Dear Addie,

I am serving in a short-term mission position in a Spanish-speaking country, and I have been asked to preach. Since my Spanish is muy poco, the church will provide a translator, but I have never preached with a translator. Help!

Can I Learn Spanish Before Sunday?


Dear C.I.L.S.B.S,

What a great opportunity for you! Preaching the gospel cross-culturally always presents challenges, and preaching with a translator has its own whole set of challenges. It can add a new level of anxiety when standing in the pulpit. So a few words of advice.

Ask your translator for input! Ask what tends to work in that context. Ask how long your sermon should be, and remember your words are being said twice so keep your sermon shorter than usual. Get feedback as early as you can, and adjust your sermon and delivery to best meet the needs of your listeners.

Preach what you know. Use a text or even a sermon you have used before. You will have more time to rehearse your delivery if you aren’t consumed by the task of writing a brand new sermon.

Divide your sermon into short paragraphs of two or three short sentences each. This brevity will be a gift to your translator, who should not be expected to remember a long, complicated series of sentences.

Provide your sermon manuscript to your translator—preferably a day or two before the service. Allowing your translator time to become familiar with your sermon will make the interaction between the two of you a much smoother experience.

Rehearse! Practice your words. Practice the pauses! See if you can establish some rhythm as you practice.

Use eye contact. When you are standing quietly as the translator speaks, look at the people sitting in front of you. Don’t stare down at your manuscript or glance awkwardly at the translator. Engage your listeners by looking at them and getting a sense of their reaction to your words.

Remember to breathe! And relax as much as you can. Try not to be stiff and wooden.

And most importantly, pray. Ask the spirit to speak through you and through your translator and trust that the gospel will be communicated clearly to all who listen.

Blessings on you in this new adventure.