phase 5

How Do You Measure Preaching?

I don’t want to preach messages that educate people beyond their level of obedience.

- Mark Batterson

This adventure into communicating is going to require that we are being driven by the same metric. There are two options when measuring our communicating success.

We can either measure either by opportunity or by result.



When we measure by opportunity we define success as the number of opportunities we give our audience to respond. And while most churches may not admit it, they default to this type of measurement. It’s the “butt’s in seats” measurement. Granted it’s not wrong, “butt’s in seats” is valuable, but it’s arguably not valuable enough. We want to see our church grow and we want to impact more people this year than we did last, but measuring by opportunity leaves the responsibility to respond solely in the hands of the listener. And while ultimately application is something done by an individual, it is our job to hand them the baton.

As a communicator we can’t make a decision for our audience, they have to own it. They have to want the change in their life or nothing will come of it. You or I cannot make it for them.  The problem is that this opportunity measurement assumes something dangerous. It assumes that you and I are perfect. That any failure to respond is because our audience wasn’t listening or that “they just didn’t get it”.  I think we would agree that this wouldn’t be fair.

My oldest son is learning to ride his bike and as his dad it’s my responsibility to teach him. I love my son. I want him to have confidence. I want him to be proud of himself. I also want him to learn to ride a bike by himself. So we go out in the front yard and I show him his new bike.

The first thing he says is “where are the training wheels?”

“We didn’t get any for this bike,” I say,  “but let me show you how.”

I proceed to explain how he will need to pedal and that he will need to figure out his balance.  We ride out into the driveway and decide to give it a try.

So what happens if he falls over? Was he not listening to my instructions?  Was he ignoring me? Was he just not meant to ride a bike? Or was it that I could have done better at setting him up to succeed? Maybe I should have held on to the back of his seat to help him get the hang of balancing. Maybe I should have checked to make sure the seat was at the right height and that he understood how the brakes worked. Maybe I’m the one to blame.

I think we would all agree that as his instructor I need to take some ownership over his success. I’ve got to make sure that I did what was needed for him to take the next step himself. I can’t just throw a bunch of information at him and expect him to pick it all up. I’ve got to help him. I’ve got to run along side (even if it means I’m exhausted) and help him take the next step to riding by himself. Much of his initial success is directly related to my ability to teach him.


Measuring by results is unsettling.

We agree that the choice to respond to our message is in the hand of our audience. You, nor I, are responsible for the choices our audience makes…but we must do everything we can to make sure we set them up for success. Measuring our success based on the results of our message is going to cause us some discomfort. There will be times we aren’t completely sure why our message fell on deaf ears. But, if we agree that ultimately we want to see change in the lives of our audience then we must agree to do all we can to give them the opportunity to change and grow.  Life change is our end game, it’s why we do what we do.

If life change is our end game, we must do all we can to give people the opportunity to change and grow.

If measuring by results makes you nervous, that’s okay. It keeps us honest. The trick is making sure we measure what is valuable. Measuring the right things will help us get better and it will help us identify the specific areas we (and out team) may need to improve.

Measuring Success

Practically speaking, measuring results is done using 4 different measurements, which we will dive into during Part 2 of this series. Today we will focus on one simple measurement: commitment. 

In any powerful message there is a conclusion, a call to action, a possible next step. If you've set up your problem well and clearly unpacked what scripture has to say about the issue you naturally have been defining a next step. The first and most foundational measurement is asking your audience to commit to implementing this call to action. 

Many churches have decided to implement this using some form of a "connection card". This is a simple card, included in your program that allows people to sign up for more info, submit prayer requests as well as indicate their commitment to implement the message's call to action. 

This is a great place to start. Measure your audience's commitment to implement. 

Questions of the day: Do you feel tension between measuring opportunities vs measuring results? 

5 Steps to Preaching Like a Pro

“The difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits.”
– Steven Pressfield

There is nothing wrong with someone being an amateur communicator, but I'm sure your not satisfied with being that yourself. An amateur communicator is okay with being just as good as when they started, or just as good as they became in that first burst of improvement. They have no real reason to get past that point. If you are going to take this role seriously and develop as a professional communicator we need to put a stake in the ground and put a plan in place that will move you from where you are to where you want to be next year.  

In order to get started on this journey of professional communication we need to break communicating into 5 phases. Each phase will exist to provide the structure for the next to lean on. Each has its place, and each will require you to master it or delegate it, but each must always be improving.

The difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits.
— Steven Pressfield

These 5 steps or phases become a habits that push you toward more effective preaching. The trick is to break them into these separate manageable phases. This allows you to spend more focused time without having to go back to redo your work. 

Phase 1 - Calendaring

You've got 52 weeks of sermons coming up. What are you going to talk about? What issues need to be covered this year? What topics need to be covered every year? (See "You Are About To Create A Killer Teaching Series [From Scratch]" )

Phase 2 - Preparation

What does scripture say? What does your audience need to know?  This is the phase where you will unpack what your specific audience needs to hear as it relates to the topic/scripture. This phase is what separates the men from the boys. It takes some hard work, but this is where the great messages come from. (See "The Most Under Recognized Ingredient in a Powerful Message")

Phase 3 - Writing

The writing phase is the detail phase. It’s where a painter begins to add texture. Where the designer adds his detail. It’s where you organize your thoughts into a coherent and dynamic message. (See "Please Stop Talking, My Brain Is Full")

Phase 4 - Delivery

The delivery phase is all you! It’s where you take the stage. All eyes and ears wait in anticipation. It’s where all your work presents itself to the world. This is what people are waiting for, whether they know it or not.  

Phase 5 - Follow Through

Professional communicators know that the jobs not done when you leave the stage. They know that the real change happens once the message is over. And if you are going to get better as a communicator you’re going to need to get comfortable with follow through.

Mini Cycle

As an amateur you spent your time on phase 3 & 4. You would write your talk and deliver it. Then you would sit down and write your next talk. You would practice it and then deliver it, but this mini cycle just repeated itself. And it was hard work. It’s not as if these were your only responsibilities. Not many of us are fortunate to be paid just to teach for 30 minutes a week. There were many tasks on your plate.  And it’s likely that this hasn’t changed over the years. We wear many hat’s and speaking is only one of them.

Finding time to work on phase 1, 2 and 5 takes a sizable amount of ongoing effort, but it makes you a lot more effective. 

Question: Which phase do you enjoy the most?

Why You Should Cancel Your Next Sunday Service

Last weekend we cancelled our services to take a step out into our community. After a three week series inspired by the "Art of Neighboring" in Denver, CO, we came together across all of our campuses to link arms and get our hands dirty serving our neighbors. We dubbed it "The Good Neighbor Project" and set out on projects all around our community. The question is, was it worth it?


There were risks involved, everything from financial (giving, project expenses) to the fear that our efforts would be a total flop (last year's work project only brought out a few dozen people). But regardless of the was worth it, and here's why -- it was tangible!

When we teach on Sundays, you and I are trying to inspire life change. We want people to take next steps in their faith. For some that just means coming back again next week, for others it's deciding they want to live a life lead by faith and for others it means taking action. Doing something different and becoming a new person. 

Whatever that next step is, it is incredibly important that we make that next step tangible. In fact, we need to make sure our next steps are clear, life changing and available. 

Clear - What exactly can your audience do in response to your teaching? 
Life changing - How do those next steps actually change anything? What impact will they have?
Available - It doesn't have to be easy, but it should be available if you really believe it will make a difference. 

So, take some time to look at your teaching calendar. Which series are coming up that could have a clearer next step? Is there something you can do to make those next steps more available? Consider following your next few series with a project, a seminar, or possibly a retreat. Either way, go all in and help your community take next step in their faith...and maybe even consider canceling next week's service.