10 Mistakes Young Preachers Make

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.

Preaching Mistakes

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.

Question:

What mistakes have you seen young preachers make?

Published by

Luke Simmons

I was born and raised in Denver, CO and lived there through high school. Then I moved to Champaign, IL where I attended the University of Illinois and played on the Fighting Illini baseball team. I was married in December, 2001 to Molly, who I met at the U of I. In June of 2002, we moved to Phoenix and have been here ever since. In July of 2006, we welcomed a baby girl, Abby, into our family.

9 thoughts on “10 Mistakes Young Preachers Make”

  1. 11. They don’t pray. Easy to get caught up on all the techniques and commentaries and nerves and never actually spend time praying throughout the week for your study and for your audience to be rocked by the Spirit.

    1. Chris, great point. I’m sad to say that this has too often been a mistake in my own preaching. God, forgive me.

    2. AMEN Chris! It was a great list and I was leery of people falling more to technique in watching the video. So I will share what my uncle/youth pastor and one of my earliest mentors on preaching always told me “Pray more than you preach.”

  2. 11. Not being teachable. I started preaching 2x/mo at 22. It was hard to receive feedback at first. Someone once charted that I said “in my mind” over 30x in a message. But as I opened up to feedback, I found my growing edges and made lots of progress. Feedback is always important, but especially so in the beginning.

    1. Thanks, Scott. Teachability is huge. If you can’t listen, you can’t get better. Having a few trusted voices who give good feedback is particularly helpful.

  3. This comes before the act of preaching but can greatly affect it (and I’ve found myself on both sides)

    Over analysis – A paranoia and paralysis that comes when there is an unhealthy worry that something wrong might be said or miscommunicated. Over analysis can lead to countless hours reading through every single commentary and viewpoint, then listening to other guys preach through the same text and on and on…It leads to a nervousness where there is little direction and much trepidation in preaching a text with conviction.

    Under analysis – “Just let go and let God” “I just get up there and want to be led by the Spirit” “I feel like notes really restrain my style” are all things I’ve heard that are often used as excuses for laziness and a lack of being a student and learner of the scriptures.

    1. Good point, Jon. It’s important to do the work, do your best, and leave it in God’s hand. My friend Matthew calls this “leaving your sacrifice at the altar.” In OT days, you would bring your sacrifice, but you wouldn’t go back and analyze it afterward. You wouldn’t go pick at the dead carcass and congratulate yourself at how great it was or lament that it wasn’t very good. You’d just leave it. We should do the same with our preaching.

  4. It takes skill and solid focused intent, but sometimes young preachers (and old ones) will preach an entire text without preaching Christ. If Christ is not preached, then neither is the gospel. If there is no gospel, there is no point. Imagine if young preachers would spend 30, 40 50 years with the intent of preaching Christ and his vicarious death on a cross for the sins of a broken world. EVERY TIME. Repentance and the forgiveness of sins. EVERY TIME. The Gospel is the power of god into salvation. Preach THAT.

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