Hello preacher friends. I'm looking for some advice/guidance/prayers in my ministry. At only two months into my first call, I am already feeling in a bit of a preaching rut. I enjoy preaching, and have received very positive feedback, but feel that I am being overly repetitive in the conclusions of each sermon and in my preaching style. Any ideas on how on to jump start some creativity?
I always benefit from listening to/reading the sermons of others for inspiration. DayOne, the Text This Week and church websites all have oodles of sermons for your listening/reading pleasure. I find that reading prose and poetry also invites some creativity and that challenging myself to write at least one sermon a month in a different voice is a great way to switch things up. I have also benefited from reading about preaching. Jana Childers' books are full of ideas.
I'm a fan of Julia Cameron's Artist's Way for a place to experiment with different types of writing. Her suggestion of writing three pages a day of thoughts has been a great way for me to try out some alternatives.
I think preaching can benefit from conversations, too. Study groups in your area among local clergy, online conversations, and conversations with friends and family are often sources of new approaches and can affect one's preaching voice.
I hope this helps! God bless you for being excited about preaching and concerned about
keeping things fresh and interesting!
Preaching is a spiritual practice, and like any spiritual practice it will have its dry spells and its moments when you wonder what you actually believe or why you ever thought you were called to this in the first place. But don't despair!
First, there is Barbara Day Miller's wonderful and practical manual, "The New Pastor's Guide to Leading Worship." Second, there is Ruth Ducks's "Finding Words for Worship." Both cover general worship leadership, but their sections on how you prepare to preach are excellent.
I highly recommend finding or starting a "preacher group." We have discussions here on RevGalBlogPals, but I also participate in a weekly, in-person, lectionary study with other pastors, aimed at what we are preaching. Being in community with other preachers may not solve a problem in any given week, but the cumulative effect is (1) I don't feel alone and (2) I'm challenged by the different ways we approach the texts.
And Muthah+ responds:
There are several things that could be going on if you are gassed out early in your career: Actually it is often the let down that comes after all the hullabaloo around ordination that makes us think one is stale. If your process towards ordination is as complex or crazy-making as most, it is not surprising that you are a bit flat--the adrenaline is just a bit used up.
- Are you getting enough rest? Are you getting enough time alone with God for prayer? Both of these can curtail one's creativity even early into your preaching life. Whenever I have hit dry patches, I have also noted that my prayer life is suffering too. Go on a retreat, take a part of a day each month to spend with the Holy One. Go back to a familiar devotional practice. Dry patches come regularly in this business. The laity often do not understand that. But revgals do. The important thing to do is to remain open.
- Are you reading? Spiritual and professional reading are a must--ALWAYS! You can't preach if you are not being refreshed by new ideas. I always have at least one book of spiritual/professional reading all the time. Remember professional reading is part of your work load. Schedule it into your work time. It is often the thing I read myself to sleep with or have in the car so when I stop for a coffee or am waiting for an appointment. Put something on your phone that fills you that you have easy access to.
- Are you journaling? I find that writing regularly keeps the pump primed. Even if these writings are never read by anyone but you, allow you to verbalize the wonder of your relationship with God. It allows you to develop metaphor which is the preacher's craft of communication to others the wonder of God. I started journaling as a part of my prayer when I first came to know Christ 45 years ago. Now that we have pads and notebooks, we can do it electronically but I still love having a good notebook in which I can both write and draw. Sometimes it is just a turn of a phrase that gets things going.
- I am part of a Lectionary-based tradition so I never have to choose my own readings, but if you are not, perhaps following the Lectionary for a while will help you out of a rut.
But most of all I want to assure you, getting in a rut in preaching and plateauing in one's spiritual life is a part of this 'preaching life.' It is a malaise that we all encounter. And while you may think that you are being boring, if you allow God to direct your preaching, you will always have something to say to someone in the congregation. Read Isaiah 55:1-11! Do not become anxious about it, just remain faithful to your personal disciplines of prayer and devotion. If you think you are missing skills, go to a good preaching workshop and get some help. I know that the 'sistern' can direct you to one of those appropriate to your denomination. (Actually I found good help when I went to ones outside my denomination.)
Meanwhile, I am praying with all of you who find preaching difficult.
Thank you, matriarchs, for your helpful responses! What would the rest of you offer? Please join us in the comments section to contribute to the conversation. And, as always, send your questions for our discussion to askthematriarch[at]gmail[dot]com.