Last week I wrote a post on the multiple hats you'll wear in ministry. And I wanted to write the follow-up to that. Ministry is much more than the preparation and delivery of messages and lessons, but it is never less. So that's why it's essential to make sure you wear the "Preacher Hat."
In fact, this is the most important hat you'll wear as a ministry leader. It's one that requires time, discipline, attention, and your best effort. It's that important. God sent his Son to preach, so He must think it's important to be an effective teacher/preacher/communicator. Here's a few rules to follow as you make this an important priority in your ministry.
1. Be disciplined to plan and work ahead - I know some guys who work 6 months in advance. Others who are maybe a week or two ahead. Every leader has to find their wheelhouse. I prefer to be 4-6 weeks ahead, but always at least 2. And there's always those who are going Sunday to Sunday. I applaud them because they're usually laboring bivocationally or carrying a number of other responsibilities. Regardless, the important part is to be disciplined. Study and preparation time doesn't just appear, it's carved.
2. Intentionally block your time - One of the perks of the flexibility of ministry is that you often get to dictate your own schedule. There'll be the routines of meetings, appointments, and general office responsibility, but for the most part your schedule is yours to create. Blocking time is something that can set you up well for success, but it requires intentionality. A leader's most valuable resource is time, and it's also the quickest thing to get eaten up (for example, how much time can you waste surfing the web?). Another perk of blocking time, especially if you use a computer calendaring tool, is that you can always slide your commitments around when the inevitable surprise comes up. Here's a picture of what my today looked like. The best thing is that if anything pops up I can just click and drag to another day what I need to get done.
3. Work Hard on your Content - No message of any value comes easy. It takes hours of study, reflection, prayer, doodling, outlining, refining, rehearsing, editing, revising, more editing, and finally delivery for what you have to say to folks. Because it's God's Word, it requires your best. Some people believe in the motto of "1 Hour per 1 Minute," and others are able to churn quickly because they can multitask. However God has wired you, go for it. But he hasn't wired you to take shortcuts, slack off, or throw something together last minute. Ministry isn't easy, if it was no one would drop out.
4. Consider it a joy! - It's a rich blessing each week to be responsible for teaching the Word. Whether you're the main preaching pastor, a small group leader, discipleship coordinator, or some other role, know you're the real recipient of the blessing. When you do the work of study and preparation, you're being fed and enriched like nobody will ever know. The greatest transformation that happens during a message or lesson isn't in the congregation or group hearing the message, it's in the one giving it. You'll find yourself changed, refined, driven to repentance, and sharpened more than anyone else will be. If not, you're doing something wrong!
5. Evaluate and Improve - Whether you watch yourself on tape or solicit feedback from others, always be improving. Even if you've been doing this for 50 years, you still have the opportunity to grow. Evaluate your effectiveness in communicating to different generations, on how you drive the application of the passage, your take-off and landing, and your illustrations and connections. One of my favorite preaching books in recent years is Saving Eutychus, the byline is "How to preach God's word and keep people awake." They have a really helpful evaluation form to consider using!
What have you found to be important in your preaching & teaching ministry? Share in the comments!
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.