Held every February since 2007, Baptist Women in Ministry’s Month of Preaching emphasis has a long track record of facilitating opportunities for women to preach, helping congregations to be regularly exposed to women’s voices and leadership, and providing an occasion around which churches can stand in solidarity in their support of women in ministry.
This February, in the midst of the ongoing effects of the pandemic, we are again encouraging congregations to participate in BWIM Month of Preaching. And if your congregation is still holding virtual worship, your involvement may even be easier than before.
In light of potential virtual participation in BWIM Month of Preaching, I’m offering some suggestions here for congregations who are holding virtual worship services to consider. Additionally, in recognition of the fact that some women participating in the emphasis may be exercising and exploring new gifts, I also provide helpful tips for women who are preaching virtually for the first time, as well as for those who might be preaching their very first sermon in any format.
Suggestions For Congregations
- If you have regularly invited a woman to preach in-person as participation in BWIM Month of Preaching, you have likely been limited by inviting a woman who either lives in your community or within driving distance. Perhaps this February you might consider inviting a woman who lives a greater distance away to record a sermon for your virtual worship service. One possibility would be to contact a seminary for a recommendation. They will likely have multiple students or recent alumni who they would love to recommend. Seminary students are always in need of opportunities to explore their callings and exercise the gifts and skills they are learning in the classroom.
- If your congregation has never participated in BWIM Month of Preaching, or never had a woman preach, this is an opportunity to make a “big ask.” If you feel your congregation would benefit most from having its first experience of hearing a woman preach by asking a more experienced preacher, allowing someone to record a sermon means you can ask someone who regularly preaches in another congregation or someone who you might have thought was “un-gettable” because she would never travel to your town.
- If you are inviting a woman to record a sermon for your virtual worship, don’t skimp on the honorarium. It still takes time to write and record a sermon whether it is in-person or not. Providing an honorarium demonstrates your appreciation of her time and your commitment to elevating the voices of women.
- BWIM has multiple resources which you can use in your virtual worship service as a part of your participation. We have created a short video that you can download HERE and edit into your service to help your congregation connect with the broad reach of the emphasis to churches throughout Baptist life. We also have bulletin inserts which provide information that you can utilize in a digital format for your electronic orders of worship or newsletters HERE. You might also consider asking a woman to virtually lead congregational singing, and sing a hymn that is linked in BWIM’s resources like, “God of the Women,” which is sung to the tune of “Be Thou My Vision.”
Helpful Tips for First-Time Virtual Preachers
- If you have never recorded a sermon to be used in congregational worship, don’t be afraid to record your sermon multiple times if you feel like you messed up. Also, be sure to watch the entire sermon from beginning to end when you are finished. Sometimes you catch things that appear in your background which you didn’t notice, or you find you made a gesture or had a slip-of-the-tongue which was less than ideal. Recording sermons is a great opportunity to eliminate those issues. But do know that there is a time to stop re-recording—it will likely never be perfect and probably would feel unnatural if it was.
- One of the challenges of preaching a sermon that is recorded is not having any real-time feedback from people. If this is a struggle for you, you could consider having a few people in the room while you record or even recording your sermon on zoom with a few friends in the virtual room.
- If you are recording in “selfie” mode, or using a camera where you can see yourself in the video as you are recording, be sure to look at the camera lens (or little green dot on an iphone) and not at yourself. Connecting with the camera is the way you connect with the congregation.
- If you are a manuscript preacher, practice looking up and making sure your eyes hit the camera lens as often as possible. Another option is to invest in a cheap teleprompter (I’m told there are inexpensive options that connect to your smartphone). Again, connecting with the camera is important.
- Remember that people have shorter attention spans with video than they do in person, and some styles of preaching that connect well in-person get lost in translation on video.
- If you are recording on your phone, a small tripod is a worthy (and cheap) investment so you can have steady video and increase the options of locations where you can choose to record.
- Be thoughtful about the background of your video. If a church building is available to you, then recording there is ideal. But other backgrounds, like an office or quiet room in your home where you can curate the setting, are great too. Your background should convey a tone that is respectful of the role of the sermon in worship, and should also not be distracting. Wherever you choose to record, be sure it is a space where you can control background noise and no one will walk in and interrupt your recording.
- If you have never preached in-person before, practice your sermon in front of a few people before recording and get some feedback from them. This is a great opportunity to learn and grow as a preacher if you are willing to invite others into your journey.
*Thanks to Rev. Ellen Di Giosia, Pastor of First Baptist Church, Jefferson City, TN for some of these great tips.
It is our hope that more women and more churches will have the opportunity to participate in BWIM Month of Preaching this February due to the options that virtual worship provides. And if February doesn’t work well for your worship planning, know that we would love to include your participation whenever it happens.
But whether your participation is in February or another month, and whether your preacher is in-person or virtual, know that by joining in BWIM Month of Preaching you are encouraging women who are called by God, and you are making a difference for a congregation by elevating women’s voices, ministry, and leadership in the church.
Meredith Stone is executive director at Baptist Women in Ministry.