You work hard to prepare the talks and sermons you deliver.

You pray and anticipate life change, but the often-overlooked question is, what keeps someone listening?

From worship services to ministry meetings, people show up with lots on their mind. Your ability as a leader and communicator to capture their attention and keep it is a huge skill that requires intentional development.

This post presents a practical plan to develop your communication skills in 5 levels. It’s directly connected to my mentor and friend John Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership, but with a twist from leadership to communication.

The idea integrates John’s 5 levels of influence with communication. 

We can use it as a tool to assess and intentionally become better communicators. Let’s jump in, and keep in mind that each of these levels builds on the last; they do not stand on their own.

John C. Maxwell
John C. Maxwell

5 Levels of Communication:

(Note: This works for both platform and personal communication.)

Level 1 – People listen to you because they have to.

We’ve all sat in a classroom where the only reason we listened to the teacher was that we had to. The test was coming, right?!

Or perhaps you’ve had a boss at work, and the only reason you listened was that you had no choice.

This also can happen with church leaders. Perhaps you are new to the church, or new to a position and you are now in charge. You have a title, so people need to listen to you.

It’s OK to start at this level, but you can’t stay there for long. People don’t continue to listen just because you are the leader in charge.

The key skill to develop to move to the next level is your ability to connect as you communicate.

Be real, be yourself, and speak from your heart to their heart.

Focus on connecting with people and developing your influence rather than leaning into your authority.

Level 2 – People listen to you because they want to.

When you learn to genuinely connect with people as you speak, they listen to you because they like you, and they want to hear what you have to say.

Your genuine care and concern for those you lead comes through in your communication at this level.

They begin to trust you, and you bring a sense of encouragement to their lives. At this level, you deliver substance as you speak, but with a light heart full of hope that draws people in. Again, this is the level they begin to want to listen.

The key skill to develop to move forward is inspiration. For people to move from liking you to respecting you as a communicator, (and truly following your leadership), it’s vital to learn how to inspire people to action.

It is important at this level to develop your ability to communicate a hope-filled message that inspires. This is the beginning of truly moving people toward growth and change.

Level 3 – People listen to you because you are good at what you do.

When you learn to inspire people to action, whether in a one to one setting or from the stage, you are becoming a great communicator.

At this point, you are moving from helping people feel better, to helping people be better by taking steps toward change.

For example, it’s much easier to give a talk that helps people understand and agree with a principle like generosity than it is to inspire people to give of their financial resources to Kingdom work. 

This is a great place to be as a communicator, but it lacks something that the very best communicator’s practice.

The key skill to develop to move to level 4 is how to let people know you want more for them than from them. No doubt that’s been your heart from the beginning, but it doesn’t automatically come across that way.

Leading and communicating so the church will grow, (reach more people for Jesus,) is core to our biblical mission.

However, a communicator develops and matures, the emphasis becomes more about helping the people grow more than helping the church grow. That can be a tough transition to make, especially under pressure.

Level 4 – People listen to you because of the value you add to their life.

This is where communicating becomes a true art form, and you see consistent life change.

Most communicators add value to their listeners, but with ups and downs in the quality of each talk, few can do it consistently time after time, week after week, month after month.

At this level, you not only have included connection, genuine care, encouragement, heart and humor, inspiration, and credibility, but you now begin to consistently deliver insightful content that is truly transforming in a life-changing way. (Of course, the power of the Holy Spirit is essential throughout this process.)

You consistently make a difference for those you speak to.

Communication is kind of like a golf swing, there are so many elements to a great swing, but if you have to think about each one during every stroke, it just doesn’t work. It becomes mechanical rather than natural, and you send the ball into the trees.

The pro golfer incorporates the full swing naturally, and the ball sails on to its intended mark.

The key skill to develop for level 5 is consistency.

Level 5 – People listen to you because of who you are.

The difference between level 4 and level 5 is that you have done level 4 with excellence for a very long time!

Great communicators like John Maxwell, Andy Stanley, and Kevin Myers and others, have done this for decades.

When you have invested in people’s lives for so long, and consistently added value to their lives, the results begin to multiply with an impact that is far greater than your skills alone.

With the help of God’s favor and power, you have inspired lasting transformation by what you say and how you say it so that now people listen out of gratitude and respect for who you are.


What level of communication are you at?

What is the next step for you to improve?