Have you ever wondered how to get started preaching? Maybe you sit in church and look up at your pastor giving the message and think, I could do that!
You get cut off in traffic, lose it for a second and start pounding your horn. When you calm down it hits you, This would make a great self-deprecating sermon illustration in which I demonstrate that, while I’m still human, God uses imperfect people!
When someone asks you a question about the Bible, God, theology, a doctrinal dispute or social issue, you relish in the opportunity to help them make sense of their question, but what you really want is for them to do something with their newly discovered truth.
If any of these resonate with you it may mean you have an itch, a desire, perhaps even a calling to preach. I want to share with you some things to consider and possible next steps you could take. So you think you can preach? Let me share with you how to get started preaching in six steps. But first, let’s answer an important question:
Who should pursue preaching?
Should anyone pursue preaching? The most important question to deal with here is: Do you have a relationship with Jesus? Are you a follower of Christ? If you’re not, then you shouldn’t preach. At least not in a Christian context. I can’t speak for other faiths but I would imagine this would be true in almost any religious system: If you don’t believe it yourself, you shouldn’t teach or preach it to others.
Beyond that baseline it is important to make sure that you are growing in your faith and experiencing life with Jesus. Are you pursuing Jesus? Are you readily confessing sin? Are you seeking to multiply your faith to others by sharing your story and helping others discover Jesus? Is there a reason why people would not see you as trustworthy or a person of character? This is not to say you need to be perfect. No pastor or preacher is perfect. But this is to say that your effectiveness as a preacher will be damaged if there are character issues in your life that you have not dealt with. Keep in mind, I’m not speaking of your past. Rather, I’m asking: Where are you with Jesus right now and have people had an opportunity to see the change he has made in your life?
Paul gives his requirements for those seeking the position or office of elder (overseer, pastor) in 1 Timothy and Titus. Keep in mind those requirements are for the position itself. So if a pastoral position is something you seek you should take a look at his requirements and see how your life stacks up. Which, by the way, is good for any follower of Christ to do from time to time. Take a look at what is required of those who lead and ask yourself: Am I walking with God in such a way that I could lead others in an official capacity?
For our purposes in this article, I am mostly referring to getting started preaching, not necessarily pursuing an official role as a pastor. A lot of times these are one in the same, but there are laypersons who have a desire and are gifted at preaching who may be called on to fill in for their pastor. Or you may be in high school or college and trying to determine God’s calling on your life. You may be in the corporate world but have developed a strong desire to preach and teach. What do you do with that? This post will help you sort through those questions and determine how God might be leading you.
In any case, if you are following Jesus and have dealt with any known sin issues in your life, and you have a desire to pursue preaching, you should do that. You’re not going to be perfect. I know I’m not. Neither is your pastor. Follow Jesus closely and live a Spirit-filled life, and you will be ready to go.
Now that we’ve laid that foundation, where do you go from here? You have a desire to preach, but you don’t know where to begin. Let me suggest 6 steps to get started preaching:
Maybe you envision yourself as the next Craig Groeschel, Andy Stanley, Matt Chandler, or Steven Furtick. It’s fine to have some preaching heroes and draw inspiration from your favorite pastors. But you have to begin where you are. If you’ve never preached or taught in front of a group of people, you are probably not going to be called on to give the Sunday sermon next week at your church. So you need to begin within your context.
I knew I was called to ministry at age 15 and really fought that feeling for two years. I had a lot of doubts and fears about whether God could use me in that way, and if I even wanted that for my life. If you’ve ever been called to do something you didn’t initially want to do you will be able to relate. But, at 17 years of age I said, “God if you’ll still use me, I’m willing.” As a senior in high school I didn’t have the opportunity to preach the Sunday sermon, at least not yet. But what I did do was to team up with another friend and we lead a Bible study of sophomore guys. I taught every other Monday night and loved it. I honed my skills and was able to seek more opportunities from there.
So have aspirations and goals, but look around and start right where you are. Who do you have influence on in your life that you could speak into? Be willing to mentor or coach one or two people and God will open up opportunities to speak to more people. This leads to the next step:
If you have a desire to preach look for any opportunity that is in front of you: Are you in a Bible study, small group, or Sunday school class? The leader may gladly give you the opportunity to teach or lead a week. Though they are very similar, there is a difference between teaching and preaching. I may write a post on the difference at a later time, but it is helpful learn the skill of both. Is there a nursing home or jail in your area that regularly has a church service? Find out who leads it and see if they would like a fill in. Ask your pastor what opportunities are available. Perhaps he or she could coach you and get you ready to preach a sermon at your church. This is especially possible if your church has a Sunday night service that is different than Sunday morning. There is usually less people in attendance and a more laid back atmosphere. Your pastor may be more than willing to take a night off and let you do what you’re itching to do.
What opportunities are in your students and kids ministry? You can learn a ton about communication when speaking to kids. If you’re not crystal clear, concise and compelling kids will not listen. In fact, from a teaching perspective, if you can explain a concept in a way that a child would understand it, you can explain it to anyone. Two things to keep in mind:
It never hurts to ask. Your pastor may not think you’re ready and you should not take this personally. Instead, ask what you can do to get ready and communicate with your actions that you are serious about pursuing this. Most pastors relish in the opportunity to coach an aspiring preacher, but they want to know you’re serious about it. A great way to prove that you’re serious about learning is to read some books on preaching. I recommend this list: The Best 5 Books on Preaching. And also checking out my book, Preaching Killer Sermons, which will serve as a guide for you as you get started in your preaching journey.
Take every chance you get. If you’re serious about growing as a new preacher you will not pass up any opportunity. Look at each opportunity as a way to discover and develop your calling. No opportunity is too small.
In Part 2 of this series we will examine the next four steps to get started preaching. For now, make a list of possible opportunities you could seek immediately. For our veteran preachers reading, share how you got your start preaching. I can’t wait to read the stories!