When Training Is Spurned?

I received this comment a few days ago from a reader of this site:

How do you convince a man who fights against every opportunity placed in his way that he needs, that he requires, further training in preaching?

Answer that and I’ll be grateful! I know the need, but a lay-reader in my congregation has no concept that he does. Short of removing him from preaching there is beginning to seem little else that can be done to get this need through to him – and the reality that this must come before anything else. Excuses to avoid the training come thick and fast from him – and most make no sense anyway!

If we could answer that question, many of us would be grateful.  Recently I was co-leading a preaching course in a city.  Four years of preparation had gone into that event (not from me, I came in at the last minute).  It was a great success, but the big church pastors of the city felt that they did not need it, they were above what we were offering.  This greatly disappointed the organizers who strongly insist that those pastors do need the training that was given!  What to do?

I suppose training in preaching is not dissimilar to preaching itself.  You cannot force it on people.  Even if they are coerced into being present, they need to want to hear it.  In preaching that is why we must work so hard on our introduction in order to motivate the listeners to care about the message – we rub salt on their tongues to make them thirsty for God’s Word.  In the same way, we need to carefully consider winsome ways to motivate people to be open and receptive to training.  Forcing attendance will not work.

This post is not a definitive answer to the question, but I hope it could be the start of a conversation.  What will motivate the resistant to participate in preaching training?  What barriers must be overcome?  For instance:

Pride is a barrier – so we must be careful not to give the impression that we have it all together and they don’t.  Sharing the joy of learning and demonstrating that you’re a learner can motivate others to join the joyful journey of lifelong learning.

Insecurity is a barrier – I constantly observe how insecurity and pride go hand in hand.  The resistant may feel deeply insecure and scared of opening up to input that will shine light on their inadequacies.  Again, humility on our part, as well as a generous dose of encouragement might help (it’s tempting to never encourage lest we demotivate them from taking training, but the opposite may be true).

Overwhelmedness is a barrier – it all might seem like too much at once.  Perhaps giving people a small taste of good training is the way to go – a one-day seminar in the church for all the preachers (I’ve found these quite effective, invitations welcome!), a single magazine article, a single particularly helpful post on this or another site.

What else?  I’d love to hear more thoughts on the complexities of motivating preachers to take helpful training.

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