Creative Elements for Those of Us Who Don’t Have Million Dollar Budgets

Ever attend a pastoral or creative conference for ministers? Lately I’ve found they all have a few video screens, robotic lights and interesting sets and stages. I start to add up the money on graphics, video content and high-end production and I’m often left wondering how the simple sermon can communicate anymore. By their very use in these contexts, we’re being told, unconsciously, that many of these trappings are needed, even necessary, to connect with a congregation in today’s culture.

Let me suggest instead a few creative ideas for those of us who don’t have all the bells and whistles. Bells and whistles have their place, certainly. Let’s not begrudge those who are blessed with those resources. But let’s not take pity on ourselves because we don’t have the same. Instead, use one or more of these elements to make your message just as captivating and impactful.

The metaphor. A fantastic oral teaching tool to employ is the simple metaphor. The format of a metaphor is simple:  xxx is like yyy.  “Is like” are the key words for the tool. Metaphors are great word pictures, or images you can use to explain difficult concepts. Jesus used many metaphors in His teaching: “The kingdom of heaven is like…” is a great example.

The object. Many sermons benefit from the inclusion of a simple physical object to demonstrate or illustrate a point. Preaching on servanthood? Bring a “foot washing” bowl when you talk of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. Preaching on abiding in Christ? Bring a vine with grapes on it as you talk about what it means to bear fruit for Christ. Objects can both fascinate and captivate the listener—especially if the use of an object is unusual or unexpected.

The person. You may not have a drama team or video ministry, but a live person is always a tremendous creative element for any service. Someone recounting how they came to Christ, or the story of a difficult situation they went through, are tremendously compelling. Stories also have the advantage, unlike the interpretation of Scripture, to be based on experience that is difficult to argue. A listener may not agree with the conclusions of a person’s testimony, but they must acknowledge that the person themself believes their experience to be true.

The application. Putting a message into practice is a great opportunity to connect the congregation not only to living the Christian life, but also to the ministries of your church. When teaching, look for natural connections between the teaching and ministry opportunities like community service, counseling, ministry to widows and orphans, feeding or clothing the needy, or other action-based ministries. Have leaders for the ministry you are connecting to the message available after the service to plug people in.

The surprise. You don’t need a big budget to be surprising in your teaching. Surprise is a dramatic device that gets attention simply because it is unexpected. It can be startling, interesting or delightful. Ask yourself as you prepare your teaching, “What is something that illustrates this message that I would not normally do, or am not known for?” I’ve seen preachers end their message by singing a hymn with applicable lyrics; or when talking about living life in a “bubble”, give out little bottles of bubbles and have the congregation fill the sanctuary with them; or when talking about stewardship, put a $1 bill in every bulletin and ask people how they could multiply it for Christ in the coming week. There are many surprising options available if you are willing to consider going outside the box a little bit.


Author: Eugene Mason, Communications Director for Cross Pointe Church under the leadership of Dr. James Merritt.