There is not a one-size-fits-all style that works for all communicators. In fact, what works for one may actually be a set of handcuffs for another. I’ve read books on preaching and communication, talked with other leaders, and gleaned valuable insights from listening to and watching communicators. But there is one practice that elevated my preaching effectiveness more than any other: Manuscripting my sermons.
Communicators have manuscripted their talks for years. But I always thought this practice sounded too formal, unauthentic, and even constricting…until I tried it. What I discovered was a powerful process that actually elevated the quality of my messages and the effectiveness of my message delivery. Here are seven reasons why I manuscript every word of my sermons today:
1. Stronger Openings - When I manuscript a sermon, I think clearly about how I want to open the message. It’s very easy to “wing it” when it comes to the opening of a message. But when you have to write out every word of the message, it changes how you approach your launching point. I actually ask myself, “What will be the very first sentence out of my mouth?” The answer to that question sets the tone for the message. It also helps me mentally engage at a completely different level as I begin my delivery.
2. Singular Focus - It isn’t a secret that sermons should have a singular focus…a big idea that permeates the entire message. But the truth is most messages fall short in this area. Manuscripting helps you identify your major focus, align your content with that focus, and cut the content that diffuses your focus. A good question to ask is, “Can I articulate the big idea of my message in a single sentence?”
3. Deeper Content - A friend of mine once told me that when authors write, they have to give their readers a reason to read the very next sentence on the page. Each quality sentence leads to a quality paragraph which inspires the reader to continue turning the pages. I think the same principle holds true in communication. You have to give your listeners a reason to keep listening. When I started manuscripting my sermons, that thought stuck with me. As a result, it helped me work harder to improve the quality of my messages and take the content deeper. Deeper doesn’t mean more complex or harder to understand. It simply means the hearer doesn’t walk away saying, “I’ve heard that before.” Everything you say will not be original. But creating a word-for-word manuscript helped me evaluate my content with the following question: “Is my content fresh, insightful, and does it have an ‘Ah ha’ moment?”