Monday, October 21, 2013

Preachers Learning from Longtime Listeners

This past month I had the great joy of going to West Texas to see my family for a week. It was a delightful trip which allowed me to spend some significant time with my Mother and Father, who I do not see nearly often enough. I also spent some time with their collection of amazing friends and family of choice - folks who play, eat, worship, travel together, and look out for each other since many of them do not have children who live in the local area.

One of the fun parts of the trip was doing some teaching for my Mom (Dad did not ask soon enough). I taught her Sunday school class and her Women's Bible Study group. The Sunday school class was part of their lives when my son, Shelby, was adopted from Russia. And when we came home with him, they threw a "Papaw Finally Has a Grandson Baby Shower” (he had 3 daughters and 4 granddaughters at that point). Up until a few years ago, my son still used the red Radio Flyer wagon to play with and to haul things around the yard. It was literally used until the wheels fell off.

The Women's Bible Study group that my Mom teaches has been meeting weekly to study together for 43 years (my Mom is the youngest one in the group). One of the original members was present for that lesson on Tuesday and she remembered Shelby running around the house when we were in Texas visiting some 13 or 14 years ago. It was all fun and I got to relive some great memories.

But one of the things I wanted to do while I was there was to talk about the task of preaching and the lessons we can learn from listeners. In the SS class, the average age is about 75. These folks have been listening to sermons for decades. Like many of us, they have heard a variety of preachers, seen several different preaching styles, and had many varying reactions to those preaching moments -- some good and some not so good. So after doing my preaching "spiel" I asked them this question:

"If you could tell new or practicing preachers one thing about preaching from a listener’s perspective, what would it be?"

I got some great answers that I want to share with you. These are the words of wisdom from folks who listen.

First, “don't talk down to us.” Just because you went to seminary does not mean you know everything. We read and study, too. Don't assume we are not as smart as you are.

Second, “use good grammar.” You did go to seminary so you should be able to speak properly. If you are using some kind of notes - make sure they are grammatically correct. If not, practice your sermon with good grammar.

Third, “if you are going to use humor - make sure it’s appropriate.” Don't make fun of people or use off color jokes. And don't tell "funny" stories if they are not appropriate to your context or very appropriate to the sermon.

Fourth, “tell us stories.” We remember them better - especially if they are tied to the text and help us connect better to God, the world, and to each other. If your story teaches us a lesson and is engaging, we will remember it even more.

Fifth, “bring us good news.” There is so much bad news right now and we need a word of grace and hope. We need to hear about love and what's possible. We need to be challenged and engaged, too. But don't be negative or judgmental every week.

Lastly, “know that we want you to do well.” We want to listen and take a lesson, image, story, phrase, etc. with us when we leave. Help us get that from your message.

Listening to these listeners was fun and exciting. Learning from them is something we can all gain much from. Are you listening to your listeners?

Friday, October 4, 2013

New Book Released

My new book, I Refuse to Preach a Boring Sermon: Engaging the 21st Century Listener, was released yesterday by Pilgrim Press. The book is available from them - please call their customer service staff at 800.537.3394. You may order online at The book will also be available on Amazon but there is a glitch with it right now that they are ironing out.

About the book --

Preaching is the centerpiece of worship, meant to inspire, empower, and engage. Preachers, with the best intentions, have preached sermons that did not connect with the audience, left the listener uninspired, confused, or simply bored. I Refuse to Preach a Boring Sermon: Engaging the 21st Century Listener encourages preachers to be creative, to take risks and to adapt to tough realities. From imagery to technology, Wiseman offers new techniques that will enable any preacher to creatively energize their sermons.

Here is what others are saying about the book --

“Among pastors these is a commitment to speak the Gospel in a way that engages worship participants with holy imagination that changes the way they see everything in life.   This is a non-negotiable.  It is required of us. It is, as Wiseman reminds us here, in our hands!" -- Paul Nixon, author of I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church!

 “Wiseman knows what it takes to preach to the network generation, and she encourages preachers to create sermons that are dynamic, energized, imaginative, and connected. I Refuse to Preach a Boring Sermon is the perfect “go-to” resource for the postmodern preacher.”  -- John S. McClure, Charles G. Finney Professor of Preaching and Worship, Vanderbilt Divinity School

“If churches are riddled with bored-again Christians suffering from a semiotic breakdown, this resource is filled with practical approaches and creative angles that will wake up the preacher, and move the sleepiest congregation from bored to death to born to life." -- Leonard Sweet, best-selling author and chief contributor to

 “Finally, someone confronts the problem of boring sermons head-on.  While Wiseman attacks the underlying causes of boring preaching, she also succeeds in loading every page with up-to-date, workable, ideas. Paying attention to what is here will make preaching truly fun again, for preacher and hearer alike.” -- Joseph M. Webb, author of Preaching Without Notes

I hope you get a lot out of this book - as I wrote it with preachers and church folks in mind.

Best wishes --