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One of the greatest opportunities I’ve had in life was working at Fellowship Church and being a member of the creative team that helped Pastor Ed Young plan creative messages. I remember hearing Ed often say he never preached a 25-minute sermon he didn’t like. I agree.

The reality is, there are few people who can preach longer than 30 minutes without losing their audience. A good philosophy is to leave them wanting more, not wanting to get out!

Here are 10 tips for creating shorter and more effective messages:

1. Cut Your Introduction

Don’t spend so much time trying to set things up. Get in and get out by avoiding too much detail and long stories. A good idea is to shoot for a three-minute introduction.

2. Minimize Lists

Long lists of examples can add length, especially if you comment on each one. Try combining similar points and using these examples in a sentence rather than a list.

3. Stick to the Point

Define what the main thing is you want people to walk away with and stick to this thought. Cut information that is not relevant to this idea. Remember, you can always use it later!

4. Plan the Landing

Know how you want to land the plane and don’t ramble at the end of your message. Focus on one main challenge/thought, develop a power statement, or perhaps refer back to your introduction by stating how the problem can be solved.

5. Try a One Point Message

Most people will not remember three points and all the detail you may want to give. Try picking one big truth you want to teach and give the audience clear cut examples of how they can go home and do it on Monday morning.

6. Practice Your Sermon

Take time to preach your sermon out loud. Not only will you be able to time it, but you will also uncover parts that are confusing, too long or just boring.

7. Plan With a Team

Share your thoughts and outline with others. This will help you discover things that don’t make sense, lack impact/interest or are irrelevant to your main thought.

8. Don’t Get Emotionally Attached

Sometimes we fall in love with an idea or illustration and have a hard time cutting it. Be willing to slice and dice in order to keep your audience engaged.

9. Control Your Creativity

Don’t waste time with illustrations, props, videos and other creative elements that distract the audience rather than enhance your message. If using them, make sure they are memorable and drive the main point, not a sub-point of a sub-point.

10. Critique Your Message

Take time between services to evaluate your message with a team and then watch it on Monday. Regular critique will help you pick up on things that add length to your sermons. 

Troy Page is the Worship Arts Pastor at West Ridge Church in Dallas, Georgia and is also a ministry consultant with TonyMorganLive.com. For over 15 years Troy has served on the senior leadership teams of Fellowship Church (Dallas/Fort Worth) and West Ridge Church. He has played a variety of pastoral leadership roles including Single Adult Ministry, Spiritual Development, Missions, Creative Arts, Communications and Marketing. He has also served as a lead teacher communicating with audiences of 20,000+ people.

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Daniel Leavitt

commented on Jul 17, 2013

Great stuff Troy. We need to heed this and stop boring the lost!

Dean Johnson

commented on Jul 17, 2013

This was helpful--thanks.

Christian Beasley

commented on Jul 17, 2013

Some very useful advice. If I'm asked to speak I run it pass my wife who inevitably finds inconsistencies or non-essential elements that can be removed!

John Flaherty

commented on Jul 17, 2013

May take longer to prepare but should bring the benefits of greater attentiveness and personal impact. Thanks for the article.

Keith B

commented on Jul 17, 2013

Great points. But you say you learned them from Ed Young?????? Ed would do well to pay attention to several of these. Isn't he the guy that put a bed on top of his church as a publicity stunt? And he says too it creativity?

Stephen Ventura

commented on Jul 17, 2013

I have a hard time with some of this. For one, if you bore the audience regularly its either something?s going on with your spiritual walk and fervor or you're not called to speak God's word from the pulpit. Secondly, where in the Bible do you see Paul, Peter, a prophet or anyone else even talking about getting a group of people together to see whether your message is from God is good enough? Sharing it with your wife or a group before hand makes you second guess what God is saying to YOU as a pastor of YOUR congregation who He called to equip the church. I sense a total lack in confidence that when you go up to the pulpit and preach God's word that God is going to speak through you. It's one thing to be nervous and pray that God speaks through you and not to be so confident in yourself and its another thing to be so nervous that you're worried if you're speaking God's words or not. Yes we will fumble with words from time to time; even Paul said he came not with eloquent words but in fear and trembling and in the Spirit's power. Paul also put a man to sleep who fell out of the window and died! God?s glory shone all the more through this incident. Come on, why are we so worried to see people sleeping? The Spirit moves the way He wants. When we get so caught up in structure and form then we begin to base our messages on worldly concepts. Like Jonathan Edwards said, when asked how he was so successful in his preaching he simply said, I just set myself on fire and the people come to watch me BURN! I think we need to see more FIRE in the pulpit, more zeal and passion and stop worrying about offending people; the word of God IS offensive and OFTEN uncomfortable. Stop worrying about ?boring? the lost! If we preach God's word and they fall asleep or think it?s boring or too harsh that?s between them and God and not necessarily you as God's spokesman. We?re here to preach God?s word, we pray and pray for God to show us what to say and we speak. God?s word will NOT return void? ?In the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.? -Jesus

Rex Adams

commented on Jul 17, 2013

I think these are great points! I can remember listening to someone preach a great sermon, and I was ready to respond, but their closing was so long and "rambly" that I completely lost interest in what he was saying. I regularly preach 25-30 minutes, and our congregation appreciates it. When I do need to have a longer message they are more than willing to listen because they know it's an exception, not a norm. When we respect people's time and attention span, they respect what we are trying to say.

Rex Adams

commented on Jul 17, 2013

I think these are great points! I can remember listening to someone preach a great sermon, and I was ready to respond, but their closing was so long and "rambly" that I completely lost interest in what he was saying. I regularly preach 25-30 minutes, and our congregation appreciates it. When I do need to have a longer message they are more than willing to listen because they know it's an exception, not a norm. When we respect people's time and attention span, they respect what we are trying to say.

Howard Renker

commented on Jul 17, 2013

Timely and succinct points in this article. "Thanks, I needed that."

David Hodgin

commented on Jul 17, 2013

kb, you are thinking of Ed Young Jr. - different guy

Keith B

commented on Jul 17, 2013

@David.....I hope so. If so, I apologize to the article's author for making that jump.

Femi Alofe

commented on Jul 17, 2013

Brethren, I think most of the comments here really relegate the work and the role of the great HOLY SPIRIT of God as it concerns Sermons which is supposed to be God-given message to be delivered to the concerned people. I think the guidelines provided deviated from biblical principles but tend to human wisdom which in no way can be better than God's guidelines in his manual for sermon delivery I.e.the bible. I believe Troy has presented good guidelines for public speaking, casual advise or talk on a matter but definitely not sermon. Stephen Ventura, you have observed rightly and may the good Lord open the eyes of our understanding in this season where the church are busy copying the world and making the church to look like the world while the truth should be that, the church should stand on the solid rock which it has been planted and let the world see the church as good example to follow. With all humility, most churches and their leaders are only entertaining their members nowadays and not ministering the word under the leading of the HOLY SPIRIT. Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. People are really deviating from the truth as spoken of 1 Timothy 4. May the Lord help His church

Alexander Shaw

commented on Jul 17, 2013

Is it not better simply to preach and teach The Word of God rather than to attempt to 'preach sermons'? Take your people systematically through a Book - see David Pawson - "Unlocking the Bible"!

Femi Alofe

commented on Jul 17, 2013

I think the sermon being talked about here, as I understood it to be, is also what we refer to as the biblical sermons which is word of God based

Robert T. Libey

commented on Jul 17, 2013

Given these guidelines to work with, would any of Paul's letters, or for that matter Peter's day of Pentecost sermon, have passed muster? We must know our God, our message, and our audience, then deliver what they need to them in a way they can digest. That being said, these are all good points and worthy of consideration; thanks for sharing them!

Chris Hearn

commented on Jul 17, 2013

Robert- Some good comments, thanks. But Paul's letters aren't modern day sermons, so I don't see the comparison working there.

Thabelo Malovhele

commented on Jul 18, 2013

Good points, however, they presuppose that your audience requires the same thing and have same needs. People come to church with differingneeds that only the Holy Spirit knows and can meet. I would rather encourage that in our preaching or teaching we should allow the Holy Spirit inspire, comfort, correct, rebuke, equip, encourage, exhort His children. It is prudent that as servants of God we shy away from thinking that we know the needs of the people more than the Holy Spirit does. Ours is to hear and be led by the Holy Spirit into what we are teach or preach on, do our research, prepare, deliver the message and leave the outcomes to the Holy Spirit. We should remember that the Holy Spirit resides in and has anointed the very people we teach and preach to with the understanding of the Scriprures.

Atama Hakafa

commented on Jul 18, 2013

I think we shouldn't be guilty when our people sleep. The disciples did that even when they were with Jesus.

Atama Hakafa

commented on Jul 18, 2013

I think we shouldn't be guilty when our people sleep. The disciples did that even when they were with Jesus.

Atama Hakafa

commented on Jul 18, 2013

I think we shouldn't be guilty when our people sleep. The disciples did that even when they were with Jesus.

Kevin Joseph

commented on Jul 18, 2013

You will always have those in the congregation who will be bored, asleep, and not interested, regardless of the long or short of a sermon. You will also have those in your midst who come to be properly discipled, and are not preoccupied with there watch. Maybe the man in the book of acts who fell out the window was bored, and not interested. The service is not under the control of the bored, and those who are not interested. Jesus did not cut his prayer short because his disciples were asleep; but Jesus said sleep on, and went back to praying. I know a pastor who was replaced, because the disciples of that church felt that they were not being properly fed the word of God (25 minutes) on Sunday.

Bill Williams

commented on Jul 19, 2013

"I know a pastor who was replaced, because the disciples of that church felt that they were not being properly fed the word of God (25 minutes) on Sunday." If the disciples are feeding on the word of God for themselves during the week, 25 minutes on Sunday is sufficient. If the disciples are NOT feeding on the word of God for themselves during the week, it doesn't matter how long the Sunday sermon is, it just won't be enough.

Bill Williams

commented on Jul 19, 2013

@Stephen, God does not speak to any local congregation through just one person. On the contrary, he speaks through the congregation as a whole. Consider 1 Corinthians 14, you will see MULTIPLE people giving teachings, revelation, exhortations, etc. This passage is perhaps the clearest NT illustration of a Christian worship gathering, and yet who can deny that it bears very little resemblance to our contemporary, one-person-preaching-dominatee worship services that many mistakenly assume should be the norm? The question of how long one should preach seems to me increasingly irrelevant. The question we SHOULD be asking is, why are we still accepting the false premise that ONE voice should dominate an entire worship service, when no such worship service is described in the NT!

Kevin Joseph

commented on Jul 20, 2013

Multiple people giving teaching, revelation and exhortation will only bring in confusion to a ministry. You can set aside special gatherings where this is allowed; but this should not be the norm James 3:1-2 (GW) 1 Brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers. You know that we who teach will be judged more severely. 2 All of us make a lot of mistakes. If someone doesn't make any mistakes when he speaks, he would be perfect. He would be able to control everything he does. (Let those who are called by God teach, and let others sit and learn until there time to teach the body of Christ comes. until then all should testify and exhort each other, and preach the Gospel to the lost. Paul was one voice in Acts 20. You do not read about anyone else contributing to what he is teaching.

Bill Williams

commented on Jul 22, 2013

@Kevin, so was Paul mistaken when he instructed the Corinthian church: "When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation" (1 Corinthian 14:26)? Why should Paul's own instructions be taken as the exception, even though he clearly says,"WHEN you come together;" but Paul's speaking in one example in Acts 20 should be taken as the norm? It makes much more sense for Acts 20 to be understood as the exception rather than the norm, since this was his farewell visit to Troas. Can multiple people giving teachings, exhortations, etc. have the potential for confusion? Certainly. That is why Paul gives them instructions on how to do it in an orderly fashion, so that everyone may be edified. But just because something has the potential to be confusing does not justify ignoring Paul's clear teachings.

Chris Hearn

commented on Jul 25, 2013

I know that in Russia, each service has from 3-4 people preaching on a variety of topics/Scriptures. At one church I went to, the pastor would preach at the end and try to tie the different sermons together.

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