People in the pew are reluctant to offer critical advice.

Good preaching—we hear much analysis of it. But many people ignore one of its important components: delivery. Everyone who speaks in church constantly needs to review the “p’s and q’s” of oral communication. Inattention to this matter jeopardizes the effectiveness of sermons that may otherwise be excellent.

While completing degrees in public address, some graduate students recorded a number of preachers from the community. The speakers were told that the project included a phonetic analysis of their voices.

The students discovered that several speakers could have vastly improved their delivery. For example, one man enunciated inadequately. Another simply needed to open his mouth wider and stop talking through his teeth. More vigorous use of tongue and lips could have improved the articulation of others. Nasalities could have been reduced. Squeaky or raspy voices with proper exercises could have been moderated.

Neither the people in the pew or in the classroom criticize our delivery, fellow church speaker. If your voice, gestures, or idiosyncracies of delivery grates on the listeners’ ears, they will patiently bear it. Or they may transfer to another church, or even stop listening to any preacher.

A study of graduates of Yale College from 1702 to 1779 shows that 79 per cent of the ministers served one congregation all their lives. How longsuffering these congregations must have been if they were subjected to a ministerial monotone, an insipid manuscript shuffler, a prancer, a bombastic shouter, a nose twitcher, or maybe a two-hour scowler. Outstanding content could hardly have compensated for badly delivered sermons.

If the pulpit pounder needs advice on how to more effectively ...

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