Home Pastors Preaching & Teaching Your Congregation Doesn't Need a TED Talk—They Need YOU!

Your Congregation Doesn't Need a TED Talk—They Need YOU!

Pastors face a lot of pressure to perform. Some of it, admittedly, is self-imposed.

One of the main places this pressure is felt is in the demand to research, write and deliver a great sermon every week.

In fact, several times in the last few months, I’ve read blog posts that have suggested that every Sunday sermon should be like a TED Talk.

In today’s post, I’d like to do two things that may seem impossible to accomplish simultaneously.

  • Relieve some of the performance pressure.
  • Challenge us all toward something better.

But first, let me answer a question that many of you may be asking. 

What’s a TED Talk?

TED Talks are presentations made at TED conferences. They’re delivered by some very high-end experts to a roomful of high-level achievers.

A TED conference is so exclusive that you can’t even attend it until you submit an application for them to evaluate. If you’re deemed worthy to attend, you then have the privilege of paying the $7,500 registration fee. No, that’s not a typo—$7,500. And that’s just for the conference registration.

TED started 30 years ago as an acronym for Technology, Entertainment and Design. But it has grown from that into a leading-edge clearinghouse for the latest ideas and innovations.

So how do I, a lowly small church pastor, know about such exclusive things? Because, after they’re delivered, TED Talks are uploaded to the Internet where anyone can watch them for free.

We Don’t Expect a Weekly TED Talk.

I’ve watched several TED Talks. They’re impressive. For $7,500, they’d better be.

TED speakers have six rules they must follow:

  1. Distill your life’s work or experience into a three-, six-, nine- or 18-minute talk.
  2. Be authentic/vulnerable.
  3. Convey one strong idea.
  4. Tell a story that hasn’t been told before.
  5. Tell and not sell.
  6. Absolutely and positively stick to the time limit.

After watching and learning from several TED Talks and looking over that list, I agree that TED Talks are great, the rules make sense, and everyone who speaks to an audience can learn something from them.

But how could anyone seriously ask pastors to pull off the equivalent of a TED Talk every Sunday? That’s 40-50 TED Talks every year on a different subject every week for the same people who’ve heard each of the previous talks.

Sure, points two, three, five and six are something we should always strive for. But points one and four? I think I could maybe put together one TED-level Talk. No, not one a week. Not one a year. One and done. Which is all most TED speakers are ever asked to do.

So here’s the let-the-pastor-off-the-hook part.

No pastor should be held, or should hold themselves, to standards like that. They’re easy to ask for, but they’ll kill you if you try to fulfill them.

And they’re entirely unnecessary. No one needs a TED Talk from their pastor every week.

But here’s what we do need. Whether we’re a spiritual seeker, a new believer, a frustrated church member or a mature disciple, we want one thing from our pastor’s sermon above all else …

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Karl is the author of four books and has been in pastoral ministry for almost 40 years. He is the teaching pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, a healthy small church in Orange County, California, where he has ministered for over 27 years with his wife, Shelley. Karl’s heart is to help pastors of small churches find the resources to lead well and to capitalize on the unique advantages that come with pastoring a small church. Karl produces resources for Helping Small Churches Thrive at KarlVaters.com, and has created S.P.A.R.K. Online (Small-Church Pastors Adapt & Recover Kit), which is updated regularly with new resources to help small churches deal with issues related to the COVID-19 crisis and aftermath.