One Year to Better Preaching: 52 Exercises to Hone Your Skills  -     By: Daniel Overdorf
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One Year to Better Preaching: 52 Exercises to Hone Your Skills

Kregel Ministry / 2013 / Paperback

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One Year to Better Preaching provides preachers with fifty-two hands-on exercises that sharpen their homiletical skills. The book is designed particularly for those who preach each week - and have been, perhaps, for some time - to help them get out of the rut of the routine and infuse their preaching with new sparks of creativity, fresh approaches to sermon preparation and design, and sharpened verbal and nonverbal communication skills. Novice preachers, also, will find the exercises useful in developing their preaching abilities.

Each chapter includes instructions for an exercise, tools and suggestions needed for the exercise, comments from preachers who completed it, and recommended resources for further study. The exercises address eight categories of homiletics:
  • Prayer and Preaching
  • Bible Interpretation
  • Understanding Listeners
  • Sermon Construction
  • Illustrations and Applications
  • Word Crafting
  • The e Preaching Event
  • Sermon Evaluation
Readers can complete the exercises in the order presented, which address different categories week to week, or they can sharpen their skills in a particular category over a period of weeks by using the chart provided. They might also work through the exercises in collaboration with other preachers.

One Year to Better Preaching will leave a preacher reinvigorated and better equipped to proclaim the Word of God skillfully, passionately, and effectively.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 320
Vendor: Kregel Ministry
Publication Date: 2013
Dimensions: 8.50 X 5.50 (inches)
ISBN: 0825439108
ISBN-13: 9780825439100
Availability: In Stock

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  1. benm602
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    Recommended for Pastors!
    January 2, 2014
    benm602
    Quality: 4
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    Last night over dinner, we discussed preaching because I often refer to people in our congregation in my sermons; in fact, we once joked that I don't need to be creative in my illustrations because I have perfectly good illustrations sitting in front of me each Sunday.

    After we joked about it, someone asked me how I prepare my sermons. I told him that I invest a good amount of time and craft a manuscript that has word-for-word what I plan to say. He was shocked; he was shocked that I wrote it out word-for-word because it takes a lot of time to do that. I told him, an architect, "Just as you take as much time to prepare blueprints to make sure they are correct and safe for people, I also believe preaching and teaching the Word of God is just as important, if not more so. Your building is temporal; God's Word is eternal. Medical doctors take great care with the medicines they prescribe - how much more so should a pastor be careful with eternal matters." He said he had never considered it this way, but he agreed.

    Kregel Publications has become one of my favorite publishers because they give me free books to write reviews of; it is great advertisement for them and provides a free book for me - a win for both parties! Because I am behind on some of my reviews due to various reasons, I have decided to start a series of "Book Review Tuesdays" to share these reviews and also recommend other books I read. I will also include other books I read because I think Christians should read good books for their sanctification, but knowing which books to read can be difficult.

    I enjoyed this book. Preachers need to consider how to improve their preaching; what we do is of eternal importance, and I believe we need to do it as best as we can for the glory of God. This book can help preachers improve their preaching because of the practical 52 exercises that can be implemented. I plan to use most of these lessons by focusing on areas that I know I need to improve in, both from my own assessment and from others. One that I am implementing this week is "18. Plan for Effective Delivery." When I first started preaching, I would plan the content carefully but not even consider the delivery. After reading this chapter, I need to give more thought to how I deliver it. So, I am planning to plan out an effective delivery - we will see if I succeed! I am planning to plan my how I use my voice, level of seriousness, and even where I am on the platform. I hope not to look like an air-traffic controller, but I plan to be more intentional with the entire time on Sunday morning.

    As I reflect on this book, I have found at least one weakness. Although I am sure Overdorf considers these matters in his classes with his preaching students, in this book he does not seem to consider whether or not all of these exercises compliment or contradict one another. My conviction is that God has designed the preaching event to be oral with one man preaching with his voice and all of who he is to a congregation. I wonder whether or not adding in video clips, interviews, and more takes away from God's design from preaching. If God wanted preaching to include all of these other elements, He could have created and commanded them from the beginning. Now, I am not saying it is always wrong to include these things, but I wonder if they take away from the original intention. Yes, they can certainly help with different learning styles and be pleasing to the eye, but if God did not design it that way, who are we to add to God's design? There was no discussion of this foundational consideration. Yes, let's improve preaching, but if "better preaching" will be to the glory of God, then I believe we need to consider His intention for preaching.

    I recommend this book for pastors. I realize that not everyone reading this blog is a pastor, but this book will make a nice gift for a pastor, provided you give it to him as a gift and not as a back-handed gift saying, "You need to improve your preaching because it is horrible - read this!"
  2. Randy Mann
    Henderson, NC
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: male
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    Want to improve your preaching? Buy this book!
    November 11, 2013
    Randy Mann
    Henderson, NC
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: male
    Quality: 4
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 5
    Whether you are a new preacher or a seasoned veteran, there is always room to grow. And, in order to help us grow as faithful servants and communicators, there are all kinds of resources available - websites, blogs, videos, books, etc. The challenge is often finding the time to put those resources to work.

    Overdorf has offered a great resource to pastors that is both useful and manageable. His book offers practical exercises that help the preacher grow, while delivering them in a format that makes them easy to implement in the course of a ministry week.

    I must admit that I read through the book in a way that is not in keeping with its intent. I simply read it through to evaluate its content for this review. It would be much more helpful to take one exercise at a time, using it to grow in a certain aspect of the preaching task. A preacher or Bible-teacher could use the book in a straight-through manner (using one exercise per week for an entire year - as the title suggests). Or, one could choose exercises based upon an area where specific growth is needed. Because the book groups the exercises into eight different aspects of preaching (Prayer & Preaching; Bible Interpretation; Understanding Listeners; Sermon Construction; etc.), the reader can simply choose an area of perceived weakness and complete all the exercises designed to strengthen that particular area.

    Many of the exercises are ones that preachers with any experience have already thought about. Others, however, are less obvious but still very beneficial for growing as a preacher of God's Word. All of the exercises are simple to understand and follow.

    This book is a helpful resource for preachers of all ages, regardless of the number of years of preaching experience. I have already recommended it to one young pastor and will use it with others I have the opportunity to mentor in the future. All the while, the book will serve as a tool for personal growth in my own preaching. I strongly recommend it.

    (FTC disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for free in exchange for writing this unbiased review.)
  3. A Cluttered Mind
    Rochester, MN
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: male
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    Challenging if you use it
    September 16, 2013
    A Cluttered Mind
    Rochester, MN
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: male
    Quality: 4
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    'Lose 50 Pounds In Just One Week'

    'Earn Money From Home'

    'Feel Younger in Days'

    'One Year To Better Preaching' -- Wait, that's the title of the book I'm reviewing here. If I have one beef with this book, it's the title. It's off-putting because it sounds just like all the other claptrap I threw out there to start off this little review. When I read the title to my wife, Ann, she said (I kid you not), 'That's spam, isn't it? That can't be the book you're supposed to read?'

    Okay, now that I have that our of my system, let me get on with the positives.

    Even though a bit skeptical, due to titular concerns, I found this book to be challengingly helpful. The challenge would be if you took it literally and seriously and attempted to apply each of the 52 exercises, one per week, through the course of a year. I don't think it's really possible. Not if you're involved in all the other things/events/activities/parts of pastoral ministry. And especially not if you're the pastor of a small church (yours truly). However, I did indeed like the challenge of having a group of pastors work together on some of the suggested practices. I'm the 'leader' (coordinator) of our regional pastors' cluster and this will make for some great discussion fodder.

    I will also, personally, consider the author's challenge to focus on just a few of the eight key areas. One or two weaknesses might easily see some shoring up by employing some of Overdorf's suggestions. A strength or two might be made even better, as well. Granted, there are a few of the chapters/exercise I'll probably not ever do. (I just can't bring myself to allow video to enter into the equation. I'm not a strict follower of the Regulative Principle, but I use it enough that this simply won't come into play.)

    Overall, however, I think this is a book with some great potential for pastors. If you're just fresh out of Bible College or seminary, grab this and begin to learn now. Trust me, you DID NOT learn it all in your seminary's homiletics class. If you've been out there for a few years, let this be a breath of fresh air for you. If you're on the vastly-veteranized side of things (I'm now in my 29th year), let these settle upon you easily, lightly, gently. Let them stretch those old, tired preaching muscles. Maybe you'll even want to start with Chapter Eight and have your listeners evaluate your preaching and go from there.

    I commend this book to you.
  4. Pastor Jim
    Maricopa, AZ
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: male
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Help to preachers
    September 13, 2013
    Pastor Jim
    Maricopa, AZ
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: male
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    Who does not want to improve their preaching? Daniel Overdorf has delivered a helpful book on doing just that. I am amazed when talking to Pastors how many once they leave Bible College or Seminary do very little to expand their preaching ability. I spent time over the years reading a number of books on preaching. However, many of them lack practical suggestions on how to improve by exercises one could do. This is the value of this book. It gives you a year's worth of practical exercises to help you improve your presentation, sharpen your skills, and to become a better preacher.

    He addresses eight categories that one should try in improve and gives practical exercises to do so. This includes: Prayer and Preaching; Bible Interpretation; Understanding listeners; Sermon Construction; Illustration and Application; Word Crafting; The Preaching Event; Sermon Evaluation.

    Of the 52 suggestions, they are not coming out of simply an academic exercise, but each has been tried in real life churches by real life preachers. Each section has testimonials at the end by Pastors who have tried the exercise and how it worked for them. This is not to say that every suggestion will work for a certain preacher, but it does indicate these exercises are worth a try. It does not mean that one should try a different exercise every week. I would expect a preacher to be subjective and try exercise over a month or so, evaluate if it was worthwhile, and then go on to another. However, you decide to do it, and even if a specific exercise does not work for you, over time this book will help you improve your skills. Much in this book is not new or unknown, but it does stimulate to look at the skills in a practical way in order to improve them. I wish this book came out 40 years ago when I was first starting out as a preacher. Even if you are doing what is in this book, it will make you think about what you are doing and how you are doing it. I saw some things in these exercises that I already did, but never gave them much thought. It did make me think about those things. Preacher, get this book! Use it. You will be better in preaching of the Word.

    [Thanks to Kregel Publishing for providing a free copy of this book for my honest review.]
  5. jtrandolph
    Knoxville, TN
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: male
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Great Tips to Build Preaching Skills
    September 13, 2013
    jtrandolph
    Knoxville, TN
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: male
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    Upon graduating from Bible college or seminary, most preachers have their homiletical toolbox filled to the brim. But sadly with the passage of time these tools become rusty through the lack of use. In his work, One Year to Better Preaching, Daniel Overdorf provides his reader with 52 practical exercises designed to sharpen their preaching skills.

    All of the exercises have one single goal: hone a specific preaching skill or technique. These exercises are designed to require only an hour or two of effort. In the theme of a certain late-night talk show, here are my Top 10 favorite exercises (plus one bonus):

    1. Balance Your Biblical Diet

    This exercise is a great reminder that we need to expose our listeners to the totality of Scripture, both testaments and the variety of genres included. As Overdorf states, "a preaching schedule driven by the Bible rather than by perceived needs will, over the long haul, stimulate greater maturity in the church." (22)

    2. Speak to Three Listening Styles

    Overdorf gives a good overview of Aristotle's classic elements of rhetoric (ethos, logos, and pathos) and how they influence our listening style. He gives practical examples of how to engage all three styles.

    3. Read the Text Well

    This most important aspect of the preaching event receives the least attention. Nothing is more frustrating than hearing someone struggle through the Scripture text. It is as if it is the first time they actually looked at the passage.

    4. Have Listeners Evaluate You

    This is crucial to our growth as communicators. My preaching classes in seminary required the delivery of sermons in front of fellow students and professors. The post-sermon critique is a very humbling experience. But with encouragement and suggestions provided, it helped me identify and correct areas needing extra work.

    5. Try a Different Sermon Form

    It is easy to get stuck in a rut. We become comfortable with a particular sermon form and then make every sermon fit into this cookie-cutter design. God present's His truth in a variety of forms (narrative, parable, poetry, etc.), so we should mirror this same variety in our sermons.

    6. Include Immediate Application

    This is the "So What" of the sermon. How many times have you left a sermon but did not have any concrete examples of how to apply it to your life Monday through Saturday?

    7. Swap Pulpits

    This exercise intrigued me. The thought of swapping pulpits is a scary thought to most. But the idea of forcing us to think, design, and engage a different audience will require us to engage or re-engage communications muscles that may have not been used in quite some time.

    8. Land Smoothly in the Conclusion

    I must confess this is an area in which I need more work. All the hermeneutical and homiletical work can be undone with a shaky conclusion. This is the time to reinforce the main idea of the message and challenge and encourage our listeners.

    9. Read Fiction

    This goes closely with number #1 above. Balance Your Diet. I find myself drawn to non-fiction, but I need to remember to look to works of fiction to challenge myself. As Paul in Athens, we need to be able to speak with cultural relevance.

    10. Critique a Video of Yourself

    This ties in with number 4. In my preaching classes, our sermons were recorded and we were required to watch ourselves and provide a self-evaluation. As painful as this was, I was able to identify both strengths and weaknesses in my sermon delivery.

    Bonus: Read Classic Preachers

    We can learn much from those who have gone on before us. Make time to read from the likes of Spurgeon, Edwards, Whitefield, etc. and see how the Holy Spirit moved through them.

    As preachers, we are constantly being transformed. It should be our desire to grow and become better communicators of the greatest message ever told. This is where this book comes into play. The 52 exercises provided can be completed one per week in no particular order. Additionally, the 52 exercises cover eight categories of skills. One can choose to focus on those exercises that address particular weaknesses.

    I would recommend this book for anyone wanting to see how they can enhance and strengthen their communications skills utilizing easy to complete exercises. By just putting a few of the skills into practice, one can take great strides into becoming a better preacher.

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Kregel Publications as part of their Academic & Ministry Blog Review Service. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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