My Preaching Schedule

I guess preaching is in my blood, like it or not.

I didn’t follow my father and grandfather into the ministry, but I recently realized that I have a regular preaching schedule. Twice a month, I deliver a “Scoutmaster Minute”, a traditional homily given at the end of a Boy Scout troop meeting. We gather in a circle, and I have a minute (or two or three) to say something meaningful and memorable.

My “parish” is this Scout troop, and the boys are in my care for a number of evenings and weekends each year, so I need to connect in those few minutes.

My father is an excellent preacher and a student of the art, so I’m not completely ignorant. Still, knowing and doing are separate things, and I’m still learning to practice what my father preached.

The ancient (and boring) formula is “tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em, tell ’em, and tell ’em what you told ’em.” You might be able to get all that into a twenty minute sermon, but it is a bit much for a minute or three.

My father’s preferred approach, learned from Reuel Howe at the Institute of Advanced Pastoral Studies (how do I remember these details?), is more work, but more rewarding — take something from scripture, something from life, and relate the two.

Scouting doesn’t have Scripture, and Baden-Powell was a bit of a free-thinker and pacifist for the current crowd at BSA National, but I keep my eye out for authoritative bits of outdoor lore.

I also pay extra attention to my own life and my own memories. What have I done that is an example, good or bad? What matters this week for this troop?

Somehow, I picked up a few useful sermon-writing habits from my father — always carry a book, make notes, practice your stories and listen to other’s stories. Start with a rich pile of material (Gerry Weinberg’s fieldstone method), but also learn how to make a “good parts version” of that material. A great storyteller can spin a long yarn (Utah Phillips’ “Moose Turd Pie”) but I’m more comfortable with short and sweet.

I’ve started posting my Scoutmaster Minutes; the first two are Steve Irwin and Take the Bruised Apple.

These look very short when written down, but the second one is about a minute and a half when spoken, and felt pretty long in the meeting. Steve Irwin comes in right around thirty seconds and was very effective. I find this an interesting thing to get better at.

I haven’t had a problem finding a core, some quote or experience, but my first few minutes just petered out at the end. The two that are posted are after I started working on the close. What should I work on next?


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