Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The overexposed preacher (and stuff)

I'm not real big on New Year's resolutions, or even goals for that matter, but one thing I really need to change this year is my "exposure" on Sunday mornings. Perhaps it was a coincidence, but I had been thinking this for quite some time, and then I received the following "preaching tip" in an email a couple weeks ago:
Some preachers make the mistake of getting so involved in the earlier parts of a service that by sermon time, people are already somewhat tired of their upfront presence. This results in the congregation losing interest in what's being preached sooner than they normally would. The minister who begins speaking for the first time with the start of the sermon has a much better chance of keeping people's attention.

I don't know why certain ministers feel the need to lead the Call to Worship, read the Scriptures, say the prayers, make the announcements, even involve themselves in the music elements, but it's not all that uncommon to observe places where this is happening.

What this is called is OVEREXPOSURE. With film, it's exposure to excessive light. In the church, it's excessive exposure to a given personality.

Can I suggest that you make one of your goals for next year to get others involved in some of these roles?

Man, you can not only suggest it... I wish someone would make it happen! To be honest, I just can't seem to figure out how do it on my own though.

I shared in a previous post how disappointed I was with the Christmas Eve and Christmas service. I thought I would do everyone a favor by just taking care of things myself (and making Jane help me). You know, give everybody a break, not make anyone have to do anything for Christmas, stuff like that. While it sounded like a good idea at the time, it didn't take long to realize it was a mistake. Not only does it wear me (and Jane) out, but I think it makes everyone else miserable too. They have to put up with my attempts to lead singing, and listen to me drone on and on, and it robs those who do want to participate of the opportunity to do so.

What's worse, this isn't just a problem at Christmas. It happens all the time. Almost every Sunday I give the announcements, lead the call to worship, do the praying, lead the singing, and give the sermon. I do have some others who help with things in the service, but it is a lot of ME on Sunday mornings. I don't know how people can stand it!

I have recognized this as a problem for several years, actually. It started with the best of intentions. We happen to have a group of very passive, introverted, and timid people in our church. We have few who like to speak in front of others, or pray in front of others, or play in front of others. For many it has been a big step just to be present on a Sunday morning. So I don't mind 'putting myself out there' for the up-front stuff. But it is too much of me. And I'm probably the biggest stumbling block to change. I have a bit of a control problem. I know I should involve others, and I know we have people capable of doing things, and I WANT others to be involved... I just don't know how to let go now. I think we've sort of just come to expect that this is how things are. So it's easy for people to be passive, and it seems easier for me to just do things. But it's not healthy.

Part of my problem comes from being burned so many times. I don't think people realize the problems it creates when they make a commitment to do something and then don't keep it. Over time it makes it difficult to depend on others. So it is just easier to do it myself, and to depend on the same few people all the time (and I am ever thankful for that tiny group of people I depend on).

Another issue is that I never want to make anyone feel bad or make them feel pressured into doing anything. So I don't ask for help when there are probably many who would be willing to pitch in; and I also don't say anything when people don't follow through on commitments. We go to great lengths to stress that the organization/institution is not what's important. But then what often happens is people think we can disregard the organization/institution entirely. And that's maybe what this is really all about: we just have a very poorly run organization.

I know people who lack experience will say things like, "Well, just quit doing stuff and someone will eventually start doing it." That might sound nice, but it doesn't work that way. At least not here (and I doubt that it does in most places). What happens is things that NEED to be done, just don't get done.

So... I am praying that God might help us figure this out this coming year. Rather than continuing to be over-exposed, I am hoping to be clothed in a community of people willing to TALK about this stuff together; people willing to THINK about this stuff together; people willing to WORK AT this stuff so they can keep us all from being over-exposed to too much of me. Not only the Sunday morning gathering, but in shaping the direction of our church community as a whole; in figuring out who God has called us to be in this time and this place. I think it can happen, but not if it's just left up to me.

Peace out; and in.


Tom said...

I was thinking about flipping that around. I would be more involved with the other stuff (I already do a lot) and get more people involved with the message part. I mean isn't that what talk show hosts do? Not that we should copy them but isn't how they avoid being overexposed? That still doesn't solve the issue on relying on people though. I can just imagine planning to have someone tell their story during the message and then having them not show up.

dan horwedel said...

Gee, you were starting to sound like someone else for awhile there. Until the last sentence. That's what I was thinking.