Some preachers are incredibly aware of the clock as they preach. For manuscript readers, the clock can be entirely predictable. For others of us, time tends to move past quickly and sometimes erratically. It is helpful to figure out where the time actually goes.
Here is one approach that could be helpful.
Step 1 – Before preaching try to anticipate how long the message will be, and how long will be spent on each section of the message (introduction, background, first point, second point, etc.)
Step 2 – After preaching try to evaluate how long the message was (if possible don’t check your watch!), and write down how long you felt you spent on each section of the message.
Step 3 – Using an audio or video recording, take notes on actual timings of each section and the whole message.
With these three steps under your belt, you are now in a position to evaluate the whole process. Where did reality (step 3) differ from steps 1 and 2? You may find that you are fairly careful with your timings, but lost track of time in one section. Or you may find that time is lost repeatedly throughout the message.
Here are seven common trouble spots:
1. Introduction – Sometimes we can struggle to generate momentum at the start of a message. Maybe more crafting and rehearsal is needed for a strong start.
2. Textual Background – Some of us get very excited when we have a chance to dive back into the biblical world and we end up giving more background than is needed for this message. What is the most pertinent and helpful information for this message to communicate?
3. Illustrations – Sometimes illustrations just need too much time to explain, especially if our listeners look less familiar with the context of the illustration than we anticipated (beware of needing to tell whole Bible stories to make sense of a biblical illustration, or telling a whole movie plot, plus comments about spoilers, for the sake of a movie illustration).
4. Humour – Perhaps illustrations are ok, but when you say something a little bit humorous you can end up circling around that moment for too long?
5. Explanation – Some love nothing more than making sense of a biblical text for our listeners, but are we labouring the point longer than the majority need? We would be surprised how long it takes to be truly heard, but how quickly we can annoy our listeners if we lack momentum.
6. Transitions – Perhaps your content is crisp, but your transitions involve too much review of earlier content? It is easy for time to drift as we try not to rush ahead too quickly at transitions – a good motivation, but may need some work to do effectively.
7. Conclusion – Would your message be better if you simply landed the plane more directly?