5 Years of One-Point Preaching

It’s been five years since I read Communicating for a Change by Andy Stanley and Lane Jones. Stanley and Jones propose a model for preaching one-point sermons. I embraced the approach immediately. I preached my first one-point sermon right after I started reading the book (I had completed the first two chapters, as I recall). In 2007, I wrote a post about the book, One-Point Preaching (the most visited post on this site).

Over the years, I have read the book a couple more times. Each time helps me to process something that I hadn’t before, or remember something that I had forgotten. My goal has always been to start with the approach laid out in the book and modify it over time as I learn and develop.

The heart of Stanley’s approach is the ME-WE-GOD-YOU-WE map (or outline).

The ME part is a growing edge for me (although, Stanley points out in the book that speaking to the same group of people week after week lessens the need of including the ME section all the time). But the goal is to establish common ground.

I generally think of the opening ME-WE as the opening or introduction. In my outline, I think of it as the problem or puzzle.

My biggest weakness is the closing WE. I don’t often finish the sermon with this vision casting section (although I probably do this to some degree at the end of the service with the dismissal with blessing). I offer application in the YOU section, then wrap up with prayer. I need to improve my use of the closing WE.

Late last year, I started veering from this approach a little. I still tried to convey a main point, but I didn’t always craft a sticky statement. I believe there’s always a better way, so I may have been trying to shake things up, maybe I was trying to modify the approach. Whatever the case, up until a few weeks ago, I felt like I had been drifting for several months.

Preaching is hard work because of having to create something out of nothing … every week. And with the one-point preaching approach, that includes creating memorable sticky statements!

Reflecting on my sticky statements, some turn out better than others. I re-read some and wonder what I was thinking, while others have stuck with me to this day. The point is to capsulize the message in a way that’s memorable without sounding trite (Stanley says it’s better to be clear than clever).

The two biggest results of this approach for me have been 1) preaching with minimal notes, and 2) an increase in creativity. Greater focus leads to increased creativity. And building everything around one point, following a basic map, allows me to use minimal (if any) notes.

Well, I am excited about continuing to grow as a communicator (see Developing the Preaching Gift). One of the things that has helped me get back on track and start enjoying preaching again (as well as reaffirming my commitment to one-point preaching, ironically) is work by Nancy Duarte.

A few months ago, I watched a video of Duarte’s 18-minute TED talk. I bought her book, Resonate, and am currently reading/processing it.

Duarte’s work is fascinating. I see a lot of similarities between what she presents and what Stanley and Jones present in Communicating for a Change. So, watch for posts in the coming weeks, reviewing Duarte’s book and comparing it with Stanley’s approach.

(Edited to add: I wrote several posts on Duarte’s book, Resonate. The final post, Bringing It All Together, includes links to all of the previous ones.)

6 thoughts on “5 Years of One-Point Preaching”

  1. Hi, Randy,
    I’m having a great time leading and preaching in the same congregation every week! This is my idea of the best job ever! I have to tell you how much I’ve learned from your posts and from observing your ministry. The most significant point for me has been your way of communicating in so many ways especially the blog and your weekly e-letter that complement the traditional newsletter and bulletin. I’ve adopted the practice of a weekly e-mail blast that has elicited a lot of positive response, especially helpful for keeping people engaged during the weeks or erratic summer participation. As an interim pastor, I have had to establish myself quickly and hit the ground running. This has really helped. We’re using FB, but probably I’m not sure how effective it is. There are a lot of hits, but not much in the way of response or comments.
    Are you tweeting?

    Hey, take care, and give my best to Joleen and the kids. Miss you all!

  2. Pam, thanks for the comment. I’m glad your transition back into pastoral ministry from superintendency is going well!

    I’m sure I could use technology better. It seems the landscape is always changing, so it’s hard to keep up; just have to be open to what’s most effective.

    I use Twitter but not so much for the local church setting. I use it mainly to follow other leaders (and for fantasy football).

    In addition to the weekly church-wide email, I also send a most-every-week email to prayer partners (“Pit Crew”) and a periodic email to leaders/Council members (“Adventures in Leadership”).

    They’re opportunities to cast vision, which is important because “vision leaks”!

  3. I just found your blog today, while searching for posts about Communicating for a change. I like the spirit of your postings and have learned a few things from them. You seem pretty objective about your strengths and weaknesses.

    At what point during the preparation should the stick statement emerge?

    Ever heard of Made to Stick by Dan and Chip heath? I think you’d enjoy it.

  4. Hi, Curtis. Thanks for the comment!

    I’m not sure I’ve heard of that book, but it sounds good. I’ll check it out.

    When should the sticky statement emerge? It probably varies from week to week and from communicator to communicator, but it’s usually fairly late in the process, at least for me. Andy Stanley says in his book that sometimes he’ll realize the night before that he doesn’t really have a clear point.

    Hope this helps!

    • Just curious if you received feedback from the parishioners when you launched the M-W-G-Y-W format?
      They couldn’t have known that you changed your delivery unless you told them of course, but was there a sense of “your messages seem more focused than before!” ?

      • Yeah, I think you hit it. They didn’t know I changed my approach, but I began hearing feedback about 1) being creative and 2) being practical (focus helps with both those things).

        Even though I’ve been using this approach for a while, though, some weeks I still feel like I have a long way to go! 🙂


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