Strategies for Listening
The Formation of a Preacher
Preachers are always becoming preachers.
That said, the formation that most preachers receive in seminary is critical in drawing her/him into the language, scripture, tradition, confession, practice, and history of the Church.
The internship year is a particularly formative time for those preparing for ministry in Christ's Church. There are many aspects to the pastoral formation of the intern. Preaching is a central aspect that occurs as the intern begins to hear her/himself as a herald of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The time spent in a welcoming, teaching congregation is the intern's opportunity to move from preaching in a classroom to preaching in the wider Church. They are welcomed into a community of faith and graciously invited into people's lives as a pastoral leader. Interns are privileged to listen to the joys and sorrows of people, to be present, to pray, and at times to preach at occasions of both death and new life. They are granted the responsibility of preaching the Good News of God's reconciling, live-giving love in Jesus Christ.
In the midst of all this, interns begin to grow and to exercise their own "voice" as a preacher.
A strongly encouraged component of the process of formation is constructive reflection and feedback from those who listen to the intern's sermons. The responsibility for this feedback generally is shared by the intern's supervisor, internship committee, and perhaps others.
As this reflection and feedback comes during a formal time of formation, it is important to remember that the intern is "in process." That is, we're not listening for perfection. Rather, we're listening for faithfulness (to Jesus Christ, to the witness of Scripture, to the confession of the Church, to the life and situation of the congregation) and improvement. Everyone responsible for this reflection (intern, supervisor, and committee) is encouraged to be both charitable and honest.
Comments such as "that was good" are not very helpful. Listeners responding to the intern's preaching are encouraged to provide specific feedback. Below are a list of questions meant to prompt helpful, formative, precise responses to the preaching-in-training.
Sermon Feedback for Intern Pastors
What Biblical text was the basis for the sermon?
Sermons ought to be formed and informed by the Bible.
In a "nutshell," what was the main point of the sermon?
It is important that sermons cohere and make sense.
What was the "good news" that you heard?
The sermon ought to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. Salvation is God's activity not ours. This is good news.
What feelings, thoughts, or questions did the sermon evoke?
Sermons ought to engage us at different levels - gut, heart, head.
Where/How did the sermon connect with and speak to your life in the world?
Sermons ought to engage those who listen in their day-to-day lives.
What did you want to hear more or less of?
It is helpful for the preacher to know what "worked" and what didn't.
How did the delivery of the sermon help or hinder the message?
It is helpful for the preacher to know how he/she is being received in terms of how the sermon was presented. Were there mannerisms or patterns of speech or movement that were distracting? Were there gestures which helped convey the message?
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