What good am I as a preacher?
If you have ever wondered about the impact of the messages you preach, it might be worth working with a preaching checklist.
I have done messages (a.k.a. sermons) where I have felt successful in terms of my delivery and relating the point to the audience. I have also done messages where I felt poorly afterwards, that the message delivered lacked in significance or clarity.
Preachers’ goal in regular public speaking is ultimately to add to their audience and speak into a Godly vision for their community. Given that preachers, audiences (i.e. congregations), contexts (i.e. geographical location, time, culture) and sources (i.e. different Bible books, other materials to draw content from) are all variables, there are endless possibilities for preaching any given message!
That said, there are different possibilities for measuring a message’s impact. This list is not exhaustive, but it serves as a start for preachers to begin to think about what their preaching says, does, and what impact it makes. If you believe other items would be good measures, feel free to share in the comments section what you think and why!
Make your own preaching checklist, but keep it concise to the measures you feel are most worth keeping (i.e. make the checklist your own!). The first six items in this particular list are derived from John C. Maxwell’s Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently. The Gospel item was one I added after a taking a preaching class from Gracia Grindal at Luther Seminary in 2013.
- Integrity: Did I do my best?
- Expectation: Did I please my sponsor?
- Relevance: Did I understand and relate to the audience?
- Value: Did I add value to the people?
- Application: Did I give people a game plan?
- Change: Did I make a difference?
- Gospel: Did Jesus have to die for this message to be preached?
Integrity: Did I do my best?
Whether with 1 hour, 10 hours, of 5 minutes or less of preparation, do you feel you put good effort into crafting your message? If so, always remember that you can only do so much with time and preparation. Do not beat yourself up when you invested yourself intentionally. If not, you can always have more opportunities!
Expectation: Did I please my sponsor?
You may report to a supervisor or organization of some kind while in a preaching role. If so, was your message in line with what they expect of you? If not, why? Be mindful of how what you say relates to what’s expected. You may want to keep in line with what’s expected and there may be times you deviate. Keep your “boss” in mind.
Relevance: Did I understand and relate to the audience?
Relating to the audience is how you as a preacher connect to the people as an audience. That may be a matter of story sharing or speaking in such a way that the audience understands ideas or images. There is no one way to relate. Relating can largely be influenced by preacher’s personality or training as well. If anything, did you seek to tell the message with the intention for others to truly understand it?
Value: Did I add value to the people?
The reasons people listen to preachers can be all over the place. Maybe going to church and listening to the preacher is “just what you do.” Maybe it is an earnest seeking of spiritual or divine understanding. Maybe it is out of a place of feeling lost and seeking some direction. Adding value to people (1) makes them hungry for more and (2) shapes the way that person lives. That’s a great joy in preaching’s influence upon others.
Application: Did I give people a game plan?
You can work through a 1-2-3 point message or you can work in less structured ways. Whatever method for message organization, are people walking out with something actionable or something to think about and follow up on? How can people live out the message you preach? Giving them a game plan means setting them up for success to bring your message out into their homes, schools, works, everywhere!
Change: Did I make a difference?
This might not be measurable right after you are done preaching. Some people hear a message, it clicks, and they make an instantaneous change in their life. They are excited to tell you! However, the difference a message can make can also not become evident for weeks, months, years, or you may never know. You as a preacher do not always see the difference any one message makes, but watch and listen to the ways in which peoples’ lives are being shaped as they come to hear your messages.
Gospel: Did Jesus have to die for this message to be preached?
This question can be helpful, but I do not believe it is always helpful. Here’s what I mean: you can preach 2 Corinthians 5 on becoming a new creation, and I would make the case Jesus did have to die for that message to be preached. You can also preach on Genesis 1 and the awe-factor and beauty of a universe whose creator was one God! Jesus can be a part of a message on Genesis 1, but not necessarily. “Jesus” is not named in that particular story, but still – so much can be said out of that chapter, outside of a cross-based message. Not all messages need to go back to the cross story, but I would say all Christian messages should be framed in light of the cross event. One more note to add: preachers would always be wise to connect Jesus’ death with his incarnation, teaching, and resurrection as well! Jesus did a lot more than just dying!