by Debbie Ingram Schmidt,
Associate for Spiritual Leader Development
On Saturday, 30 Ruling Elders and Commissioned Ruling Elders from more than 15 of our congregations gathered for the day to learn about how to prepare a sermon. The Rev. Jeanne Gay, outgoing interim at Havenwood Presbyterian, lead
based on A Sermon Workbook by Thomas Troeger and Leonora Tubbs Tisdale. Using a combination of lecture, small group discussion and enlightening personal exercises,
Jeanne engaged the group around a variety of topics. The group learned about exegesis (studying the Biblical text in preparation for writing the sermon), understanding how important it is to know the needs of the congregation and some of the practical considerations involved in delivering a sermon clearly.
Everyone who attended received a workbook and assignment ahead of the workshop. Part of the assignment was to select a text from the lectionary to use for a sermon. People were encouraged to begin some of the background study before the workshop so that during the workshop they could begin to craft a sermon as they learned more about the process. In small groups, everyone was invited to share their text and what they had learned in their exegesis. Then the groups worked together to consider what the focus of a sermon on the text might be. They also brainstormed ways to outline the sermon and stories or metaphors to illustrate some of the main ideas. Lively and engaging conversations came from these times of creative sharing.
Some of those who attended the workshop preach on a regular basis while others had only had the chance to preach once or twice or not at all. But everyone went away feeling as though they had learned something. In an evaluation of the workshop, one participant wrote that the workshop focused on ". . .g
etting back to the basics, remembering to be respectful of the job of preparing and presenting sermons."
Most of those who attended said the workshop met or exceeded their expectations and many expressed the desire to meet again to continue learning. My hope is that those who attended the workshop will have opportunities to serve their congregations by putting into practice the things they have learned.