How often have you sat down on a Friday (or Saturday) afternoon and thought, “Oh no, how am I going to start this message?” It’s the curse of preaching, isn’t it? Unlike professional speakers who can come up with one message and travel around the country giving that same message over and over again, you have to come up with 40–50 great intros, week in and week out, every single year!
What complicates this whole scenario is that the people you’re speaking to are widely diverse. You have graduate school alumni as well as high school drop-outs, you have senior citizens as well as Millenials, you have stay-at-home moms as well as moms who head up large organizations, you have singles who’ve never been married as well as singles who’ve been married, as well as marrieds with children still at home as well as marrieds whose children have all left the roost along with those marrieds who’ve never had children.
So how do you hook all those divergent people, week in and week out, so that the majority of them want to listen to what you have to say to them that day? That is the question, isn’t it? It begins with remembering everyone is motivated by self-interest. Since we all have a sin nature, we’re all most interested in what’s interesting to us — not to someone else (let alone a preacher).
Hopefully, you noticed how I started this article. I didn’t start out by telling you, “Here’s how to create a hook … ” I started by thinking about you and your self-interest. In fact, here was my thought process (shortened): “What is the biggest pain and frustration pastors experience when creating a hook?”
My answer was, “Looking at a blank sheet of paper each week and wondering, ‘How do I start this week’s message?’ and secondly, feeling the frustration of ‘How do I come up with anything that can hook such a widely divergent group of people?’” Once I thought about you and your issues, the hook became easy to create. But it all began with the idea that to hook someone, you have to appeal to their self-interest — you have to connect to what’s most interesting to them (not to you, or in this case, to me).
If you really own that principle, you’ll be light years ahead of most preachers who almost always start with themselves and what they’re most interested in (or want to teach on) versus what the people they’re speaking to are most interested in learning. I cannot overstate how different those two starting positions are — nor how different the effects are.
So if you want to start creating a better hook every week, here’s what I’d recommend. Take out a piece of paper and at the top on the left side write “X1.” At the top of the right side write “X2.” And in between the two draw an arrow. Your job in preaching is to take a group of people (your congregation) from X1 (which is where they start) to X2 (which is where they need to be at the end).
Now, by definition, you can’t take someone from where they are if you’re not clear on where they’re starting. In light of that, here are seven questions you’ll want to ask yourself each week if you want to create better hooks.