After 27 years of ministry, I began a practice six years ago that has changed my world in a great way. I committed to share the pulpit and develop a Teaching Team. I wish I had implemented this practice many years earlier when we first began expanding into a multi-staff organization. It may be more difficult in a single-staff context, but it can be a goal as the church grows. You need not be a large church pastor with a mega-budget for you church to benefit from a preaching/teaching team. (Bi-vocational pastor Josh Presley gives examples of how shared preaching can work in a smaller church.)
Here are some benefits I’ve seen through developing a preaching/teaching team.
It helps conquer a “God Complex” in the pastor and church.
All of us have seen a pastor with a “God Complex.” It could have been in the mirror. It’s dangerous when a pastor begins to believe and embrace all of the spiritual rhetoric that flows from parishioners. “God speaks through you like no other!” “You’re an amazing man or God!” “You’re the best preacher I ever heard!” People in the pew too often make gods out of pastors, and too often pastors embrace their efforts. Developing a preaching team helps maximize the influence of Bible teaching rather than a single pastor’s personality. At my church we never announce beforehand who is preaching the next Sunday. We’re teaching the people that it’s not about the preacher, but about the Word being preached!
It helps equip other pastors.
I’m thankful for the many pastors who allowed me to preach in their pulpits in my younger years. Yes, they took a risk on a young and inexperienced preacher, but each new opportunity laid the foundation for my effectiveness today. Fewer and fewer churches have Sunday night or Wednesday night preaching services, thus reducing the typical opportunities for training the next generation of preachers. Inviting some younger preachers onto the Teaching Team has provided a safe place for critique, development and growth—for them and me.
It helps the church connect to a different audience.
Some people will connect better with a different teacher than the lead pastor, regardless of skill or experience. In my case, I’ve built our current Teaching Team for reaching and developing different generations. One teaching pastor is 29 years of age. Another is 41. I am 52. The generational diversity on the Teaching Team has deepened the spiritual respect of the church’s older generation toward the younger and vice versa. Each of us provides a unique perspective and voice to every age group, and sometimes that uniqueness plays a role in determining which teaching pastor addresses certain topics.
It improves the sermons for the congregation and the preachers.
For many years I planned my sermons and series alone. Now I work with a team. Sometimes we preach expositionally through a Bible book, a topical series of several weeks, or a Bible character study. Everyone on the team gives input and creative ideas with the goal of teaching for greater impact and life change. We have scheduled times each week for critique of the previous Sunday’s teacher and sermon. In every case, the series, sermon, and preacher are better because of the team.
It helps refresh the lead pastor.
I remember the days of preaching every Sunday morning and evening and Wednesday evening, and even planning my vacations around Sundays. Now I preach 60% of the Sundays and the other 40% are shared with two teaching pastors on staff. For years I felt like the church could not function well without my presence. Now I see some of the greatest movements of God happen when others on the team are preaching. God can use them too, while I’m taking a break. It’s a win-win!