I am surprised how many pastors want to hide and close themselves off while preparing their sermon, when there are layers of benefits when we involve others in our preparation. Maybe, this results from pastors who either don’t know of the benefits or don’t know how to involve others in their church as they prepare. Here are 4 suggestions on how you can involve others and hopefully through considering them you might become convinced of the benefits.
Send out a simple outline: I have a group of men in my church that I send a basic outline of my sermon out to them early in the week. Some of these men have been asked to respond to my direction, while others use it to think through how to prepare a sermon or aid their family worship efforts throughout the week. Often I receive a comment or suggestion that helps bring to light a better direction I need to consider taking the sermon than I originally had planned.
Talk to others throughout the week about the passage: Approach certain people in your congregation who you know are reading the passage and praying for your preparation to share their impressions of the text. Ask questions of them as they read that passage such as, “What questions come to mind? What are you being challenged by the most? What sections seem to be hard to understand? What areas of your life seem to be affected as you read?” Recently, while preparing to preach Proverbs 31, I talked to 8-10 ladies in our church who I knew had spent some time thinking through the implications of a “Proverbs 31 woman.” I asked each of them, “Tell me about the Proverbs 31 woman.” Their feedback proved to be more valuable than any commentary I read that week.
Send out a manuscript: Whether you take a manuscript into the pulpit or not, it is always a good idea to write a manuscript at some point in your sermon preparation. When you do, pick a hand full of men in the church to read it and give you feedback. My manuscript each week is done by Thursday evening (Lord willing), which allows me to send it out to a few folks to read through. Because I take Fridays off, I ask for comments or suggestions by Saturday morning before I make any final changes before Sunday. I can’t tell you how many times sermons have been greatly improved over the years because of one key comment I received from a brother who took the time to serve me by reading my sermon and loving me enough to give constructive critcism.
Have a service review: After preaching that sermon, involve a few of those same people in a post-sermon discussion where you allow these same men to share their thoughts after hearing it. You will be grateful you are getting specific comments from those who have been involved from the beginning and have watched you struggle through the grind of preparing that sermon. See these previous posts in regard to: The Purpose and Process of a service review.
There is great benefit to involving others in your sermon prep. It takes a little more planning ahead. It requires a bit more time. But I think you will find as I have over the years, it is always worth it.