As both a teacher (professional educator) and a preacher, I have found that there are some things that I learned to do to more effectively communicate with and engage my students. As a result, I found myself becoming a better teacher and being more effective in the education of my students. When I heard and responded to God’s call to ministry I remember feeling inadequate as a preacher (and sometimes I still do) because I saw so many great preachers and I wondered if I could ever communicate God’s truth in the way that they did – in the way that I knew I had grown to communicate with my students.
What I have found as I continue operating in the call to preach is that God was equipping me all along through the things I learned that made me a good teacher. I also found that there were some really important skills that I gained as a teacher, that continue to help me be a more effective preacher.
3 Skills I Gained as a Teacher That Made Me a Better Preacher
1) Begin with the end in mind – Learning Goals/Objectives:
Much like when teaching in a classroom, preachers on Sundays should plan their sermons by beginning with the end in mind. Teachers do this by looking at the state standards and then crafting a plan for instruction around a learning goal or objective. This skill is invaluable for preachers, as the main goal of a preacher should be to communicate God’s word so that people can then apply it to their lives.
An effective learning goal for teaching is normally something like this: Students in Algebra 1 will correctly identify key characteristics of linear and exponential functions and use those characteristics to model real world situations. Comparably, an effective learning goal for your preaching could be something like this: Listeners will correctly identify the fruits of the spirit, how they are to operate in their lives, and how to grow them in their daily use. Once you have the divine inspiration and have been preparing and studying the scriptures, then this setting this goal makes crafting the sermon and message much more effective.
2) Pacing and Transitions:
There is a distinct rhythm needed for effective teaching and the same holds true for preaching. Starting a lesson too quickly or spending too much time on certain aspects of the lesson can make the lesson ineffective. In the classroom, effective teachers pace by planning out the time of direct instruction (lecture), activities, group work, etc. Depending on the length of the class each of these activities are given proper time allotted in the lesson and can be modified during the lesson depending on how things are going in the class. Likewise, effective teachers use transitions that keep students engaged as they move from one part of the lesson to the next.
These skills can be vital to effective preaching due to the fact that this generation’s attention span may be shorter than previous generations. This would mean that engaging the audience, ensuring that we do not spend too much time on one point, and transitioning within the message must be well done to ensure preaching is effective. Crafting the sermon and planning out Pacing and Transitions is a good practice to make all preaching effective.
3) Evaluation – Self & Students:
Out of all of the things mentioned here for teachers, this is probably one of the most crucial to ensuring effective teaching. While it is relatively easy to complete self and student evaluations in the classroom to ascertain the effectiveness of the lesson, a preacher may find this hard to do. Teachers are able to use evaluations to rate their own effectiveness, student learning, and needs for future lessons, if preachers can find a way to do this it can drastically increase the effectiveness of your preaching. Self evaluation is one that all preachers can do easily if your church records sermons. While it is uncomfortable to watch yourself preach, it can be vital, especially to a new preacher to watch yourself, evaluate your sermon, and take notes on how to build on it.
Evaluation of your listeners is more tricky to do, but can be done in a number of ways. At our church, our small groups are sermon based, which means that evaluating the effectiveness of a sermon can be as simple as sending something to small group leaders to have the gauge the effectiveness of the sermon by evaluating the understanding of those in their groups. Also, preachers could use guided notes along with questioning that can be handed out when people come to church and they can turn them in on their way out (do this anonymously and you will be sure to get a good gauge of the effectiveness of the sermon).
Preaching and Teaching
While this is not an exhaustive list, I have found that the things are great skills to take away from teachers that preachers can use to be more effective in their preaching. To go along with these, the reason that these teacher skills are needed these days is because I believe that effective preaching must include instruction or teaching the truth of God, so that the listeners can do as James said and be doers and not just hearers.