Want to Preach Better? Write Better. (A Guest Post With a Giveaway & a Request)

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Dr. Christine Modey is the Faculty Director of the Peer Writing Consultant Program at the University of Michigan’s Sweetland Center for Writing. She’s also an editor of and contributor to Teaching the Whole Student: Engaged Learning With Heart, Mind, and Spirit (Stylus Publishing with AACU).



Whether you’re a long-time reader of Lisa’s blog at Backstory Preaching or you’ve just discovered the many resources here, it is certain that you care about preaching.

You care about opening up the Gospel for your congregation.

You care about making authentic connections with them.

You care about speaking a word that speaks to their lives.

You care about inspiring them to make a change.

You may also find your preparation for preaching frustrating, time-consuming, and difficult.

You may struggle to put words on paper.

You may labor mightily through one draft only to find you have no time for another.

You may find it difficult to step back and get perspective on your writing.

You may find your writing process inefficient and ineffective.

Lisa has already developed many resources to help: Live Lunch Hour Lectio, The Collective/+, the eCourse, Craft an Effective Sermon by Friday.

These resources are a good reminder that sermon preparation IS hard and that you are not alone. There are practical ways to write more effectively and many preachers use them. I’m so impressed by these resources and by the community happening in this space and on Facebook.

So, what could I possibly offer you, as a preacher, that you don’t already know and isn’t already here?

Who I Am & What I’ve Learned

I’m a writing teacher, and I’ve been teaching writing for about twenty-five years at a few different universities, most recently at the University of Michigan.

I teach students every term who find writing frustrating, time-consuming, and difficult, who find their writing assignments opaque and confusing, and who struggle to develop insight into the texts they’re asked to analyze.

I work one-with-one with both graduate and undergraduate writers in the Sweetland Center for Writing on a wide variety of writing assignments.

And I also train peer writing consultants—undergraduates who work with other undergraduates in our peer writing centers at the University of Michigan.

When I work with them, I try to help them to see writers and writing in all their complexity and to develop strategies to coach writers through a robust preparation, drafting, and revision process.

I’ve also worked with a few preachers as a writing coach.

I’ve discovered that preachers struggle with the things all writers struggle with.

Purpose and audience, clarity and specificity, development of ideas, organization and structure. Planning their writing process. Generating ideas. Re-visioning their drafts. Polishing their sentences.

I’d like to help, to contribute to the good work happening at Backstory Preaching so that you can write better sermons faster.

A Giveaway

So, I’ve created the giveaway attached. In it, you’ll find:

  • some of my favorite, tried-and-true strategies for overcoming writer’s block and generating ideas.

  • an effective strategy for getting a fresh look at your draft.

  • and a set of simple tips for editing your sentences to be clearer, more direct, and more impactful.

I hope you find it useful.

A Request

My work with sermon writers has made me curious about how you do the work you do. How do you understand your congregations and connect with them? How do you think about your sermons and what hopes do you have for their impact? How do you learn your craft—and how do you keep on developing as a preacher? How do you navigate the tension between pulpit and public square?

The best way for me to discover the answers to these questions is to ask working preachers what they do and what they think about what they do. I’ve designed a study (University of Michigan IRB HUM00162221) that will allow me to interview working preachers about their sermon-writing processes. And I’d like to talk to you.

How it works

If you’d like to talk with me, I’ll share my informed consent document with you and, after I answer your questions and you sign it, we’ll make arrangements for a video or in-person interview a mutually convenient time.

The interview will take between one and two hours. The interview questions cover your religious and educational background, your preaching context, your sermon preparation process, your thinking about sermons and preaching, and the intersections of technology with your preaching.

At my writing center, our motto is “We talk to writers.” Simple as that.

As a writing center practitioner, I believe that conversations help writers understand their writing processes better and develop deeper insight into their beliefs and practices around writing. I hope that participating in this research project will provide you with similar insights into your preaching and also provide your community of practice with a broader sense of how you all do what you do.

I hope you’ll join the conversation! Just send me a quick email with the subject: “BsP Study Participant,” and I’ll be in touch!

Sermon Camp is back!

Overcome perfectionism.

Establish sermon prep routines you look forward to.

Discover new sermon prep strategies so your time in Scripture feeds and energizes you.

Learn a new process for defining a clear message of Good News—every time.

And do it all with the coaching of mentors and the camaraderie of other preachers.

August 5th to September 20th, 2019

Multiple times available

Meets daily during the first week and weekly thereafter. All online.

*Enroll by July 24th to take advantage of our early bird discount.