Summary of Communicating for a Change by Andy Stanley and Lane Jones

7 Principles to Communicate for a Change:

1 – Determine Your Goal

The goal of every communicator – whether teacher or preacher – is to change people’s lives. Sadly, our approach for communicating often does not support this goal.

“Several years ago I was talking to one of our communicators right before he was about to go
out and deliver his message. I could tell by his body language that he was trying desperately to keep everything straight in his head. He so badly wanted to get it right, to do a good job. That’s always a red flag to me. He was about to walk out and do what we’ve all done so many times. He was about to step on the platform consumed with how well he would perform. So I called him over to the side and gave him a version of the same talk I give myself when I sense that I’ve become so concerned with my content that I’ve forgotten my audience, I said… “How would you communicate this message if your eighteen-year-old son had made up his mind to walk away from everything you have taught him, morally, ethically, and theologically, unless he had a compelling reason not to? What would you say this morning if you knew that was at stake? Because for somebody’s son out there this may be his last chance. Now quit worrying about your outline. Go out there and plead your case like your own son’s future was at stake.”

2 – Pick a Point

What is your one point message?

  • A sermon is a journey. You start somewhere, you go somewhere, and ultimately you end up somewhere. Unless you know exactly where you want to take someone, everyone will get lost. You need a final destination.
  • Once you have discovered your one point (your central insight/application/idea/principle), then everything else in the message supports, illustrates, and helps to make it memorable. So if it something doesn’t support it, cut it out and save it for another homily.
  • Make it sticky – Craft a single statement or phrase that makes it stick. It needs to be as memorable as possible. This will help you as well as your audience. If it is short and memorable then it will be easier for you to blend it in throughout your message. If it is a well-crafted statement, it will be more obvious to your audience that this is your point. If they can’t remember your message, it will not be life-changing.
  • The one-point must be your burden – something you are so excited to share that you can’t wait to share with your people.

3 – Create a Map

  • Rather than create an outline (which organizes thoughts & ideas), create a map that allows you stay on track to your destination.
  • Me-We-God-You-We:
    • ME: Introduce a dilemma you have faced or are currently facing.
      • “I really struggle with distractions in prayer.”
    • WE: Find a common ground with your audience around the same dilemma. Don’t leave this section until you have created a tension that your audience is dying for you to resolve.
      • “I imagine you have found a similar difficulty too in prayer.”
    • GOD: Now transition to the text to discover what God says about the tension or the question you have introduced. Engage the audience with the text. And finish with a pre-prepared and succinct summary statement of the text.
      • ““The good news is we are not the first people to struggle with this. The people in Jesus’ day did as well. In today’s Gospel…”
    • YOU: Then you challenge your audience to act on & apply what they have just heard.
      • “Before breakfast this week, say this prayer…”
      • You might just want to apply it to a specific group of people.
    • WE: And finally, you close with several statements about what could happen in your community, your church, or the world, if everybody embraced that particular truth (“vision casting”).

4- Internalize the Message

  • The message must become a part of you. If you can’t remember it, how can they?
  • In the old days, preachers called this their “burden.” It’s a message that comes from inside you.
  • When you stand up and speak without notes and without having to read your sermon, you’re saying, ‘This is so important that it’s a part of me—and I think you should make it a part of you, too.’

5 – Engage the Audience

  • Engage the audience early on (in the “we” section) to ensure that they’re with you on the journey. They must feel a real need in their lives, a real question emerges that you will answer. Remind them of a tension they already feel.
  • Presentation is more important than information for engaging an audience. If you don’t engage your audience ASAP, you’ve lost them.
  • 3 good questions to consider with your introduction: (1) What big question am I answering? (2) What felt tension will this message resolve? (3) What mystery does this sermon solve?
  • Because you’re the only one who knows where you’re going in the journey, everyone is looking to you for signals of when to turn – giving verbal & non-verbal cues of a transition so that people don’t feel lost or dizzy.

6 – Find Your Voice

  • Be authentic but don’t use this as an excuse for any bad communication habits.
  • “Don’t dismiss principles of communication in defence of style. If you want to be an effective communicator, you must allow communication principles to shape your style.”
  • In your quest to develop an effective style, ask yourself: (1) What works? – be on the lookout for new principles & methods of communication (2) What works for me? – continually evaluate & tweak your delivery.

7 – Start All Over

  • When you get stuck, first, pray hard!
  • Second, ask the following questions: (1) What do they need to know? (2) Why do they need to know it? (3) What do they need to do? (4) Why do they need to do it? (5) How can I help them remember?

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