Dear Addie,

What advice would you give to a female minister who is preaching one of her first sermons in front of a sizable congregation? I took preaching class years ago in seminary but have had few chances to exercise those skills, perhaps in part because I am a woman and because I have not served on a church staff. Any advice would be welcomed!

Rookie Preacher

Dear R.P.,

Thanks be to God for the congregation that has extended you this invitation to preach! You are likely experiencing a range of emotions as you anticipate the big day—from gratitude to excitement to trepidation. Although seminary preaching classes can be invaluable in helping students to develop their homiletical skills, the experience of preaching in a worship service in a local church is markedly different than delivering a sermon in a preaching lab.

This should go without saying, but be prepared. Every preacher has her own distinct way of approaching the task of writing a sermon, but for those who lack experience, extra time and effort is necessary. Prayerfully meditate on the text. What is God saying to you through the sacred story? Talk about the passage with friends—what is God stirring up within them as they contemplate the text? Utilize commentaries. Write a draft, edit the draft, practice preaching the draft, then edit the sermon again and practice preaching again. Thorough preparation can help a novice preacher feel more confident.

Visualize the day when you will preach. What will you need to do that morning—and the day before—to be at your best? Take care of your body, mind, and spirit. You will likely feel nervous – such feelings go with the territory. What you can do to minimize that anxiety? What will calm you? What will help you to feel more confident?

Carefully consider what you will wear when you preach. Will you be wearing a robe? Will you be seated on a platform? Is the service televised? Will close ups of you be projected on large screens? Female preachers face intense scrutiny about their appearance. If you have questions about what to wear, seek the advice of an experienced female preacher.

Finally, as you anticipate the big day, remember: you are not alone. The God who called and equipped you will be with you every step of the way—as you meditate on the text, as you craft your sermon, as you prepare to preach, and as you share your sermon in worship. As you preach, you will be a conduit for God, delivering a message that will fall uniquely on the ears of each listener. Trust that God will work in you and through you as you preach. “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11).



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*The photo of Addie Davis is provided courtesy of Special Collections, Jack Tarver Library, Mercer University, Macon, Georgia.