By Ross Lester on Sep 9, 2017
Many people are intrigued but leery of using a preaching team approach. This article aims to provide some practical answers to the obstacles involved in the process.
Some time ago I wrote about some of the reasons that we were beginning to pursue a preaching team strategy at BBC. You can find that article here. It got a fairly significant and diverse response from right across the world. The responses mixed from applause to cynicism, but behind all of those responses lay a few common questions. How are you actually going to implement that? How does it all work in practicality? What do your meeting rhythms look like? How do you plan the calendar?
So, today I wanted to share some of the simple things that we have been doing with the team here. We certainly aren’t experts, but we are seeing some real fruit of development and growth in the team through our efforts. I am sure that this would need to be adapted to your context to make it fit, and I am also sure that there will be some practical things that we won’t do a year from now as we will find more effective means of achieving the same ends, but this is a reflection of how we currently operate.
Pick Your Team, and Treat Them Like a Team
It might seem obvious, but if you are going to have a preaching team, then you need to think about who is on that team, and you need to give them the dignity and live with sufficient integrity to function as a genuine plurality and not just some fans gathered around a Preaching Pastor. We have seen some implement teams in such a way that just gathers others around to hear the primary communicator’s ideas and to preach one person’s already written sermon outlines. We wanted greater plurality than that, and so wanted to dignify people with real and meaningful roles and contributions on the team.
Here is what our team looks like:
- The four main preaching voices.
- Our two church planting residents. (They preach occasionally but come to every meeting to experience the discipline of prepping sermons every week)
- Our Content Creator. She is responsible for creating our small group notes off of sermon notes. She is also a really good scholar, and helps us in the prep.
- Our resident Greek expert. We are very fortunate to have a young man who works in our Midrand church plant who is a New Testament Greek scholar. He helps us to ensure that we are saying what the text says.
In addition, we have some others who will come to meetings occassionally:
- Our interns. They are always welcome to sit in, to learn, to contribute and to grow.
- Our Media and Comms Director. She comes to a couple of strategy sessions a year where we will be thinking about upcoming series and what sort of media, artwork, testimonies etc that we might need.
- Other church leaders. We have had some others join us on occasion from other church communities to learn, engage and grow in their own sermon prep processes. This is always a tremendous blessing when it happens.
Your team might be bigger or smaller than that, but make sure that you have the right people there and that they have real opportunity to contribute.
Meet Regularly, and Maximize the Meeting
We have three sorts of meetings, namely weekly, quarterly and annual. I will talk about what we have on the agenda for these meetings in the point below. We get these meetings into the diary early, and then we ask everyone to show that they value team by scheduling the rest of their diaries around these meetings and to ensure that they attend them regularly. It is much too easy to fall back into the habit of just doing this ourselves.
Now I know that “death by meeting” is a real risk in pastoral ministry and so we have made sure that these meetings are well structured, fun, outcomes driven and to the point. We have an agenda, a meeting leader or chairman, food, a whiteboard, pre-reading and a set of desired outcomes that we know we want to walk out of the room with (more on that below). These are the disciplines of team that allow genuine plurality to keep happening. Teamwork is hard, it is harder than doing it alone, and so you need the guardrails of good organization to keep you moving forward.
Look Back, Ahead and Far Ahead
As I said above, we have three types of meetings: weekly, quarterly and annual.
Our weekly meetings are on Wednesday mornings and they last two hours. We spend time at the start of these meetings looking back at the sermon from the week before. It is a chance for coaching, loving critique, mutual encouragement and genuine desire for growth as communicators. We ask what we did well and what we could have done better, and we do all we can to leave ego and defensiveness at the door. The meeting then shifts to the sermon that is coming up in 10 days time (the Sunday after the one that follows the meeting). Those who are on the calendar to preach that week are expected to have researched and prepped and so they lead the discussion, and the desired outcome is that we walk away from the session with a sermon outline.
This outline would contain the following elements:
- Text breakdown
- Proposition Statement (a memorable one sentence summary of the sermon’s main idea)
- Main Points
- Some ideas around pastoral application
The preacher then has a week to turn that into a sermon, which is presented in manuscript form (just our preferred methodology) via email in the week before the sermon is preached. This manuscript is also then sent to a selection of our elders, to the media department, worship leaders and our Content Creator. She will then turn that into small group notes that are sent to leaders so that they are able to prep for the discussion that would follow in their groups as they meet in their homes in the week following the sermon.
Our quarterly meetings are a chance to reflect back on the highlights and lowlights of the preaching through the previous quarter. We look for repeat themes or things that God seems to be pressing in to the congregation. It also provides us a time for calendar sync, where perhaps we may need to change some Sundays, or give a speaker a rest, or look to give a speaker some more reps. It also is the time when we remind ourselves of important events coming up in the calendar. Things like dedications, baptismal services, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, long weekends etc.
Our annual meetings are done in the last quarter of a year, looking ahead to the upcoming year. These are chances to dream and pray and to ask the Holy Spirit to guide us as we prep the calendar for the next year. We like to prep long in advance of this meeting so that people come in with solid ideas on where we think we need to go. We ask preparatory questions like:
- Which book/s of the Bible should we teach right through?
- What would be some of the big themes and issues that book might raise?
- Are there pastoral issues in the congregation that we need to address through some topical teaching?
- Do we have a healthy reflection in the calendar of content that both matures believers and draws/invites/provokes thinking in unbelievers?
- Are there other preaching voices we need to be developing?
This all sounds more complex than it actually is. This is all stuff that any pastor would have to do on his own anyway, we are just inviting you to enjoy the multiplying effect of team. There is an African proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Our deep hope is that through this approach, we would be able to go further than we ever could have gone alone.
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