By Scott McKee
As a pastor it is my daunting privilege to regularly stand before our congregation to bring “a word of the Lord” from the scriptures. I love the challenge of studying the biblical text and the craft of creating sermons that proclaim, edify, challenge, or comfort. However, I also know my limitations. I care about our congregation and want the best for them. I strongly believe that what is best for our church is a teaching team approach in which several preachers collaboratively plan, but each member of the team provides a unique voice.
Gone are the days when one preacher preached every Sunday except Memorial Day weekend, Labor Day weekend, and the dreaded Sunday after Christmas. When I was in seminary those dates were widely regarded as “Assistant Pastor Sundays.” Instead, we are seeing churches across America embrace a preaching team that includes multiple gifted preachers.
- Better sermon preparation
Preaching is hard. I am not complaining. I love the research and planning. The bar is high for sermons, and it should be. Our congregation wants and deserves sermons that are biblical, relevant, helpful, engaging, and under 30-minutes long. (I don’t think preachers get enough credit for that last part. Hitting the time limit is a heroic feat in itself.) Many preachers have observed that Sundays come with grueling regularity. Sharing the preaching with a team provides more time for preparation and recovery and creates sustainable rhythms for team members.
- Focus on other roles
Preaching may be the most visible part of what I do as a pastor, but it still just part of what I do. I lead staff and elders. I provide spiritual counsel for church members. I plan activities. I set direction. The leadership challenge in today’s Church is enormous and can’t be neglected. On weeks when I am “off” from preaching I find I am a better leader and shepherd. I have more mental space to think about the direction of our church. I have more emotional space to thank key staff members and volunteers. I notice more, care more, and respond more. I am even a better husband and father on my “off” weeks. The preaching task is weighty and wonderful. It is creative and consuming. It can easily crowd out other roles that belong to the pastor.
- A different voice
A team approach allows the congregation to hear from multiple voices, points of views, life experiences, and life phases. A one-preacher church is bound by that preacher’s perspectives, limitations, and biases. I want our diverse congregation to learn from a diverse teaching team to grasp the breadth of life in God’s kingdom.
- Less reliance on one person
Sharing the platform guards against creating a ministry that is centered around one person. Churches that are dominated by one personality have the greatest difficulty in times of pastoral transition. A team-oriented church can not only survive but thrive during change. Teams provide stability and safety in a changing world.
- Development of newer preachers
Team teaching identifies, grows, and expands the gifts and abilities of others who have the gift of teaching and preaching. It allows other gifted teachers to develop as communicators which builds the church and expands the Kingdom.
While I am a big fan of team teaching, I do believe that for most churches the senior/lead pastor should be the primary teacher. That is, the senior pastor should preach the majority of Sundays. There are exceptions to this rule of thumb based on the gifting of the senior pastor and the size and complexity of the church, but in most cases it makes the most sense for the primary leader/shepherd to also be the primary communicator. I preach about 36 Sundays a year (which is 70 percent of the preaching assignments), but I know lead pastors of large churches that preach 50 percent of the Sundays and devote more of their time to leadership and discipleship.
Team teaching works for churches of all sizes. Smaller churches can develop elders and lay preachers, arrange pulpit exchanges with other churches, and utilize guest speakers. The key is to plan strategically so that your preaching calendar includes diverse teachers who can bring the required time and energy to the faithful preaching of the word.
I am grateful for the teaching teams I have had the chance to be part of over the years and for the team I am a part of now! I am grateful for the grace and freedom I have been given to be who God made me to be. I am grateful for the ways the teaching of other team members has challenged me personally. A team approach is a steady reminder to our congregation and to me that this mission is bigger than any one person and the kingdom of God is wider than any one personality.