5 Tips for Preaching with PowerPoint #3, 4 and 5

In the first part of this list of tips for preaching with PowerPoint, we shared two ways to preach with PowerPoint. The first one said, don’t use PowerPoint because it’s ugly and doesn’t include the features modern worship software programs features like quickly inserting lyrics, Bible verses, videos and images. They cost more, but the users will produce better worship presentations.

Second, we talked about being more visual with sermon point or sermon idea slides. Use less text and include quality images.

Now lest jump into tip number three.

Stop Preaching with PowerPoint and Clip Art

Back in the early nineties clip art made church bulletins and newsletters look more attractive, but they don’t look so good on a presentation slide. In fact, clip art on slides looks amateurish and ugly. That’s why we suggested using quality images found using Google Image search, Flickr’s creative commons library or Wikipedia’s library of creative commons images. In the rare case that you can’t find one in one of those places, pay for a professionally created image or get a subscription to a database of worship media like the folks at ShareFaith offer.

flickr creative commons search
Search using the box in the upper right and then click the drop down box to show the creative commons filter.

In our last post, we showed the detailed tips for finding quality images using Google. Now lets look at how to find creative commons images on Flickr.  Go to Flickr and find the search box in the upper right corner. Enter the idea you want to illustrate. In our first tips post we searched for trophies to illustrate the idea that God honors humble servants.

After the site returns some images, click on the License: Any License drop down box and click on the last item under Creative Commons Only labelled Modifications allowed. We use that because the rights holder doesn’t mind people using the image so long as they give credit. The holder will also allow the person searching to change the image.

flickr image display screen
Click on the download button in the lower right corner.

This will filter the images returning a smaller number of photos. Find the one you like and click on it and then click on the download arrow in the lower right corner. The various sizes available will pop up. Choose the largest size available or pick View all sizes. Download the image and use it to create your slide.

I use Photoshop to create my slides. Learn how to use their typography features to create attractive slides with your sermon ideas and companion images (see above).

Adobe’s creative cloud subscription for photographers only costs $9.99/month and it includes Photoshop, Lightroom and mobile apps as well as some online features.

Prepare Your Sermon with Visuals in Mind

This takes a little more explaining than any of our other tips. During the sermon preparation process think about using visual medium to make your point.

biblical preaching amazon
Biblical Preaching is one of the best books on sermon preparation ever written.

First, let me share my assumptions about sermon preparation. I assume that you will preach an expository sermon. What does that mean? In his seminal work Biblical Preaching, Haddon Robinson defines expository preaching as follows:

Expository preaching is the communication of a biblical concept, derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, and literary study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit first applies to the personality and experience of the preacher, then through the preacher, applies to the hearers.

We don’t have time to go into all the steps a preacher must take to derive that Biblical concept from the text. I use an inductive approach to study. I go over the text repeatedly, first outlining the text in English. Then I write down my own observations and ask investigative questions using the journalistic interrogatives: who, what, when, where, why and how.

I come up with the “Big Idea” of the text, as Haddon Robinson calls the main idea of a passage. Now it’s time to present that idea. Here’s where thinking visually comes into the process. Here’s a few tips.

  • Compose the outline of the message so that it faithfully communicates the text’s Big Idea.
  • Look over the outline and think of a single overarching illustration that you can use to hang your whole idea on
  • Think about visual illustrations that you can use to show the audience the concepts
medals and awards
Photo source: Flickr (http://bit.ly/1G9mX7z)

We’ve been using the idea of God honoring humble servants. I focused on the honor part of that Big Idea. One visual way to communicate that is a trophy. I can find pictures of trophies and use stories about people receiving trophies. People win trophies in …

  • sporting events
  • 4H fairs
  • blue ribbons in school competitions or craft shows
  • medals placed on the chest of a soldier

Now I’ve got a number of visual ways to illustrate the idea of honor.

As I begin to craft my sermon outline and need illustrations for the sub-points or supporting ideas, these visual images can help. I’ll eventually need to talk about a humble servant. Maybe I can share a clip from a movie or TV show where a humble person got honored. Maybe I can illustrate undeserved reward with a story about a person who didn’t measure up, but was given a physical reward for their repentance and willingness to admit their failure.

While I’m preparing my sermon outline and coming up with illustrations, I will look for ideas that I can share visually and pick one of these over one that’s not as visual.

Go Old School with Object Lessons

We’re talking about preaching with multimedia. Object lessons create powerful visual illustrations of concepts. They’re real and people can even touch them or on occasion feel, smell or taste them. The more senses I use, the more likely the hearer will remember my point.

desmond tutu children semon
Photo source: Wikipedia

Preachers communicate with children in traditional churches using object lessons all the time. The adults often get more out of the children’s sermon due to these concrete visual and tactile object lessons. Why not use it in the sermon too.

Using the idea of a trophy or medal to illustrate honor, I can grab a trophy and show it during the sermon. If I care to, I might be able to create some inexpensive medals to hand out to the congregation as a way to touch the object and remember it later by taking it home with them.

One word of warning. Don’t over use the object lesson. It will lose it’s wow factor. Using one object lesson every few months will interest the hearers. Using one every week will feel like a gimmick and lose impact.


5 Tips for Preaching with PowerPoint – #1 and 2

Ten years ago when I finished my Doctor of Ministry Dissertation, Using Multimedia in Expository Preaching, many churches already used projection systems even back then to display song lyrics, announcements, photo slide shows of church activities and for preaching with PowerPoint. In 2015 the projector and screen shows up in most church worship spaces, even in churches that still call them a “sanctuary.”

As someone whose preached for over ten years using multimedia to display outlines, illustrations and Bible verses, let me share 5 tips for preaching with PowerPoint to help pastors and multimedia teams communicate God’s work in a powerful, interesting and even entertaining way.

Stop Preaching with PowerPoint

Get rid of PowerPoint and use worship presentation software like MediaShout.

Confession time! I used the term PowerPoint in the title of this article as a generic word. When a person needs to wipe their nose they ask for a Kleenex, even though we don’t necessary want one branded Kleenex. A tissue is a Kleenex to most people even if it’s from another brand.

Using a multimedia presentation too is using “PowerPoint” even though we may not use Microsoft’s presentation program.

Preachers should stop preaching with PowerPoint, Keynote or any other of the PowerPoint alternatives. Instead invest in a great church presentation or worship presentation program.

At my church we use MediaShout. It’s powerful and with that power comes some complexity. However, it does a great job of displaying lyrics, pictures, video and Bible verses.

Other worship presentation software programs include the following:

We won’t make recommendations as to which one you should buy. Instead, check your budget and the features against the following list. If a worship software program doesn’t include the following features, then don’t get it.

  • Display lyrics, Bible verses, and text
  • Import PowerPoint files since guest speakers usually show up with a flash drive with a PowerPoint presentation
  • Show video files, DVDs and if possible YouTube videos from within the program
  • Display websites
  • Edit slides, including the program’s content like Bible verses and lyrics
  • Loop pre-service slides for announcements
  • Handle countdowns
  • Text formatting
  • Background editing so you can display video, images and solid colors

In addition to the above features, many programs will also let the user edit their presentation on their home or office computer and sync it to the sanctuary computer. Some run on both PC and Mac. A few offer remote control apps that run on an iPhone, Android phone, iPad or tablet.

These make creating worship presentations so much easier than PowerPoint. Also, they force the user to avoid the ugly PowerPoint themes and templates. Most worship attendees can spot an ugly PowerPoint template quickly and these templates turn people off. People see so many bad PowerPoint presentations that this distracts them from worship instead of enhancing it.

If you must use PowerPoint, invest in a good worship plug-in. I know of two. MediaShout Bridge (see above) turns PowerPoint into a simple form of MediaShout within PowerPoint with lyric and Bible verse import. It also inserts multimedia easily.

Another PowerPoint plugin comes from the folks at ShareFaith (see video above). Their ShareFaith Presenter comes free for those who subscribe to the service, which includes a library of media to download and use in worship like backgrounds, stock photos, PowerPoint themes or templates, and

Don’t Show Your Full Outline


Too many preachers ask their churches to install an expensive projection system, computer and they might even install one of the great worship presentation programs listed above. Then the preacher loads up their outline on slides and displays these outlines with lots of text that looks like the slide above instead of like the one below.

Instead of a boring outlines the previous one above, show a slide like this to bring the point to life quickly.

Here’s a few rules to follow:

  • Never shore more than 10 words per slide
  • Use meaningful phrases of 5-10 words at most
  • Leave off the Roman Numerals or any other numbered or lettered lists
  • Include a picture on each slide that illustrates the idea
  • Only show one idea or sermon point per slide

Long sentences and numbered outlines look boring. A single screen with one sermon point or idea per screen focuses hearers on the current idea. Use a photo to illustrate the idea when possible.

Where do we get these photos?

Start by searching Google using Google’s image search and their creative commons filter. Here’s how to do it. Head over to their image search site. Enter the idea to search. For example, if I’m illustrating a point that says “God honors humble servants” then you could search for awards, medals or trophies to focus on the idea of honoring. Or search the word humble. Once the search shows the results, click on Search tools just below the search box at the right end.

Click on the usage rights drop down and select one of the last two items.
Click on the Usage rights drop down and select Labelled for noncommercial reuse with modification or Labelled for noncommercial reuse.

A new toolbar appears just above the search results. Filter the search using the Usage rights drop down. Pick one of the last two items on the list. The first one reads, Labelled for noncommercial reuse with modification or Labelled for noncommercial reuse. Pick the former if you plan to change it or edit it in some way. Pick the latter if you don’t. Make sure to put attribution on the slide somewhere. It doesn’t need to be very big. Put it in small font in the button corner with a link to the site where you found the image.

Use one of the other filter drop downs to filter images by size, color and more. I always pick the size filter choosing pictures that are larger than 1024×768.

Look for pictures at a few other sources, like Wikipedia or Flickr. In both cases, look for creative commons licensed photos and give credit on the slide. See the above slide with trophies. Notice the link in the lower right corner.

getty images
Getty Images offers a better quality of image, but they’re expensive.

A third place to find pictures is subscription or pay services like ShareFaith or Getty Images. You’ll find a better quality of images, but also a more limited selection and they’ll cost some money. ShareFaith charges a subscription while Getty lets users buy credits to use to download images.

Finally, when you do use text, proofread it. Look at the terrible pure text slide at the beginning of this section above. It’s got a couple of typos. Can you find them?

Part 2 of Tips for Preaching with PowerPoint Coming Soon …

The next post will come soon, with more of our 5 tips. Can you guess what the other three will say? Comment below and tell me what your tips include.