Department of Preaching Redundancy Department
The painters on the Golden Gate Bridge are constantly painting. They start at one end, and over a period of months, move to the other. When they get to the other end, where they began needs to be painted again. So they move back and start over. On and on, year after year, they paint the same bridge, over and over.
Effective teaching in the church, even the smallest church, requires a degree of repetition. We have to paint the same ideas, the same basic teaching, the same biblical principles and precepts, over and over. Preaching that never covers the same ground twice risks leaving the majority of the congregation behind. As families and individuals come and go in our churches, and more and more we find that someone who attends twice a month is a “regular”, we have to realize that much of what we are saying in the pulpit does not find the majority of ears it is delivered to.
Your church’s mission and vision, key ministries, your core doctrinal statements, must all be taught repeatedly to keep the congregation on the same page. The best way to accomplish without getting into a pattern of boredom that comes from redundancy, is to plan your preaching calendar to incorporate key repeated ideas. Some pastors, for instance, do a “reboot” every January and take a week or two to review their church’s mission through their teaching. Others have seasons for teaching on stewardship, or service, or evangelism. Here are few more ideas to keep in mind with repeated teaching:
Teach it clearly. Memories are short. Clear and concise words on important repeated topics is crucial. We adopt mission statements because they summarize ideas simply. The Walt Disney Company has a practice of getting the purpose or function of each of their theme parks down to one word. This simplicity makes it easier for people to remember what the goal and purpose is.
When you approach every-year teaching, look for certain words and phrases you can repeat, over and over, year after year, that summarize the key idea or thoughts you want people to remember. Clarity is looking to communicate one simple thought—just one—to each and every person in the room. Remember too that the people in the room aren’t the same each week. So clarity also means repeating at least once, possible more, to ensure the broad majority receive the message.
Teach it creatively. Keeping a repeated topic fresh for the pastor can be challenging. The temptation is to pull out last year’s message, change the intro, polish a few points, and deliver it again. Let me instead suggest that the repeated messages deserve the most attention. You have the opportunity each year to not only repeat key ideas to the church, but to expand on the various thought-lines represented. You may teach each year on serving in the church, for instance, but one message emphasize serving with other believers, and the next time emphasize spiritual giftedness, and the next time emphasize how serving helps the church share the gospel.
Creative approaches begin with varied approaches. Don’t Lay-Z-Boy into teaching the same thing the same way twice. Certainly we can learn something different from God’s Word each time we approach the same passage. Take into account your age, wisdom and experience when teaching on repeating theme. What have you learned on this or experienced about this since the last time you taught it?
Teach it strategically. Always have some idea of what your church is called to accomplish. Key repeated teachings are keeping the primary tools of your local ministry sharpened and ready for action. Look at your year as a whole and what ministries are emphasized during each season. Then see how best to plug-in those key repeating themes into your preaching calendar. Some seasons naturally go well with key themes: outreach and Easter, the family and summer, renewal and the New Year, gratitude and Thanksgiving/Christmas. These aren’t clichés to be avoided. They are often opportunities to be capitalized on.
Author: Eugene Mason, Communications Director for Cross Pointe Church under the leadership of Dr. James Merritt.