In my work as a trainer with Langham Preaching I am trying to ensure that the medium is as accessible as the message. We want to teach simple skills that are transferable, leaving participants thinking "I want to pass this onto others" because both the content and the methodology builds their aspiration to have a go themselves.
1. This is why I love whiteboards (or even blackboards) - particularly big ones. During this past week in Cambodia, we had a "truths that hold us" session on the first morning. [I also love small table group discussions!] Each table had a different truth to engage from the perspective of the preacher. "What is one key truth we need to affirm about God? about Jesus? the Spirit? the Bible?..." They bring back their single best insight for the whiteboard (gathered in the left hand column) - I add some of my ideas (in the right hand column). We have some discussion. And in 60mins we are articulating the theological foundations for preaching in a collegial - and comprehensive - manner.
2. This is why I love newsprint - particularly big sheets of the stuff. My favourite part of the training is when the small groups return from an afternoon of wrestling with a fresh passage through to the stage of producing a sermon outline. Not a lot of time - but they do such a good job. They write their outlines on this newsprint and we stick them all around the walls to create a "sermon (art) gallery" ambience. Then we work through these 'works of art' one by one, commentating on the good things ("I would love to preach this sermon myself next Sunday") and the not-so-good things ("If you had a bit more time to work with this outline, here is what I suggest you do"). The progress in their work through the week needs to be seen to be believed.
3. There is another newsprint exercise which I enjoy. Having people see the importance of engaging with their context is critical - but I am no expert on their context. What do you do? Put them to work... In their groups they come up with lists of the biggest issues being faced in (a) personal/family life; (b) local church life; (c) country life. Then we station three people at three newsprint 'stations' around the room. When I say "go", a representative from each group takes their best idea to each station and has it written up. However if it is already on the list by the time they get there, they must return to their group and get another 'issue'. It turns into a madhouse with people running everywhere (unless you are in the laidback Pacific islands!). Great fun ... and in less than an hour you have the most remarkable lists of the contextual issues which must be engaged by the preacher.
But the good people of Cambodia... [and they are so exuberant - like when we reached the end of the session on the single story of the Bible with talk of the Second Coming and the room just broke out into spontaneous applause and raucous cheering. It was incredible. And yes, I was thinking about 'killing fields' at that moment, but I am still not convinced that they were as they seem to have this capacity to move on - maybe they are not afflicted with the same guilty conscience which we have on this matter.]
I digress - sorry! Where was I?! Oh yes...
But the good people of Cambodia taught me a couple of new tricks this week :)
1. What about two translators, instead of just one?! This was so cool! In the photo below I have one translator (Somnang) focused on translating what I am saying, while the other one (Sothea) is focused on translating what I am writing on the board.
2. What about taking photos of the whiteboard?! [I have never seen so many digital cameras in one room before - and don't get me started on all the microphones!] Again and again we'd reach the end of a session and as I head off to get a drink, this group of people would rush forward with all the zeal of 'Just as I Am' at a Billy Graham Crusade - with cameras in hand.
At one point, one man said to me in faltering English, "I have waited a long time for this training". It don't get much better than that...