Why You Should Watch Yourself Preach

If you are a pastor or communicator, one of the best and most difficult things you need to do to get better at your craft is to watch yourself preach.  I try and watch myself, at least a portion of my message, every week.  It is the most painful thing imaginable, but it has been one of the best things for my preaching.

A while back I heard Adnan Verk, host of the Cinephile podcast for ESPN share a story about Al Pacino almost being fired from the set of The Godfather.  Pacino was not the desired actor to play the role of Michael in the movie. Executives originally wanted Ryan Oneil or Robert Redford to play the part.  They thought Pacino was too short, unknown, and wouldn’t capture the audience like a more well-known actor of the day.

After auditioning five times, Pacino finally won the role but was nearly fired after the first week for his poor performance.  Director Francis Ford Copolla called Pacino in to tell him, “This isn’t going well. I’m putting all I got on you and they are wanting to fire you tomorrow. I put together the footage we have so far. Go back and watch it.”  And that’s what Pacino did.

After watching his own acting on film, Pacino agreed, “I’m not doing a good job.”  He saw what he was doing wrong, figured out how to fix it, and the rest is history. You could say that had Pacino not been willing to do the hard work of watching himself on film, none of us would even know his name today.  The Godfather put Pacino on the map, he’s won nearly every award in movies, including an Academy award, and is now known as one of the greatest actors in our lifetime.

So, if it is important enough for someone who is only providing entertainment to watch themselves on video to get better, don’t you think those of us who communicate the most important message on the planet should do the same?  Here are six reasons why I think we should watch ourselves preach on video:

1. You’ll see mannerisms and nervous ticks you weren’t aware of — Sometimes these are super hard to fix because we’ve probably been doing them our whole life, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work hard at trying to fix them.  There are things we do with our hands, faces, voice, and body that we will only know we do when we watch ourselves preach.  Sometimes my wife or kids will point something out that I didn’t even know I was doing until I go back and watch it.  I definitely haven’t fixed all these in my preaching, but I’m much more aware of them than I used to be.  I don’t ever want a mannerism to keep someone from connecting with the message, so the more I can catch and fix these, the better.

I don't ever want a mannerism to keep someone from connecting with the message, so the more I can catch and fix these, the better. Click To Tweet

2. You’ll learn how to use your voice inflection better — This might be the thing I’ve had to work on most in my preaching, and something I have to continue to improve. No one likes a monotone communicator, but no one likes one who is always at the height of their voice either.  I’m a very passionate and expressive communicator.  If not careful, I tend to start off very aggressive and never come back down.  By watching myself preach I’ve learned to get more disciplined in my voice inflection. There are times I need to be more passive and tender in my voice to communicate, just as there are times I need to be more passionate and aggressive.  I don’t think I’ll ever change my style of preaching, but I do need to be disciplined in the way I speak it within that style.

No one likes a monotone communicator, but no one likes one who is always at the height of their voice either. Click To Tweet

3. You’ll get funnier — Humor is a great connector in communication. It breaks down barriers, endears an audience, and disarms them in order to communicate the Truth.  There is obviously a line that needs to be drawn in our humor.  Sermons shouldn’t become a stand-up comedy routine, but most of the best preachers I know are also very funny.  Watching yourself helps you get funnier. Timing is everything in humor. By watching yourself you learn better how to time your responses, jokes, puns, jabs, etc.  A well-timed joke in a sermon can literally be an anchor that flips the whole room right before you hit them with a word of truth. You should never force funny, but don’t be afraid of leveraging it to communicate the Gospel.

Sermons shouldn't become a stand-up comedy routine, but most of the best preachers I know are also very funny. Click To Tweet

4.  You’ll hear repeated phrases you didn’t know you were using — There is nothing like watching yourself to learn what your “ums” are.  Not everyone uses “Ums”, but most everyone has something else they use.  It’s the word you default to when your brain is scrambling to find or remember the next word you’re trying to say. Or maybe there is a transition word or descriptive word that you default to most often that you could change up to increase the vocabulary used in a message.  I say, “Now” or “Here’s the thing” a lot.  There are times when those words and phrases are necessary to a transtion, but they don’t need to be constantly repeated in a sermon. We don’t need to become a walking thesaurus in our preaching, trying to use different words all the time, but we shouldn’t find ourselves stuck using the same words either.

We don't need to become a walking thesaurus in our preaching, trying to use different words all the time, but we shouldn't find ourselves stuck using the same words either. Click To Tweet

5.  You’ll notice how often you use your notes —  I’m a manuscript preacher.  I know not everyone is, but that’s how I’m wired.  Anyone of our staff that preaches, we require them to prepare a manuscript before they preach. We don’t make them use it on the platform, but they have to have one before they preach.  That’s a different topic for another day. Since I have a manuscript, I also want to make sure I don’t read it.  I feel like I’ve grown greatly in this area over the last several years.  While my manuscript is in front of me, I’m using it only as a reminder, not as a reader.  By the time I hit the platform on Sunday, I don’t have the manuscript memorized, but I do have it internalized.  I look down occasionally to keep myself on track.  The danger is to become locked onto your notes too much.  In watching myself preach I begin to notice how much I use or don’t use my notes.

While my manuscript is in front of me, I'm using it only as a reminder, not as a reader. Click To Tweet

6. You’ll improve your overall delivery — Any communicator worth their salt wants to get better and I think the only way we get better is by watching ourselves preach.  Like a sports team watches the game film I think we should as well.  In watching yourself preach you will begin to grow in so many areas of your communication.  It will make you better at preaching, leading a devotional with a team, doing a leadership talk to a small group, everything.  It only takes 30-45 minutes out of your week to do it.  What’s stopping you?  Do you want to get better or not?

Any communicator worth their salt wants to get better and I think the only way we get better is by watching ourselves preach. Click To Tweet
Jeff Maness
I am a follower of Jesus first, husband to a beautiful wife, father to four amazing children, lead pastor of Element Church in Cheyenne, WY, and blogger of all things life.

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