My first time preaching was like hanging out with death. I was absolutely scared. After it was all said and done, I preached for about 55 minutes! My original target was 20 minutes. I was all over the place. Not only did I speak FOREVER (I was 17), but I came around my small church and SAT down on the communion table. At the time, the communion table was in the center of the worship center (what we call the Sanctuary in East Tennessee). I walked in front of it and plopped down with legs swinging. I’ll never forget the gasp coming from the congregation that night and nearly killing that one old lady in the back. Ok, I didn’t almostkill anyone, but I might as well have.
As leaders, it’s our job and joy to find future leaders and invest into them. As a pastor, sometimes I’ll have a guy come up to me and explain how he wants to preach a message. What we do next shows how we truly approach discipleship. For me, that was meeting with the youth pastor once and giving him my rough outline. He left the topic up to me. I had no idea what I wanted to preach on much less how write a sermon. Looking back, I believe that he offered the best advice that he could, but I can’t help but think that as pastors we need to be more intentional.
For those students that do approach us, we should give them the opportunity to preach. We cannot stop there–that lets us off the hook.
As intentional leaders, we must search for new preachers/leaders.
More times than not, I will approach a student and ask them to preach. They typically freak out and say no. I’ll then use that opportunity to tell them that I’ve been observing them and believe that God could use them proclaim his goodness. I promise that I’ll be there every step of the way. I won’t leave them alone and they won’t look stupid.
Here is my process for teaching a student how to preach. It’s not the gospel of preaching, but it’s been very effective at training young men to preach.
1. Set up a meeting
Please meet with your student preacher. Nothing says, “I don’t really care about you” than scheduling someone to preach and then communicating everything over email/text. Schedule a time to meet with them. I promise it’ll help them! It’ll also give you an idea of where they are at in the process.
2. Give them a topic
As a kid, I hated selecting topics. How on earth did I know what I was going to preach on? Even though I’ve had students approach me with a topic they want to preach about, I’ll typically tell them no for their first message. Why do I do that? I want to get their agenda out of the way and teach them that preaching is more than about picking a topic you want to rant on. What I find helpful is to pick a topic in advance. I’ll typically pick something that already fits in with our scheduled teaching calendar. This will stretch them because they’ll have to prepare and throw out everything they were wanting to “tell everyone about.” Do them a favor…give them a topic!
3. Help them research
The worst thing that we can do in training potential pastors is give them a topic and then expect them to do all the work. Sit down with your student and teach them how to research. Go over how you prepare for a message and then show them the websites you visit. I useLogos Bible Software, so I’ll typically print a package of material for them on their topic.
4. Give them the opportunity to sketch a rough outline
Allow them to formulate an outline and then go back over that with them. I never give a student, who’s just starting to preach, the option to form the sermon in a vacuum.
5. Meet with them again
At this meeting, you need to see a copy of their message. I would suggest not teaching them to manuscript. From my experience, students who manuscript a message will READ it instead of preach. Have them show you their final outline and write out any statements that they are going to make that are doctrine related or controversial. It’s important for you to “vet” their message.
6. Practice the message
This is the biggest single key in successfully teaching a student how to preach. The Friday before a message, I’ll reserve our student center for the student, me, and our preaching interns. I set the stage, lights, and sound exactly the way it’ll be Sunday morning/night. I want them to see the environment that they’ll be preaching in. I also wire them up with the microphone. I want the student to be as comfortable as possible when they actually preach. I want their minds to be clear of everything except their message. We practice coming up on stage (even bringing their stand up, holding their Bible, reading Scripture, etc), the introduction, the entire message, and the conclusion. It’s our time to break down the message and to see what works. Like I said before, this is when students learn not to read a manuscript, but preach a message.
I also use this time to find their “thing.” I believe that each person has a specific thing that they do. Most of the time, we’re not aware of it. Practicing the message in a “live” format always reveals the quirk. I’ve had students who drag one leg while walking, jump up and down as their preach, speak in the “preacher voice,” have Ricky Bobby hands, etc. I don’t make fun of them, but I will reenact what they are doing to show them. Sometimes I’ll even record their quirk on my iPhone and then play the message. Doing all of this keeps them from looking like a newb. I promise, they’ll love you for this. Do everything in love.
7. Pray. Pray. Pray with them!
Lay hands on them. Pray with them.
8. Take a picture for memory
Mom and dad will want a memory so take a good “action” shot. I always post it on Facebook so everyone can tell them that they are proud.
9. Schedule a follow-up meeting
It’s easy to forget this last step, but it’s important to their learning process. Go over ways they can communicate better, use hand gestures better, etc. Whatever you do… encourage them!
By the age of 30, Nick has served as a missionary, creative arts director, student pastor, graphic design, and photographer. I’m married to an amazing woman and have one daughter. I’ve never looked back since my first mac and am a closet Star Trek fan. He regularly blogs at http://www.everythingpastor.com