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I am surprised how many pastors want to hide and close themselves off while preparing their sermon, when there are layers of benefits when we involve others in our preparation. Maybe this results from pastors who either don’t know of the benefits or don’t know how to involve others in their church as they prepare.

Here are four suggestions on how you can involve others and hopefully through considering them you might become convinced of the benefits.

Send out a simple outline:

I have a group of men in my church to whom I send a basic outline of my sermon out to them early in the week. Some of these men have been asked to respond to my direction, while others use it to think through how to prepare a sermon or aid their family worship efforts throughout the week. Often I receive a comment or suggestion that helps bring to light a better direction I need to consider taking the sermon than I originally had planned.

Talk to others throughout the week about the passage:

Approach certain people in your congregation who you know are reading the passage and praying for your preparation to share their impressions of the text. Ask questions of them as they read that passage such as “What questions come to mind? What are you being challenged by the most? What sections seem to be hard to understand?  What areas of your life seem to be affected as you read?” Recently, while preparing to preach Proverbs 31, I talked to eight to ten ladies in our church who I knew had spent some time thinking through the implications of a “Proverbs 31 woman.” I asked each of them, “Tell me about the Proverbs 31 woman.” Their feedback proved to be more valuable than any commentary I read that week.

Send out a manuscript:

Whether you take a manuscript into the pulpit or not, it is always a good idea to write a manuscript at some point in your sermon preparation.  When you do, pick a hand full of men in the church to read it and give you feedback. My manuscript each week is done by Thursday evening (Lord willing), which allows me to send it out to a few folks to read through. Because I take Fridays off, I ask for comments or suggestions by Saturday morning before I make any final changes for Sunday. I can’t tell you how many times sermons have been greatly improved over the years because of one key comment I received from a brother who took the time to serve me by reading my sermon and loving me enough to give constructive criticism.

Have a service review:

After preaching that sermon, involve a few of those same people in a post-sermon discussion when you allow these same men to share their thoughts after hearing it. You will be grateful you are getting specific comments from those who have been involved from the beginning and have watched you struggle through the grind of preparing that sermon.

There is great benefit to involving others in your sermon prep. It takes a little more planning ahead. It requires a bit more time. But I think you will find as I have over the years, it is always worth it.

Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.  He is the husband of Cara and adoring father of four children—son Samuel and daughters Abby, Isabelle, and Claire.  He has served in pastoral ministry for 15 years and is currently in his eighth year as Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church.  He was educated at both Belmont University and Indiana University, receiving his B.A. in Sociology.  He also undertook some graduate work at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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Leslye Haller

commented on Aug 23, 2012

Hi Brian--outstanding article, thank you so much for your insight. However, as a female pastor, I must remind you not to exclude the women in your congregation--women have outstanding insights too, and NOT just in the Scriptures that refer to them. I am going to aim to have my manuscript reviewed as you suggested--that was a great idea--and I know of several women in the two churches I serve who would be more qualified than some of the men. But thank you for a wonderful article!!! Blessings to you and your ministry.

Mark Armstrong

commented on Aug 23, 2012

Thankyou for a helpful article. Most articles I read on being a better preacher take the default position that a sermon begins on Monday and ends on Sunday. When I was at College, a wise teacher encouraged us to be weeks ahead in our preaching schedule. Although hard to achieve in the rush of pastoral life (I am not always successful), such an approach makes the process of crafting a sermon much more enjoyable and far less stressful. The result is a much better sermon. Such a strategy allows advice, such as what Brian offers, to be implemented in a more thoughtful and integrated way.

Michael James Monaghan

commented on Aug 24, 2012

Great article . Could those 'testers' be described as living commentaries ?. I also think Brian values women's input very much and very wisely asked chosen ladies in the congregation for their thoughts on Proverbs 31 :) and their thoughts proved even ' better than any book commentary !.

John E Miller

commented on Aug 29, 2012

A preacher should rely on the word of God, his personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit of God. Nowhere in scripture is there any authority for the involvement of a committee. Deliver the message that God gives you and leave the results to Him.

Bill Williams

commented on Aug 29, 2012

@John, just out of curiosity, do you consult any commentaries when preparing your sermons?

John E Miller

commented on Aug 31, 2012

Bill, rather than repeat any information about my preparation, lest any might think that I am suggesting that I am some kind of model, may I refer you to Charles Stone's current article and my reply to Scandy C?

Bill Williams

commented on Aug 31, 2012

@John, thank you for referring me to that article. I had not seen your response there. I'm curious: you mentioned that you might consult one or two trusted commentaries. Why would that be acceptable, but not consulting one or two trusted members of your congregation who know the people and the context? You wrote that nowhere in scripture is there any authority for the involvement of a committee in preparing sermons, which by the way I think is a misunderstanding of the point the author is trying to make. But you must admit that it's also true that nowhere in scripture is there any authority for consulting commentaries. On what basis do you judge that consulting commentaries in the preparation of a sermon is acceptable, but consulting members of the congregation in the preparation of a sermon is not acceptable, when neither can claim "scriptural authority"? This is a sincere question. I know you thought I was being argumentative in a previous discussion. But I'm honestly very curious about your response.

John E Miller

commented on Aug 31, 2012

My conviction, and please note these words, is that the servant is directly responsible to his Master. Therefore if he is entrusted with a task such as preaching the Gospel, preparation for the execution of the service is undertaken in private. Firstly consideration of God's word, secondly prayer and thirdly godly consideration of what men of God may have ministered in the past concerning the scripture and the burden laid on the servant. There is no scriptural authority as far as I know for a servant of God abrogating his direct responsibility to the Master to others for their approval, ammendment or veto of the message entrusted to him. The writings of commentators can be soberly and thoughtfully considered in the light of scripture. Submitting one's thoughts about a message that the Spirit of God may have laid upon me to a committee, some of whom may well be the object of His instruction seems to me to surrender responsibility. I sense that you have a very different approach and that is none of my concern. I can only serve as I feel the Spirit of God directs in a way that is pleasing to my Heavenly Master. I am responsible to Him. The "seeker sensitive" approach of course is to say, "What kind of sermon do we think would be acceptable to the congregation?" Finally, let me assure you that I would not place the opinion or interpretation of men in a standing of equality with scripture, but would seek to examine their value under its searching light.

Bill Williams

commented on Aug 31, 2012

@John, thank you for your clarification. Just a few thoughts: you said that the writings of commentators can be considered in the light of Scripture. But again, you can say the same thing the other way: the feedback from people in your congregation can be considered in the light of Scripture. Both serve the same purpose: to give us a different perspective on the text, to make sure we're not missing any blind spots. I get your concerns, but there is nothing in this article that implies any sort of surrender of responsibility. I honestly think you're reacting to something the author is not even saying! Now, if you personally feel no need to consult members of your congregation, that's perfectly fine. But I would ask that you not judge those who do feel that such a practice can be helpful. You have no more biblical authority to consult commentaries than others have to consult church members. Your way is no more spiritual, and their way is no more worldly!

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