Thinking About What You’ve Stopped Thinking About

For 2017, we have added Staff Seminary to our repertoire of how our staff gathers.

What is Staff Seminary?  It’s a monthly workshop in which our staff receives interactive training in the skills of ministry.  We have scheduled ten such gatherings in 2017, and I am slated to lead six of them.

So far we have grown our counseling skills through what is called a verbatim (a recreation of a counseling experience in which staffers are free to critique as long as they are open to grow) and a two part teaching about message preparation and delivery.

As you might suspect, I have led those three sessions as they represent two of my sweet spots of pastoral ministry.

And last week, I realized the value to me of laying out precisely how I think about pastoral counseling and, more particularly, how I prepare,  design, and deliver a Sunday morning message.  It’s this:  I have to think about what I’ve stopped thinking about.


Here’s what I mean.  My method for sermon preparation is so ingrained, so habitual, so personal … that I rarely think about it anymore.  I’ve developed “sermon muscle memory.”  It reminds me of hitting my backhand back in the day — I never had to think about how to hit it; I had practiced it so often it just came out naturally.

It is much the same with sermon preparation these days.  Now: I am thinking while in the process (every week!).  But I don’t ever think about the process itself.

So as I shared with the staff in great detail about where messages come from, they interjected with all kinds of questions.  “What does that scribble mean?”  “Why do you link ideas with circles?”  “How do you make sense of all these little notes?” 

For example, I told our GS staffers that my plan for bringing a bottom line to life begins by brainstorming around two simple ideas:  WHEN I and PEOPLE WHO.  Meaning: when have I lived or experienced the truth of the bottom line and who are some people I have seen who have themselves lived out the bottom line.

People Who 2

Afterwards, two staffers told me that those simple observations — WHEN I and PEOPLE WHO — significantly changed their own message prep.  And I had been doing it that way for so long, I had long ago stopped thinking about it.

Until I had to.

So I guess staff seminary is helping not only staff but faux professor as well.

What in your life have you done so much and for so long that you’ve stopped thinking about it?