I mean you have your own subjective opinion, but we all know ourselves well enough to realize that sometimes we thought our message was awesome when it really wasn’t, and sometimes we thought it was awful when it was actually great.
Making the problem worse is the fact that everybody actually has an opinion about your message. Trust me, they’re talking about it/not talking about it in the foyer, on the ride home or at lunch.
So even if you don’t evaluate your message, I promise you everyone else does.
So, then, every preacher should get an accurate assessment of how the sermon went. And that’s hard too.
It’s hard because while everyone has an opinion, they’re just not able to give you the kind of meaningful feedback that helps you get better.
By the way—speaking of getting better—I just launched my brand new course, The Art of Better Preaching, a 12 part course I developed with Mark Clark, lead pastor of a rapidly growing megachurch in Vancouver BC. Each weekend for years, Mark and I have preached to thousands of post-modern, post-Christian people.
Hundreds of leaders have already jumped in on the course and (thanks for the suggestion!) we just made it easier than ever, adding a 3 part payment plan to make taking the course even easier (it’s still a fraction of the price of any seminary course you’d take). And one of the big questions from early participants? Where was a course like this when I was in seminary?
But back to our key question: how do you get an accurate, helpful assessment of your message? I mean that would be amazing, wouldn’t it? Because that’s how you grow.
Here are 5 pro tips.
1. Get Over Your Natural Defensiveness
Great sermon evaluation starts with you. More particularly, it starts with how open you truly are to the truth.
So here’s some truth. There’s a part of me that wants everyone to tell me that I knocked it out of the park every single time I talk. That I crushed it. That I’m the best preacher they’ve ever heard preaching the best message they’ve ever heard.
Except, of course, that’s not just not true. It can’t be true.
If I don’t check that part of my spirit, people will tell from a mile away. Because your sermon evaluation process will consist mostly of you fishing for compliments.
Preachers who fish for compliments usually only hook half-truths and lies. Nobody wants to burst your bubble or make you feel bad about yourself, so they won’t tell you the truth.
Which is why you need to get over your natural defensiveness and seek honest, real feedback.
Thank the messenger, don’t shoot them. If it hurts, grieve privately. Go for a ride and get it out of your system. But always thank people for whatever they have to tell you.
Growth-minded leaders know the truth is your friend, even when it hurts. Sometimes especially when it hurts.
2. Don’t Settle for What. Discover Why.
Now that you’re working on your defensiveness, you’ll discover that you get all kinds of feedback casually.
Think about the foyer. Most people will tell you it was a good message if they liked it. And I usually go out after a service and find some core staff or volunteers and ask them what they thought. We also have a Monday evaluation meeting with staff where I try to get feedback. So I’m actively seeking feedback.
Here’s the problem with that though: most people will only tell you that they liked your message or didn’t like your message. They’ll say it was good or not so good.
And the conversation almost always stops there (even with staff and team members who are not preachers)—which makes it rather unhelpful.
When you get that kind of feedback (even through casual conversation or formal evaluation), go one step further and ask the person this simple question: why?
Why was it good? Why was it not my best? Tell me more….I’m open.
Do that, and you’ll learn a ton.
Maybe some of your ideas didn’t flow logically. Or your passion level was low. Or your delivery was too fast/too slow. Maybe one or two of your points weren’t clear.
That’s helpful feedback. And if you’re going into another service, it will help you do a mid-course correction.
When it comes to sermon feedback, don’t settle for what. Ask why. Why is helpful. It’s where the real learning comes.
3. Watch Yourself. Listen to Yourself.
I’m well aware that most non-narcissists hate the sound of their own voice. I have spent most of my life getting used to my voice and thinking “Do I really sound like that?”
Want to make it even worse? Watch yourself on video. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve thought I actually do that? Man, I look so awkward.
So I get the natural inclination most of us have to not listen to ourselves or watch our messages back. And that’s a mistake.
Preachers, as painful as it is, watch yourself preach. Everyone else has to. You should never expect hundreds or thousands of people to watch you if you won’t watch you.
You’ll learn so much. From verbal ticks (um, ah), to annoying habits (why do I always touch my glasses or put my hands in my pocket?) to moments in the message that just didn’t work, you’ll see yourself more accurately.
But it’s not all negative. You’ll see what worked too. You’ll see what connected and what didn’t.
I have learned so much listening back to my messages and watching myself on video, even though every time I have to make myself play the message back.
You may be your own worst critic, but if you’re not, everyone else will be.
So endure the pain, and watch and listen.
4. Watch and Listen with a Friend
I haven’t done this as much as I should, but whenever I have done this it’s so helpful.
Watch and listen to yourself with a friend you trust who will give you honest, accurate feedback. Someone who loves you enough to tell you the truth.
You might think you’re moving around awkwardly and they’ll say that actually you’re not. That it’s fine or endearing. Conversely, you may think you’re as smooth as butter and they may tell you that all your slouching or weird arm movements take away from the message.
The combination of your own commitment to self-improvement by watching and listening back and doing the same with a friend from time to time will improve your preaching immensely.
5. Get A Peer To Review It
Saved my favorite and most valuable tip to last.
You know who the best evaluator your preaching will be? Another preacher who will tell you the truth.
The challenge with getting a non-communicator to evaluate your communication is that they will be hard-pressed to tell you exactly why something worked or didn’t work and how to get better. They don’t do what you do, so their ability to help is limited.
Imagine knowing nothing about race cars, heading to a track and trying to advise a pro racer on how to shave 2 seconds off his lap. I mean what would you say? Go faster? You just don’t have the expertise to give meaningful advice.
That’s why a fellow preacher (who’s maybe a bit better than you) can be your best evaluator. He or she can tell you why something worked or why it didn’t, why your treatment of the text was solid or why you got lost in the first century and didn’t bridge things well for the 21st century. In the same way, another preacher can help you brainstorm on better application examples, better intros, better endings.
They’re practitioners. They have studied both theology and the craft of preaching.
Don’t have anyone on your staff who can fit that bill? Ask a colleague or preacher across town. Even doing that a couple times a year can immensely improve your preaching.
Some Practical Help…Instant Access
Mark Clark, lead pastor of Village Church, and I have reamed to share everything we’ve learned over decades of preaching and communicating at conferences and events around the world in our new course, The Art of Better Preaching.
So what do you get in The Art of Better Preaching? You get 12 on-demand video training sessions, a comprehensive, interactive workbook that will help you create, write, and deliver better sermons and numerous bonuses (cheat sheets, game film of Mark and I breaking down how we teach and much more).
This is the complete course you need to start preaching better sermons, including:
- 7 preaching myths it’s time to bust forever
- The 5 keys to preaching sermons to unchurched people (that will keep them coming back)
- How to discover the power in the text (and use it to drive your sermon)
- The specific characteristics of sermons that reach people in today’s world
- Why you need to ditch your sermon notes (and how to do it far more easily than you think.)
- How to keep your heart and mind fresh over the long run
In the Art of Better Preaching, Mark and I share everything we’ve learned about communicating in a way that will help your church grow without compromising biblical integrity.
We cover detailed training on everything from interacting with the biblical text to delivering a talk without using notes, to writing killer bottom lines that people will remember for years.
Don’t miss out! Check it out today and gain instant access. Special introductory pricing is time-limited, so don’t delay.
And we just introduced a payment plan to make jumping in the course even easier. Hurry while the pricing is the lowest it will ever be. The price increases tomorrow (Thursday, June 28th) at midnight.
What Helps You?
What helps you improve as a preacher?
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