Religion Magazine

The Trouble with Preachers

By Richardl @richardlittleda

Religion and excellence

One of my favorite children’s books is called ‘the trouble with elephants’. It lists all the troubles with elephants – such as stealing the duvet, making a mess and thundering up and down the stairs. It concludes that the real trouble with elephants is that you ‘just can’t help loving them’.  I feel rather like that with preachers. They make mistakes, they trip themselves up, they occasionally parade their own opinions as God’s, but overall you just can’t help admiring their honest and heartfelt desire to do a good job.

Along the way to that conclusion, though, is one of the troubles- they are just too religious. Sometimes too much religion means that they do not do their homework or they cut communicator’s corners in the firm belief that God will ‘make it come out alright in the end’. I am unconvinced that God ever honours sloppy preparation or careless delivery.  This is one of the reasons that when I train preachers I use just as much material from outside the church as in it.  We look at marketing gurus, NLP analysts, statesmen and journalists to hoover up every nugget of best practice we can possibly find. We study a speech by a senior soldier and a President before we ever take a look at a sermon.

I have just come across another such nugget to add into the mix: The Presenting Coach by Tricia Woolfrey.  This book is a gem, covering everything from the standard material about reading your audience and refining your presentation to advice on posture, gesture and even diet! Each chapter comes with a worksheet to reinforce learning. The key chapters are followed up by a two-page summary of the entire book and there are plenty of links to further resources.

Of course there are elements of this coaching manual which do not apply to preaching.  Tricia Woolfrey has nothing to say about reading scripture or praying for instance.  Then again, she has plenty to say about reading your audience and preparing mentally and physically to present. George Bernard Shaw once said that the greatest problem with communication is ‘the illusion that it has been accomplished’.

Maybe that is one of the troubles with preachers too.  If so, this book might just prove to be an antidote.

The Trouble with preachers

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