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Chapter 1: Speaking and Praying in Public

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Church Worker Handbook

What You Didn't Learn in Bible College and Seminary

© 1996, 2012 G. Edwin Lint


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These guidelines may seem simplistic at first. However, if you follow them carefully, they can greatly amplify the effectiveness of your teaching, preaching and oral prayer.


Avoid verbal garbage

You may recognize verbal garbage as expressions such as:

..., uh..., um..., like [out of context], you know [out of context], like you know, and oh uh, etc. ad infinitum. There is nothing more annoying than to have a person begin a verbal presentation by holding a microphone close to the lips and emitting one of these pieces of verbal garbage before speaking an actual word. Granted verbal garbage is used to fill time until something important comes to mind. At least have the presence of mind to keep the mike away from your mouth until you have an actual word to say.

Example: [while using a mike]

Wrong:...uh ... ummm... Welcome to the first session of the series on better public speaking.

Better: [pause, with dead air] Welcome to the first session of the series on better public speaking.


Avoid excessive use of okay? and right?

Example: Now we're going to talk about better public speaking, Okay? First, I'll give you a few guidelines. Okay? And then you'll have a chance to show me what you can do, right?


Avoid excessive use of "go ahead and".

Example: Now we're going to "go ahead and" talk about better public speaking,? First, I'll give you a few guidelines. And then we'll "go ahead and" give you a chance to show me what you can do, okay?


Avoid public use of "you guys"

This term has come into common usage in recent years but it clearly falls under the category of poor usage. If you're working as a server in a restaurant, it may be acceptable to say, "Are you guys ready for dessert now?" This may be acceptable but if I was the manager, I'd train the servers to avoid "You guys" entirely.

Here's an example of breaking both of the last two rules.

In a morning worship service in a large church, one of the associate pastors was leading the congregation in public prayer. At the end of the prayer, he said,

"You guys can go ahead and be seated now."

You don't need a Bible college or seminary degree to know that this is not acceptable behavior for the platform!

If you are an instructor of students in a class of public speaking, allow me to suggest an instructional strategy:
Equip the classroom with an electric buzzer that has a loud, unpleasant sound. An inexpensive battery powered buzzer such as found in some board games is fine. A bellhop counter bell is also usable. Have your students take turns speaking extemporaneously on a topic of their own choosing. As soon as you hear verbal garbage, press the buzzer. Add interest by forming teams and having competition. Surrender the buzzer button to students who are making progress and allow them to serve as monitor. Do not pass students until they can speak three minutes on a topic of your choosing without hearing the buzzer.


In verbal prayer, avoid excessive use of the Lord's name [vain repetition in the language of the King James Version]
Use the Lord's name in the beginning of your prayer, as a form of address. Once you, the Lord, and your audience all know to whom you are speaking, it is not necessary to keep using His Name every couple words. I hear Father God and Lord used to excess in this way.


In verbal prayer, avoid the Elizabethan pronouns for deity: such as thee, thou, thine.
In 1611, when the King James Version of the Bible was published, these pronouns were used in everyday speech, not just when talking to or about God. Today, it is perfectly all right to use modern language pronouns in all church activities, even in prayer. In fact, using Elizabethan pronouns may make you sound pompous.


Evangelical ministers and worship leaders usually pronounce the word Amen as ay-men, instead of ahh-men. The ahh-men pronunciation is usually reserved for use in the traditional, old-line churches, or when Amen appears in the lyrics of a choral response or hymn.

While I'm on the topic of evangelical pronunciations, let me touch on pronouncing Bible names, places, and books of the Bible. The best advice I can give is to listen to educated evangelicals on television or radio and choose a role model. If you pronounce Bible names and places like the following do, you won't be far wrong: Dr. Billy Graham, Franklin Graham, Dr. John Hagee, or the late Dr. D. James Kennedy, ad infinitum.

However, Freda Keet is an educated Israeli anchorperson who speaks frequently in evangelical churches in support of the Nation of Israel. She pronounces the prophet Isaiah as Eye-ZYE-uh instead of Eye-ZAY-uh. I would continue to talk about Isaiah as Eye-ZAY-uh until Dr. Billy Graham and the others named above call him Eye-ZYE-uh. If you and Freda Keet are calling him Eye-ZYE-uh when most other evangelicals call him Eye-ZAY-uh, you run the risk of sounding pompous and pretentious.


Take and Bring

The misuse of these simple verbs has become so commonplace that I hesitate to include anything about them in this chapter.

If you don't agree with this material, chalk it up to the fact that I graduated from high school in 1952!

In general, take is used when you are moving something from where you are to another place.

On the other hand, bring is used when something is being moved from another place toward where you are.


Thank you; you're welcome.

Here again, the passing of time has eroded what was once seen as common and correct usage.

When I was in high school and college, when someone said "thank you," the correct and anticipated response was "you're welcome."

Now, when someone says "thank you," the response more often than not will be another "thank you."

This probably got started with talking heads on TV interview and news shows. Occasionally, the response will be "you're welcome."

Most often, a "thank you" begets another "thank you" and seldom a "you're welcome."


Surname plurals and possessives

My surname is Lint. I'll use it in this discussion of proper use of plurals and possessives.

Examples of correct usage: [

plural] The Lints live in that house.

[possessive] That is the Lint's house.


The difference between a trusty and a trustee when speaking about the correction system

Trusty and trustee sound a lot alike and the spelling is similar. But there is a world of difference in the meanings of the two words.

A trusty [TRUS-tee] is someone who has been judged to require incarceration by the judicial system. However, while serving the necessary time, good behavior and trustworthiness have elevated this inmate a little above the rest of the convicts. A trusty may even carry keys to interior doors such as those which gain access to locations such as the library, kitchen, outer offices, or laundry.

A trustee [trus-TEE] is a person who has been appointed to a position of responsibility for the belongings of an organization such as a church, or a prison and may serve on the board.

In early January, 2012, a southern state was getting a lot of press because the retiring governor was making a large number of pardons as he approached retirement.

A newsreader on a major news network talked about a trustee when he really meant to be talking about a trusty who was still incarcerated. My guess is that this employee had no idea of the meanings of the two words in question.

Later in that same day, the anchor of a major evening news program made the same mistake!


Avoid frequent references to the time of day.
This afternoon, this evening, and tonight are often abused in this way. Only the mentally impaired need constant reminders of the time of day. Frequent references to the time of day is verbal garbage, even if it is done by professional announcers on TV, such as Ann Curry on NBC's Today Show.

September 11, 2001
This black date in American history now appears often in print and speeches. The correct pronunciation of this date is nine-eleven, and not 9-1-1. If you are having an emergency, dial 9-1-1, and when you talk or write about September 11, it's 9/11 or nine-eleven.


Avoid I could care less, when you mean to say, "I couldn't care less."

If you doubt that you use some of these poor speech habits, tape yourself in a real life public speaking situation, and then go ahead and listen to yourself, okay? See what you think.


Here's a couple more frequent errors to avoid:

It's Daylight Saving Time, not Daylight Savings Time.

It's Safe Deposit Box, not Safety Deposit Box.


Get the Names of People and Places Right

The greatest challenge in public speaking is the proper pronunciation of people and places. The only fixed rule is to ask if you're not sure.

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania is less than an hour from where I am sitting. If you're talking about a movie star with the first name of Burt, Lancaster is pronounced LAN-cas-tur. The World War II English bomber is pronounced the same way. However, if you're talking about the town and county located in south-central Pennsylvania in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, it is pronounced


I can't tell you how many professional announcers I have heard mispronounce Lancaster, in commercials.

If you ever have the occasion to work the phones from a list of names and numbers, make sure you know how the names are pronounced. Before you dial the number, rehearse how you will pronounce the name.


Rehearse it, but don't read it

Be well prepared and even well rehearsed. However, only those skilled in reading off a TelePrompTer should ever try to read a speech, lesson, sermon, or even prayer.

When presenting a story to young students:

(a) read the story during your preparation time and absorb the gist of what it says;

(b) if you can't remember the details of the story, write some cues on 3x5 cards; if you have pictures to hold up, tape your cue cards to the back of the pictures;

(c) when presenting the story, look the students straight in the eyes and "tell" them the story;

(d) if the story is from a book with pictures, hold the book facing the group and turn the pages as you TELL the story. This technique makes your presentation more effective and helps you keep better control of the group.

For students who are "too old" for stories, limit your in-class reading to scripture and passages of lasting literary value. Always read scripture from a Bible and not the quarterly. The students must see God's authority for what you teach as the Bible and not something from a publishing house. Don't read anything else from the quarterly, either. The material in the teacher's edition should be read during your preparation time and then woven into your classroom presentation.


Simple Steps for Preparing an Oral Presentation

1. The first step in preparing for a verbal presentation is to make an outline of all the major points you want to cover. Think through this outline and memorize the major points.

2. The second step is to mentally rehearse the presentation while working from your outline. If you have trouble keeping on target during a mental rehearsal, talk out loud. Even make a tape recording.

If you still have trouble making your rehearsal flow along your outline, memorize small segments such as important paragraphs, illustrations, and anecdotes.

3. The third step is to learn your outlined presentation so well that when you look down at your notes, a bullet or key word will trigger an entire segment of your presentation in your mind.

4. The fourth step is to continue mentally rehearsing your presentation so it will flow in your mind from point to point. I often do this mental rehearsal while I am lying in bed, waiting to go to sleep.


A Sample Prayer Outline

Although your oral prayers will sound better if not read from a script, there is nothing wrong with praying from a simple basic outline.

[Your prayers during private devotion may stay more focused if you pray them orally, also.]

Here's an example:

Salutation: Heavenly Father, we greet you as the Great God of all the universe.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for your love, thank you for your Plan of Salvation, thank you for being willing to send your Son to die on the cross, thank you for your Holy Spirit who's in the world today, to guide, direct, guard and protect from harm and evil, seen and unseen.

Thank you, Jesus, for being willing to come and die for me so we don't have to die for our sins. We salute you Jesus Christ as our Lamb of God and Coming King.


The topic and type of prayer will control who and what you pray for.

An offertory prayer will mention "the gifts and the givers".

An invocation will mention the worshippers who have gathered, and all those who pray, sing, and preach.

A benediction will ask for protection for those who travel to their homes, etc.


This chapter is really nothing but a collection of commonsense rules, suggestions, and guidelines.

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