17 October, 2013 Gerry Straker
How our preaching group started
Church by the Bay began one Sunday morning two years ago. Our preaching group began that first Sunday evening, as six men met in my study to review our first Sunday.
I’d love to be able to say that it was our vision for training men that led to the preaching group being front and centre of our brand new church’s programme. But that wouldn’t be true.
As we began our plant, I realised that, excluding myself, only one man had preached in church before, and two had led a church meeting. We needed to train people urgently – simply so that we could survive as a new church plant.
We were blessed that our sending church (Moorlands, Lancaster) had trained us in lots of ways, and instilled a training mentality in us. We were also blessed by the training of the North West Partnership Ministry Training Course – three of us had been, and three were starting. For us, this made a preaching group an easy and natural thing to do – our men were used to the idea. I’d had more training and more experience and could pass on what I’d learnt to a group of men who were committed to the task in hand and willing to learn. For us, a preaching group was obvious.
In our first few meetings, we concentrated on how to lead at church. However, as the first term wore in, it dawned on me that at some point I would need a holiday. That first term made the point rather forcefully.
So in January 2012, we began to prepare together 1 Thessalonians, which three of our preaching group were covering at the training course. Over several meetings, we looked together at themes of the book and the ‘melodic line’, and broke the passage into sections. Next, the preachers presented their drafts and we critiqued each other. That summer, we preached it in six sermons. I topped and tailed the series, and had four weeks’ break from preaching in the middle.
How we realised the preaching group was really important
The following autumn, after our first year as a church plant, the elders met to dream about church growth. We realised that the key thing to grow our church was training the men. It made us realise that our preaching group was not simply to make Sunday meetings better, or allow me to have a holiday, but to train men to be preachers and elders in the future at Church by the Bay and in a future church plant. Our key to survival became our key to growth!
Why we think a preaching group is really important
Here’s why, after two years, we think a preaching group is so helpful:
- Training is one of our ‘distinctives’ at Church by the Bay which is both vital for our mission, and makes us different where we are. The preaching group is a key part of our training of men to teach the Bible, both to help our own church and the wider church as we plan for growth.
- The preaching group keeps me sharp. It makes me keep thinking and reading about preaching as I teach others about it.
- The preaching group stops me getting lazy, as men from my church feel more and more comfortable to – and are more and more able to – critique my sermons!
- And, therefore, the preaching group has improved my sermons.
- The preaching group has been great fun as we have grown together as a band of brothers: batting around theology, Bible handling, and practice.
- The preaching group has dramatically improved the leading of meetings in our church.
- The preaching group has definitely improved the sermons of those who preach occasionally.
- The preaching group keeps us humble, as we all realise we have a long way to go!
- People can see men taking the lead. People can see the difference it makes, as the men get better!
- The preaching group helps us keep developing men. A teenager asked me how I went about preaching a sermon. No one had ever asked me that before. I invited him to find out by joining our preaching group. He has recently led at church for the first time.
- All this means that the preaching group will help us grow the church and grow church leaders.
- This summer, four men preached on 2 Thessalonians, which we had all worked on together. I was able to go on holiday and relax, knowing that the church was in good hands!
That’s why this small church plant has a preaching group – and why we think they are a great idea to grow your church, grow church leaders for your own church, to grow new church plants, and to grow the Kingdom!