Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Trial Services

To be a preacher of any sort you need to go through trial services. In some places these are taken very seriously. In others those assessing says things like, 'ag, he really wants to be a preacher, we'd better pass him' and give an arbitrary pass mark. I thought about this very hard last year when I had to do a trial service to be accepted as a Methodist student minister. I got 60%. Others got 80%. Somehow I didn't think I was worth 80% and wondered what those others had! But I devised this scale, and it works for me. It doesn't really work for ministers who preach every Sunday and people have no choice but to listen to them!

90% - people will travel from far to come and hear - eg Angus Buchan?
80% - people will make an effort to hear you regularly
70% - people (who know you) do not stay away when you are preaching
60% - there's nothing really wrong with your preaching, but there's something missing
50% - there is a spark of potential or this is a dying gasp.

I reckon that I am a 70% preacher. If I lose energy I sink to 60%. I would love to become a 80% preacher!


Thomas Scarborough said...

I wonder, wonder about this trial preaching thing. So what are the panelists' criteria? And does this imply that this is what ministry is all about? And what happened to the role of our precious foot-folk, who so augment ministry? I remember attending a crowded Church, and the preacher using a large magnifying glass to read painfully from his text. It was a fail, but he was used by God. And one can receive a distinction, yet fail. In my view, preaching needs power (maybe that's the "something missing" you refer to). Power does not necessarily imply polish, or skill, or excellence, or persuasiveness.

Steven Jones said...

Hi Jen

My Superintendent considers only the Sermon on the Mount to be worthy of an "A", so the rest of us can only aspire to solid "Bs"!

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Hi Thomas
I do understand your point and - having been one of the foot-folk for most of my life - I hear what you are saying. I don't think excellence helps when it makes the ordinary person feel inadequate. But there must be some level of preaching that will be helpful to a congregation. There are people who are just not cut out to be preachers.

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Hi Steven
Thanks for that. But that is a coping mechanism for an essentially unfair system. It doesn't help us to find a better way.

Thomas Scarborough said...

Actually I am doing "sermon intensive" with our intern at the moment -- there are some comments on my blog. I see a marked improvement in him. It's been hard work, but not wasted.

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Hi Thomas - yes I've seen the posts and I'd love to have been a fly on the wall for at least some of that. Of course, I have no idea what you are like in the pulpit!
But I think that mentoring as you are doing is the most effective method of training. However, not every minister or person makes a good mentor - something that the Methodist church has had to admit.
The Methodist Church has a strength in that there are many churches in many places - even remote ones. But the weakness is in the resultant inability to find enough of what we might call 'good preachers' or 'good leaders'. Ultimately, God is the one in control!