Years ago when I first started preaching as a Lay Preacher it used to be like a big build up to a huge performance or sporting event. Usually it was every three months or so.
I would get the date, start to pray about it, look at some Scriptures, pray some more, prayerfully chose a topic, change my mind, pray some more, get stressed out, pray some more, decide on a message, then change it three days before!
All the while I would not feel worthy to preach God’s Word or feel qualified to do it! I really carried a lot of stress and when it was over I felt drained. Sometimes I even became depressed depending on the feedback.
When I did Bible college I found that a lot of other Lay Preachers did the same thing I did. There was a fairly common process and not many people felt worthy to preach God’s Word. Even some of the lecturers felt that way!
Through the lessons I learnt at college and experience over the years I have developed a few things I try to do which have helped. Here are a few…
1. I seek God
I pray for the first few weeks. This gives me a chance to seek God and ask what He wants me to bring. I don’t do any preparation in this time. I wait for God to speak or lead me in a certain direction. After all it is God\’s church and God\’s pulpit, so I make sure I prayerfully seek God and His message.
2. I start to write down some thoughts
Once I start to get some ideas from I jot them down on a piece of paper. It might be a topic or an idea. If it is a passage of Scripture, I print it out in big font and start. In this part of the process I ask questions of the text, write any background information that is helpful and see if there are any natural breaks in the text that can have headings attached to them. I find this part of the process really interesting as I often learn a lot during it.
3. I commit to the text and don\’t change it
Once things start to take shape I make a definite decision that this is the text I am going to speak on. I then commit the message and points to God and ask Him to use me to speak to people through me. By this point there is no chance of changing the passage of Scripture or topic. I have found this has taken a lot of the stress out of being a lay preacher. To be honest it really helped when I was a Pastor too.
4. I pray for myself
Next I pray for myself. Preaching as a Lay Preacher every few months can be pretty stressful at times. You want to use God’s Word correctly and do your best. You also want to be a blessing to others. So I pray God would help me to prepare and keep my emotions in check – before, during and afterwards. I also pray for protection as preaching is a spiritual exercise and I need protection and covering from God.
5. I practice the message.
Once my message is complete I give it a run through to see how it flows. I do this at a pulpit and imagine that I am preaching to a group of people. After this run through you might make some minor adjustments. This is to make it flow more smoothly if I noticed something. I also like to know how long it will take. I have found that I preach at about 100 words per minute. So 2000 words for me is about 20 minutes. One Pastor I know records his practice version and listens back to it in his car on the way to church. This helps it to be fresh in his mind.
6. I walk away and leave it
I put it down and leave it. Once the minor adjustments are done I put it down and leave it as it is. I just wait for the day to preach it. I am someone who usually prepares early. So I may have it ready a couple of weeks before and just leave it as is. I may re-read it the day before and practice it again.
7. I accept there will be feedback.
Everyone wants positive feedback, but sometimes you push people’s buttons and they might say things that actually hurt or throw you. And of course not everyone holds the same position on Theology. I ask God to shield me from the wrong negative feedback and filter what it correct. I ask for any incorrect feedback to be like water off a ducks back.
8. Finally I reward myself.
If I have preached in church or at another event I have done a very good thing. Regardless of how I think I have done, I thank God for the opportunity and I do something nice for myself. It might be a long slow walk through the bush trails near my house with an iced coffee or having a nice afternoon nap afterwards. I find this is a good part of closing the loop on each message.
Being a Lay Preacher is a great thing to do, it really is a privilege. But is also has a up and down cycle to it for many people. I hope some of these things may help you if you are new to preaching as a Lay Preacher.