The old saying goes, “practice makes perfect.” Maybe. Practice can also ingrain bad habits. I think it was Howard Hendricks who said that “evaluated practice makes perfect” (inexact quote, please comment to correct wording and source!) I want to offer a suggestion for “evaluated practice” that can really help. First the obvious sources of feedback, then the more obvious one.
Obvious sources of feedback – While you may not have pursued it diligently, you’ve probably considered asking listeners for feedback on your preaching. Perhaps you’ve handed out evaluation sheets to a select few, or perhaps you’ve asked for feedback on a specific issue of content, clarity or delivery. Perhaps you’ve sent your mp3 to another preacher or trusted friend for critique. Perhaps you’ve gone so far as to form a preaching team that includes non-preachers, creative communicators, etc., to evaluate and feed into your church’s preaching.
The more obvious source of feedback – Perhaps this is so obvious, but it’s worth a mention. Feedback as a form of evaluation is something you can also do for yourself. Don’t just do this yourself and avoid the input of others, but don’t miss this either. After preaching, why not carve out some time to prayerfully evaluate the message. What went well? How did the time slip away in the middle section? Which transition felt clunky? When did attention drop? If possible, sometimes listen to the message and ask the same questions, plus, How much variation is there in vocal punch, pitch, pace and pause? Now and then get a video of yourself and also watch for eye contact, gestures, expressions, movement, etc. Whatever you do, whether it is thinking back over the message, listening to it, or watching it, be sure to make some notes. Perhaps have a journal of sermon evaluation. That journal will offer nudges in the right direction, and great encouragement when problem areas become strengths in time.
After all, evaluated practice makes perfect . . . or realistically, evaluated practice makes better.