The Rev. Andrea J. Myers is a 2019 Backstory Preaching Mentorship Participant and currently serves as pastor of Zion Lutheran Church of Lake Crystal, MN (ELCA), where she preaches weekly to her rural/small town congregation. Growing as an effective preacher through BsP is helping Andrea fulfill her leadership mission, which is to nurture congregations as healthy communities with a clear sense of identity and shared purpose through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
When I signed up for the Mentorship, I was focused primarily on two goals:
to become a more capable and confident preacher, and
to re-shape habits that have usually pushed my sermon prep and writing into family time.
I've experienced significant growth in both of these areas!
The affirmation and feedback from preaching peers and congregational listeners have indeed given me greater confidence in my preaching abilities. I now have appraisals with specific comments to help me understand how my message is connecting, and have also identified some specific areas where I can keep growing. My mentor (Meredith) has challenged and encouraged me to venture beyond my default sermon "style" by experimenting with length, storytelling, and rhetorical devices. I'm building a more robust toolkit, or artist’s palette, so that I can deliberately choose the right tool or style to communicate a given message.
While I'm still writing on Saturdays (for now!), I'm never starting from a blank page, which has helped me to fall in love with preaching again. Prioritizing prayer and sermon prep earlier in the week means that my sermon is percolating alongside other ministry tasks throughout the week, rather than being pushed down the list of tasks. I've also succeeded in making significant shifts to my weekly schedule, carving out sermon-prep respite away from the office where I have the silence and uninterrupted time I need for prayer, reflection, and tapping my creativity. I've developed new strategies like freewriting on the text, which together with completing the BsP "grid" mean that when I sit down to write my draft I am truly prepared and writing is more efficient. I know what I intend to say, and why it matters, have a single, clear message as my focus.
My connection with BsP over the last year has renewed my faith and my preaching call. The accountability of the mentorship was a needed push to rebuild daily spiritual practices of scripture-reading and prayer, and to establish new new practices (like watching my birdfeeders!) that bring me joy and help me to slow down and notice God's presence and work around me. I'm spending far more time being, rather than doing. I'm experiencing grace, rather than just talking about it for others.
One other bonus - while I didn't end up doing the post-Easter retreat, the time I spent listening to my mentorship peers' Easter Sermons was a gift of Easter grace for me! As a solo pastor, I so seldom get to simply hear sermons for myself, but getting to hear (and learn from) other preachers filled that gap!
So yes, I would absolutely recommend The Mentorship to my colleagues, and have! While it was a substantial investment, the quality of the program materials and the level of personal attention, encouragement, and learning outcomes were all well worth it!
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