I recently spent some time talking preaching with our Redemption Church Pastoral Residents and it got me reflecting on common mistakes I see new, young preachers make.
This feels a bit odd in that I am also young and relatively new to preaching, having only done it for just over four years. So, these are mistakes I’ve made and that I see other younger preachers make.
1. Not knowing their own voice — imitating other preachers. When you’re starting out, it’s easy to sound like the most recent person you’ve been listening to. Matt Chandler has a funny clip related to this exhorting young preachers to fulfill your ministry.
2. Trying to say everything they’ve been thinking since the last time they preached. When you only preach once every few months, you have a lot to say. If you aren’t careful, you end up importing a lot of it into your sermon text even if it shouldn’t be there.
3. Not connecting the sermon to the series. I see this when guys preach as part of a sermon series we’re doing. They sometimes act like their message is a stand-alone instead of helping connect it to where we’ve been and where we’re going.
4. Being self-indulgent with humor or illustrations. This is often driven by insecurity and a desire to be funny, but sometimes young guys make themselves too much the center of attention with their stories, jokes, or illustrations.
5. Assuming the interest of the hearers. Just because the preacher is excited about it doesn’t mean anyone else is. Young preachers need to work at making the audience care about what is going to be said.
6. Not adjusting illustrations to fit the context. Many young preachers come from student or college ministry environments and their illustrations don’t always work as well. Similarly, when I preach at a younger church with more singles, I have to adjust how I illustrate.
7. Preaching topigetically instead of really preaching the text. Rather than letting the text set the agenda, young preachers are often tempted to preach on the topics that arise out of the text. It’s not topical and it’s not exegetical — it’s topigetical. And it doesn’t usually honor the text.
8. Using uncomfortable gestures. Young guys often don’t know what they’re doing with their hands or how they’re swaying. It helps to see yourself on video (though it’s painful) to see how you really look, especially since most of communication is non-verbal.
9. Saying juvenile things. Young preachers often say things that make them seem even younger. Whether through cultural references or unhelpful words like “sucks,” or “hosed” (both of which I’ve said), this makes the preacher look juvenile instead of grown up.
10. Trying to sound too fancy. This one drives my wife crazy. Young guys, filled with idealism, often try to say things in a fancy or impressive way and end up just sounding confused.
The good news is that with lots of practice and good feedback, young preachers can grow beyond all of these things. If I can grow past them, anyone can.
What mistakes have you seen young preachers make?