In a survey done of pastors and their preaching skills, 80% said that they were above average. Of course that's an impossibility, and it also makes me really wonder about the 20% who were honest about their skills. One of the things I remember the Rev. Peter Gomes, who was one of the best preachers in America, say about his preaching class was that he didn't want good preachers in the class who could be made better, because there were other avenues for that. Instead he wanted to work with bad preachers so he could make them sort of good before we subjected churches to their really bad preaching for twenty to thirty years.
I will say that I am a good preacher, and in the top 50%. I say that not because I like to too my own horn, but because I am routinely told by other preachers, or their spouses, that I am a good preacher. I trust those who have done it to give me honest feedback. In my last church I would also have people who were not regular attenders who would come when I was preaching in order to hear what I had to say. But I am no where close to being great. I believe I have the gifts and graces to be great, but I don't feel like I have the resources or opportunities to cultivate that skill.
I do some work on this on my own in that I, unlike most preachers, listen to every sermon I deliver the week after I preach and pick out things where I messed up or how I might have said it differently. I have planned to put together a sermon review group to give me feedback each week, but have never actually done it. Some of this is simply time, but some of it to be honest is fear of what they will actually say. The only way to improve is to hear constructive feedback, and it's something I want to know, but of course actually hearing it is tough.
But my overall bigger question is why are there not more courses on preaching being offered, especially for those already in the pulpit? I have taken two different preaching courses, one for my M.Div., and then one while I was appointed to a church and preaching regularly. I would say they were adequate, but I don't think they fundamentally made me a different or better preacher. I would love to receive more instruction, more feedback, more help in improving my craft.
Preaching is one of the most important things we do, but it seems to be largely ignored especially once you are in the church. I can find additional classes on pastoral care, leadership, stewardship, lots of other things we do in the church, but I can't find preaching classes and that seems like a major problem. How do we improve without being given opportunities to improve?
I ask all this because I am feeling uninspired by my preaching recently. I think the sermons are good, but that's all I can say. They are simply adequate, and sometimes I feel more like I'm going through the motions then anything else. There have even been times in which I have thought, in the middle of the sermon, "man I wish this preacher would just shut-up and sit down." I think some of this is because I am getting a little burned out with the number of pastoral concerns that have taken place here at the church over the past few months, and I'm hoping my vacation in two weeks will help with that. But I also think my sermons are just getting stale, that I need something to invigorate them, to change things up.
I often know what I am lacking or wish I could do, but I am simply not sure how to do it differently and would love some assistance, as well as a group of other people doing exactly the same thing. If preaching is so important, why don't we teach it and support it better as a church?