From preaching to facilitating – same skill set, different mindset.

Change directions

Nearly all the pastors I have ever met are wonderful people. Gifted and intelligent communicators with strong people-skills; committed to living out God’s calling through all the ups and downs; dedicating their lives to understanding God’s message and sharing it with the world around them. Noble, exciting men and women with a sense of purpose and vision. I love them and am inspired by them.

And yet, I am increasingly convinced that the sit-sing-sermon model of church has had its day, and needs to give way to something new – something interactive, and engaging, and empowering, where God’s people are invited to contribute and join in. Something that turns the congregation from passive recipients into active participants. But where does this leave all the pastors, with their many years of training; with their finely honed preaching skills; with their ability and talents for performance?

The truth is, churches are going to need leadership as much as ever if they move from performance to empowerment – but the leadership will be less about performance and more about facilitation. Many pastors have the right temperament, wisdom, and communication skills to make excellent facilitators, but they have to turn their thinking upside down to get there.

Preaching involves talking – facilitation is about listening.

Preaching has all the right answers – facilitators ask the right questions.

Preachers take all the credit – facilitators give all the credit.

Preachers hold on to authority – facilitators hand over authority.

Preachers have a voice – facilitators give others a voice.

Excellent facilitators do less than 30% of the talking, and get others to do the 70%. They risk letting others interpret God’s Word and listen to God’s Spirit instead of doing it all themselves. They give others credit for their ideas and insights, without boasting of their own. They hand over most of the power, control and status, rather than holding onto it.

Not everyone can be a good facilitator. It takes skill and faith, confidence and humility, maturity and vulnerability. These are traits many pastors and “lay-people” already have. Since we’ve moved from monologue, lecture-style sermons to interactive, participatory meetings, we’ve seen the most unexpected people grow, and speak up, and discover their gifts and potential in Christ. Our prayer is that pastors will stop performing for God’s people, and start empowering them. Less personal reward, greater kingdom impact.

11 thoughts on “From preaching to facilitating – same skill set, different mindset.

  1. Pingback: Church Leadership – from preaching to facilitating | Open Church in NZ

  2. There most certainly needs to be considerable change in church life, and what you suggest here is surely an important part of that. But other changes need to take place too.

    One of these is better and more consistent networking, not just monthly meetings between leaders in a locality, but daily community interaction between individuals and small groups. Another, related, change would be a deep sense of oneness across denominational boundaries in every town, an understanding that there is only one church.

    And we also need a new sense of mission, one that involves everyone reaching their neighbours and others in the local area, at work and in every part of daily life.

    Some of these additional changes might be helped along by the change you have described. We need a new vision of what church is and does, change in every part. And we need a new vision of Christ as our living head.

    We will all have to help one another, encourage one another, challenge one another, and pull together if it is going to happen.

    Thanks for sharing these ideas in your article, very helpful and useful stuff!

    • Thanks so much Chris, and I agree with you! I particularly love your emphasis on “one anothering”.

      I’ve been reading a bit lately about unity between churches – seeing each other as part of the same church in each city. I think many churches are moving beyond denominations, so we might see this happen yet!


      – Kathleen

  3. I can wholeheartedly say Amen to your sharing here. And I am learning that this starts with ME – I want to facilitate for the younger ones in the Lord, the ones under my care, to be brought forth in their function. We are having a conference for the college students soon and I am looking forward to see how so many of the students are not just “sitting back and enjoying the speaking of the brothers” but also are raised up to function in their measure by sharing their enjoyment, singing, practical service, giving a word of encouragement, taking the lead to enjoy the Lord, etc.

    When the Lord will obtain a built up Body, a Body composed of the millions of believers who are functioning daily (not just on set days) in their measure and are inter-related with the other members, when there’s such a sweet coordination and blending between all the believers in the Lord, He can return! Until then… we grow in life, we learn to function, and we learn to bring others into their function!

    PS. It is NOT easy for someone who has some authority (from the Lord or from man) to lead in the church to bring others into function or to facilitate their operation in their measure in the Body of Christ. But we need to break through! We need to pray! We need to ask the Head of the Body to have a way in the church life today!

    • Amen, Stefan! I pray your conference brings a real break-through, both for you and for the students who attend!

      – Kathleen

  4. Love it!! The trouble is, preparing and delivering a sermon is relatively easy, and allows apparent communication to hundreds of people at once, whereas facilitation, mentoring, equipping, etc, is much harder and takes more time. But since the former is less effective, it is not helpful.

    • You are so right, Eric. It takes less “effort” to speak from the front without the messiness of participation; without feedback, and active listening, and grappling with the reality of where people are at.

      However, after 6 years of preaching, my husband finds it takes him far less time each week to prepare an interactive “lesson” than a well-developed and rehearsed “sermon”. That’s because “less is more” in this model. The people do the work. All they need is the opportunity to be involved. He comes home from “church” so much more inspired, encouraged and uplifted than when he preached. In fact, we all used to be so emotionally drained on Sunday afternoons, we would often need to take a nap and avoid people. We find that the facilitator often gets as much out of an interactive gathering as the participants do.

      To anyone reading these comments, I highly recommend wandering over to Eric’s blog at – he’s written some great posts about active learning in church, among other fascinating topics.


      – Kathleen

      • Thanks for the PR, and your response. I used to lead a small cafe style church for people who mostly wouldn’t fit in to conventional church, and I agree that preparation for that was simpler because it used video, question and answer, discussion and “testimony” in the form of interviews, which were not onerous to prepare. I think the difficulty comes if the church grows and the gatherings get bigger. How big is the meeting your husband leads?

        • I think you’re right about larger gatherings. The groups we are involved with vary from 10-70 people at a time. The larger ones break into small groups for discussion after watching a video together – and the quality of each group often depends on the facilitator in charge. I’ve been part of interactive learning approaches which worked amazingly with up to 200 people – but they were run very tightly, with experienced facilitators and strict rules.

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