Monday, February 05, 2007

Learn the Art of Listening to Your Preacher

Aldersgate Gazette Advertorial

Church membership is only the beginning of a journey, and if fledgling members are to thrive, they need training. That is the assumption behind the Christian Leadership Consortium’s (CLC) new line of educational brochures, Being Christian the Easy Way. Each brochure in the series will deal with a single topic essential to becoming a good church member.

The CLC marketing team will unveil the first booklet later this week. “How to Listen to a Sermon” will help the people in the pews to get more out of each sermon. CLC released this particular title first because it will benefit both new and seasoned members. Most of the subsequent brochures will target newer members.

“How to Listen to a Sermon” includes a list of helpful hints with explanatory notes, such as tip number six, which helps the listener prepare before the pastor even reaches the pulpit: “Do not focus too closely on the scripture reading. You have probably heard it many times, and you already know what it means. Instead, consider the sermon title. The preacher has put in considerable effort to make it clever or witty, and you should honor his efforts.”

Madonna Sumner, who co-authored several of the initial pamphlets, said, “Preachers are all familiar with the thousand-yard stare, the expressions of incomprehension on the faces of the congregation. We know that this is inevitably the result of lack of preparation on the part of the members. If they read this brochure, the people will know what to do during the sermon.”

Sumner read aloud tip number three to make her point: “If you are confused, simply smile and nod your head as if you understand every word. Remember, the preacher is a trained professional. If you are baffled, it is because you have not been paying attention, not because the preacher is a poor communicator.”

Likewise, she notes, if the preacher says something that seems to defy the rules of logic, assume you misunderstood. Sumner said, “You probably haven’t had enough seminary to know what the preacher meant to say.”

Other hints urge listeners to “know when to chuckle and when to guffaw,” “never make any distracting outbursts or spontaneous vocalizations,” and to “practice the solemn nodding of your head in the mirror before coming to church. Do not overdo it; you are not an ostrich.”

The brochure even tells church members what to do after the sermon. “When you shake the preacher’s hand as you exit the sanctuary, be pleasant and polite. Do not disagree with anything the preacher said, and do not make any comments that might require serious reflection. Simply say, ‘nice job’ or ‘you gave me something to think about,’ or talk about sports.”

Sumner and her writing partners expect the Being Christian the Easy Way brochures to provide a solid foundation for all church members. “If congregations read these and follow the advice, then everyone will know how to act. Pastors will have to deal with far fewer disturbances of the status quo,” she said.

Three more booklets in the series, “Dress for Success at Church,” “What to Do if You Can’t Sing,” and “Say It, Don’t Spray It,” are due out in the Spring.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great stuff at this blog. This PC(USA) minister approved!

11:21 AM  

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