5 Pointers For Panel Participants (For Preachers/Pastors)
I’ve been privileged to serve on numerous panels. I’ve had some great experiences and I’ve also had some unpleasant ones. Some were due to my fellow panelists; others were due to my mistakes. There is much I could say, but here are just a few tips to help us preachers/pastors better serve as panelists. These should not be viewed as absolutes, but rather general rules of thumb.
1. Be concise
I know this can be difficult depending on the questions you are asked. Yes, some questions are complex and therefore cannot be answered simplistically or concisely without a preface or reference, context, or clarification. But try to be brief in your responses. Why? For one, there are probably a boat load of questions that have been submitted by the audience, and even if some of theirs are not chosen, they will at least appreciate the fact that the panel was able to address many of them and didn’t get stuck on a handful. Secondly, it is a show of courtesy to other guests on the panel. To be frank, it is frustrating to serve on a panel with someone who monopolizes the time. Preachers/Pastors, you and I both know we can be long winded. So, as much as possible, keep it short and simple.
Side note: Beware of chasing rabbits (which is so easy to do, as you know). Stay on the trail. Answer the question. Make your point. And then put the microphone down.
2. Don’t beat around the bush
This was an old saying that my dad used to tell us when we were skirting around a question by not giving a straightforward answer. It would aggravate him to no end, and so it will with the audience. People can tell when you are avoiding a question. If you don’t want to, are not sure how to, or are not able to answer a question, it’s okay to pass on it.
3. Answer according to the Bible
I remember sitting in the audience at this Christian conference slightly perturbed during a Q&A session. The questions were legitimate. It was the answers that were getting under my skin. Why? Because the panelists were for the most part pontificating over each topic without any regard for the Bible. It should go without saying that in a Christian setting Christian panelists should defer to God’s Word. This doesn’t mean you have to reference book, chapter, and verse. But it does mean that our answers should be informed by Scripture.
4. Don’t bite off more than you can chew
Tackling questions that are bigger than our knowledge or experience is a disaster waiting to happen. Don’t attempt to answer questions that are beyond your capacity. Be humble. Remember: our goal as panelists is not to impress people, but rather to impact them. Don’t be the guy (or girl) at the pool who knows he can’t swim well, but sees an opportunity to impress a group of ladies by jumping off the diving board into the deep end, only to be rescued from drowning by a lifeguard. Stay in the section of the pool that you are comfortable in before you find yourself in over your head.
5. Try not to be preachy
If you are on your feet with the microphone snug in the palm of one hand and gesturing with the other, if the musician is tuning up and “you feel your help coming on,” if you shifted from your normal, conversational voice to your “preaching voice,” you just might be doing a little too much for a panel. Seriously though, people who have submitted questions are there for answers or insight, not to hear how many pithy sayings we can rattle off, or who can get the crowd worked up the most, or to see an impromptu exhibition of your preaching prowess etc. Preaching is in us. And some crowds will try to push us there, even in a panel session. I get it. I truly do. But there is a time and place for everything. Save that great illustration (unless it is appropriate for the discussion at hand and it is short) and sermon for Sunday.