Practical Tips for Public Speaking

On many occasions, Jesus used storytelling to share the Gospel. In Mark 4, He is preaching to a large crowd gathered by a lake. He tells the parable of the sower, the lamp on the stand, the growing seed, and mustard seed - all in one single chapter of Scripture. In fact, Mark 4:34 tells us that Jesus “did not say anything to [the crowd] without using a story” (NIRV).

Storytelling was an important part of the way Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God. Pastors, preachers, teachers, and leaders today can follow that example and use the power of story in their sermons.

Why Are Stories Effective?

Here are a few reasons pastors use the power of story in their sermons:

Stories Grab People’s Attention

Would you rather listen to a list of facts, an informational lecture, or an engaging story? Most people would choose a story. Stories grab people’s attention in a way that facts and lectures just can’t. If you want people to pay closer attention to your sermons, stories may help.

Stories Engage Emotions

Good stories capture and engage your emotions. Think of the last good book you read. Were you drawn in? Did you feel what the characters felt? If the story was well written, chances are you connected with the characters on an emotional level. And the Gospel message is not just meant to be experienced intellectually – it has emotional impact as well.

Stories Make Things Easier to Understand and More Memorable

If someone’s struggling to understand a concept, a story may help (more about that later). People are also more likely to remember your sermon if you include a story, because they’ll have an emotional connection with the story.

To put it simply, incorporating stories into your sermons will help you connect with your listeners. They’ll be able to understand your message in a deeper, more memorable way (just like the crowds listening to Jesus’ parables). As you share stories, you’ll capture attention, share deep truth, and create lasting impact.

Here are some tips to use stories more effectively in your sermons.

Use Stories as Illustrations

When you’re trying to explain something to someone and they don’t understand, what do you do? Chances are, you say something that starts with “it’s like this…” or “think about it this way.” When you connect your explanation to a real-life, more easily understood or more familiar concept, it makes your message easier to understand. 

As you incorporate stories into your sermons, try to pull analogies and illustrations from your everyday life. Pay attention to events happening around you and record how they illustrate Biblical points. As you prepare your sermons, go back to that list of illustrations and find a few that fit your topic. 

If you can’t think of an illustration for a sermon, or just need some inspiration, use a resource like Illustration Ideas. You’ll be able to find countless sermon illustrations to help your congregation connect with and understand your message. 

Engage All Five Senses

Ever sat around a campfire in the dark and listened to a scary story? The darkness and woods around you make the story feel more real. In the same way, create an atmosphere that immerses your congregation in the story you’re telling.

Engage as many senses as possible. This helps listeners engage, connect, and transport themselves to the location of the story. Show pictures that compliment or enhance the story, use sound effects when appropriate, and think of other ways to help listeners immerse themselves in the story. Explain the story with enthusiasm and excitement. Show them the story, don’t just tell them the story.

Make Sure Your Stories Fit Your Voice

Don’t try to force it. As you find stories for your sermons, make sure you feel natural and polished while telling them. Your preaching voice is a combination of how you sound, verbal and non-verbal dynamics, areas of emphasis, your point of view, and other qualities that make you who you are as a preacher. 

Make sure you understand your preaching voice and phrase your stories to fit that voice. No matter what your preaching voice is, stories will help people connect with your sermons in a new way.

Find Story Ideas

If you can’t think of a story from your own life to illustrate your message, don’t worry! There are so many stories out there! If you’re struggling to find a story, use a resource like Illustration Ideas. Try to think of movie scenes that illustrate your point, or ask friends for story ideas. The stories you use don’t have to be true stories – they can be fictional parables that illustrate your point (like Jesus used). Even if they’re not true stories, they’ll help your listeners understand, internalize, and apply your sermon.

Stories have the ability to take sermons to a whole new level. Following Jesus’ example, preachers today can use stories to capture attention, engage emotion, and make their sermons and application points more memorable.