Drawing Your Way to Great Preaching and Public Speaking

This is the third post is a five part series. For more, check out the series frontpage ... Short Series: Drawing in Ministry

No eye contact. "Ummms" and "Ahhhhs" abounding. Chained to the music stand.

What does your audience see and hear when you preach?

I am, by nature, a shy person. Public speaking makes my heart race. I go into mood swings and get depressed after I preach.

Fortunately, preaching and public speaking are just small parts of my job(s).
Unfortunately, I had a stretch where I had to give 150 unique talks in 2 years.

Drawing helped me get better, quickly.

Drawing can help you.

Drawing helps with preparation

How do you prepare to speak? For a lot of us, we focus on words. We read the passage we're preaching from over and over again. We look up quotes. We write outlines. Some of you may even manuscript your talks, writing things out word-for-word.

But we live in a visual world, a visual culture, a visual age. Your eyes gather more data than your ears ever will. Shapes and colors and spatial relationship. Much more than words on a page.

Unleash that power. Print out the passage you're working from and scribble all over it. Add color. Break your outline up onto notecards. And draw.

The picture you're looking at is from my preparation time in Ephesians 2 for a talk I gave at the InterVarsity Chapter Camp. I translated the text to pictures. This allowed me to notice patterns and movement in Paul's thought. And it made for a better sermon.

Drawing for Study


You could totally do this!

Drawing helps with memorization

Your mind has an incredible capacity to remember images. Leverage it!

The act of drawing links your ideas to your muscle memory via your eyes and hands. Drawing embeds the ideas more deeply into the parts of your brain that will be called on to communicate those ideas. This improves both clarity and recall.

There's a place for beautifully crafted oratory, for polished and gleaming sentences. But in the rough and tumble world of missional ministry, that precision is a distracting luxury. You need to know what you're going to say before you get up there, but you don't need to know every word.

Drawing changes the way your brain wraps itself around your content. Instead of needing to hold whole paragraphs in your head, drawing allows you to hold images in your mind. Your preaching shifts from repeating back words you've written to describing images you've created. It's easier to talk about a piece of art you've seen than to memorize and recite.

Here's the outline I used from that same talk at the InterVarsity Chapter Camp. A few words. Simple pictures. Not pretty, but so useful.

Drawn notes


Drawing helps with presentation

You cannot hide behind a music stand.

I have tried. To preach well, you have to remove barriers between you and the audience. Look people in the eye. Talk to them, not at them.

And drawing can help ... even with this.

For example, preaching from a drawn outline frees you up to preach in short, fast sections organized around a specific theme/image (think stand-up bits or the Gospel of Mark's pearls on a string). You jump from image to image. This tracks more effectively with the way most of the people you're preaching to engage content and learn in their day-to-day lives.

When I have done the drawing in my preparation and around my work of memorization, I find I'm more confident in my presentation. I can keep on looking at the people I'm talking to. I can read the crowd. I visualize the images from my outline as I move through the sermon, so I don't have to keep turning to my notes.

Is this something you think you could try?

For those interested, here's the talk I gave to the 300 students at the InterVarsity Chapter Camp. The video's a little shaky and it starts up a few minutes in, but I can say this ...
... my preaching is more deep than it used to be
... my preaching is more free than it used to be
... I preached without hiding behind a music stand 

Drawing Your Way to Interesting Evangelism

This is the second post in a 5 part series. For more posts in the series, check out the series frontpage ... Short Series: Drawing in Ministry.

My first encounter with drawing in ministry came in the arena of evangelism. Have you ever seen an evangelistic diagram?

Here's a sample of a really popular one: The Bridge Diagram.

a popular gospel drawing


Drawing out an evangelistic diagram serves several purposes:
  • Drawing helps you remember the story of the gospel
  • Drawing makes the conversation more interactive
  • Drawing gives people space to process

Drawing helps you remember the story of the gospel

Have you ever tried to share the gospel and forgotten something important? It's pretty easy to forget something. You get excited to be sharing. You start to be emotionally moved by the beauty of the story. And you start forgetting stuff.

Drawing the gospel provides you with extra memory triggers. It pulls your eyes and your muscles into the work of remembering the story. And it really helps!

Drawing makes the conversation more interactive

Think about the person you're sharing with. When you're telling them a story, you're engaging their ears. Draw and tell and you're engaging their eyes as well. This extra channel of engagement pulls people in a little more deeply.

And you could even take it a step further. Share your pen. Invite them to add to your diagram, draw a circle, an arrow, add some more words, illustrate how they understand the situation. You're not preaching, so you don't have to do all the talking.

Even though the diagram provides space for interaction, it also helps focus the conversation. The drawing provides a tether. You and the person you're sharing with can talk about whatever you want, but the diagram gives you something to come back to. So helpful!

Drawing gives people space to process

People often need time to reflect on the implications of the gospel, to count the cost. This is okay! Conversion isn't a sales effort. We aren't closers.

Drawing a gospel diagram produces something that a person can take home with them. Something to look at. To think about. And God can use this.

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Want to see a great video of someone drawing in evangelism? Check out this interesting video from James Choung, the author of True Story and creator of The Big Story gospel drawing:


I published some of this material previously on the Speaking of Crossway blog:
3 Great Reasons to Learn a Gospel Diagram

Short Series: Drawing in Ministry

Stick figures have wildly helped my ministry. And they can help you too!

It all started in January. Browsing the business section at Barnes and Noble, I found this interesting book on consulting: The Back of a Napkin by Dan Roam. Dan draws pictures as he consults with Fortune 500 companies. It got me started thinking ...

Then, I joined several hundred InterVarsity folks at the Ambition Conference. [You can read about the conference here ... Series: An Ambition for Mission] During the conference, Alan Hirsch explained very complicated ideas in very simple ways with a whiteboard and markers. And this amplified my thinking ...

Think about it. Everyone can draw a stick figure. And a circle. And a rectangle. And arrows.

So I started experimenting. I did some drawing during my sermon preparation. I did some drawing at student training meetings. I did some drawing in strategy sessions.

Drawing really helped me. And it can help you too.

When you're preaching, drawing can free you from reliance on your notes.
When you're training, drawing can amplify understanding and transference.
When you're strategizing, drawing can deepen the engagement of your team.

Here are the posts I'll publish in the Drawing in Ministry series this week:

Drawing Your Way to Great Preaching and Public Speaking
Drawing Your Way to High-Impact Training
Drawing Your Way to Effective Ministry Strategy

But before we get to these topics, I'll tackle a familiar topic in the arena of drawing in ministry: Drawing Your Way to Interesting Evangelism. Links will be published here as soon as the posts go live.