Standing in front of a congregation and giving a talk is an intimidating prospect for many Latter-day Saint members. If you’ve got a mental illness, such as anxiety, or more intense phobias of public speaking, it may feel impossible. However, sharing your testimony with your fellow ward members can be a growing experience for everyone and lead to greater light and understanding.
If you have anxiety and want to find a way to give a talk in church, consider these five ideas.
The Lord wants to help you speak to your ward members with the Spirit. By prayerfully preparing for your talk, you invite the help of heaven. Don’t wait until the last minute out of fear or procrastination. Ponder in your heart and mind on both what you’d like to share and what the Lord would like you to share. Study the topic diligently and take your ideas to the Lord.
Preparation will not only provide you with an added measure of the Spirit but will help you feel more confident in giving your talk.
Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
Repetition is a great way to solidify what you want to say so you might be able to look up from your paper. The practice is also soothing and can help calm frayed nerves. Write out your talk multiple times, whether it be word-for-word or just the major bullet points. The goal isn’t to make it perfect, but to repeat the major ideas over and over again.
Once you’ve written out your talk a few times, start practicing it out loud. If you feel confident enough, invite a friend or family member to listen in so you can get their feedback and get used to speaking in front of another person. A word of caution! Don’t become obsessed with memorizing what you say. This can make you more frazzled and close off room for the Spirit to guide you in the moment as you’re giving your talk.
Keep It Simple
Speaking in church isn’t about being impressive, showing off your depth of gospel knowledge, or entertaining a crowd. It’s about highlighting important gospel principles and how those principles bring us closer to Jesus Christ. Whether you’ve been assigned a topic or not, keep the foundation of your talk simple. Here is a basic outline for keeping a talk simple:
- Pick one principle to highlight. If your topic is broad, pick a singular aspect to talk about. For example, if you’ve been asked to speak on missionary work, you can specifically talk about being an example, supporting missionaries, or how to share the gospel online.
- Share a short personal experience related to the principle you’ve picked.
- Support the principle with one or two quotes and scriptures.
- Leave an invitation or helpful action points the congregation can use in their own lives.
- Finish with your testimony.
Talk With Your Leaders
Don’t be afraid to talk with your church leaders about your needs and limitations. The more knowledge your leaders have, the more inspired they can be in providing you with stretching, but safe opportunities to serve your ward. Perhaps you could start off by giving a small talk to the youth or by speaking for a shorter amount of time.
If you’re really struggling, talk with your bishop about why speaking in sacrament meeting isn’t something you feel ready to do. Don’t close the door to the opportunity overall, but rather see what else you can do to work towards that in the future. Prayerfully consider if the Lord can help you accomplish the task, but you should never be having panic attacks over something you’ve been asked to do.
A simple testimony is more powerful than anything else. Focus on testifying, rather than orating. If all you can do is stand up and bear your testimony, that is great. No matter your situation or speaking ability, your testimony is needed and worthy of being shared. With the Lord’s help, you can give a talk in church despite your anxiety.
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.