Cookies? Bottom Shelf Please


There is an old saying in communication: Put the cookies on the bottom shelf. It means, put your best ideas on the level where people can reach them. We preachers need to try a little harder.

A few years ago, Andy Stanley interviewed Rick Warren on stage at a Catalyst Conference. Rick talked about what it took to produce The Purpose Driven Life. He said most of his energy over seven months of work was around making it simpler. Easier to read. Ready to digest. He poured over every sentence asking himself, if he could possibly say it with less words than he had. Could I make it any shorter? Any clearer? The book blessed and changed countless lives.

John Ortberg delivered an address in 2012 called A Vision for Ministry, a talk that launched a new branch of the church. John said a lot of churches are able to gather a lot of sheep, but they can't feed them very good hay. Other churches have great hay but don't know how to make it available for the sheep. We need to learn to get our hay to the sheep.

Got cookies? Bottom shelf please.

How do you put the cookies on the bottom shelf?

Simplify -- Who are you using those big words for? Are they for the people you see out there in the chairs or for you? Say it simpler. Leave out the complicated words. Drop the delicate nuance. If you said it in twenty words, work harder. Cut it and say it in ten. 

Clarify -- Repeat the point. I'll say it again, repeat the point. When you are sick of saying it, your listeners are only just beginning to get it. Repeat it. Repeat the point. Say the point again. Repeat. Tell them one more time. Repeat...I think you get it.

Sloganize -- Swallow your pride and take the time to come up with a catchy, one-sentence summary of your sermon. Give the people your sermon in a soundbite. Sloganize it. Twitterize it. Does it seem below you? The Bible did it--it's called Proverbs. 

At some point, on Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday, your people will try to remember what the sermon was about that week. Help them. Someone might even ask them, "What did your pastor preach on this week?" When they can't answer that question, they feel like they have failed. Help them win. Give them something to remember.

It's worth the effort. Your people will be more satisfied with one cookie they could actually reach and carry away than with the notion that you have a bunch of cookies they'll never touch. And isn't that the point anyway? To actually give them something that will bless them, something that will change their lives?

"When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter,'Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?' He said to him, 'Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.' He said to him,'Feed my lambs.'" John 21:15