Overcoming Fear of Public Speaking

Michelle just submitted this comment to the site, a plea for help!

I just joined a preaching/homelietics course at my church and we are using Robinson’s Biblical Preaching book. On the first day I learned that we will be giving a fifteen minute sermon at the end of the course. The course is seven wks. long. I’m terrified. I had no idea that I’d be speaking in front of our pastor and the other ladies in the class. I’m so tempted to drop out but it was open to a selected few. I joined because I am a leader for bible study fellowship and we use homiletics. I thought this would be a great way to better myself at the skill of homiletics.
I want to be able to prepare and deliver passages just not in a preaching setting, more of a small group. I have made up my mind to finish the course but I was wondering if there were any resources you could recommend that would help me get over my GREAT fear of speaking in front of large groups.

Anything would help!
Thank You,

So let’s see if we can help.  Feel free to add your comments to the post and supplement my few thoughts.

Fear of Public Speaking is Normal – You’ve probably heard that manipulated statistic that tells us that more people fear speaking in public than death itself.  The fear is normal.  Over time and with practice the fear subsides and you are left with some level of gentle nervousness.  In this case, Michele, you have to get through one event in order to take this class that will benefit your ministry in Bible Study Fellowship (a very strategic ministry from what I’ve heard!)

People Don’t Think What You Think They Will Think – The fear often relates to what others think in some respect.  It helps to realize that in a preaching class, everyone is in the same boat.  Consequently everyone respects everyone else for going through with it.  Even the pastor was once a first-timer, sitting nervously in a seminary classroom trying to remember his opening few lines as he awaited his turn.  A class like this is typically like a New Preacher’s Anonymous group, and once you speak, everyone is really welcoming and appreciative!

Re-Orient the Group to Your Goal – Since you are taking the class to help you improve your skills for the BSF setting, your pastor may allow you to take a few brief moments at the start to set up the context for your “message.”  People with a context in which to apply what they learn are usually better learners anyway, so why not?  Simply describe the setting as it would be at BSF and then present using what you’ve learned in the course, but in a way appropriate to that setting (so if you normally sit, then sit, for example).  I teach essentially the Haddon Robinson approach and have had people turn the end of course preaching into a youth group lesson, a Sunday School lesson, etc.  It can be done, people will “play along” and it puts listeners mentally “on your turf.”  For nerves, this can help a lot.  (Talk to the leader first and follow whatever restrictions to this advice that they suggest.)

Someone will probably quote the standard “tool” for overcoming fear, that of imagining your audience naked.  I won’t mention that though, because I think it doesn’t quite fit with the more serious realities of preaching!  Ultimately fear that pushes you up against God has to be a good thing.  The course should be a real help for the great ministry at BSF.  Furthermore, you’ve probably already done the main thing – committing to going through with it despite the fear.  You won’t regret it!

I’ve gone on way too long, other tips?


8 thoughts on “Overcoming Fear of Public Speaking

  1. As I have written elsewhere…after 20 years of preaching off and on, I still am nervous every time I step into the pulpit…

    While I am sitting there, it is difficult to expeirence and participate in the other parts of the worship service. By God’s grace when I stand to preach…my nervousness dissipates, but I think that a healthy fear of the process is needed and necessary.

    I would encourage the person to recognize that many preachers, even some who she might think are quite effective preachers, have the same nervousness and have to simply “preach through it!”

    So I would say…
    1) Prepare thoroughly
    2) Saturate the preparation in prayer
    3) Trust in God
    4) Preach through your fear

    God Bless….

  2. Fear of public speaking is definitely normal. But it’s also normal to give a boring, unmemorable sermon. The best way to reduce fear of speaking is to make sure you actually have something interesting and memorable to say.

    TJ Walker The Speaking Channel

  3. This sounds way oversimplified, but pray and trust God. You’ll probably find that once you get started in your delivery, you’ll discover that what you’re doing isn’t nearly as scary as you’d feared, and you’ll experience waves of relief even as you’re talking. And the best part of all: as you rely on God and see Him deliver, you’ll have an amazing experience of intimacy with Him and your faith will be strengthened. Michelle, I’m offering up a prayer for you!

  4. Imagination

    Some folks say you should picture your listeners in their underwear. Not sure if that would help you. But in your case, maybe you could imagine them sitting around a table at your house for Bible study. Use the principles of sermon prep to exhort them but imagine more of a class or home group venue. Sometimes I have to speak to certain ones even when I am preparing my sermon. There are certain people I make eye contact who bring the best out of me. Focus on those people and as you feel comfortable you will share more of your heart and message with rest of the group too.


  5. public speaking is not easy. iam not a preacher but I lecture and each lecture is unique. You can do it for years and each time there is a nervousness about it. i will recommend Exodus 4: 9-12 It has helped me a lot. Peace.

  6. Hi
    On Sabbath – New Years Day I gave my first sermon at my Church Northpoint in Tullamarine, Melbourne Australia, I am a Seventh Day Adventist. although I have given presentations at work to large groups it was very scary to give my first sermon. I read a book called To Bust Not to Pray by Bill Hybells, this taught me amongst other things to change my focus from the sermon to God, in other words to focus on the mountain mover (God) not the mountain (the sermon) as I like to say it.
    I pray that you will get through this and be on cloud 9 when you finish.

  7. Hello! I am struggling with speaking in front of people. I feel a very strong calling from God to do this and I want to and have such a great desire to serve the Lord its just the fear of speaking…which is i know Satan. I think its not so much the fear of speaking but what to say. I am a fairly new christian and still learning so much about the bible so I think its not feeling confident enough to do so in front of a group. Anyone else have this fear and if overcame it how did you do so? Thanks so much and God Bless!

    • I think it is very natural to fear public speaking, and it should be natural to be concerned about what to say. It could be that God has a ministry for you that involves teaching, and as the learning takes place you may gradually feel more comfortable. I would say that it is better to be well prepared – i.e. get thoroughly trained in the Bible and theology, etc., rather than rushing into speaking based on a sense of calling. That calling may be genuine, but still not be for immediate ministry.

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