The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is unique in many ways, but one particularly peculiar aspect is our Sunday meetings. Instead of a paid minister who speaks, members of the congregation share personal testimonies and experiences from the pulpit every week. Even children stand to speak. It is a beautiful example of service and growth, allowing us to learn from one another.
However, giving a talk can be nerve-wracking and overwhelming for some. Not everyone feels like a great orator and it can be hard to put together the right words to say. At the heart of it, sacrament talks should be genuine, simple, and inspired by the Holy Ghost.
How can we get to this point? Try following this fool-proof formula when preparing to give your talk.
While speakers don’t have much control over this one, we believe leaders should forgo assigning specific topics. Why? It completely opens the door for revelation. It is a powerful act of faith to tell someone you believe they can go to God about what He wants them to say. It asks the speaker to work for inspiration, which leads to more tender, guided talks. When the Spirit is involved, God’s will is done more readily and clearly.
Ask for What Others Need
Whether you’ve been assigned a topic or just an assignment to speak, begin by prayerfully asking what the people in your congregation need. Do not seek after what will be most interesting or most deep doctrinally. Avoid tendencies to want to seem funny, smart, or right. By asking God in continued prayer what others need to hear, you create a straight conduit to heaven.
Research the Topic
Before you begin composing your talk, spend some time researching the topic or principle you want to highlight. Read scriptures. Read conference talks. Ponder on your own life experiences as related to the principle. Take notes on anything that stands out to you. As you ponder prayerfully, you’ll likely begin to see the heart of your talk coming together.
Focus on One Principle
There is so much to the gospel of Jesus Christ. After researching a topic or principle, so many different ideas present themselves. Consider a principle such as repentance. You could speak on how to repent, why confession is important, what it feels like to have godly sorrow, or how to forgive yourself and move forward after you’ve repented. All of these aspects of repentance and so many more could fill multiple sacrament meetings. Instead of trying to cover as much ground as possible, pick one principle that is relevant to you and your congregation, as directed by the Spirit.
Focus on One Experience
One of the best ways to connect with other members and illustrate the principle you’re talking about in action is by sharing a personal experience. Find one experience and focus on it. Avoid giving extraneous detail that may be dramatic for the sake of drama or overly personal, taking away from the Spirit. Keep your story simple and concise, focusing on what you learned about Jesus Christ and why.
Focus on One Action
Make your talk more relevant by providing a simple suggestion on how ward members can come closer to Christ. Ponder on an action item from your talk and speak on how they can implement it. Leave a specific invitation to work on that action item. If possible, try implementing this action item in your own life in the week or two leading up to your talk. Discuss how it went for you and why you feel it is important.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Your talk will be more engaging if you feel confident and comfortable. Practice giving your talk over and over again. There isn’t anything wrong with the need to read from a piece of paper, especially if you experience major anxiety, but your ward members will feel more connected to you if they feel like you’re looking in their eyes and speaking with authority and power, provided to you by the Holy Ghost. If you feel comfortable, practice your talk with someone.
Bear Your Testimony
At the end of it all, there is nothing more important or more powerful than your testimony. Do not tack it onto the end as an afterthought. Ponder on your testimony of the principle you’re teaching and your testimony of Jesus Christ. As you prepare to give your testimony, take a moment to pause and see if any additional thoughts and feelings have come to your heart. Leave room for the Spirit to guide and direct your words.
What tips do you have for giving a talk in church?