By: Pastor Mike Barnhart
July 21, 2023
If you attended worship at FBC any of the past three weeks, you noticed that I was not preaching. The obvious reason I did not preach was because my wife and I were away for a little over a week to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. We had a wonderful time, and we are grateful to FBC for allowing me the vacation time to let God rejuvenate and refresh me so that I can keep serving you for many years to come. But, there are additional reasons I did not preach the past three weeks.
Several months ago Dan Jacobson, Tim Becker, and Jason Dananay volunteered to fill in for me in early July. But, they actually did more than just substitute preach; they were part of an idea called team teaching. Back in January, I began meeting with these guys (and Jake Andersen, who will preach at a later date) to study a preaching book together. We met approximately once a month to discuss the concepts in the book and then began researching and outlining three biblical texts—the Genesis texts that were preached the past three weeks at FBC worship services.
The concept of team teaching is practiced in many churches. It is a church leadership philosophy that emphasizes sharing the teaching and preaching responsibilities for the good of the pastor, the church, and future leadership.
Here are a few reasons I subscribe to a team teaching approach:
Better Sermon Preparation
Preaching is hard, time-consuming, and requires a lot of energy. FBC deserves sermons that are biblical, Christ-centered, practical, and engaging. Sharing the preaching with a team provides more time for preparation and recovery.
Leading the Church
Preaching is likely the most visible part of what a pastor does, but it is still just part of what he does. A lead pastor leads the staff, provides biblical counsel, oversees and shepherds ministry, and sets the overall direction for the church. The leadership challenge in today’s church is tremendous. In the weeks that I am “off” from preaching, I find that I am a better leader, shepherd, husband, and father. I have more emotional space to show appreciation to staff members and ministry volunteers. I notice more, care more, and respond more. Preaching is a true honor and joy, but because it’s a weight, it can easily overrun other important roles that belong to the pastor.
A team teaching approach allows the church to hear from multiple voices, experiences, and life phases. The word of God never changes, but the illustrations, applications, and emphasis presented varies by the preacher. A church who only hears from one preacher may lack the blessing of diversity in these ways.
Learning to preach not only involves quality of time but also quantity of time. If others are not given regular opportunities to teach and preach, how will they learn? Furthermore, how would a church develop quality teachers in order to substitute preach, raise up new pastors, and multiply gospel efforts to fulfill the Great Commission? Sharing the preaching responsibilities empowers others to use their teaching and preaching gifts and grows their skills.
While I intentionally pursue team teaching for these reasons, I do believe that the lead pastor should be the primary teacher, meaning the lead pastor should preach the majority of Sundays. So far, this year, I have preached almost 80% of the time. However, in the next year, you can expect that I will likely preach approximately 75% of the time in order to promote team teaching.
Since I have been part of a team teaching model for the past 20 years, I have seen first-hand how it has contributed to congregational strength, pastoral health, and leadership development.