The Ten Commandments of Creating Sermon Slides

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Hear, O Preachers, the Lord your God is One, and the Word God speaketh mayst now be conveyed not only through elocution, but through visual media. In the fullness of time, the Lord brought forth Powerpoint and Keynote and other assorted really cool apps upon the earth so that when a preacher ascendeth the pulpit to bring the Sacred Word, he or she may carry the consecrated slide clicker to bring forth images and text as a pillar of cloud and fire before the whole congregation. But the Lord shall not lift up his countenance upon the Preacher who exasperateth the congregation with cheesiness and longsuffering by using the technology in a way that is an abomination to good taste, or as a substitute for steadfast preparation. Heed, therefore, these holy commandments when thou takest computer and clicker in hand:

I. Thou shalt have no presentation software before thee without first having determined whether it is necessary or helpful to the sermon. “Because it is cool” or “Because it is there” shall not be acceptable in the sight of the congregation.

II. Thou shalt think of slides as digital stained glass windows, using an abundance of images rather than an abundance of text. If a picture telleth a thousand words, then thou dost not need the words.

III. To that end, thou shalt not place one’s entire sermon outline in the slides, and especially do not readeth from them. Thou wilt insult the intelligence of thy congregation, and wilt makest thee to spend most of thy time speaking to the screen or computer, neither of which needeth to hear the Word.

IV. Thou shalt not use seizure-inducing slide transitions and maketh different ones for every slide. Maketh not the congregation sick with wipes, checkerboards, scrolls, and a host of other like abominations, but sticketh to the simple “appear” transition, that it may go well with you.

V. Thou shalt not use more than three lines of text per slide, if thou useth text at all. Quote not lengthy and boring text that the congregation needeth binoculars to readeth.

VI. Thou shalt use light letters on a dark background as thy slide template, as the congregation canst see it better, and a series of slides shalt not burn their retinas. Useth not multiple colors and fonts for text, either, lest your presentation look like it wast made by circus clowns.

VII. Honor thy laity by having them advanceth the slides, using cues that you shalt provide in a script. When thou fumblest with the computer thyself in the midst of the sermon, it is an abomination in the sight of the congregation.

VIII. Thou shalt not embed video clips from movies unless thou hast personally reviewed the content and language of the clip. Woe be unto the preacher who alloweth a naughty word to be heard in the midst of the congregation, who shall rise up and smite thee at the earliest opportunity.

IX. Thou shalt not use video clips of more than three minutes, lest the congregation find the clip far more interesting than what thou dost sayeth.

X. Thou shalt not steal. While this would seemeth to be obvious as a command from the Lord, thou shalt not purloin, download, Photoshop, or otherwise fold, spindle or mutilate the works of others without copyright permission, lest they drag you before the magistrate. Truly, I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

The Preacher who heeds these words of mine will have congregations who shall rise up and call them blessed. The one who heeds them not shall continue to holdeth his or her congregation in bondage to constant visual assault. Thus saith Bob.

An original version of this article appeared in the January-February 2012 issue of Homiletics.

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Dr. Bob Kaylor is Lead Pastor at Tri-Lakes United Methodist Church in Monument Colorado and the Senior Writer for the preaching journal Homiletics. He authored Your Best Move: Effective Leadership Transitions for the Local Church and leads seminars helping church communities through pastoral transitions. Bob is a writer, preacher, drummer and father of two teenagers. He blogs at bobkaylor.com

1 COMMENT

  1. These are great! I’ve found the exception of text on the screen is scripture (one or two verses at a time that are being referenced). Also, I’ve been using Keynote on my Macbook with my iPad or iPhone as a remote to be really effective. I’m able to reference notes and advance the slides myself. It also gives you the option to jump to slides at other points in the presentation to make room for moving away from the script. The “magic move” transition gives an effect that feels like Prezi but I’ve found Keynote to be much more functional.

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