A well-planned, well-placed quote can explode like a firework. Or it can fall as flat as old lettuce. How can we make sure that a quote adds something to a message, or a movement within a message?
1. Make sure you are genuinely comfortable with the quote and its author. It is easy to undermine the moment by not knowing the author, or how to pronounce his name, or what the context was for the quote. This can be particularly significant in a church setting where you would not want to quote certain people unawares. It s important to know where the quote is from and what was really intended by it.
2. Strive to use quotes from well-known folks. Obscure characters from history, or unknown academics, tend to struggle for effective reception in church circles. Sometimes it might be better to state that “One leader in the early church said . . .” rather than making people feel ignorant for not recognizing the name of Pseudo-Demoscrates of Alexusalem Minor the Younger. If the author is not well-known, but the quote is effective, use it anyway, but be sure to check number 4 below.
3. Keep quotes punchy. A long quote is a long quote, but hardly ever an effective quote. Keep it pithy and punchy so that it has impact. There is a reason you don’t read your sermon (it doesn’t grab listeners), so don’t expect a long read quote to fair any better!
4. Verbally frame your quote. We shouldn’t pack a message with quotes and anecdotes. It is better to have one well chosen quote than several that get close to the point. When you have that one that works so well, that will support or clarify or drive home your point, then don’t waste it. Don’t let it slip out in your flow of words and get missed by the listeners. It is better to verbally frame it, to set it up so they are listening for it. Perhaps pulling a card from your inner pocket or Bible, pausing and then reading it, will work much better than simply saying it from memory. The goal is not to read, but to make sure listeners hear. The movement, the visual element and the pause all help to highlight and press bold on your verbal quote.
Quotes can really add something to a message. Or not. Depends what the quote is and how we use it.