Today I’m honored to have Scott Savage providing a guest post. Scott lives in Phoenix, where he writes and pastors. He is currently writing a book about his journey from idealism to cynicism to hope. Scott is married to Danalyn (a lawyer) and the father of 3 children under the age of 3, including a set of twins. He blogs at scottsavagelive.com. You can follow Scott on Twitter (@scottsavagelive).
“The last and greatest sin is to do the right thing for the wrong reason.”
In the film, What Women Want, Mel Gibson gains the blessing (and curse) of being able to hear what is going on inside the mind of every women he meets. Some of the most comical moments of the film involving Gibson manipulating them because he is able to discern their thoughts and motivations.
When I walk in the room to present a message to my preaching team, all sorts of ideas run through my head. No one (including Mel Gibson) can hear them, but they fill my consciousness.
“Do I have everything? Bible? iPad? Water bottle? Timer?”
“Remember, don’t get bogged down in your intro; focus.”
“Is my fly closed?”
“Ugh, they ripped apart my last talk. I really hope they like this one. I am not sure I can take bad news today.”
We would all like to believe our hearts are pure every time we get up to share from the Scriptures. We would like to think our focus is in the right place, with the best motives. We all know that this is simply not the case.
After presenting many messages to a preaching team, I am convinced the success of this process is more dependent on me rather than my team. In checking my heart, motivation and posture, I can make sure I am in this process for the right reasons.
To check those internal measures, I suggest asking ourselves five questions to set the foundation for a successful experience.
1. Am I humble? When people are seated, listening to us talk for 25, 30, or 35 minutes (or even longer), our egos can grow. When they post what we say on their Facebook or Twitter feed, pride can enter the picture. Using a preaching team can help refocus our attention. I recommend using the team to understand your audience, creating a message that connects better with them. It is vital that we remind ourselves that this is not about us; we are here to serve others. We must check our agendas and make sure we stay humble, putting our audience’s needs above our own ego. If you feel our pride growing, consider putting the preaching team process on pause until you can reset your attitude. If your team is propping you up, consider adding or subtracting from the team to increase their bluntness and honesty with you.
2. Am I teachable? Receiving feedback is never easy. While a preaching team may be purposed with giving you accurate feedback, your team still may struggle to tell you the unfiltered truth. They may pull their punches if they have seen you react poorly to difficult feedback in the past. In one of my recent preaching team sessions, one person suggested I reorder my entire message, change my title and rework a large section. When that man’s suggestions were affirmed by a couple other people, I listened. I took their advice and radically altered the message. When they all heard a very different message than I initially pitched, they understood how seriously I took their input. Before you enter the room, remind yourself – and then your team – that you are here to learn and improve as a communicator.
3. Am I hungry? You may begin presenting your messages to a preaching team out of a desire to grow and get better. However, over time, you may lose passion and begin going through the motions. This process can devolve into part of the routine. To remedy this, re-connect with the fire that got you into preaching in the first place. Remember your desire to improve after your first couple sermons. Allow that drive to propel you into time with your preaching team, integrating their feedback into your preparation. Consider changing the time or place of your team meetings or ask someone to sit in on the process as a guest. Shake things up; get uncomfortable.
4. Am I ready? When using a preaching team, you will be working even further ahead of the curve than normal. You will need a complete message earlier in the week before you give it. I know the challenge of feeling unprepared for Sunday, much less my preaching team session. However, you must make sure you are ready to share this message with them. Your slide deck or props must be ready to help complete the experience. You need to have the passion to get up and deliver as if you were on the big stage. If you gave a half-hearted presentation of the message, your team will feel slighted and begin doubting your commitment to them and this process. It is better to cancel or reschedule a team meeting than fake it. Running through what is ready and get feedback on that section is better than serving a half-baked message.
5. Am I responsive? You can and should train your preaching team (see my next post for more on this subject). Tell them what you need from them and remind them of what you want to look and listen for as you share. But, your response to feedback – especially negative feedback – will teach them more than any “official training.”
When they see you are ready to take in the feedback, writing down notes and shifting your approach because of their insight, they will be even more engaged. You may need time to assess the value of what our team shared with you and determine how to incorporate it into the final version of our messages. But consider this – the success of your future preaching teams hangs on what you do with our current one’s input.
Checking your heart before you begin the feedback process with a preaching team ensures your heart is right before God and ensures that you serve your team (and your future audience) with honor and respect.
What are some other important questions to ask yourself before your preaching team meeting?