Hearing the story of God at work in a life can be so life changing for a church, but nerves, timekeeping, and a drift into instruction can undermine a good testimony and bring about a cold sweat for those planning a church service. Let me explain how we do testimonies in our church and why we do it this way. It may not be appropriate in your setting, but it may be helpful in some way.
The Testimony Panel – Roughly every six months we dedicate a Sunday to having a “testimony panel.” The sermon is reduced to a very brief message of a few minutes, leaving 30-40 minutes for the testimonies. We also keep the rest of the service as free as possible to guard the time. For the panel, we will typically have two people giving their testimonies, along with an interviewer whose job is to ask questions and weave the two stories together.
What are the advantages of this approach?
1. It is an event. By so drastically reducing sermon time it communicates to the church that testimonies are important, and these two people are important to us. We want to hear their stories. Instead of a rushed testimony squeezed into the early part of the service, this is an event where we get to hear more fully from them both. It says to the church that we value people and we expect God to be at work in people’s lives. It underlines several values of the church indirectly, but powerfully.
2. A non-nervous person is in charge. The interviewer is always someone who is comfortable in front of the church and will, therefore, be able to shield the two participants from their own nerves. It is the interviewer’s problem to watch the clock, to ask the right questions, to bring the panel to an end, etc. And the interviewer will always have a microphone (no leaving a nervous talker with a microphone alone in front of the church!)
3. It requires preparation without being awkward. If someone is given ten minutes to give their own testimony it can be difficult to prep them. They may not realise how a testimony can misfire and therefore resent being asked what they are going to say. Also, they might be inclined to write a script so it can be checked ahead of time. This just feels awkward, as does the church leader who is wondering how clear the conversion will sound, how appropriate the pre-conversion stories will be for the listeners, how much tendency there will be to drift into teaching, etc. A testimony panel requires the interviewer to meet with both people and hear both stories – no script necessary, just an informed interviewer who knows how to direct the conversation on the day.
We have tried interviewing three people and it really needed more time. Thirty to forty minutes works for us to have two people interviewed. We did have three elders in one panel, but they interviewed each other, which was different again but worked well. What have you found helpful when it comes to testimonies in your church? Feel free to comment below.
One more resource on Testimonies, click here for 10 Top Testimony Tips