What I Wish I Would Have Known 10 Years Ago
This past Sunday I got to see an old seminary friend in action at her new church. We met almost 7 years ago during my very first year of seminary and I couldn’t help but be struck at how much she has grown as a preacher. While I had some one-on-one time over lunch with her, I asked what advice she wishes she could give her seminary self on how to become better at writing and delivering sermons? The great conversation that came out of this inspired me to ask around to my pastor friends to see what advice I could impart to you.
Some of this might stick. Some of it might not, but I still think there are great words of wisdom for those of you thinking about starting seminary:
• Constantly listen to other people’s sermons (famous preachers, professors, etc). Listening to others who have been doing this for a long time helps in terms of ideas, delivery, structure, etc. Plus, it really helps to start to put together a picture of what type of preacher I want to be.
• Pay attention in your Bible courses.
• Remember that the people listening to you don’t have the same theological education and vocabulary that you have. Don’t forget the audience and leave them behind.
• I’ve found the most important things have been knowing myself, and knowing the group I’m preaching to. It doesn’t work well to try and be someone else or copy someone else’s style.
• One thing that really helps is speaking in the mirror. It helps me see how I look presenting, practice eye contact, etc.
• I usually preach on something I need to hear myself.
• I learned that I just can’t wing it.
• Pay attention to what is going on around you. In your immediate surroundings, in the world…
• It’s so important to let the scripture breathe over the week. It’s amazing what I experience as God’s Word ruminates in the back of my mind.
• Force yourself to throw out the manuscript. At least so you have the option of both. Now I can’t imagine going back to manuscript even though I love to write.
• Try to say one thing clearly. Early on it’s so tempting to point out all the profound, but disconnected details. Explaining the sermon I’m working on in a sentence or two, maybe to a friend or spouse, has often helped me figure out what my one point is.