Thursday, April 12, 2012

Know your audience

I'm preaching this Sunday -- a traditionally "down" week, the Sunday after Easter. But there's else something different about this Sunday for me.

At the beginning of the year, our church went from two services on Sunday morning to three. The 8 am service is Rite I, the more traditional language. The 11 am service is Rite II, the more recent standard liturgy.

The newest service in the lineup is the 9 am service. It's shorter, with contemporary language, and aimed at families. Because of that, the sermon can't be the exact same preached at the other two services. It might be eight minutes at the most, where the others are ten. And the academic or theological content needs to be toned down.

That's a problem for me, an academic theologian. I tend to start at that level when meditating on the scripture readings. My sermon is written, but I'm still stumped with the task of modulating it for the 9 am congregation. I'm talking about the shifting point of view at the end of the gospel of John, and the idea of testimony in the passage in Acts about the apostles holding all things in common. How can I find a way to take that idea and make it comprehensible and meaningful to kids and their parents -- in under eight minutes?

It's a puzzle that's worth cracking. I teach adults and almost-adults every day. Learning to speak to upcoming generations is something that should make me a better communicator, full stop.

Now to do it ...

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