Whether it is a mechanic who needs to know what equipment to put in their shop, or a real estate agent who needs to learn best practices when it comes to helping a family find a house, everybody could use help to improve. No matter what profession someone is in, having great tools is vital!
In this article, we will discuss 6 tools and techniques for your next sermon. These obviously are not the only preaching tools and techniques (not by a long shot!). But hopefully they will help you in your sermon prep and delivery process!
1. A Sermon Planning Team
A sermon planning team is a group of people that will keep you from preparing your sermon or sermon series in a silo, in a vacuum, or on an island.
This team can be anywhere from two to six individuals that are:
- People that you trust.
- People who care about you.
- People who have insight into the mission and vision of your parish and the arch/diocese.
- People who understand the culture of your parishioners and local community.
They do not have to be communicators or parish staff members. They just need to be humble people who want to see you serve well and are committed to helping you present truth to your parish in a way that impacts their lives.
Putting together a team like this takes time. Some people are too busy. Some people have to be convinced to be on this team because they do not feel adequate or qualified.
Start by inviting someone to one meeting with the goal of helping you plan one sermon or roughly map out one series. This will serve as a good test to see if this person likes the process and is a good fit for you. The sermon planning team can be a volunteer role at your parish, just like being a small group leader or children’s ministry teacher.
But as you build this team, give them the power and freedom to truly contribute to the preaching that comes from your parish’s pulpit. Before long, you will wonder how you ever did this without them!
2. A Sermon Planning Retreat
Have a sermon calendar planning retreat with your sermon planning team. When we say retreat, it does not necessarily have to be an off-site retreat. Although, if you have the time, budget, and location for an off-site retreat, that is ideal. If not, you can schedule it one night a week for a month.
For example, you may say…
- Every Thursday evening in the month of June or July we are going to meet in a private room at the church from 6:00-8:00 p.m. The goal is to create our sermon calendar for ’x’ amount of time (year, Lenten and Easter season, etc.).
- Start by getting a bunch of ideas on a whiteboard or a bulletin board. Ask the question, “What does this audience need to hear next year?” Write them down.
- Even if you follow the day’s Gospel reading verse-by-verse, you still have to figure out what you are going to say about each verse or passage, and it is great to get input from your planning team.
- Then, look at the calendar. Be aware of things that are going on in your parish calendar, in the lives of your parishioners, and in the culture (there have been a few times when I left these meetings and totally forgot about major holidays!).
- Finally, start filling in the Sundays on next year’s calendar with series, themes, topics, or core ideas.
3. A Sermon Calendar
The output of your sermon planning retreat should be a sermon calendar. We cannot overstate how big of a deal this is! Keep in mind that your sermon calendar can be adjusted:
- If you feel God leading you to add, subtract, or edit.
- If there is a local or national tragedy.
- If there is a shift or major change in your parish staff.
- Any other unforeseen change or adjustment.
A sermon calendar gives you so much freedom and confidence when it comes to mapping out and planning things in advance. It is great for your staff because you can communicate with them about where you are going over the next few weeks (even months!). With increased planning comes increased communication, creativity, and efficiency. And imagine how much better you would feel sitting down to write your sermon outline with an idea already on the table!
Also, with the advanced planning that your sermon calendar provides, you can get more input from other people about your sermon, services, and how to promote upcoming series.
4. A System for Preparing Your Heart
When it comes to preaching to your parishioners, you may feel:
- The urgency of preparation on the front end.
- The insecurity of “How did it go?” on the back end.
Instead of feeling intimidated or fearful of these two things, a great tool to have in your arsenal is a system for preparing your heart.
All of us pray when you are getting ready to preach. We did not even need to mention that as a “tool” or “technique.” Like studying the passage you are going to preach on, prayer is a necessity!
But preparing your heart is about making your preaching about more than your sermon.
Here are some things to try.
- Attempt to get into the heart and mind of someone in the audience. Try to really think and care about their heart, family, struggles, hopes, insecurities, etc. So instead of preaching from a standpoint of how your sermon will perform, think about them and what God could do in their lives through this message.
- Connect with a Bible character. We will take Peter as an example. If God could use him for giant impact based on all that we know about Peter, he might be able to use you and me. Peter was impulsive, insecure, and afraid. But when he tapped in to the Spirit of God, Peter set the early Church in motion!
- Focus on one verse. Take some time in prayer surrendering your preparation, talent, and intentions to God. This will allow you to prepare your heart and mind. With your focus on people, an imperfect person used by God will be in a better place to preach!
5. Find a Way to Get Consistent Feedback
This is another great place to get your sermon planning team involved. When it comes to feedback, do not just look for people who love everything you say. But also, do not look for people who are super-critical and criticize your smallest points and habits.
Look for people who are humble, love you, are invested in your growth and parish mission, and want to see people in your parish truly encounter Jesus (again, it is the same things you are looking for in a sermon planning team). You do not have to overwhelm them each time you speak. Just get in the habit of texting, emailing, or asking them these two questions:
- What was the most effective, impactful thing I did in my last sermon?
- What is an area that did not connect or needs some work?
Give people permission to speak not only into your content, but also into your delivery, energy, emotion, and art. Over time, you will notice some common themes with this feedback. Those themes will help you so much as a communicator that you will know what weaknesses you need to improve, and what strengths you need to accelerate!
6. A Place to Collect Ideas, Stories, Illustrations and More.
If you speak week after week, you are probably always observing, looking, reading, and listening for divine inspiration. That is great, but you need a place for all of those ideas! You can try to remember those ideas later, but that can be a challenge when you are busy serving your parishioners.
Whether it is the Notes app on your phone or a Word folder on your computer, you need a central place where you can write down anything that could potentially help a future sermon. Whether you see or hear about something in the news, encounter a funny situation with kids in your children’s ministry, or read something that moves you emotionally, it is great to have a place where you can immediately go and capture that idea in some type of document that can be saved!
Put a subject header in front of each of these ideas. If the story or illustration could fit under multiple subjects, put all of them in the header. For example:
Header: (Family, Parenting, Gratitude, Identity, Self-Awareness).
Story: Today, while eating dinner at the home of one of the families in my parish, we all went around and told their 4-year-old daughter one thing we love about her. This included her sense of humor, how loving and thoughtful she is and so forth. Then we asked her to tell us the #1 thing she loved about herself. She quickly replied, “My beautiful singing voice.”
Writing stuff like this down is so helpful, because it means that you have your own database to draw from down the road because inspiration often happens in the moment.
We hope that these tips help you and your ministry. If you are interested in learning more about any of the tools offered by ParishSOFT to help parish staff and parishioners, please call our sales department at 866-930-4774 x7 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!