Today we begin a journey through creative sermon prep and delivery using the tools available to us in the digital world. What does that mean? How does creative sermon preparation in a digital world differ from traditional sermon preparation in the analog world? How does the digital world change sermon prep and delivery? Let’s look at that first?
Digital Sermon Preparation
Few preachers use only traditional books, commentaries, and Bibles to prepare a sermon today. Most include a word processor and possibly some electronic books. However, it’s possible that someone pointed you to this post to help you see the value of using digital tools to prepare a sermon. What’s the benefit of using digital tools almost exclusively in the creative sermon prep process.
When I preached my first sermon at my home church at Northwest Baptist Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Youth Sunday back in 1987, almost no one could use digital tools to study the Bible. I prepared my sermon on John 15:13 using the New American Standard Bible version of The Open Bible and nothing else. I hope it wasn’t terrible for a 17-year-old kid who didn’t know what he was doing.
The process takes longer today than it did when I was 17, but I hope the process also results in a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the passage’s meaning. During my college and seminary years in the early nineties, I had some training but still used physical books to study before writing in a DOS-based word processor. That took me hours and hours to do what I could do now in less time.
Today I spend more than a couple of hours studying and writing my sermons. Thanks to programs like Logos 9, I can go deeper today than I used to 34 years ago. Today, I can study as much as I did with my physical books and Bibles in less time. If I use the same amount of time, I will look at more content and know more about the passage.
An orthopedic surgeon doesn’t perform arthroscopic surgery by picking up the tools and fixing a tear in the meniscus of his patient’s knee by watching a couple of YouTube videos or by trial and error. We’re not doing surgery, but sermon prep is similar. You have to learn a process and learn how to use tools like a Hebrew Lexicon or a word study tool in Bible software. This takes time. But once the student learns how to use them effectively, the digital versions will cut the amount of time compared to physical books.
Creativity Sermon Prep and Creative Sermon Delivery
What do we mean by creative sermon prep and delivery? We’re talking more about the final result – the sermon – than the preparation process. Creative sermon prep means preparing to preach a sermon using more innovative methods of communication. We will keep this in mind during the preparation process, so we call it creative sermon prep as a shorthand for preparing sermons with a creative preaching strategy in mind.
I will show you how to think about delivering creative sermons while you’re preparing the message. However, this series of posts will result in a more creative sermon. Creativity will find its way into the delivery more than the way we prepare the sermon. However, if a creative presentation is our end goal, then we will keep that in mind as we prepare.
Creative sermon delivery looks different than traditional sermon delivery. Instead of standing in front of a congregation with a Bible and maybe some printed sermon notes, we will see that you can preach a message supported by visual sermon illustrations. However, sight isn’t the only sense that makes sermons more creative. We will use other forms of creativity that appeal to all five senses. These can include things like:
- Images alone
- Slides with a few words
- Video clips
- Physical props or object lessons
- Audiences participation
- Sound effects
- Smells used to evoke memories or feelings
- Maybe even taste
All of the examples will help the preacher engage the audience using multiple senses at one time. Communication experts tell us that, of the five senses, some affect communication more than others. The five senses rank from the least effective to the most effective as follows:
- Sound – sadly, a person speaking alone is the least memorable of the five senses.
- Sight – we remember things we see more than something we hear, but sight is still the second least effective sensory communication.
- Touch – if you can touch something, your memory of the experience goes up compared to sound and sight.
- Taste – a person who tastes something will remember the experience most of the time.
- Smell – the most powerful sensory experiences include smell.
If you have a memory that is indelibly stamped on your mind, you probably can smell what you were smelling or taste the food you were eating as you remember it. However, we forget things we heard faster than things we touch.
Combing two or more of our senses into one experience increases our ability to remember higher. You will remember what I tell you more if you see an image with it or have an object in your hand to touch. If there’s a strong smell in the environment while we’re communicating, we’ll both remember what the other person said longer.
Sadly, while we’re preaching, the least useful senses for memory are also the easiest senses to appeal to. We preach words spoken to the ears of listeners. More preachers will add visuals to their speech so their audience can both hear and see what they’re preaching. It’s easier to appeal to the ear and the eye than touch, taste, or smell. That’s why it takes a lot of creativity to communicate effectively using the last three senses in our list above.
We will prepare sermons with the idea of appealing to the senses in mind. Look for opportunities as you study the test and the references that aid in your understanding.
Our Plan for the 10 Steps of Creative Sermon Prep in the Digital World
Here’s the plan for our 10 Steps of Creative Sermon Prep in the Digital World. We will start where the preaching preparation process should always begin, prayer and picking your passage. Then we’ll look at putting together a Big Idea for our sermon, followed by creatively outlining the sermon. Finally, we’ll close out with how to actually put it all together and creatively present the sermon.
Here’s the list of the ten steps we’ll follow (note finished posts include links below):
- Pray and Pick a Passage
- Making Observations of the Text
- Asking Interpretive Questions and Finding the Answers
- Discovering the Big Idea of the Text
- Outlining a Creative Sermon
- Putting Meat on the Bones of the Creative Outline
- Writing an Impactful Conclusion
- Grabbing the Attention of the Listener with a Creative Introduction
- Check Your Theology
- Find Creative Illustration Materials
Using Logos 9 in This Version of the Series
We could demonstrate the 10 steps in creative digital sermon prep using a few excellent Bible programs. This version will show readers how to follow the steps using Logos 9, updated in Fall 2020.