As Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Baptist Seminary, I teach our PhD course on Higher Education. Every time I teach that course, reviewing educational strategies challenges me to improve my preaching by applying some of those strategies. Here are some ideas that have helped me (I hope . . . ):
- Plan. A good teacher plans for each course, each class, each lesson, and each assignment. Many preachers I know would also benefit from purposeful, prayerful planning.
- Have goals in mind. We call these goals “student learning objectives” – brief statements that describe what students will do to illustrate their learning. Without ignoring the leadership of the Holy Spirit, preachers, too, need some sense of what our hearers might do in response to the preached Word. If we can’t state these goals, our sermon application will probably be unclear.
- Give relevant homework. Well-designed homework reinforces teaching and prepares students for future material. Preachers should not be afraid to challenge hearers with specifics based on biblical teachings and principles (e.g., “Dads, your homework this week is to tell your kids at least one Bible story. Talk to them at breakfast, take a walk with them after school, or spend time with them before bed”). Help your hearers apply the Bible.
- Assess learning. Teachers know the importance of checking their students’ learning along the way (formative assessment) and at the end of their teaching (summative assessment). Wise preachers also work with their staff, their small group leaders, etc., to evaluate whether their hearers are growing through the preached Word. That’s intentional sermon-based discipleship.
- Reflect on your teaching/preaching. Some of the best teachers I know review their teaching after every class period. They consider what worked, what didn’t, and what improvements are needed. Preachers should do the same after every sermon.
- Get feedback. To be honest, many teachers don’t like the subjectivity of course evaluations; yet, it seldom hurts us to let others critique our efforts. Likewise, no preacher is ever so good to not need honest feedback. Take a risk—ask for it.
- Improve. Assessment, reflection, and feedback that do not result in stronger teaching become only words on a piece of paper. It’s no different for preachers; if we haven’t intentionally sought to improve our preaching for some time, we may have reached stagnation.
What idea most helps you here? Let us hear from you.