One of the key things Artizo strives to do is to help young men and women develop their ability to teach the Bible so they will grow as ministers of the Word of God. Training in teaching the Word happens in many contexts for interns; from teaching kids in Sunday school to working with a small group of youth, to reading the Bible with someone 1:1. In this issue we focus on teaching the Bible to larger groups of people, or what we usually call preaching.
One of the great pleasures I have had in the Artizo ministry is to see interns grow in their ability and confidence in preaching. I have also learned two other things about ‘teaching preaching’. First, everyone is an individual so there is no set ‘program’ we can push everybody through when it comes to preaching. The second is we need to be constantly thinking about how we can improve our training, as training in preaching is a challenging task. That being said, here is a quick list of a few things learned over the last few years that will give you an insight into how Artizo helps interns develop as preachers:
1. Get them to Preach – a lot!
Although studying preaching theory and listening to others is valuable, there is no substitute for doing it. In a two-year internship we hope interns will preach at least 4 times in their first year and 10 times in their second year. It is also good for them to do a sermon series, 3 or 4 talks at a weekend away and to preach in a number of different settings.
2. Help them before the ‘crunch’
A lot of times a critique on a sermon is given after the sermon has been preached in church, when suggestions for improvement are usually not applied. There is much more value in constructive feedback if it is given before the ‘crunch’ of fronting up in church to preach, so that a trainee will still be able (and usually more than willing) to make changes.
3. Break the sermon down to critique it
Feedback such as ‘that was good’ is of limited value. It is much more helpful to give separate feedback on two very different things that come together to make a sermon. First there is the exegesis of the sermon (what does the Bible passage mean?) then the homiletic of the sermon (how do you teach what the Bible passage means?).
4. Let them find their voice
The American preacher Phillips Brooks said preaching is ‘truth mediated through personality’. A training balance has to be struck between giving direction to help young preachers start out and to giving freedom to allow the intern’s own personalities to ‘mediate the truth’.
5. Give them a good model to ‘catch’
Preaching is both ‘taught’ and ‘caught’. Where interns ‘catch it’ matters. Trainees need to be exposed to solid teaching in church and also through sources such as conferences and on-line sermons on the internet.
6. Have them teach someone to preach
If you teach someone else you also learn yourself. As much as possible sermon critiques are done in a group, which is valuable for everyone involved. Some second year interns also work 1:1 with first years on their preaching.
7. Have them critique themselves
In the long run, preachers need to be self-critical to help them improve. One of the ways we help interns to develop this is to videotape them so they can watch the tape a few days after they have preached and start to learn to critique themselves.
8. Teach them that ‘the first 50 years are the hardest’
John Chapman, the Australian evangelist, is well known for this reflection on the challenges of preaching. Tim Keller, an American preacher, laments that his first 1,800 sermons were ‘nothing special’. Part of training interns for preaching is to get them excited and encouraged by it as well as humbled by the privilege!