I got such a great response from asking our synod rostered ministers about their thoughts on preaching that it took two blog posts to share it all.  Here are some more thoughts from our preachers:

“How can I help them hear what God is saying?”

“One thing I’ve discovered is that there are ways to structure a sermon so that the hearers do their own convicting internally instead of being blasted by the voice from the pulpit. This is why Jesus often spoke in parables: when the import of the story breaks on the conscience through internal logic, the effect is far greater than when it comes from an outsider’s attack. I’ve learned to ask the question, ‘How can I help them hear what I believe God is saying?’ and to follow where the answer leads me.”

Pastor Scott Alan Johnson, St. Petri, Story City


“I have found that the Holy Spirit is always at work in preaching, at times through what I preach and often in some very surprising ways. There is no substitute for solid preparation, a good text study group, and much prayer.”

Pastor Gary Hatcher, St. Paul, Garnavillo


“Preaching…know the season, know your congregation, know lessons from the previous week and for the next week — Sola Scriptura. I begin with prayer and brainstorming on themes, then I look at Working Preacher on the line, Sermons from Seattle (Lutheran preacher) and if there are questions surrounding the text etc. I still pull out the IDB (Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible) or commentaries, then I write my sermon… then I edit–several times.”

Pastor Linda Johnson Prestholt, Hope United Parish


The Importance of Text Studies

“I’m not sure how I would write sermons without a text study and colleague group.  I hear the Spirit speak through the conversations I have with Lutheran and ecumenical colleagues.”

Pastor Daniel Hanson, St. Paul, Hampton


“For you-ness”

“When speaking of how God treats us, please don’t say “Jesus forgives us or Jesus loves us.” It is important for folks to hear “Jesus forgives you, or Jesus loves you” because the “for you-ness” of the Gospel word is just as important as the “for you-ness” of the sacraments.”

Pastor Michael Stadie, Program Director, Lutheran Disaster Response


“I often meet with faculty, staff, and students who are preaching for the first time in Chapel. I always ask them, ‘What is the one thing you want people to hear if they don’t hear anything else?’ Write that in one or two sentences and eliminate anything that doesn’t work toward communicating that message.”

Pastor Brian Beckstrom Campus Pastor, Instructor, Leadership & Religion, Wartburg College


“What is the Good News?”

“I want to look at what God was up to in the context of the day’s texts and what God is up to today. What is God’s Good News for us, in this community of faith, this week?”


Pastor Susan Friedrich, Bethany, Elkader & Emanuel, Strawberry Point

“Be courageous, proclaim the good news as a word to the world today, and say something nice about Jesus.”

The Rev. Dr. Chip Bouzard, Professor of Religion, Wartburg College


“Be in conversation with your people…”

“Two things that help me are being involved in a regular text study with colleagues.  The second is being in conversation with people of the congregation over the text for the coming week.”

Pastor Tim Maybee, Bethany, Iowa Falls


“There are weeks when I need to remind myself, out loud, while I am writing my sermon: ‘Preach the Gospel, Annie.’”

Pastor Anne Edison-Albright, College Pastor, Luther College


“Use good resources…”

“Find the one nugget in the gospel that has timely cultural relevance (for your specific culture) and preach it!  Use good resources like workingpreacher.org and Feasting on the Word when preparing to preach but always keep your own context and people in mind, remembering that one story or mental picture is worth a thousand words.”

Pastor Margaret Yackel-Juleen, One in Faith Parish


“Read, reread, and pray the texts throughout the week. Stay true to the text and its context. Be in a text study group, clergy or non-clergy. I like the Working Preacher podcast too.”

Pastor Gary Heidt-Johnson, Zion Evangelical, Waterloo


“Know those to whom you are preaching…”

“Don’t assume that your listeners have a responsibility to listen to you. Part of your responsibility as preacher is to know those to whom you are preaching well enough to be able to negotiate a hearing from them, making the journey to where they are so that they can hear your perspective.”

Pastor Dave Nerdig, Bethesda, Jewell


“One methodology of preaching in my career that has been effective is the plot based sermon. A plot includes a situation, a complication, and a resolution. Such a sermonic flow easily brings along the people of God.”

Pastor Arthur Bergren, St. Paul’s, Waverly


“Get away from a manuscript and preach extemporaneously — planned, prepared, and practiced, but not read. Your connection with the congregation while preaching will increase exponentially!”

The Rev. Dr. Mark D. Johns, Professor of Communication Studies, Luther College


“Begin with prayer…”

“For me, the task of preaching has been more craft than art and I tend to begin with prayer, allow the text itself to shape the form of the sermon, seek to rightly distinguish between Law and Gospel, try to ground each sermon in contemporary language and images familiar to those who will hear, utilize first person proclamation, give serious thought to orality, that is to say, how is the sermon ‘heard’ when it is delivered (meter, syntax, diction, cadence, etc.), and, finally, have clarity around what sort of response it calls forth – emotion, action, reflection or a combination of all three?”

Pastor Brian King, Nazareth, Cedar Falls


“Stay in touch with my congregation…”

“What helps me in preaching are the commentaries from Working Preacher and David Lose, it helps to get ideas to apply the Lectionary to what’s going on in the world today.  I also try to stay in touch with my congregation so I know what’s affecting them and what word of grace they need to hear.”

Pastor Erika Kielstrup, St. Paul, Monona


“When I am working with a difficult text, especially with a troubling one, I remember wise advice from my preaching professor Sam Giere– Jesus gives us the clearest picture of who God is.  If you want to know more about God and God’s kingdom, look at the life, ministry, and teachings of Jesus.  I believe that Jesus came to bring the kingdom of God to earth, so I try to frame my sermons with that in mind, the kingdom of God is breaking into this world and we are called to see how we might be a part of it.”

Pastor Kristen Corr Rod, American, Jesup


“Speak to the pain we are all feeling”

I’ve been struggling with how to preach scriptures that speak to social justice issues in this politically charged time. What I have been noticing is that if I can speak to the pain we are all feeling, on all sides of the debates, then there is more openness to reflect on the justice issues in the text. I’m finding if I can name the personal pain that is always part of life and connect it to the pain of the injustice in our world, then we can all begin to hear God’s concern for justice as good news.

I keep being reminded that I must remain pastoral so that the prophetic witness of the scripture can be heard.

Pastor Amy Zalk Larson, Good Shepherd, Decorah


As many different preachers as there are, there are just as many different approaches and styles.  Two things I have learned: Be authentically yourself.  Be genuine.  Be honest in who you are and in your preaching.

Be authentically yourself.  Be genuine.  Be honest in who you are and in your preaching.

The importance of “you-ness”, by that I mean, when I preach, I intentionally use the word “You”.  Jesus died for You.  God loves You.  God’s grace is for You.  Drive it home, into their heart.  People need to not only hear about these things, but they need to know that they are real and that these gifts are for them.

Pastor Lisa Dietrich, Fredsville Lutheran, Fredsville


On Monday morning I read through the texts and let them percolate.  There are weeks when I wish I had more time to dwell in and with the text.  Sunday has a way of coming around too quickly.  I trust in the Holy Spirit’s presence and power when and where I fall short.

There are times when in the act of preaching the Holy Spirit surprises me opening my ears, mind, and heart to the law or gospel I am proclaiming.

Pastor Dawn Pederson,  Trinity, Belmond


Synod Rostered Ministers Share their Thoughts on Preaching the Gospel Part 1


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About The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson

The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson has been Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod since late 2013. Part of her job description is to help leaders and congregations use social media and other digital means for outreach and mission. She writes and edits this blog as well as runs the social media accounts for the synod.




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