Three Ways to Keep Your Preaching Skills Fresh When You Aren’t Preaching
As a communicator it’s important to keep your preaching skills fresh. In this blog we’ll explore three ways to improve your preaching skills.
Church planters in the early phases of church planting often have few opportunities to preach. During this season, much of the communication happens in 1-on-1 meetings and in smaller, less formal environments.
Then, almost suddenly, weekly gatherings begin, and the planter is expected to preach weekly. Not only is this an added responsibility, but it is also a skill that may have developed some rust during the off-season. Church planters must be intentional in keeping their preaching skills fresh when they are not preaching weekly.
Below, I will share three proven ways to keep your preaching skills fresh when you are not preaching weekly. Not only are these good during the off-season, but they can help a communicator in any season continue to grow and develop their craft.
Sharpen a skill
Many skills are useful in the process of researching, developing, and delivering a message. It can be hard to focus on sharpening a skill while being responsible for delivering fresh content week after week. That’s why the early phases of church planting are a perfect time to intentionally develop a skill or technique.
The first time I did this, I identified an area of weakness in my communication, which was storytelling. I could teach the scriptures in a practical and relevant way, but every time I attempted to tell a story as a part of my sermon, it fell flat. So, I avoided them altogether.
However, the power of a good story was not lost on me. I enjoyed listening to great storytellers and I knew that one of Jesus’ primary teaching tools was stories. What preacher doesn’t want to be more like Jesus? So, I refused to accept my fate as a lousy storyteller! And I committed an entire year to learning the art of storytelling. Every week, I would write a story and practice delivering it. I wouldn’t say that I am a master storyteller now, but I am comfortable using stories as an impactful rhetorical device.
The early phases of church planting are an opportune time to hone the craft of storytelling, train oneself to preach without notes, practice the exegetical process, learn to preach into a camera, or sharpen any other skill that will make you a better communicator.
Study other communicators
I have listened to many sermons. And sometimes, I fall into the trap of thinking: “I wish I could preach like __(fill in the blank)__.” However, one of the more detrimental things a communicator can do is attempt to preach like someone else. Not only is this inauthentic, but it fails to honor the person God created you to be, and it diminishes your unique personality. The world does not need another Andy Stanley, Priscilla Shirer, Francis Chan, Christine Caine, Derwin Gray, or Craig Groeschel. The world needs you because God has called you!
Instead of trying to imitate other communicators, allow their delivery technique and style to serve as a learning device for you. As you listen to others, ask yourself the following questions: What about her preaching do I admire? What about his communication keeps me engaged? After identifying the style or technique you admire, imagine what it looks like to implement it without losing your unique voice and personality. For instance, as a communicator, I am not naturally humorous. But, by studying other communicators, I began to recognize the value of humor. Through practice and perseverance, I learned to utilize humor as an intentional rhetorical device.
By studying other communicators, you can develop a well-rounded repertoire of rhetorical styles and techniques to be used when needed. The early phase of church planting is a great season to listen, learn, practice, and develop competencies that you currently lack.
You don’t need a large audience to develop and deliver a sermon. In fact, it is easy to become dependent on a crowd. I tend to preach better when the room is full because I feed off the energy in the room. When the room is sparsely populated, I don’t feel as comfortable, and I don’t communicate with the same passion and clarity. However, discomfort can be a catalyst for growth. Preaching to an empty room or a sparsely populated room can break your dependence on a crowd and help you communicate effectively in a variety of settings.
Through the COVID-19 pandemic, many communicators found themselves preaching into a camera lens or communicating in rooms with only a handful of people. Most preachers that I know expressed discomfort from having to adapt in this way. From my vantage point, it’s been incredible to witness communicators embrace the discomfort and develop a new skill; they transformed discomfort into a catalyst for growth.
Don’t wait for a pandemic to force you to grow and develop as a communicator. The early phase of church planting is an excellent time to write sermons, hone your skills, and deliver them to whatever crowd you can gather, even if it is just the camera on our computer. So don’t let the early phase of church planting be an off-season. Transform it into a growing season. Then, you will be prepared to deliver a fresh message every opportunity you get to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ!
Wesley Bolden has ministry training and experience in church revitalization, campus ministry, leadership and church planting. In 2013, he partnered with Stadia to plant Tri-Cities Church, a multiethnic church in metro Atlanta. Wesley is passionate about empowering church planters to discover and live into their unique gifting and calling. During his free time, he loves to get outside, listen to podcast and drink good coffee.