Communication is the art of conveying a message (thought, idea, conviction, passion etc) with the use of a language (verbal or non-verbal) to an audience with the intent that it should be understood and produce a certain response or effect. In essence, in my opinion, communication is effective, if the message is understood and if it produces the desired response or effect.
When a pastor (preacher) stands on the pulpit to preach/teach he expects some form of response from his congregation. This ranges from the signs of understanding and appreciation he expects to see on their faces to the positive action he expects them to take once he finishes preaching. To achieve this, he must learn to communicate effectively.
The following are suggestions to help improve your communication.
1. Understanding of the Subject: every sound presentation is preceeded by adequate preparation. Before attempting to deliver a message one should have studied and researched extensively the subject. He is better equipped if he has some experience. There is also a need for continuous cogitation (meditation) on the subject. Preoccupy yourself and be filled with the message until you stand to deliver it. It is an illusion to mount the podium without adequate preparation expecting the Holy Spirit to give you utterance. It is a boring experience to have to endure a preacher who does not have a good grasp of what he talks about.
2. Propriety of Language: here, I mean the use of the proper language and the proper use of the language. This is because Language (verbal or non-verbal) is the only tool at your disposal. Know your audience and what language is best suited to them and the degree of their grasp of the language. This will help you know what degree of the language to command in communicating with them. Secondly, your own grasp of the language has to be sound. If you speak to an enlightened audience, they may not pardon your errors and this can be a great hindrance to communication. Some flaws are just not pardonable. This calls for constant self improvement and language study.
3. Clarity & Distinctiveness of Thoughts: for effective communication, your thoughts have to be clear and distinct. They must not be shrouded in lengthy explanations and abstract applications. Let them be easily understood and clearly demarcated. Your audience should be able to separate and differentiate without much effort the different points you make. Don’t muddle your ideas up. These aid understanding greatly.
4. Good Logic: generally, communicators seek to pass across a central idea in a session. To achieve this, good logic is required. This means your points must be related and there must be a natural flow from one point of discussion to the next. Flow here means one has to develop from the other; discrete but not disjoint. Remember also to always bring your points to a logical conclusion. They must all point to the central idea.
5. Relevant Applications: theories make more sense when applied to real life situations. This means you have to do a lot of thinking for your audience. If you show your audience how your discussion relates to them and how they may apply the points to their lives, you stand a chance of communicating effectively. This means you have to be vast in the daily experiences and practices of different categories of people. It means you have to read wide and study wide beyond the Bible, listen to/read news, learn about science, medicine, law, computers etc. It also means you have to be conversant with the daily lives of ordinary and extraordinary people. Theological education is not sufficient for communicating effectively with a congregation that deals most of the time with the secular.
6. A Good Sense of Humour: this is a veritable tool for keeping your audience and facilitating understanding. However, it must be moderate and relevant. Examples, stories, proverbs and parables that are amusing can be used when necessary to arouse and keep attention and to drive points home. Without a good sense of humour, talk sessions can be dry and boring.
7. Audience Maintenance/Observation: it is important to always carry your audience along. Ensure you do not exude pride and that you are not full of yourself. This puts people off easily. Learn to keep to time; also, don’t babble to fill up time, once you have said all you have, leave. Give your audience the maximum attention. If ever you loose your audience and you are unable to get them back, you have no reason continuing the talk. This means all through you must observe your audience to determine how much attention/concentration you have. When heads are bowed, legs are dragged, noises are made, people start dozing or they go in and out or notes are been given to you, you know you have lost your audience. A good sense of humour and the use of relevant applications/illustrations can help you regain your audience. But if they are irrecoverable, stop. Few preachers have the ability to keep an audience for long and few people have the ability to concentrate for long. It is incompetence, communication wise to insist that you must exhaust the prepared sermon when apparently the congregation is no more with you and the people are merely enduring the talk.
8. Good Character & Reputation: if you deal with an audience that is familiar with you, they will accept what you have to say based on what they already know of you. A life that is light and worthy of emulation is a requirement for effective communication. Don’t be a righteous man only when you have to preach, always be.
9. Appearance, Pitch and Pace: your audience will see you before they hear your message. This will make the first impression and may affect their disposition to you and whatever you have to say. Ensure your face is not scary and that you are neatly and moderately well dressed. Preaching is simply a talk. It does not need to be shouted and it does not need to be hurriedly delivered. A regulation of both the pitch and pace of your speech is necessary for effective communication.
10. Prayer: for every spiritual ministry prayer is the key. It is the best way to make a lasting impression on men and to elicit proper response from them. In prayer, you can drive home your message and get the people to respond even before you meet and speak to them. With prayer God can override your shortcomings and cause your communication to be effective. In the words of Charles Finney “Be full of prayer when you attempt to preach, and go from your closet to your pulpit with the inward groaning of the Spirit pressing for utterance at your lips.”