We’re good at this when it comes to the application of a text (well, sometimes we are) but everyone who’s ever preached a sermon inevitably wonders, “I wonder what that will do? I wonder if it will matter? I wonder if it will help shape how people think or live or act?”
I’ve had conversations with people about things I know we’ve taught on the in past year. They seem clueless when I remind them. I try not to shake them in frustration.
Though we have to remember that transformed lives/living/action comes only through the work of God’s Spirit, maybe we can do a little more in helping them engage with what is taught. Maybe we can even be so uncool as give them some “next steps”.
I’ve avoided the next step end to a sermon in the past because of four main reasons:
- I don’t want to presume how the Spirit will apply the teaching to someone’s life.
- I find next step thinking a little boxy at times.
- I want my sermon to be so inspiring, and ground breaking-ly brilliant that people will rush out the doors and change the world before they entertain going to White Spot for lunch.
- I don’t think next step stuff is cool.
I’ve begun to realize however, that almost all those reasons (save the first) are immature and unimaginative. They’re also full of pride. The sermon’s primary role is to point people to Jesus, and encourage them to surrender to his love and grace with everything they have. Whatever we have to do to accomplish that, we must.
There might be times where we can craft a sermon to continue to achieve it’s primary objective. It’s not about behavior modification; it’s about putting wheels on it.
Here’s a few ways our team has been toying with this:
- A discussion guide. Abbreviate your sermon (1-2 pages) and provide follow up questions surrounding the material. We’ve found great success with small groups utilizing this each week in adopting the teaching, furthering it’s application, and really getting into it. It’s not about making people re-live the sermon; it’s about taking the next step in adopting the teaching and applying it. We put them on our website, and people print it off, or open it on smartphones. Yes, it takes more work from you.
- Podcast. Get the teaching out there. I’ve heard stats that say 60% of your church isn’t there on a Sunday. In this day and age there’s no reason they have to miss the teaching. This isn’t really a next step, but it’s necessary today. Don’t know how? Ask us or someone else.
- Encourage people to “talk about it when they are getting up, when they are lying down…teach it to their children…write it on their doorways”. Sound familiar? Simply remind them (lots) to talk about what they’ve heard over lunch, or share with someone what has hit them about the teaching. Remind them that it’s ok to engage. They don’t have to just sit there and nod.
- Ask leading questions. Ending a sermon with a question mark is okay sometimes. A full stop or exclamation mark means it over. You can literally put questions on the screen, or just ask them outright.
- Use social media to post articles/resources/videos relating to the teaching either before or after it. Something like, “If you’re interested in last week’s teaching, take a look at this amazing video which really hits the nail on the head!” or something…
- Plan initiatives around the sermon or series that help people practice what’s been preached. If you’re doing a series on prayer, maybe do some prayer together? Just a stab in the dark.
- Teach a man to fish, don’t just give a man a fish (ie.. provide resources). We’re giving people fish every week, but we can do more quite simply. List books, articles, etc in discussion notes, or make them available on a website.
- Tell people where you’re headed. Before you get to the end of sermon or series, tell them where you’re going next. This allows people to read up, muse, and prepare for what you’ll be teaching next. Right now we’re on the edge of a five-week series on the Lord’s Prayer. We’ve been talking/posting/writing about it for weeks.
Those are pretty simple. Anyone else got some brilliant ideas? Share away!