The business world has caught on to the concept of coaching. Many middle and top level executives now hire a coach who will help them reach their potential in the corporate world. Many of these coaches get paid big bucks for their services. People who want to get in shape hire a coach as well, usually called a trainer. Some of my friends who like to golf and want to reach their full potential in hitting that little white ball into the slightly larger hole several hundred yards away, hire a coach too. Many are willing to go to great lengths, incur significant expense, and devote lots of time to being coached toward their potential.
I wonder how many preachers have a coach. According to my observations, not many have a preaching coach. Yet, preaching has more potential for eternal impact than business management, fitness, and golf combined. What is more, utilizing the services of a preaching coach can be low cost or even free of charge. So then, why do so few preachers have a coach? The answer, in my estimation, is simple. We don’t like it when people critique our baby, our sermonic baby that is. The sermons we preach, unless we take shortcuts and download them from pastors.com, are born from the DNA of our soul. The sermons we birth are really a part of us, like one of our children. And we preachers will do most anything to avoid hearing someone suggest that our sermonic baby is not as cute as we think she is.
Get over it, preachers! There is too much at stake when it comes to preaching for us to worry about our fragile ego. Ministry is perfectly designed for the crucifixion of the ego, and this is especially true for the minister who happens to preach. Those preachers whose best sermons are before them and not behind them, usually have some sort of preaching coach who critiques and commends their sermons. Have I convinced you yet? If so, here are some practical ways to benefit from a preaching coach.
-Recruitment: A preaching coach can be another pastor who serves with you on staff, a thoughtful lay person in your church, a homiletician who teaches preaching, or an effective preacher from another congregation. The key when it comes to recruitment is to find someone who is mature and secure enough to both critique and commend your preaching. If someone is either critique-happy or commendation-sappy, they should not be recruited as your preaching coach; that coach will only give you half of what you need.
-Structure: Meet with your coach at least once per quarter. You buy the lunch or breakfast, but meet in your office as opposed to a public setting. You should give your preaching coach some sort of feedback guide, like the one found in Preaching Essentials pp.196-197. Listen to or, preferably, view the sermon with your preaching coach. Then, following the sermon, graciously remind the preaching coach how much you value their honest feedback. Simply listen to the feedback of your coach. If you interrupt and get defensive or try to explain yourself, you will seriously diminish the potential for substantive feedback. If you must respond, it should only be to gain clarification on something your coach says. While your coach is giving you feedback, you will want to take copious notes. This will serve you well in the future as you look back at your notes from each session to see patterns of strength and weakness in your preaching.
-Follow-Up: After you meet with your coach, set aside a day to prayerfully process the feedback. As you prayerfully reflect, consider what steps you need to take to improve the areas in which you are deficient and to maximize the areas in which you are strong. What can you add to your weekly homiletic process that addresses the feedback from your preaching coach?
Get started. Have fun. Find a preaching coach today. You and the people to whom you preach will be so glad you did.