Having feedback on our Preaching is important. As you progress along ministering as a Lay Preacher it is helpful to have constructive comments. When comments are made as part of Coaching, Mentoring and Pastoral care, in an ordered manner there will be things to be learnt and taken on Board.
There are wrong and right ways to evaluate preaching. There are three values which need to be uppermost in the mind of an evaluator and they are Honesty, Integrity and Consideration.
In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he warns, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). The congregation Paul is describing evaluates the sermons but according to their own pleasure-o-meter. They just want to hear sermons that make them feel good. During one of Paul’s missionary journeys, he and Silas entered the city of Berea and began preaching in the synagogues. It was said of the Bereans, “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” Rather than just listen for what made them feel good, the Bereans evaluated Paul and Silas’ sermons in light of their alignment with the Scriptures.
Assuming you have preached a sound, biblical sermon, here are are a few practical ways someone might evaluate your Preaching which should help you grow as a Lay Preacher.
Leading up to the Service, spend time in prayer. Pray as you prepare so you will clearly and compellingly preach the gospel. A good Lay preacher knows the burden of rightly dividing the word of truth and cherishes the prayers of others. Additionally, pray that you will have ears to hear and be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s will in the Preaching.
Evaluate for understanding.
Sermon evaluation involves more than if you liked or didn’t like the sermon; it comes down to if you understood the main point(s) of the passage preached. It doesn’t matter how eloquent, engaging or humorous you are as a Lay Preacher if you don’t connect effectively with the congregation. An evaluator will listen to and reflect around what is heard to be the main structure and point of the Sermon.
Its important to evaluate critically but not critically. The difference between the two is the subtle difference between critique and criticism.
Effective evaluation is about hearing and responding to the message as it was preached. When we evaluate a sermon critically we need to test it against Scripture and consider its everyday applications.
Sermon evaluators should avoid evaluating sermons with a spirit of criticism. In an effort to examine the content of the message, an evaluator must be careful not to slip into tearing down the messenger.
Every Lay Preacher has weaknesses and shortcomings but these can be used by God for His purposes. There is no need to pick apart grammar or nervous habits. Constructive evaluation is just that constructive. Keeping a count of trivia, misspeaks and overused phases is not helpful in the overall scheme of things. Having someone Dissect your weaknesses distracts and discourages in an unhelpful way. Honest, constructive criticism is invaluable and should be encouraged.
Evaluations are helpful when they take account of areas for growth and show some way of making progress toward, or managing a particular communication challenge. We live in times of individualism where the nature of the Christian life is primarily viewed through lenses of personal growth and discovery. Some may only consider how a sermon or passage of Scripture applies to them personally. The evaluator will reflect on the wider corporate, or congregational impact of your Preaching. When considering the application of the sermon, none of us should simply think about how applies to us individually. All evaluation should consider what the wider impact or application from preaching is.
Evaluators Evaluate to encourage. Listening to the sermon an Evaluator will look for positive aspects of the sermon and truths God teaches His people through it.
It is worthwhile having a conversation with an Evaluator or someone you trust and respect where in you can share issues or matters of concern to you. These matters could be specifically commented on in an evaluation so you get a feel about improvement’s or areas where further work is required. When undertaking an evaluation the Evaluator will give you feed back on the way you come across or are seen by others.
There are attached two sample evaluation forms and notes from the NZLPA about Worship Evaluation. These are shared for mutual selection and trialing as you progress along the process toward accreditation.
In agreement with your Minister and Parish Council or Session, Presbytery will want to have a formal Critiqued or Evaluated Service or Two set up and submitted with a recommendation before Accreditation as a Lay Preacher.