We're 7 Sundays from Labor Day weekend. How do you feel about heading into the next program year?
Are you excited and confident in your routines and processes? Or are you dreading the increase in activity, the weekly scramble to get it all done, the seemingly endless demands on your time and energy?
If you're dissatisfied with the way your sermon preparation and preaching went last year, the different pace of summer is a great time for reflection and change.
A small investment of time over these next few weeks could transform your preaching life for the rest of the year. How do you make the most of the "busy, but different-busy" days of summer to make lasting change?
1. Get intentional.
Know your why.
Why do you want to make a change? What are you hoping to improve or achieve, professionally or personally?
If possible, dig for the reason below the reason. If you want to be more efficient so your sermon prep takes less time, why? Is it so you have more time on weekends with your family? Or because you're hoping to take up a new hobby? Or do you want to reclaim a few hours a week so you can write a book that's been tugging at your soul?
Look for the heart-level desire at the root of your why, and acknowledge it as a God-given passion. Articulate it. Perhaps even find a picture or photo to represent that desire.
Then, make space for the study, preparation, and learning necessary for change. Commit the time, and get started.
Use your "why" to keep you committed when life tries to get in the way.
2. Get specific.
What aspect of your pastoral or preaching life do you want to change? Take time to reflect on your current processes and circumstances to identify what, specifically, is creating frustration.
Try free writing all the thoughts and feelings that come up when you think about your existing preaching week. Or describe your ideal week and then list the places where your reality falls short of that week.
Is the trouble coming from your schedule? Your process? Writing? Connecting with your listeners? Cultivating your own spiritual practices?
Do your sermons feel inauthentic? Are you struggling to find something new to say? Are you tired of the methods you use for exegesis?
Identify the specific source of your dissatisfaction so you can make a specific plan to address the problem.
If you're not sure how to solve the problem, send me a message and let's work on it together.
3. Get guidance/instruction.
Once you know what you'd like to change or improve, find the resources you need to make a change. Having the guidance and instruction of experts can provide the inspiration or practical suggestions you need to reboot your preaching.
Pick up a book. Revisit notes from a workshop you’ve taken but never implemented. Find blogs on the subject you're addressing. These resources don't necessarily need to be preaching-specific. There are plenty of resources related to time management, writing, speaking, or organization. Some of our favorites* include:
- Chip and Dan Heath's book on how to get messages to "stick." If you want your sermon message to stick past the exit, this book helps us think outside the "church box" to create and deliver messages that matter. Click the title to read a full summary on Amazon.
- Anne Lamott's classic on better writing and the keen observation needed to support the craft. Clear, funny, and witty while providing excellent practical advice, books on writing don't get any better. Click the title to read a full summary on Amazon.
- Charles Duhigg's practical book on creating habits we want and discarding ones we don't. If we really want to make a lasting change, it helps to know what we're up against internally. Learn the "workarounds" needed to make a better way of life the "new normal." Click the title to read a full summary on Amazon.
Of course, Backstory Preaching also aims to address a range of struggles preachers face. Read through the blog archives and find a new idea or strategy to implement.
Or if you're interested in a comprehensive revision of your preaching preparation process, do a deep dive with Craft an Effective Sermon by Friday, our independent study, 7-chapter eCourse. The feedback we've received suggests it's truly helping preachers become more effective while experiencing more delight in their process.
4. Get support.
Change is always easier with accountability—or better yet, a partner.
Find another preacher looking to make change and check in with each other weekly. Or agree to send each other a quick text whenever you're heading into time you've set aside for this growth. Share what you've learned. Set your intentions together and follow-up to encourage each other.
Get your spouse on board and ask them to support you in carving out time over the next few weeks.
Join the conversation on BsP’s Facebook page where you can share questions or challenges, solicit ideas, and offer encouragement to others.
5. Get excited.
There are times when we sit down with a book or a podcast or at the feet of another preacher/teacher, and the time feels utterly delicious.
Figure out what aspect of change or growth excites you, and follow that passion. Give yourself permission to “vacation” in new ideas for a couple hours each week, and see what happens to your entire outlook.
This “investment” of time may feel more like an "indulgence" in joy if the learning is relevant to your current struggle and helps you accomplish your goals or desires.
And keep us posted! Let us know what you discover. Share your discoveries with me or with our Facebook community, and let us know how we can support you.
We're in this together.
*Sometimes I recommend resources for which Backstory Preaching is the affiliate. BsP receives a (very) small commission on those sales, enough to pay for a few stamps. (I'm not kidding.) I only recommend resources I use personally and rely on.