Tag Archives: Presentations

Time spent with other Christians

I was blessed to attend the Red River Family Encampment for the first time this year. My parents attended years ago, and I’ve had many friends go regularly; I had very much looked forward to being there. I got to go this year representing the Hope For Life (Herald of Truth) ministry.

And my expectations were met. It’s a wonderful gathering of Christians in a beautiful place.

On Saturday, I led three sessions in Spanish. Despite some technical issues at the beginning, we had a great time.

Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday I taught classes in English. There were several glitches there, I’m afraid. I was invited to speak back in November, then my invitation apparently got lost in the shuffle. Early promotional material listed the usual 10 classes, but not mine. Later they added a class by “Tim Harris” to the website. When I got there, I found that they had squeezed me into an 11th slot. (Which I’m very grateful for; I’m sure that involved renting one more tent than usual)

Not having been there, I asked the organizers if I would have the ability to use PowerPoint. I was told yes, but apparently they were only thinking of Saturday. The tents for the classes don’t have electricity! I’ll admit my first class was sub-par because I was planning to use some videos and visuals that weren’t available.

Attendance at my class was very low. On Monday, I ran into one of my cousins. He said, “I’d love to go to your class, but I don’t speak Spanish.” It’s possible that he’s not the only one who thought I was only teaching in Spanish. More likely is the fact that I was a relative unknown in the midst of some very talented teachers.

That said, I had a great time. I heard some great teaching, saw several old friends, made numerous new friends, and got to share some about Church Inside Out. All in a beautiful setting in the mountains.

I had to leave a bit early because our ministry was participating in the Summer Celebration in Nashville. We had out ministry breakfast on Friday morning, then I taught one session on Church Inside Out. I wish we’d had more time there, but it’s hard during the summer to be everywhere.

I love getting to share this material that I think is important. And I especially enjoy the time spent with Christians from other places.

To slide or not to slide

death-by-presentationSo what about the use of slides during sermons? (I refuse to call it PowerPoint, because that is just the name of one of the worst tools for creating such presentations; the projections themselves are not “a PowerPoint”) Do visuals projected on a screen aid or hinder an audience’s understanding?

I’ve already written some in favor of the use of slides. Yet I know that the misuse of presentations has created as many problems as the use of such has solved.

Yesterday, I pointed some friends to an article from a few years ago that summarizes an important study on the use of text slides. This study found that projecting words on a screen and reading the same words simultaneously actually hurts understanding. In other words, if someone reads a portion of Scripture while that text is on the screen, people get less out of it. (The article was called The Death of PowerPoint (or at least, text slides))

I’d like to hear your thoughts. Do you find the use of a projector to be helpful or unhelpful as you listen to a sermon? Are there any things that particular help or hinder?

[For those who are wondering, I much prefers programs like Keynote or websites like Prezi for creating presentations]

Drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt

Presentations: An example

Let me give you an example of a time when I felt that a presentation added a lot to a sermon. Several years ago, I was preaching through Luke. When dealing with the first part of chapter 15, I used some visuals at the end of the sermon to try and communicate the main point.

First, I showed an image of the inside of a discotheque:


I talked about how that wasn’t my world, that I wouldn’t feel at all comfortable there. I then inserted “my island” over the image of the disco, my island being the church:

church over disco

I then talked about some of the people that I kind of didn’t want at church. If they came, I certainly wouldn’t want them sitting next to me and my kids:

Worldly people

I talked about how I saw those people: drunks, hookers, addicts, hoboes. I looked on them like the Pharisees looked on the tax collectors and prostitutes that flocked to Jesus. But how does God see them? I said, “When God looks at these people, He sees…”


Sure, I could have easily said, “God sees a lamb.” But it wouldn’t have had the same impact. There were “ohs” from some of the young girls. This picture showed something to be taken care of and protected (fortunately, no coyotes were present that day). The photo of the lamb had a much stronger impact, just as some of the people commented on the impact the picture of the disco had on them. All of this could have been done with words alone. But more people “heard” the message because they saw it.

[No, I don’t know how to do this in PowerPoint, so don’t ask. It probably can do it. Keynote does it easily, but you have to own a Mac.]

UPDATE: If you read the comments below, you can see that Robert Smelser had a different idea as to how he would use images at the end of this sermon. He sent me the images, so I’m posting them below:


Presentation suggestion #4: Varying learning styles

560469_oldschool_2One of the justifications for using visual presentations in church is the fact that people learn in different ways. Traditionally, three principle principal learning styles have been identified: visual learners, experiential learners, and aural learners. Some learn by seeing, some learn by experiencing something, some learn by hearing.

Eddie Sharp, who now preaches down in Austin, did an interesting experiment a few years ago. He intentionally varied his language from sermon to sermon. In one, he used lots of “visual words”—what we see in this passage, the image presented, etc. In another, he focused on feeling words, emphasizing emotions and empathy with the characters in the Bible story. In a third, he focused on “hearing” the word of God. After each sermon, a different group of people came up to say how much the sermon had impacted them.

Eddie’s experiment shows that you don’t have to have a projector and a screen to appeal to different learning styles. It also reminds me that just using a presentation won’t necessarily appeal to different styles either. When putting together a sermon with a presentation, appeals to different learning styles should be kept in mind. Our services have traditionally rewarded those who liked to learn by hearing (hence the term auditorium and the arrangement of our seating), as well as those who preferred highly rational, non-emotional worship.

[As a side note, back in the 1980s, Flavil Yeakley wrote an excellent study of the discipling movement in our brotherhood. The best chapter in the book was “What We Can Learn From the Discipling Movement.” There he spoke of how our traditional evangelistic style appeals to introverts more than extroverts. That may have changed in twenty years, but it was interesting then.]

I favor the use of presentations largely for this reason, the need to reach out to other learning styles. It’s not the only way to reach out to them, but it can be an effective way.

Presentation Suggestion #3: Worth Ten Thousand Bullet Points


Photo by Ove Tøpfer; from Stock Xchange

Photo by Ove Tøpfer; from Stock Xchange

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. If so, it’s worth ten thousand bullet points. One of the best uses of PowerPoint is using lots of photos, drawings and maps to illustrate your sermon.

But doesn’t it take forever to find such stuff? Not if you know where to look. Here are some suggestions for finding royalty free resources:

  • Wikimedia Commons—It’s fast becoming a favorite of mine. All of the pictures are supposed to be in the public domain.
  • Stock Xchange—Great site for amateur photos. Be sure and read the fine print on usage restrictions.
  • Flickr: Creative Commons and Government Sources collections are wonderful.
  • You can find religious photos here, Bible land photos here, Christian clip art  here, and general Bible resources here.
  • Several of the above sites have backgrounds for use in presentations. Heartlight is another good source for those.
  • If you need more ideas, you can find a list of sites for free photos here and another list for high resolution photos here.

As you use these resources, you’ll learn where to look for what kind of resource, and you usually won’t have to spend much time finding what you need. (I was going to provide some links to Bible maps, but a Google search turned up so many sites that it didn’t seem necessary. If someone knows a particularly good site, feel free to comment)

Pictures can sometimes impact in a way that words can’t. How many times did God show someone a vision rather than just telling them the information directly? Don’t build your sermon around pictures, but do use pictures to bring your lessons to life.