This is Part 2 in the “Emerging Young Preacher” series. Click here (link) for Part 1.
Emerging Young Preachers (EYPs) have unique opportunities in their development. We haven’t gained decades of experience to preach from, and sometimes we make big mistakes in preaching. We also haven’t fully figured out our identities yet, and so each preaching moment is a point in the chart of our development. The way we treat our unique opportunities can turn these moments either into turning points or a part of a weak plateau in our effectiveness as preachers. We’ve taken a look at the identity temptations of the early years of preaching development, but now let’s look at the unique opportunities we have as EYPs:
1. Be prepared for opportunities. It’s interesting to me how many of us say we want to preach, but when asked “what would you preach” we say, “I’ll develop something.” As EYPs we need to have a fire in the belly to say something before we have a place to say it, so we get the horse before the cart. Those of us that don’t do this end up unprepared or lacking in passion—we act like we’re preaching an assignment, not preaching the Word of God. Horse: having something to say. Cart: finding a place to say it. In my earliest preaching years I found Senior Pastors and other churches far more willing to give me a shot to preach when I told them about a text or cause or idea I had burning in my soul to speak about… rather than just asking them to “give me a shot.” Everyone wants to say something. Few have something to say.
2. Position yourself for opportunities. It’s okay to champion yourself once you have something to say. Offering yourself for lower profile speaking situations helps. Letting people know you’ll speak in a small country church without a pastor, at MOPS groups, Sunday night services, old school prayer meetings, ministerial luncheons, and devotionals at Christian organizations will net opportunities. These are all speaking engagements other preachers may not want to do, but you could make the most of. Other preachers that are booked up could refer people your direction too. And finally, a question to ask yourself: do my friends even know that I’d like to get opportunities? If they don’t know you would like an opportunity then how does anyone else?
3. Take most if not all opportunities at the start. Yes, a day may come when you need to turn things down. But at the start it’s important to take as many opportunities as possible instead of being picky. Consider why we might say no to opportunities: the size of the audience isn’t right, the location is too far away, the prep time will be too great, or the remuneration won’t be enough. But when you think about it, the size of the crowd isn’t why we preach—and EYPs should learn to speak with authority and inspiration to any size crowd. The location shouldn’t deter us much, as nearly everyone covers all your travel expenses, and the crowd is usually all the more grateful that you came so far. The kind of audience doesn’t matter. We need to learn to speak to teens even if we aren’t youth pastors, and we need to learn to preach to the elderly even if we’re still paying off college loans. And finally, you didn’t get into the preaching business for money (if so, your I.Q. may be a little off.)
4. Hijack your opportunities. One of the frustrations of many EYPs (though not all) is that they feel they don’t get enough opportunities to preach. However, that itself is an opportunity. When I was preaching every week I didn’t have enough time to reflect on my message and intentionally develop. By Monday afternoon I had already moved on to prepare for the next Sunday. But with more time between we can develop at a faster pace. What’s more, we can hijack the smaller opportunities we do have, which others often don’t. We may have the opportunity to share a devotional with staff or in other organizations. What’s to keep us from leveraging that opportunity into a mini-sermon? We might do the pastoral prayers—and we can craft the one minute introduction of the prayer well, and treat that sacred moment into a time to say things about God for the people that he already knows but we all need to hear again. And we should no longer “give the announcements.” Instead we can “preach the announcements” and turn what is usually the most boring part of the service into a small moment of crafted communication—which helps us become better preachers in the long run.
5. Make the most of every opportunity. When we get opportunities we should take them very seriously. It’s a great mistake to overestimate ourselves and preach underprepared. When we have an outside speaking engagement, we should prepare more, not less, than we would in our own setting. Because our opportunities may be less frequent, we must make the most of each. And because they are less frequent we have more time to ensure we do. In the end, the EYP that seizes their unique opportunities will get more and more of them, and before long find they are no longer in early development, but are a seasoned veteran preacher. And with that, come some other problems and opportunities. But that’s another story.
How do you use your unique opportunities to develop your full potential as a preacher? What other unique opportunities do you think we EYPs have?
David Drury is the co-author of the books SoulShift and Ageless Faith and the author of The Fruitful Life. He serves as Executive Pastor of College Church in Marion, Indiana. Find him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/daviddrury