Misunderstanding the Art of Preaching

Why teaching is about more than just telling.

Photo by Roo Reynolds |

Photo by Roo Reynolds |

There is a great phrase in the training industry — Telling Ain’t Training (inspired by a great book of the same name [affiliate link]). I had spent years as a pastor convincing myself that my job was to sell ideas. Most examples throughout my life had done just that. So, week after week I would stand in front of my audience and sell. I would present an idea but unfortunately, it would stop there.

A few years later I entered the training world. It wasn’t long before I started getting feedback that I sounded like a preacher when I taught. Not exactly what I was going for! Being compelling was important, but it was shortsighted, barely impactful, and hardly measurable. My job wasn’t only to sell the importance of the topic, it was to actually add value. When they walked out, it wasn’t good enough if they bought into the idea, they had to be able to implement the idea. They had to have a new skill in their toolbox.

The phrase “Telling Ain’t Training” is the bold reminder we as speakers need to remember. “Telling” doesn’t add value! Telling is a one-way exercise that lacks follow through and commitment. Insert that into a noisy society of information overload, and if it doesn’t add value it’s not long before it fades into the noise.

Value is currency as a speaker. Giving your listeners the skills and tools to solve their current or future problems is what adds value. So if you feel like your audience is loosing interest, or worse, not even responding, ask yourself: What do they need? What skill, tool or exercise is going to get them to their next step?

Start by breaking down your issue; define your topic.

Once you know what you’re talking about (keep it to one sentence), write down exactly what outcome you’re hoping for. What is it that your listener should be doing as it relates to the topic. For example, if we’re talking about caring for your neighbor, what is the perfect response/behavior your audience should be delivering. Should they go home and mow the neighbor’s lawn?

Now that you’ve nailed that down, think about your audience. How does that preferred outcome compare to what they are doing right now? How are they currently acting? Teach them what they need to know to go from where they are, to where you want them to be.

That’s adding value! That’s going to help start a measurable change.



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