Monday, June 27, 2011

Preaching Styles and Methods

In seminary, I was encouraged to preach without notes, and that method of preaching was held as a standard for effective preaching. In fact, my preaching professor (none other than Ellsworth Kalas, for you Methodist folk), required us to preach all our sermons without notes. So, I did it. But in my opinion, I sucked at it. I just couldn't get comfortable enough with my sermon to preach it with the confidence and authority needed.

When I entered parish ministry, I began preaching with a manuscript, but over time was able to preach with an outline, as long as my introduction and conclusion were either written out or had very detailed notes. Of course, once I left SJ and wasn't preaching every Sunday, I fell out of practice and the few times I did preach, I preached with a manuscript.

I've mentioned how highly I think of Mac's preaching. For a long long time, I thought he preached without any notes, except for the occasional quote or the like. And it seems that he is able to do that fairly frequently in our 11am service (the second one). However, the first Sunday I served as a liturgist at 8:15, I saw him bring some pages to the pulpit when it was time for him to preach. While I wouldn't say that he was READING them constantly, he would refer to them from time to time. Later on, he admitted that he preaches with a manuscript.

I mentioned in an earlier post how much I loved Samuel Wells' preaching at our Annual Conference. Well, HE used a manuscript, although his preaching style is vastly different from Mac's (whose preaching style I love, but it's hard to describe). So, there you go. Two preachers who I greatly admire, who both prepare and preach from manuscripts. I'm sure there are more.

Over the past few months, I have tried to begin preaching without notes or with just an outline, but I find it really difficult. I've discovered that I'm far more effective when I use a manuscript, especially if I have enough time to read through it and practice it multiple times before actually preaching. Part of it may be that I'm still gaining confidence in my preaching ability, but another part of me wonders if it's just a matter of preference.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, I've decided to allow myself the freedom to preach from a manuscript, without having an inferiority complex about it.


I'm here! Now what? said...

I have always preached with an outline. My way of staying focused and on the message. I have enough ADD without being distracted by.. Hey! a squirrel. (Kind of true)

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you're feeling freed from the standard you learned in seminary! That is a STYLE - not a standard.

I generally have a full manuscript in front of me. I also generally do not look down because the process of crafting the manuscript helps internalize the sermon to the point where by the second service I could go without it. But, for emotionally charged sermons, or where I'm quoting someone, I always rely on the manuscript for either distance to check my emotions or accuracy in my quotations.

net said...

I always use a manuscript. I pretty much know it, but I have it just in case. At my last appointment, I had one parishoner who had an issue with my use of sermon manuscripts (her issue, not mine) so one Sunday I went in with just an outline. DISASTER. Someone had blindsided me before the service and the sermon went out of my mind (That was the norm for that church, BTW). Yeah.
I don't apologize anymore for how I do things. "It's YOUR problem, not mine. And if you think you're way is right, OK. I'm not going to argue or debate with you. You do what you need to do and I'll do the same. Oh, you're leaving the church because of me, OK. We'll miss you. Do you mind if we give 'your' pew away?"
Sorry for the rant. It's been that kind of month.