The more important our work is, the more imperative it is we strive to improve. If you are a preacher or teacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ, you are proclaiming the most significant message in the world. Thus, those of us who do this work must be open to evaluation. Here are some ways to do so:
1. Read good books on teaching/preaching, and compare your approach. No two people preach/teach alike, but we can learn from experienced proclaimers. Even a nugget of truth can affect our preaching/teaching in a positive way. Two books I recommend are Bryan Chappell’s Christ-Centered Preaching and Haddon Robinson’s Biblical Preaching.
2. Enlist a preaching/teaching team to help prepare and critique your sermons or lessons. Others can help you exegete a text, consider appropriate illustrations and determine applications for your particular audience. That same team can then evaluate each sermon or lesson when it’s delivered.
3. Pay attention to your hearers. Are they attentive? listening? sleeping? texting? Your hearers may have a multitude of reasons not to listen well, but boredom might be one—and that issue most often lies at the feet of the speaker.
4. Do immediate self-reflection. As soon as you finish preaching or teaching, make a few notes. What worked? What didn’t seem to work? What would you change?
5. Record and watch. I don’t know many people who like to watch themselves preach or teach, but this approach is invaluable. After 30+ years of preaching, I still catch myself giving too little eye contact, fiddling with coins in my pocket, etc.
6. Ask for evaluations. Even if you don’t use a team to help develop your sermon or lesson, enlist others to evaluate your work every week. Unlike the prep team in #2 above, these folks would be exposed to the teaching only when it’s delivered—that is, like almost all of the people in your audience.
7. Give “pop quizzes” throughout the next week. As you spend time with your listeners the week following your sermon or lesson, ask them what they remember of your material. Find out what life changes, if any, they’ve made as a result of your teaching.
8. Ask for feedback the following Sunday. For the entire congregation, include a quiz from last week’s sermon or lesson in this week’s material (perhaps in the worship guide if evaluating a sermon). Ask your hearers to recall major points and application. If few remember, you might want to think about ways to reinforce your teaching.
9. Watch good preachers/teachers and learn from them. I’m hesitant to include this option, as I don’t want anyone to simply use somebody else’s material or delivery. We can learn, though, from others who seem to do these tasks better. Listen. Watch. Learn.
10. Ask your spouse and children to be honest with you. It’s likely your spouse will recognize nervousness, confusion, disorganization, etc. Your children—especially if they are teens—can help you know if you connected with their generation.
11. Intentionally and regularly work on improving one area of your teaching/preaching. Even the best proclaimers have room for improvement. Determine the weakest area of your teaching/preaching, and spend time strengthening that component. Focus on one component every six months—and never reach the point where you have arrived.
What other methods would you recommend?