This is a first installment of a new blog feature I'm entitling, Preacher's Toolkit. My hope is that in some small way we preachers and teachers can learn from one another and grow in art of teaching God's word in a way that is faithful, challenging, fun, and interesting for people. This series, designed for people who are blessed to teach God's Word to people of any age, will be posted weekly, for a while. It will include some of my own personal tricks of the trade, but also those of real authorities on the subject.
We begin with my most recent discovery:
It took me a while, but I finally realized that something I do all the time is a helpful test of whether or not my sermon is ready to go: Telling bedtime stories. Saturday night has officially become sermon-based bible story night at the Spivey house. I recommend to anyone with small kids or grandkids. If you don't have any, borrow someone else's.
Tell them the story of the text your sermon is based on and see if you can hold their attention. Call them on the phone if need be. Here's why: If you can tell the story simply enough and in an interesting enough fashion to keep children riveted–you're probably ready to go Sunday. They are a much tougher audience than most congregations.
This past Saturday night, I had to try to make the Division of the Promised Land interesting for my 6 and 4 year-old daughters. I hoped that if I could succeed, the church would be fine. If I couldn't tell the story simply enough, or if I bored them to death in my telling…I knew I had work to do. I would either need to learn to tell the story more simply and concisely, or I'd need to work on my storytelling. Or, I might also need to clarify my own picture of the "big picture" of the text.
This of course doesn't make the story or the message of the text simplistic. It simply clarifies your teaching of it. I'm also not suggesting that you tell the story to the church the way you tell it to your children. This little exercise is about clarity of thought and story-telling. It's also a great test for me: do I have a grasp on the story as a whole? Do I find it interesting enough to tell to my kids…and do they find it interesting enough to listen?
Telling the story at child's level helps me lots. Give it a shot. You might be shocked at how much it helps…and your kids will be blessed by it, too.
WARNING: This method does not protect you from being boring in the pulpit. Just ask the good people of NCCC 🙂 It's simply a tool to help you in a couple of vital aspects of preaching/teaching: clarity of thought and story-telling.