Thom Rainer: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Preachers
I sometimes listen to preachers with amazement, if not awe. So many of them are incredibly effective in communicating God’s Word, so much more effective than I ever was or will be. I certainly understand that assessing effectiveness is a very subjective assignment. But, simply put, a number of preachers I have observed are incredible in explaining and applying the Word. As a consequence, God changes lives and saves people.
The best I can do is be a student of these preachers and share with you seven key habits I have observed in most of them. I regularly ask these preachers about the way they go about preparing, preaching and evaluating their messages. My list is fallible, but I do hope it’s helpful.
1. They give preaching a priority in their ministries. A pastor has a 24/7, always-on-call schedule. It’s easy to let sermon preparation slide with the demands of the moment. The outstanding preachers I know give preaching a very high priority. They make certain they put the hours in to communicate effectively and powerfully.
2. They make their sermons a vital part of their prayer lives. Here is a quote from one of those preachers I believe to be one of the most effective alive today: “I cannot imagine sermon preparation and delivery in my power alone. I regularly plead with God to anoint my preaching and to guide me in my sermon preparation.”
3. They have a routine in sermon preparation. To the best of their abilities, these effective preachers set aside many hours a week on their calendars for sermon preparation. And while emergencies will happen, they do their best to stay committed to that time. Most of them have specific days and times of day when they work on their sermons.
4. They constantly seek input about their messages. I know one pastor whose wife listens to each of his sermons ahead of his preaching. She offers valuable input to her husband. Many of these pastors have mentors and church members who help them evaluate their messages. And a number of them watch and listen to their recorded sermons within a week after preaching them.
5. They stay committed to a specific sermon length. The pastors with whom I spoke have sermons that range in length from 25 minutes to 45 minutes. But they all are consistent each week on their specific length. In other words, a pastor who preaches a message 30 minutes in length will do so consistently each week. They have learned that their congregations adapt to their preaching length, and that inconsistency can be frustrating to the members.
6. They put the majority of their efforts into one message a week. Some of the pastors were expected to preach different sermons each week, such as a Sunday morning message and a Sunday evening message. But, to the person, they all told me they can only prepare and preach one sermon effectively each week. The Sunday evening message, for example, is either an old message or a poorly prepared message.
7. They are constantly looking for ways to improve their communication skills. So they do more than just seek feedback, as noted in number four above. They read books on communications. They listen to other effective communicators. And they are regularly in touch with the context of their church and its community, so that their messages are not only biblical, but relevant as well.