I got behind again, but finally I am adding the last part of the challenge I set out to help jump start my own preaching. Of course there are so many more challenges and tips that could be added to the list of areas that I (or anyone who wants to be a better preacher) could work on and try to remember when preparing to preach a message. But doing pretty much ANYTHING is better than doing nothing.
Honestly, I can't say I have seen a huge improvement in my preaching, but I think as I continue to focus on some of these areas the extra work will pay off. I'm trying to continue each week with the tips I've picked up from previous challenges. Here is a review:
Week 1 - Scripture reference familiarity (being familiar with all the scripture you use in your sermon, and being able to quickly turn to, locate, or (even better) quote from memory).
Week 2 - Transitional statements (making sure the thought process of your overall message is clear and the points flow well from one to the other)
Week 3 - Sentence structure (working out how you are going to say things so that you aren't shooting from the hip with bad vocabulary, grammar, etc.)
Week 4 - Eliminating bad habits (figuring out some of the annoying and counter productive habits you have picked up, and trying to eliminate them)
Week 5 - Stepping out of your comfort zone (working on things you know would make your preaching more effective but you are too uncomfortable to do them)
So, for the final challenge, I want to work on something that isn't necessarily a super important part of communicating the Bible... but at the same time, it can be instrumental in helping people to remember the message we are preaching. Here is the challenge, I hope you will try it out as well...
Week 6 - Adding memorable material (finding appropriate material that will add something to the sermon that can not only clarify the main point but make it one that will be memorable to the congregation).
Some of sermons that have left the biggest impression on me, and that have helped me make much needed changes in my life, were sermons that had very memorable parts added skillfully to the presentation of the sermon. I have heard some preachers call this "theatrics," which at first didn't seem appropriate in regards to preaching the holy word of God. But then I considered many examples from the Bible:
So, after some thought, "theatrics" might be just the right word! I saved this for last, thought, because I have seen people make such a big emphasis on an object lesson or illustration that it took from the preaching of the Bible. We certainly don't want to sacrifice sound biblical preaching and teaching for a good show or something that will be memorable (I can think of preachers jumping over pews or climbing on top of the pulpit... and I don't remember anything about the message they preached that night that got me any closer to God!) So here are some guidelines to this challenge:
This can be a very fun part of putting together a sermon, and people will definitely appreciate the effort that you put into it. It takes work, but that is why I'm calling it a "Challenge!"
Hope this helps. God bless you, and may your passion for ministry grow as you addict yourself to it (1 Corinthians 16:15).
Obviously 6 weeks isn't even close to enough time to see major improvement in my preaching... I realize that. However, I plan on continuing with these challenges, so I'm quite certain their will be significant improvements in time. I have at least begun to more clearly recognize the areas where I need the most work.
However, I am going to move on to the next area I feel I should work on and that is learning to do things that are out of my comfort zone. For example, I don't typically get very loud when I preach (I don't think by any means a preacher has to be loud to be effective), and it is mostly probably just because I would feel embarrassed to do so. Getting loud isn't something that comes naturally with my personality. Sure, there are times I am a little more passionate about the message I'm trying to give... but never really loud. So, I believe it would be a good challenge for me to add some places in upcoming messages where I have to step out of my comfort zone and get loud (maybe in imitating a character in a story I am telling where the character is crying out I might put my hands over my mouth and cry out like the character might have cried out)
Week 5 - Stepping out of your comfort zone
So, here are a list of things I would like to add (for each of us there are probably different areas where we feel uncomfortable, but these are the areas that I personally want to work on this week):
Basically, I want to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable. I have found that, even if I feel weird trying something new, afterwards I usually wonder why I had never done it before.
Hope this helps. God bless you and my your passion for ministry grow as you addict yourself to it (1 Corinthians 16:15)
I'm a week late putting this out. Part of the reason for that is that last week I didn't do as much preaching as usual, so I wanted to spend another week working on the challenge from part 3. So, I'll be at least 7 weeks now in completing this "6 week challenge" (typical!)
This week I want to challenge myself (and anyone who wants to join me) with something I know I need a ton of work on. As I continue working on the challenges from the past few weeks, I now want to add the following challenge:
Week 3 - Eliminate bad habits (personal "crutches," etc.)
Before our next Ministry Training Workshop at our KC Mission work, we are working on making some evaluation sheets to use in helping our preachers receive some helpful criticism from others. This is something I have thought about a lot, and hesitated to implement, because I don't want people to get into the habit of criticizing preachers while they preach. Instead, we should be listening to the preacher and applying what they preach to our own lives. However, I do want our preachers to have some good feedback to help them improve.
Sometimes it is difficult to know what our bad habits are. Here are some of the challenges that might help:
I'm challenging myself for 6 weeks in taking some intentional steps toward improving the effectiveness of my preaching. I can use some improving for sure, as I know many preachers can. Maybe these steps can help you too
Note: I am currently blessed to be able to preach around 6 times per week. If you don't preach very often, you may need to stretch these 6 weeks out to 6 months.
Two weeks down, and I've already seen myself easily slip back into some old habits. I am definitely making some improvements, however, where I have set out to make improvements. They might not be drastic improvements, but... you know... "babysteps."
The area I want to work on this week will be a bit harder to see immediate results, but it is an area where I (and I would suspect many, many preachers) really need some work.
Week 3 - Sentence structure (vocabulary and clarity)
There are few things worse, for the effectiveness of a sermon, than getting ready to make an important point and not being able to find the right words to say. The words don't come, so you fall back on some old "crutches" and stammer "Uh, uh, uh..." and begin using phrases like "...You know...such and such...and what have you.." (Anyway, if you didn't figure it out, those are some of my "crutches.") We may be able to get our points across that way, but (whether knowingly or unknowingly) it puts the people on edge and make it hard for them to follow us. Worse yet, they might just tune us out totally.
The point here isn't to become so formal and scripted with our words that we lose our audience and come across as phony and impersonal. The point is simply to have an arsenal of words ready to be pulled out at a moment's notice and to be able to pull them out smoothly and effortlessly. Let's face it, that is going to require a lot of study, diligence... and just plain, old experience.
So here are the challenges of the week that I will be working on I want to offer the challenge to others:
Let me know if you try it or if you have any other suggestions that might help. God bless you, and my your passion for ministry grow as you addict yourself to it (1 Corinthians 16:15)
For the last week (actually, a little longer), I have been making sure to put to practice what I talked about last week in the first part of this series. It seems like such a no-brainer, and perhaps I need this a lot more than any other preacher that might be reading this; but making sure to labor a little longer at familiarizing myself with the passages I'm going to be using in my preaching, and making sure to mark them in both my notes and the Bible I'm using while I preach, has already helped me significantly.
In the last four messages (or so) that I have preached, I haven't had to be embarrassed for turning to the wrong place and not being able to find the verse I was looking for... or making the congregation wait for me as I fumble around trying to get to the right page while I keep talking (I'm a poor multi-tasker).
So, having been working on the important practice of being more familiar with scripture passages (although there are obviously a whole lot of other factors I haven't addressed), and recognizing the benefits of adding just a few simple steps to my sermon preparation; it is now time for me to move on to another important issue--transitions.
Notice: That last paragraph was actually an attempt at the very practice I'm addressing in this week's article.
Week 2 - Transitional statements
We all use these regularly, to some degree, without thinking much about it, but the idea here is that we work on improving in this area so that our thoughts are more clearly received by our audience. Let me give some very basic examples:
Do you see how those sentences could help the audience understand my thought process as I take them from one section of my presentation to the next? This is something I have been working on doing in my sermons to emphasize my points; however, I think the following practice will help me take this to the next level:
Hopefully, this will establish a habit that will eventually allow us to make these transitions more naturally without spending a whole lot of time working on them. But for now, let's labor at them the best we can! Let me know if you have anything to add that would help, or if you decide to join the challenge.
God bless you, and may your passion for ministry grow as you addict yourself to it. (1 Corinthians 16:15)
I've been a pastor for close to a year and a half now. During this time I have already preached well over 200 sermons (not counting Sunday School classes and nursing home ministry). Along with that, we recently started a mission work in the Kansas City area where I preach 2 more times per week.
So, you would think I should have become a pretty decent preacher by now... unfortunately, I recognize many of my faults and shortcomings when it comes to preparing and delivering sermons. In fact, I think I have picked up a lot of bad habits already that are going to be hard to break. So, I have come up with a plan of attack on improving my preaching, and I decided to encourage other preachers to join in on the challenge.
Here are some of the goals I want to achieve with this series of challenges:
Now, before you get super spiritual and say "Preaching isn't about YOUR abilities, you should just let the Spirit lead..." let me stop you and ask you of a few things. Aren't we to be good stewards of everything God gives us? Aren't we supposed to strive for the mastery? Shouldn't we give God our best?
It is a great shame to think that a lazy preacher would blame the Holy Spirit for the lame sermons that he stumbles through week by week while putting his poor listeners to sleep. I know I've been guilty of preaching plenty of duds... but I certainly am not going to blame the Holy Spirit for my lack of preparedness.
I'm going to make 6 posts in this series (1 post per week for 6 weeks).
Note: the idea is to continue working each week on all that has been practiced in the previous weeks.
Week 1 - Scripture Reference Familiarity
I am starting with this subject because it is the most important. We are BIBLE preachers! No matter how we preach or what mistakes we make while preaching, we want to at least make sure we are clearly getting God's Word into God's people! In order to do that, we should be very familiar with what scriptures we are using in our sermons! Following are the challenges of the week:
If you can think of some other challenges or thoughts that might help us to improve on "scripture familiarity," please share in the comments below. God bless, and may the Lord increase your zeal for ministry as you addict yourself to it (1 Corinthians 16:15).
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