Tag Archives: preaching

Design Your Own Preacher Camp — A Re-reprise

Photo: Meg Peery McLaughlin

Photo: Meg Peery McLaughlinIt’s become a tradition now, to re-post this piece as I prepare to head to preacher camp. Some of the details are different now [see brackets] but the basic idea is the same.

Are you a preacher? Get yourself a preacher camp:

~

I leave on Sunday for my yearly meeting with a group of clergy that calls itself “The Well.” (The story of how we ended up with that name is a post in itself. Suffice to say that the Hebrew word, ha-beer, had something to do with it.)

We patterned ourselves after a group of hoity-toity pastors that have been meeting together for something like 25 years. I think there are other groups like ours too. This is our [sixth] year to meet, and here’s how it works:

We are each assigned two Sundays in the upcoming lectionary year, and for each of those Sundays, we are responsible for writing and presenting an exegetical paper. These papers analyze the text and typically provide 2-3 sermon “trajectories.” There are currently [18] people in our group, which means we leave with a head start on 36 weeks of preaching.

People have said to me, “Aww, I wish I had a group like that.” I always tell them, “Just do it!” It’s really not that complicated to put a group together. I would love to see these groups propagate. So to encourage people to give this a try, I thought I would write down a few things we did to get started or keep going. I think most of this is taken from the hoity-toity group, so no claims at originality.

1. Start with a core and invite. Our group began with a few seminary friends kicking around the idea of a yearly lectionary study group. Once this core group was locked in, each of us invited another person. If you still need more, have the invitee invite someone else. That casts the net wider. Decide what kind of denominational/regional/theological/seminary diversity you want, or don’t want.

2. Have a covenant. We were advised to set the expectation: if you don’t have your papers done, you don’t come. That sounds harsh, but the integrity of the group depends on everyone doing the work. We have granted exceptions for truly dire situations—in those cases, the folks brought one paper instead of two.

3. Have a “dues guy.” We charge dues for basic operations of The Well—this is collected ahead of time by one of our members and kept in an account through the church he serves. Dues might pay for a few lunches, a dinner or two, evening snacks and drinks, etc. We use a sliding scale based on how big people’s continuing education budgets are, but it’s somewhere between $100-$200. Then each person is responsible for their travel expenses plus accommodations.

4. Divide the jobs and respect the royalty. We start with a short worship every morning, and someone new handles that each year. Another person draws names out of a hat to figure out who’s assigned to which date in the lectionary year. We make these determinations about 9 months ahead of time so people have time to write the papers (though I assure you, there is plenty of cramming going on as we speak). We also take turns “hosting” the event. That doesn’t mean it necessarily takes place in that person’s city, but one person is in charge of securing lodging (we like B&Bs), a place to meet (a local church, perhaps) and also moderates any discussion that needs to take place in between meetings (via e-mail). We’ve taken to calling that person the King or Queen, because they are “the decider” for that year. We have a lot of type A people in our group (if I ever write a book about our group it will be called “Too Many Alphas”) so it’s good to have someone in charge.

5. Use Dropbox. We’ve tried a number of things in terms of paper collection and distribution. We used to bring copies of our own papers for everyone, but lots of us preferred electronic copies for various technical and environmental reasons. Now we upload our papers to Dropbox so people can download them onto their laptop and/or print them, if they’re a scribbling type. We make them due two days, and if you miss the deadline, you are responsible for bringing copies of your own paper for everyone.

6. Schedule for the week: We do [35] minutes per paper. The person reads the text, reads the paper, and then the discussion begins. Someone watches the time so we stay on schedule. In the past, we’ve had a block of time with a scholar or pastor to talk shop, and we even try to schedule a free afternoon. Heaven.

7. Leave evenings free. I’ve heard that the hoity-toities do papers into the evening, and honestly, I don’t know how they do it—by the time we finish for the day, I’m fried. Guess that’s why they’re hoity-toity. [I have since learned that's not correct---they are mortal like the rest of us!] Our group likes to have a leisurely dinner, then hang out late into the night. We also started a yearly competition, with a trophy awarded to the person with the most outrageous ministry story. And yes, there’s an actual trophy.

So, there it is. The Well is one of the best things I do as a clergy person and one of my happiest weeks of the year. And I say that despite the fact that I preach the lectionary less than half the time. The scripture study is awesome and stimulating, and of course, spending time with other people who “get it” and with whom you can be real is HUGE. I think I laugh more that week than I do the rest of the year.

Note: Friday Link Love will be back in two weeks.

Design Your Own Preacher Camp: A Reprise

I’m off today to Preacher Camp in Montreat so I thought I’d re-run my post about how our group got started, hopefully to inspire others

A couple of things have changed since I wrote this, but the basic gist is the same.

Get yourself a Preacher Camp. You’ll be glad you did.

- – - – - – - – -

I leave on Sunday for my yearly meeting with a group of clergy that calls itself “The Well.” (The story of how we ended up with that name is a post in itself.)

We patterned ourselves after a group of hoity-toity pastors that have been meeting together for something like 25 years. I think there are other groups like ours too. This is our fourth year to meet, and here’s how it works:

We are each assigned two Sundays in the upcoming lectionary year, and for each of those Sundays, we are responsible for writing and presenting an exegetical paper. These papers analyze the text and typically provide 2-3 sermon “trajectories.” There are currently 15 people in our group, which means we leave with a head start on 30 weeks of preaching. From time to time we think about adding members, but haven’t figured out how to do so without cutting into evening free time, something we are not willing to do.

People have said to me, “Aww, I wish I had a group like that.” I always tell them, “Just do it!” It’s really not that complicated to put a group together. I would love to see these groups propagate. So to encourage people to give this a try, I thought I would write down a few things we did to get started or keep going. I think most of this is taken from the hoity-toity group, so no claims at originality.

1. Start with a core and invite. Our group began with a few seminary friends kicking around the idea of a yearly lectionary study group. Once this core group was locked in, each of us invited another person. If you still need more, have the invitee invite someone else. That casts the net wider. Decide what kind of denominational/ regional/ theological/ seminary diversity you want, or don’t want.

2. Have a covenant. We were advised to set the expectation: if you don’t have your papers done, you don’t come. That sounds harsh, but the integrity of the group depends on everyone doing the work. We have granted exceptions for truly dire situations—in those cases, the folks brought one paper instead of two. Nobody has arrived empty handed.

3. Have a “dues guy.” We charge dues for basic operations of The Well—this is collected ahead of time by one of our members and kept in an account through the church he serves. Dues might pay for a few lunches, a dinner or two, evening snacks and drinks, etc. We use a sliding scale based on how big people’s continuing education budgets are, but it’s somewhere between $100-$200. Then each person is responsible for their travel expenses plus accommodations.

4. Divide the jobs and respect the royalty. We start with a short worship every morning, and someone new handles that each year. Another person draws names out of a hat to figure out who’s assigned to which date in the lectionary year. We make these determinations about 9 months ahead of time so people have time to write the papers (though I assure you, there is plenty of cramming going on as we speak). We also take turns “hosting” the event. That doesn’t mean it necessarily takes place in that person’s city, but one person is in charge of securing lodging (we like B&Bs), a place to meet (a local church, perhaps) and also moderates any discussion that needs to take place in between meetings (via e-mail). We’ve taken to calling that person the King or Queen, because they are “the decider” for that year. We have a lot of type A people in our group (if I ever write a book about our group it will be called “Too Many Alphas”) so it’s good to have someone in charge.

5. Use Dropbox. We’ve tried a number of things in terms of paper collection and distribution. We used to bring copies of our own papers for everyone, but lots of us preferred electronic copies for various technical and environmental reasons. This year we’re uploading our papers to Dropbox so people can download them onto their laptop and/or print them, if they’re a scribbling type. We make them due by Saturday morning before we leave, and if you miss the deadline, you are responsible for bringing copies of your own paper for everyone.

6. Schedule for the week: We do 40 minutes per paper. The person reads the text, reads the paper, and then the discussion begins. Someone watches the time so we stay on schedule. In the past, we’ve had a block of time with a scholar or pastor to talk shop, and this year we even have a free afternoon. Heaven.

7. Leave evenings free. I’ve heard that the hoity-toities do papers into the evening, and honestly, I don’t know how they do it—by the time we finish for the day, I’m fried. Guess that’s why they’re hoity-toity. Our group likes to have a leisurely dinner, then hang out late into the night. We also started a yearly competition, with a trophy awarded to the person with the most outrageous ministry story. And yes, there’s an actual trophy.

So, there it is. The Well is one of the best things I do as a clergy person and one of my happiest weeks of the year. And I say that despite the fact that I preach the lectionary less than half the time. The scripture study is awesome and stimulating, and of course, spending time with other people who “get it” and with whom you can be real is HUGE. I think I laugh more that week than I do the rest of the year.

Feasting Giveaway: We Have a Winner!

I’ve enjoyed reading all the nominations of people to receive the Feasting on the Word set. It made me wish I had copies to give to everyone… for everyone seemed to be doing great ministry and would have made good use of the series. (Hint, hint, to friends of mine who have the series but plan to buy the CD-ROM…)

I basically wrote down every nomination I received via comments, twitter and gmail, and assigned each nomination a number (people who were nominated several times were listed multiple times). Then I used a random number generator to pick one of these people.

The winner is…Catherine Foster!!!!

Catherine was not only nominated by several people, she also counter-nominated one of her own nominators (so he got listed twice too). Which is lovely and gracious in my humble opinion.

Catherine, contact me at reverendmother03 (at) gmail (dot) com and we’ll make arrangements.

I was also touched to receive an e-mail from a reader, offering to pay shipping. How lovely.

Life is beautiful.

When Life Gives You Hardback Lemons, Turn Them Into CD-ROM Lemonade.

Several years ago, the good folks at Westminster/John Knox Press announced a new set of biblical commentaries, a series of twelve volumes on Revised Common Lectionary texts. It is called Feasting on the Word, and it is a massive undertaking. There are four short articles for every scripture text in the lectionary. With four texts per Sunday to choose from and three years in the lectionary cycle, that amounts to some 2,500 articles in all, if my math is right. Read more about the series here.

My first question upon hearing about this series, lo these many years ago, was, “No CD-ROM edition? Ex-squeeze me?” Alas, it appeared not. And the publishers appeared to be proudly “of the book,” writing in their promotional materials, “We offer this print resource for the mainline church in full recognition that we do so in the digital age of the emerging church.” Which, to be honest, I found a bit irritating. Was this some kind of line in the sand? I do not like lugging books around. It is so mid-Gutenberg-era, no? What I DO like is writing sermons in St. Arbucks and especially Panera, which my friend Michael says is Latin for “sermon birthing room.”

But, Feasting is a great resource for lectionary preachers and still well worth having, even in its less ideal (for me) format. So, thanks to a nice discount for contributors, I made the investment.

You know where this is going.

It’s 2011 now, and guess what “proud to be hardbound” series is now available in CD-ROM?
Now that all twelve volumes are sitting on my shelf?

Grr.

I am choosing to believe that WJK changed their minds about CD-ROM after a groundswell of requests, rather than believing that they had a super secret plan all along to be coy about the CD-ROM, get people to buy the books and only then spring the (searchable and in many ways superior) CD-ROM format on us.

Still, Grr.

After I vented to Robert about this for a moment, I thought, “How can this annoyance become redemptive?” The CD-ROM is way more useful to me and how I work, and I have the book allowance to make it happen, thanks again to a contributor discount that puts it within reach. But I don’t need both the CD and the books… and some people out there might prefer books, but can’t afford the series.

SO!

I am giving away my 12-volume Feasting on the Word hardbound commentary.

Between now and Friday, I am taking nominations for worthy recipients. Tell me why you or a friend should be the recipient of this series (which I will ship, book-rate, anywhere in the continental US at no cost to you). New pastor? Recent seminary graduate? Off to serve a small church with minimal resources and not much of a theological library? Tell me why you’re the one.

Leave your nomination in the comments, or if you’d rather keep it private, e-mail it to reverendmother03 (at) gmail (dot) com. Nominations are due at 5 p.m. EDT Friday, May 27.

Friday Link Love

Some stuff I’ve been captivated by this week:

Mars Hill — Broken Bottles

As I indicated a post or two ago, I adore Rob Bell. He’s one of my pastors, truly. And I listen to him and feel very sad that my little old Tiny Church is stuck with yours truly ever week… OK, not really. But really. This recent teaching of his on Ecclesiastes was one of the best I’ve heard by him. Recent teachings are only available for free for a limited time, so check it out soon.

Can a Fake Smile Be Bad for Your Health?

The scientists examined what happened when the drivers engaged in fake smiling, known as “surface acting,” and its opposite, “deep acting,” where they generated authentic smiles through positive thoughts, said an author of the study, Brent Scott, an assistant professor of management at Michigan State University.

After following the drivers closely, the researchers found that on days when the smiles were forced, the subjects’ moods deteriorated and they tended to withdraw from work. Trying to suppress negative thoughts, it turns out, may have made those thoughts even more persistent.

But on days when the subjects tried to display smiles through deeper efforts — by actually cultivating pleasant thoughts and memories — their overall moods improved and their productivity increased.

See, I had always heard that behavior can modify emotions, that acting a certain way in practice can help bring about that mood internally. So if you want to be happy, act happy. This seems to add a little nuance to that. There’s something in here that relates to authenticity too, I think.

Organizing Secrets from a Manhattan Design Guru

This is a decent enough article about being organized, but what I really loved was this line:

Staying organized is like gardening. You’re constantly weeding; it’s part of your routine.

I genuinely enjoy being organized and having a sense of order in my home, which is admittedly not fancy (and not perfect), but there is a place for everything and I try not to let it go too long before returning things to their proper spots. I’ve often felt bad about this though, like the truly creative people thrive on chaos, and neat freaks are just people who don’t have enough to occupy their time. (Where do I get such bizarre notions?!??) Hearing organizational efforts compared to gardening, which is a discipline that brings beauty to the world, was very freeing for me.

Parents Magazine: Twenty-five Manners Every Kid Should Know

I caught this in the print edition at the hairdresser’s and thought it was a pretty good list of etiquette for kids… warning, link is in slide-show format which I find annoying. Still, good stuff and we have some things to work on.

Come Along for a Ride into Space

A lovely six-minute video:

Cinematographer Luke Geissbühler and his 5-year-old son Max made a homemade spacecraft out of a Thai food takeout container and a weather balloon, and outfitted it with an HD video camera and an iPhone. Last August, they sent it into space.

“The mission was…was send it up into the upper stratosphere to film the blackness beyond the earth…Eventually, the balloon will grow from lack of atmospheric pressure, burst, and begin to fall…It would have to survive 100 MPH winds, temperature of 60 degrees below zero, speeds of over a 150 mph, and the high risk of a water landing….To retrieve the craft, it would need to deploy a parachute, descend through the clouds and transmit a GPS coordinate to a cell phone tower….Then we have to find it.”

And finally, tonight is the National Day of Unplugging. We are So There. Hope you’ll participate too.