Should Pastors Work on their Presentation Skills?

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photo credit: Creation Swap user Agatha Villa

I’m reading a book right now by Nancy Duarte entitled Resonate.

I’m giving a presentation this upcoming week at the RightNow Conference, and thought it might be helpful to brush up some skills. The book has been a helpful read as I’ve been preparing my talk.

I know that when (some of) you hear that I’m reading a book on communication, you roll your eyes. You feel that pastors shouldn’t concern themselves with things like leadership, communication improvements, and the like. They should just focus on the Gospel. That argument says: Isn’t the Gospel enough?

Though the Gospel is sufficient…I tend to disagree with the train of thought above. I think that leadership and communication are unbelievably important for a pastor to grow in.

For Pastors, Communication and Leadership

  • are gifts we should steward.
  • aren’t necessarily innate gifts for preachers, but are skills that can be learned and improved upon
  • are an important part of sharing the Gospel
  • are like muscles…if you don’t work on using and improving them, they’ll wither up.
  • shouldn’t be the only thing we study, but should be part of what we study
If we (pastors) have the best message (the Gospel), shouldn’t we be the best communicators? And if our communication is lacking, shouldn’t we be compelled to improve?
But maybe I’m wrong. So I’d love to hear from you!

When it comes to preaching:

Is it wise for pastors to read books on improving their presentation skills?

Or is that so secondary to the Gospel that we shouldn’t worry about it?

Should we just be reading books about the Gospel?

Or should we be reading books on communication, because communication is the vehicle through which the Gospel goes out?

 * photo credit: Creation Swap user Agatha Villa


Christ follower, husband, father, writer, small groups pastor at Saddleback Community Church. Communications director for the Small Group Network.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • JR. Forasteros

    I think you nailed it, Ben. Our message is SO important, we should do everything we can to make sure we are giving our very best. A student asked Ben Witherington (NT Scholar) once why they had to learn all this stuff, since they had the Holy Spirit. 

    Witherington replied, “Well, otherwise you’re not giving the Holy Spirit much to work with.”

    And I get that there’s a danger in putting too much faith in our own abilities and practice, but that’s a tension we feel in every area of our lives.

    • Claire

      i so agree with that: Our message is SO important, we should do everything we can to make sure we are giving our very best

      i am priv’d to preach to our young adults service and i read both books on the gospel or topical stuff and i read books on communication.

      i also read books on sucessful preachers – billy graham, spurgen, finney etc  they “had” something (a gift) and it worked so i want to know how they did it and more importantly how they lived their lives…

      i totally believe God can use the gifts and offering i have – i am just a jar of clay 2 Cor 4:7 but i want to be giving Him plenty of opportunity to use me

      • JR. Forasteros


        1. Do you podcast your talks? I’d love to hear them.
        2. Have you read Nancy Duarte’s “Resonate”?

        • Claire

          hi jr – no i havent read that book – i will look it up though and add it to my reading list :o)

          some of the messages i’ve shared are on here:

          our church website/podcast – there are 3 on there by me  (claire mclean)

          i also blog here: and have my preaching notes up on there :o) and a link to the podcasts is on there too

          blessings, claire

          • Claire

            yay – our city library has that book – have just ordered it!  thanks JR!

  • Jason Adkins


    I wonder how the Apostle Paul would answer this question?

    He seems to avoid certain modes of speech–cleverness (1 Cor 1:17), superiority of speech (2:2), and persuasive words (2:4). He does so “that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (2:4).

    • Ben Reed

      Good question, Jason. One that we should wrestle with for sure…and one that I’ve wrestled with for sure…which explains my slow response.

      If we are to take his word at surface-level value, then I’d almost be inclined to just stand up and read the Scriptures. That way, there would be none of my own persuasiveness/winsomeness/humor/etc. in the presentation. But if I’m going to study/prepare a sermon, doesn’t it stand to reason that I’d present it in a winsome way that communicates the truth faithfully to the text and applicationally/practically is helpful? If so, then it would also stand to reason that working on communication skills could help improve the application/practicality of a message, though never as a substitute for faithfully exegeting the text.

      I think that this is a question of balance as well. I don’t want to just read books on communication…I need to read theology as well. But a rich, robust theology doesn’t naturally translate to people sitting in the pews. 

      Thanks for the prodding, Jason. 

      • Adkins Jason

        Thanks for the thoughtful response.

        When I read the pastoral qualification passages in the NT, it strikes me that communication and leadership skills are a prerequisite to ordination to the ministry.

        There’s much modern fascination and preoccupation with communication and leadership. I hope these issues do not distract us from the ministry tasks we’ve had from the beginning-

        • Ben Reed

          Fantastic point, Jason. But the fact that they’re prerequisites doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t continue to be improved upon. Just that those need to be in place for qualifications. Hopefully the prerequisites that qualify us for ministry are things we’re constantly trying to improve.

          I agree with you that they shouldn’t distract us from the ministry tasks, for sure.

  • Ned

    Forgive me, father Ben, for I have sinned. I have read and enjoyed Presentation Zen. I even own a copy, since we haven’t had a good book burning in a few years…

    • Ben Reed

      Ha! Thanks for the laugh, Ned!

  • Rob

    Heck to the yeah we should. We should be the best communicators we can. Seminaries believe this…at least I think. I had to take two semesters of preaching class in seminary. Then once you get into preaching most pastors don’t take another class on preaching or communicating. I want to be a life long learner. I want to get better and not waste the gifts that God gave me.

    • Ben Reed

      Very true…I took one class on preaching in seminary. And I’m definitely still learning…

  • Anonymous

    I agree with you 100 percent Ben. God calls every pastor to develop their skills in leadership and communication. It allows them to move forward and see better results in what they are leading. In fact this is an area church leader’s need to spend more time thinking about.

    Also, if you can you should post your presentation so we can hear it.