Whatever you want to call it Pastors are supposed to be good at is giving the weekly message in church each week. And if that does not scare you, we are taught in seminary that we are speaking the words of God. Really? Me? Come on, have you met me?
When I entered seminary, I had never even led worship on my own let alone prepared a sermon. And my first class on sermons was in a week-long intensive course. So being me I went headlong into preparing my message. I presented my message and waited for feedback. I was not overly worried about the presentation, but the content had me scared. I had wonderful classmates, and they did not tear my message apart. They left that up to the professor. He stated that for the first time ever he told a student in their paper: “Never do that again.” Yes it was me. He did not like that I joked about the creation process. He reminded us that we are presenting the word of God in our message and not to discuss the process.
I got better.
The first time I presented a Sermon in church (still have a copied in my desk) I wrote across the top of the first page “SLOW DOWN”. I knew I would be nervous and speed up. I realize I can be a fast talker normally, something about my Chicago upbringing. I survived. I got nice comments from the congregation, they were nice. Then I got home, and my true criticism was waiting. My sons gave me their feedback. I still have the offering envelope they wrote their comments on. But their feedback was important to me. They were still in high school, and I want to make sure my message reached that age group.
I got better.
During my internship at Atonement, I was able to practice presenting the way I wanted. I got to be me. I remember when I stepped out of the pulpit. It was the Sunday after New Year’s Eve. During my practice I could not get comfortable. So, I finally stepped down and practiced it from the floor. It fit me. It felt right. Since that day I rarely preach from the pulpit. I am relaxed and able to move around and engage the congregation.
During my time at Atonement, I was able to start a new worship service, I wrote a full post on my thoughts on worship. At this service, my sermons changed again. I moved to an interactive style fielding questions and having open discussions. This really spoke to me. I could picture Jesus having this type of interchange with his disciples. (Not that EVER think of myself as Jesus.) But it worked. The word got through to people.
Say what you want to say. I take pride in my messages. And I work to keep them short and to the point. No one wants to hear me ramble for 20-30+ minutes. I lose them and they lose the point of my message. I try to say what God is telling me to say and stop at that. I aim for 10 minutes or less. Right now, I am leading Wednesday night worship at Custer Lutheran Fellowship. We have 30 minutes for the whole service. So short works. But I still make sure that the congregation hears the Good News of the Gospel. That they know that God Loves them. I hope they know that I do too.