How to Become a Better Communicator

So, you’re called to preach? What does that mean? Where do you start? What do you do? Maybe you’ve preached for years but feel your message falls flat, or your audience doesn’t connect with you at all during your message. How do you become a better communicator? We will give you 7 steps on how to do just that. But first, I want to share a little bit about where we started. This is by no means saying we are now experts, these are the simple steps we are taking to get better week in and week out at what God has called us to do. 


Where We Started:

We both answered the call to preach when we were the ripe age of 16. We didn’t know anything about anything. We didn’t know the Bible very well and we didn’t know how to communicate very well. Let’s just say between us, our first few sermons, and even for the next few years, our sermons were subpar at best, terrible at the most truthful times. The church we were in at that time had several people answering the call to preach(20+), so we have heard a lot of different first time preachers. With that also meant having little time for experience, getting to preach 1-2 times a year does not offer for a great foundation in developing messages and discipline in communicating God’s message to the masses.


If you struggle, you are not alone:

We have seen many, many first time preachers, or people with little experience or even with a lot of experience and their sermons aren’t hitting home to people, express their frustration. They spend hours agonizing over what to preach and then feel that all their time was wasted. We have seen many speakers and preachers leave the ministry entirely with feelings of inadequacy. The cause may not have been preaching, but I would wager that poor communication was at the crux of the failure itself.


This isn’t a new feeling. We (Myself and my good friend and fellow Pastor Johnathon Barlow) have spent hours and hours over years discussing our sermons, discussing what we preach, what we teach, why it is or is not effective. I have heard this conversation for before. Now this is not to say that God does not use those sermons, he does. This is not to say that we need more than God’s word to preachers, it is the very basis of what we do. But, how do we get better at our craft? If you are a teacher, a preacher, a public speaker, communicator in the business world, these will help you hit home with your audience more often.


We are going to give you 7 steps to help you become a better communicator.

(side note, this is not an all-inclusive, end to all options list, these are the steps and things that have helped shape our communication style, and the style of many successful pastors around us)


1.Spend time in God’s Word. First and foremost, you have to spend time in God’s word. You should spend time learning about God before you can preach and teach about God. How do you learn who God is? Through time in His word (The Bible) and spending time talking to God (in prayer.) Everything starts here, and everything ends here. Every point you make, every message you speak, should be backed by God’s word. If you preach a message on grace, mercy, faith, money, sex, etc., it needs its basis and conclusion in God’s word.


2. Care about Your Craft. I believe since you are here, reading this, you probably care a little bit about your craft. Each week the message we bring, may be the only message, or the last message a person hears. Would you be okay with that? One of the most influential people of the last 100 years said this. ““Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it, they will want to come back and see you do it again, and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.” Did Billy Graham say that? No, it was Walt Disney. Will preaching great messages every week grow your church? Most likely it will. Pew research suggests a staggering 85% of people chose their new churches based on the quality of the message being spoken. Children’s ministry, Teen ministry, Worship, pew vs chair, color of the carpet, all these things are important, but adults want to be in a place with a quality message. You should care about your craft because they care about it.


3. Read/Listen to books on communication. I would highly recommend to start with Communicating for change” – by Andy Stanley. ITS A GAME CHANGER!!!!!! For real! It changed my approach to preparing for a message entirely. The book is a key building block for myself and almost every other pastor I know. If they have not read it, I recommend they get it. I have bought the book for staff members because I believe it is so important. It’s a super easy read, you will get done in a day or two. Carey Nieuwhof has a whole course on becoming a better communicator that I have taken. You will find many seminars, books, websites geared towards making a better communicator. This $15 book was my first step, and honestly the biggest influence on it all. Over time, I have taken college classes, went to seminars, conferences, webinars and even web classes to become the most effective preacher I can be. I encourage you to do so as well.


4. Listen to top level preachers/communicators, and find aspects of their talks that resonate with you and attempt to work them in to your sermons. Don’t try to be them. Be you, but feel free to take what works for them and mold it into your style, because guess what… they most likely took it from someone they admired as well. When I first started preaching I found communicators I really enjoyed. Over time that has been people like Matt Chandler, Mark Driscoll, Judah Smith, Steven Furtick, Mark Batterson, and so on. The key is to listen to them and see different styles. Theorist believe that there are really only four major personality types. We are all made up of primarily of these four. You will inevitably connect with some that others do not. I like to listen to pastors or do not like to listen to pastors that some of my best friends love to listen too. Johnathon and I have been close friends since 2nd grade, and we do not always LOVE the same preachers. And that’s ok, and it’s normal. Listen for styling, compare what they do to the book “communicating for a change”, and you will be amazed of how many big time, key leaders follow this style.


5. Record and listen/watch back to your sermons. I know, it is not fun, but it’s so crucial in your development as a communicator. You need to listen to what you say and how you move on stage. Do you like what you are saying? Do you have any annoying tendencies? Ed Stetzer, another great communicator and an authority on church planting, gave a message at M19 and showed an email he received about how many times he adjusted his glasses during his message. This person was so distracted by it, they went back and watched his sermon a second time and counted how many times he adjusted his glasses. He adjusted them 70+ times in his 30+ minute message. Basically every 30 seconds. Do you do something similar that is distracting your listeners? Do you want to see your listener’s life changed? Then we as preachers need to be willing to measure what works and what needs work in our speaking and then make the changes that are required to be made for the message to be more effective. Do you cringe at what you say or how you say it? How do you think that makes your audience feel? Instead of saying, that is just the way it is, care enough about your craft to make the efforts to change even your natural tendencies. (Ed did, he starting using a product called Nerd Wax to help keep his glasses in place more)


6. Ask a gifted/talented communicator for feedback. If you are in ministry, or even just getting started, you should have people around you that you trust and look up to. I know pastor’s (including my current district superintendent Phil Rhoades) who do a message survey on a regular basis and have people they trust fill out feedback about their message. People that are already attending their churches and listening to them on a regular basis. You can ask a friend that you trust and know they are a good communicator to give you feedback. Johnathon has been one of those people for me, and I have been one for him. I have asked people older than me, and younger than me for feedback. You may need to have thick skin for it and definitely be open to positive and negative feedback. In Citizens Church, we believe being in a culture of feedback is crucial. It is not to tear each other down and nitpick or tell them how many times they touched their glasses. It is a time to give honest feedback to help all involved grow as individuals and as communicators. Without knowing where you are, you will never get where you are going.


7. ENJOY THE PROCESS! Last but definitely not least, enjoy the process. You have the coolest opportunity in the world to bring the only message that matters to those who need it. I pray you are going to have fantastic weeks, and I know you will have weeks where you feel like you didn’t bring your A game. Learn from it, grow from it and enjoy it. It’s an amazing opportunity we have been given.


Hope this was helpful for any of my friends who aspire to make a difference through the preaching of the Gospel. We love you all!


Please share if you know of anyone that might benefit from this!


Authored by Kevin Plain & Johnathon Barlow