August was an exciting month for me. For the first time, I preached five Sundays in a row! I had prayed through the series for over a month, and I felt called to lead my congregation through the book of Ruth. (For those who immediately know that Ruth only has four chapters, I split chapter four into two weeks.)
I planned the music and led the new songs we were teaching.
I wrote the calls to worship.
I tweaked the service, even taking away the bulletin for four weeks.
I prepared creative readings of the scripture, incorporating different voices to represent Ruth, Naomi, Boaz, and other characters in the weekly reading.
And of course, I created the sermons.
I received mind-blowing feedback and a lot of congregational support.
People were energized and excited.
They talked about the service throughout the week and continued to be challenged by it.
The entire month was exhilarating!
But it was also something else.
There was another feeling that I couldn’t quite identify.
Yes, I was exhausted, but it wasn’t that.
This feeling lingered in the shadows of my mind and settled into the pit of my stomach.
It took awhile, but I finally figured it out.
I was lonely.
I loved creating the service, and I incorporated different voices through new songs, calls to worship (one by reading a poem by Maya Angelou), worship leaders, and scripture readers.
But no matter how many voices I added to the service, there was always one that spoke louder than everyone else’s.
Because I was the one who chose the song that I thought best represented the theme.
I was the one who divided the scripture readings and assigned the parts – and recruited the readers!
I was the one who wrote the calls to worship.
I was the one who delivered the sermon.
I was the one who prayed to God and discerned what message He wanted me to deliver to His people.
The flow was mine.
At the end of the month, I was lonely.
I missed collaboration.
I missed preparing in community.
And I couldn’t help but wonder if this is how other pastors feel every. single. week.
It was then that I had my “AH HA!” moment.
I have been working with a new program at Northern Seminary called A New Kind of Preacher (NKP). The focus: collaboration.
AH HA! This was the whole point of the program! To support and encourage pastors so that they don’t have to feel lonely and exhausted every single week! To provide a space for renewal so that they don’t have to settle for mediocre sermons. To provide an opportunity to build on the strong foundation they have with years of preaching experience and move it to another level.
I loved the program when I first started with it: the fresh ideas, the energy, the leadership of Dr. Michael Quicke. But now, after my August epiphany, I not only loved the program – I yearned for it.
I think others yearn, too. And if you are one of them, then we invite you to take a step away from loneliness and isolated sermon preparation, and take a step towards collaboration and becoming a new kind of preacher.