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Loosening My Grip

A day in the life of group sermon preparation

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Editor's note: Though our interview (part one and part two) with Dave Ferguson about the power of group sermon preparation provided a helpful picture of the discipline, we thought it would be wise to sit in on the actual process. The pastoral staff at New Life Community Church (a multi-site, multi-ethnic church that meets across the Chicagoland area) agreed to let me be a "fly on wall" during one of their group preparation meetings, creating a live-as-it-happens opportunity to observe this unique approach to sermon writing.

After spending the first hour of their Monday morning in prayer, the pastoral staff of New Life Community Church huddles around a table to pull together next Sunday's message. As I walk into the conference room to join them, I see that the table is covered with Bibles, pens, notepads, laptops, and—no less important—mugs and paper cups filled to the brim with coffee (the morning people clutch bottled water). Over the course of an hour, I will sit quietly in ...

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Displaying 1–5 of 8 comments

Duncan McDonald

March 08, 2008  4:39pm

Hey Keith I guess they edited me out for 'rebuking' you...hmmm what does that say about us? I think the challenge is one of trust. We need to find both people we can trust and a process that works. I know a pastor of a large church who preaches his sermon to his wife first, then his staff, then edits it and then preaches it publicly. It seems like that ensemble works for him and though he could no doubt collaborate with peers, frankly I think preaching it to your staff and wife and asking for feedback is a pretty rigorous approach.

Dustin Fulton

February 28, 2008  7:26pm

Great article. I think it challenges us to be creative to find our own team in whatever setting we are in. I've been trying to apply this with our staff of 8 and have found that their insights are incredibly helpful. It makes my job a lot easier, and the staff really feels valued. We tend to get a lot better feedback too when the sermons are 'ours' and not 'mine.' I'm trying to figure out the best way to form an online planning community for members of our church to contribute as well. Maybe PT can come up with a template of some type to promote this type of dialogue???

George Reynolds

February 28, 2008  10:16am

Since coming to my current church I've learned to work through this process of group colaboration. I appreciate the insight that others bring to the table. While I 'drive the car' I've learned that the others can see my weaknesses, provide keen insight into how things 'sound' and generally create a message that is greater than I can produce on my own. In a recent series, my 'team' has been very instrumental in the writing process. I longed to engage in this process for many years. Now that I have a team of lay people and staff who help me in generating ideas and putting meat on the bone, I'd never go back to solo sermon preperation.

Keith Robinson

February 25, 2008  10:51am

After reading my initial comments - you're right! I do sound negative! Sorry. Having not read the previous articles, I was under the impression that this was describing a pastoral staff of 16 collaborating on a message. Few places would have that benefit. Your suggestions are helpful. A "virtual collaboration" setting could certainly happen for most people who would like to make that effort. So, let's keep plugging - God's people and the kingdom are worth it!

Robert Szoke

February 25, 2008  8:53am

I think we do have full teaching teams around us as we open our books and listen to what others have to say about a text. The issue for the solo preacher is how comfortable he feels listening to those other voices and comparing that with what he knows his worshipers need to hear and his own preacher's heart. I also am solo, and probably old school. For me it would be hard to be in a huge team and pull together a message every week, though I'd love to contribute. Maybe that's the bigger issue, then we all want to drive, and being solo in ministry means that from experience we have been the driver in both the front and back seats. I know they do a great job, and the trust between them has to be huge. Great look at the inner life of how they form a message for a growing community-campus.

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