The single most effective way to improve your preaching is through a sermon evaluation and critique, yet for many pastors, this is not a priority.
There are two main reasons why pastors don’t get great critical feedback on their sermons.
First, many pastors don’t believe they need input on how to be a better preacher.
When a pastor preaches, we know the material in our mind. We see the logic and flow of our sermons. We think our jokes are funnier than they probably are. It is easy to have a higher regard for our preaching than everyone else does. We don’t believe the people around us are positioned to give any valuable input.
As much as this first reason is true, it’s actually probably not as common as the second.
The second reason pastors don’t get critical feedback is because they don’t know who to ask.
Yes, there are plenty of people you could ask but opening yourself up to critique is difficult for anyone. If you’re going to give the green light for someone to evaluate your preaching, you want it to be someone who understands the bigger picture, and sometimes finding those people seems to be a challenge.
We put an enormous effort into preparing a message, and then we have to get up on stage and present the message in an articulate, funny, and compelling way to a diverse audience. So few people know how much work goes into a sermon, yet they find no difficulty finding ways to criticize and critique.
When a pastor is open to critique and then willing to seek out professional sermon ‘hearers’ (these are people who have listened to thousands of sermons over the years, sitting in your congregation today) you have the two most important elements needed to get valuable sermon evaluation and ultimately tips for improving your preaching.
Why Do Sermon Evaluations Matter
Whoever you are, whatever size your church is, you must constantly evaluate and find ways to grow.
A healthy approach to growth is acknowledging God has given you a unique position. He has charged you with teaching people how to interpret His word, telling people what the Bible says and how to apply it to their lives. You may be preaching to teenagers in your congregation and one message you preach may stick with them for decades to come. In the same service, you’ll have seniors who may only have a couple of handfuls of years left and that same message can help prepare them to leave a strong legacy.
Preaching and pastoring is a heavy burden, yet, a calling that can impact the masses. Make sure to steward well.
We’ve seen pastors that are all fluff and overly creative, which can make us shy away from creative speaking. But, Jesus was a very creative speaker. Look at his parables, which are so rich with wisdom and creativity. There is nothing bad about being creative or wanting to be a better communicator so that your audience pays attention to your message and stays engaged. You can get unhealthy in that focus, but if God is giving you this charge, why not steward it well?
Sermon Evaluation Form
Whether you feel like you are a good communicator or not, there are always growth opportunities for better preaching. Receiving regular critique and constructive feedback is vital if you want to grow.
One of the most effective ways of receiving consistent and constructive feedback is through a sermon evaluation form. If you don’t have one you like and are already using, we have provided a link to a free form in the resources section below.
When utilizing the form and giving instruction to your evaluation team, make it clear that they must provide several pieces of critical feedback. Returning a form that says “Everything was great!” is not an option.
A sermon evaluation should ask four main questions:
- Was it biblical?
- Was it clear?
- Was it interesting?
- Was it relevant and practical?
Who Should Be on An Evaluation Team?
It takes a specific personality type to give a sermon evaluation that results in better preaching.
Some people will be too nice and offer little to no input, and some will believe they know all of the answers on how to be a better preacher, and their critique will just throw you off course.
To build your team, select three or four regular attenders that you believe will critique in love. When completing the sermon evaluation form, they must be in the audience while you are giving the message from beginning to end. It is a different experience to view the online live stream or on YouTube after the fact.
Select a diverse group of people, a teen, a theologian, and someone that meets the “average attendee” criteria from your church demographics.
You can also invite a friend you trust, knowing they may say something that could wound you or hurt your ego. But, you are communicating the gospel to people who may have never heard it. Your sermons could be what convicts a teen to pursue ministry as a career path.
A little ego bruising is undoubtedly worth it.
Preaching is a great responsibility and burden, so it is incumbent upon us as presenters of the gospel to ensure we do our best to improve and grow as communicators.
“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”
— Proverbs 27:6
How Often Should You Do Sermon Evaluations?
You don’t have to do sermon evaluation forms every single Sunday. You can, but some people aren’t wired for that. You do need to have seasons of inspection and evaluation. Commit to 8 weeks in a row with the same small group of people asking them:
- Am I clear?
- Am I getting the point across?
- Did you understand the illustrations?
- Did everything work together?
It is important to know that feedback regarding “how to preach a sermon” from people who have likely never preached a sermon is not going to feel great, but it will help make you a better preacher.
Evaluating the Feedback
When evaluating the feedback, pay close attention to the input that aligns with the reviewer’s “expertise.” For instance, more attention should be given to the theologian when they discuss the message’s theology. When looking for feedback on clarity, pay more attention to the “average person.” The theologian may be able to follow the message well, but can the average person?
When instructing your evaluation team, frame it to the group that you are not asking them to stroke your ego and say how great the preaching is, nor are you looking to be beaten up every week. But, through their feedback, you want the gospel message preached on the stage every week to be more transparent, more compelling, and more potent than it has ever been in the history of your church. This team is going to help make that happen.
Your spouse can be helpful to you in sifting through the feedback and distilling what is a valuable and accurate critique and what might not be as important to obsess about.
If you are serious about preaching the gospel clearly and compellingly and you want to strive for better preaching continually, then:
- Download the sermon evaluation form
- Find a way to use it
- Be open to the feedback
According to Pew Research, nearly 90% of people will choose a church based on pastor’s preaching. We don’t want to obsess about that, but we must be aware that people will return if the message is great, compelling, and impacts their hearts. You don’t have to strive to be another Andy Stanley or Rick Warren; you just have to want to be a better version of yourself.
It is a disservice to ourselves, our church, and our community if we don’t have intentional growth as communicators.
- Sermon evaluations don’t have to be weekly, but you should have consistent seasons.
- Evaluations must be done by someone physically present in the audience from beginning to end.
- Use the form. Start all your evaluation team members on the same playing field and direct them toward the type of feedback you are looking for.
However long you have been preaching, there is always room for growth. Be intentional in taking steps to grow as a communicator in reverence for the subject you teach – the gospel. Communicate with passion and understanding.
How to Improve Your Preaching from Hello Church! Podcast
Get the free Sermon Evaluation Form