Yesterday I posted my first five tips for how to always have a great illustration. Here are five more tips…well six.
#6 – Keep an On-Going Archive of Interesting News Articles
I use Evernote constantly. Anytime I find a great article, I create a note in Evernote. There’s enough crazy things that happen in this world that it’s not too difficult to find an amazing story each week. If you archive long enough, you’ll always have a great news story which matches your message.
#7 – Keep Up to Date on Your Audiences Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Etc. Updates
With teenagers, this is a great way to keep a pulse on your ministry. As we all know, too many teenagers share too much on the internet. While it’s bad for them, it’s very helpful for me.
While I don’t usually actually save student status updates, some are so over-the-top I couldn’t help myself. I may have to wait years to use them, but they are simply amazing.
#8 – Keep an On-Going List (with links) of Great YouTube Videos
Every week you probably see at least one great video on YouTube which someone shared. Whether funny or inspiring, YouTube gives you great access to wonderful illustrations.
Keep an inventory!
#9 – While Preparing, Spend 15 Minutes Just Listing Out Ideas for Illustrations
I don’t know about how you prepare messages, but typically when I get into writing mode, I start to self edit. If I’ve used a story/article/video before, I won’t write it down. I won’t write down ideas which I don’t like.
A brainstorm session provides you an opportunity to write down bad/overused ideas. Having the idea written down can spark your imagination or at least it tells you where to direct it.
One of my most overused stories is about a time I was driving from Dallas to Austin, and I accidentally drove the wrong way out of Dallas and ended up in Oklahoma before I realized my mistake. I can find a way to work that story into virtually any sermon because there were so many things that went wrong.
In a brainstorm session I can write that story down and why I want to use (wrong direction, distractions, missing the obvious signs, ignoring signs, etc.). Then I can know how to find a replacement illustration. I have other stories about heading in the wrong direction (like when I made a 3 pointer into the wrong goal). I have other stories about being distracted and making the wrong move (like hugging someone other than mother as a kid).
#10 – Find a Community to Brainstorm With
One of my favorite things about Summer time is that I have a team of college interns. I have constant brainstorm sessions during the Summer time. This year I may try to use them to map out our entire year.
They provide a community to bounce ideas off of. Every communicator needs something like this. No matter how good you are, eventually you start running out of ideas. We all naturally drift in certain directions.
Community provides a way to get ideas which you don’t naturally drift towards.
BONUS – Know Where You’re Headed Long in Advance & Prep Early
The biggest advantage of a preaching calendar for me is that it helps me start collecting illustrations well in advance. Sometimes you don’t notice a great illustration because there’s no reason for it to spark your interest. When know what direction you’re headed, you know what sorts of ideas to intentionally collect.
With each upcoming series I have on the horizon, I will create a file or note called IDEAS. I just plunk down ideas as they come to me. A few years back I knew I was likely to be preaching at a retreat 11 months away. Therefore, I started a file and started dropping ideas into it.