Tuesday, December 18, 2012

When I Don't Say It Like I Want To

i teach often.  for the last 14-15 years i have taught every week and more often than not, multiple times a week.  the most messages i've ever given in one week was 15 (different messages).  that's abnormal, of course, but when you teach all the time you are bound to have times when you just wish you had the chance to do it over.

that was me this weekend at our 9am service.  the whole time i was teaching i kept thinking, "this isn't coming out like i wanted it to."  as i was teaching i realized this isn't going to be clear.  after the service was done i was exhausted.  my mind was racing the entire time i was teaching, trying to figure out how to be more clear.  it weighs on me emotionally because, as a teacher, i really desire people to gain understanding of a truth.  so when it's not coming out right it drains me.  

because i've had this happen more than a few times, i've learned that there are 3 things i keep in mind to maintain sanity/grounding:
  1. God works despite us.  i have found that many times when i think it was a horrible message, God does things that i would never have expected anyway.  the bottom line is God speaks to people through His word regardless of whether or not i said things like i wanted to.  at our 11am service i said things much more the way i wanted to and, to be honest, i think it was much more clear.  but that doesn't mean God used it any more or less than the 9am service.
  2. it's usually more clear to others than i think.  if i'm not saying things the way i planned in my head, i'm the only one that knows that.  even though it's jumbled up in my own mind, nobody else knows that.  they don't know the difference so they are just listening to what i am saying, whereas i'm noticing what i am saying and comparing that with what i planned to say.  this makes it seem much less clear to me than it was to others there.
  3. it's not about me.  when i've done this in the past, i've often beaten myself up a bit.  the truth is i just took myself too seriously.  but i've learned a little.  i've learned that is simply my arrogance showing itself in insecurity.  so, i've had to check that at the stage and when i walk off just move on.  it is what it is and God still does what He does.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Using A Sermon Prep Team [3]

okay, here is the third post of this series, but i've decided to add a fourth.  when i originally thought of this series i wasn't thinking of my 6 week prep period prior to teaching the series. so in this post i will discuss that part and then the next post will cover what we do in our weekly meetings as we teach through the book.

here is what we did those weeks:
  • week 1: read entire book (prior to our meeting) in an unmarked bible (preferably one without chapter or verse distinctions) and talk about our initial observations, one chapter at a time
  • week 2: read through entire book again (prior to meeting) and list out tensions in the text (theological or relational) or tensions in life the text addresses
  • week 3: read through entire book (prior to meeting) and note where thoughts start and finish.  every author has a "flow of thought" and this is CRITICAL to understand when teaching through a book.  in our meetings we talk about and share where we broke things down.
  • week 4: repeat week 3 without looking at our previous weeks' notes.  doing it this way you get a fresh look at it and in our meeting we then compare our new notes to the previous week and then collectively decide where the thoughts start and finish and which thoughts seem to be transitions between larger thoughts.
  • week 5: read through entire book again (prior to meeting) and choose one verse for each major thought.  we've already listed out where these start and finish already so now we simply pick one verse or verses that best summarizes each thought.  we then talk through each of our conclusions and collectively land on the key verses for each thought.
  • week 6: read through entire book again (prior to meeting) and take note of major themes we see throughout the book and then list specific verses we see that theme.  in our meeting we collectively decide on these as well.
each of these areas require a lot of time for each of the team, but when a team of people are speaking into it is a balanced result.  "living" in just the text like this over a period of time you become very familiar with the book and really feel like you know it well.

finally, here are a couple of other (important) thoughts i'd like to mention:
  • notice we did not once look at a commentary during this time of preparation - not even the introductions in study bibles.  when teaching our job is NOT to give a book report.  nobody wants that.  a lot of people think that "doing the work" of preparation simply means reading what everyone else has said about the book after the study they did.  i couldn't disagree with this more.  i'm not negating the benefit of commentaries but there is a huge difference between teaching from our head knowledge and teaching from our hearts and lives.  i believe it's vital for people to hear from someone that has lived in this book for a while versus someone who has simply studied and then regurgitates what they learned.
  • going through this process before i teach makes sure that i really do understand the flow of the book before teaching any one part of it.  it helps me keep each section of scripture, however i break it down, in it's appropriate context. in other words, it keeps me honest as i teach.
in the next post i will share the process we go through in our weekly meetings as i prepare to teach through particular sections.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Using A Sermon Prep Team [2]

this short blog series is designed to throw out some thoughts that can hopefully help you think about ways to incorporate others into your study of scripture as you prepare to teach.  the bigger picture might even include a bible study in general.  regardless, the key is to get different types of people with different strengths so that your study becomes more holistic.  i'm seeing the beauty of this more and more as we go from week to week.

my previous post shared some of the higher level benefits of prepping my messages with a team of people versus in doing so in silo.  here i will share the types of people that i've found to be good to include.  to be clear, i didn't build the team with these types of people in mind.  i've just seen the beauty of having these types of people on the team with me.  all of the team has characteristics that overlap, but there are some clear distinctions between each person i've found to be very helpful.  here they are:
  1. Old Testament focused person.  this would be good in general, but especially as i teach through the book of Romans, this has been a great person to have.  geoff has been a college professor of the OT for about 5-6 years and it has proven to be a huge asset to the prep team.  if you don't have someone at this level it would be good to get someone that, at least, loves the Old Testament.
  2. theologically in tune person.  the team i have put together are all sound, but it's good to have someone that really knows the nuances of different views.  although he doesn't even have a bachelor degree, adam is that guy for me.   he interns at Colossae but is way more in tune with the differences than most of us in the room are and can clearly articulate most of the differences in views.  when we throw out phrases or sentences on how to communicate things he can really decipher through the theological nuances of what we're actually saying.  
  3. youth minded person.  our youth pastor, sean, is on the prep team and i love it because as we are prepping he's trying to figure out how he's going to teach this to junior high kids.  this does a number of things, but one thing it does is that it helps keep our conversation simple.  i boil things down pretty well, but having someone like him is fantastic.
  4. a precision person.  words are important and especially so when communicated verbally.  teaching a book like Romans can be difficult, but it doesn't have to be.  the book is actually quite simple in concept, but to find words and clear ways to draw distinctions can take some time.  daniel is an intern at Colossae and he is this guy for me.  he is good at illustrations and comparisons, which is obviously helpful.
  5. a people person.  it's really important to have someone that is in tune with people and, dare i say, a bit emotional (i mean that in the BEST sense).  justin is on staff with me and is highly relational.  we all are on staff, but justin is a bit more in tune emotionally which leads him to be a bit more sensitive.  he helps us keep in mind the people in the room and causes us to be more cautious with what we say and how we say it.
the only piece that i would love to have on my prep team is a woman.  we have some women in our church that are extremely sharp and i am going to try to get at least one, if not a few, on the team soon.