my message beforehand knowing the Spirit of God is in the preparation just as much as when on the stage.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. could tell his message wasn’t hitting like he hoped so he switched over to the “I Have a Dream” speech he had given a few weeks earlier. He read his audience and demonstrated planned spontaneity.

Seek to find common ground with your audience.

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Eric Bryant
Dr. Eric Michael Bryant serves with Gateway Church in Austin as the team leader for Central and South Austin and as part of the teaching team. Eric previously served at Mosaic in Los Angeles and his books include Not Like Me: A Field Guide to a Influencing a Diverse World and A Fruitful Life: Becoming Who You Were Created To Be. Eric coaches church planters and campus pastors, teaches on Post Christian Ministry, and leads a cohort for a Doctorate of Ministry in Missional Effectiveness through Bethel Seminary where he earned his Doctorate of Ministry in Entrepreneurial Leadership.