Sunday, July 26, 2009

When did "Lay" start to mean "Lazy"?

This morning Bear was not feeling well, and Hubby and I concluded that he should not go to church. We talked for a few minutes about which of us would stay home with him and which of us would go to church with our older son. I had not been able to attend any sunday school classes last week because Bear was feeling clingy and I had ended up staying with him in the nursery, so I said I'd like to go. Hubby said ok he'd stay home, and then he hesitated and said "you know, I kinda don't mind staying home, because lately I've been bored in church a lot."
For the last two years in Pelican we had a much-shortened version of church due to calling-in by phone rather than being able to attend in person, and perhaps we are out of the habit of sitting and listening for the 3 hours of our typical church service...but all the same, I have to admit that Hubby makes a good point. Each of us has attended a few services with other faiths--services wherein the sermons are delivered by a professional preacher; someone who spends his whole week studying his topic and preparing his sermon. Those sermons tend to be very good: they are thought-provoking, interesting, and sometimes even entertaining. Our meetings, on the other hand, often feature speakers who begin their remarks with "last night as I was writing my talk..." and, as Hubby said, they are often boring. It's no wonder that the kids wiggle and the seniors fall asleep.
Now I realize that professional ministers probably have a certain amount of training in sermon delivery. I realize that we have a lay ministry and that the people who speak to us in our sacrament meetings and who teach our sunday school lessons do so as volunteers. I don't expect them to be entertaining or even particularly polished. BUT is it at all unreasonable to ask that they take time to study and prepare a good talk or lesson?

When I am asked to speak in sacrament meeting, I spend the whole week thinking about my topic. I pray for guidance. I often make notes for myself, or open a file on the computer and start typing up pieces of paragraphs as I organize my thoughts. I typically spend at least 2-3 days typing up the actual talk. I prefer to have a fully-written talk to work from, and while I may paraphrase a bit as I deliver it, if my nerves get to me I know I can just read it and I won't forget anything or word things in confusing ways.
When I taught the gospel doctrine sunday school class, I started preparing my lessons on the sunday before I would deliver them. I read the passages of scripture that we would be studying from, and marked ones that stood out to me. I read the entire lesson from the manual, and compared my impressions with the commentary in the book. As I read, I typically filled at least one full notebook page with notes about what things I wanted to bring up, how I wanted to address them, and what questions I wanted to pose to the class. I usually spent at least 2-3 hours preparing a lesson. I also would bring it up to God in prayer at least a few times in the week, asking Him to help me teach the things that my class members needed to hear that week.
A few times I have sung solos or duets in church as well. I prepare for those in much the same way--I make sure that I know my music, but I also spend some time praying about which music to choose, and asking the Lord to use me to touch those who need to feel His spirit.
I have almost always received comments and compliments about my talks, lessons, and musical numbers.
I do not tell these things to boast, or to suggest that I'm a superior singer, speaker or teacher when compared to others. I really don't think I am. I just think that my preparation (and my requests for God's spirit) pay off. Yes, I do/did this on top of being a mother/homemaker/student/full-time employee and so on. It's not a matter of devoting 40 hours a week to preparation...but I do think that if we aren't willing to put in a few hours then how lazy are we? It is rare to be asked to speak in sacrament meeting more than once every year or two--surely we can handle a few hours on a biannual basis. Even for those who teach weekly sunday school or primary lessons, surely we can give up an hour of television or game-playing in order to prepare a good lesson. We owe it to our classes I think--to respect them enough to bring them a good lesson that is not a waste of their time. A lesson that is not boring.
I think we'd all get a lot more out of church if we would.


Christa said...

I agree 100%!
I so wish people in our ward would take the effort to consider that we are actually going to listen to what you are please make it worth our effort, because sometimes it's hard to listen to you and hold my kids still if your talk has nothing meaningful in it.

Destiny said...

Exactly! I know there are sometimes when members get called last minute to talk, but even then they usually have 2-3 days to prepare. There is definately a difference in quality and in spirit when a speaker/teacher is prepared.

Lisa said...

I can relate to a lot of what you said. I enjoy public speaking and teaching, and I find myself moved by people who do the same well. I enjoy taking the time to prepare a really good lesson or talk, and thinking about exactly the best way to present the material. Music is a hard one for me because I'm a professional organist and sometimes find our "lay" music a test of endurance for my ears. That's terrible to say, and I fully admit it says as much about me as it does the people who are playing; I obviously have a lot to work on in the patience department! (Particularly because I know people that do practice and prepare, but are just lacking in training.) It's hard to turn off my "teacher ears".

I teach RS right now, and I do have to admit to postponing prep for a few of my more recent lessons later than I should. Pre-kids (though I was still a college student), I studied my RS lesson for an entire month. Now I'm lucky to look at it the week before, and the bulk of my prep happens on Saturday night. However, I'm juggling another demanding calling on top of this one. I have felt God helping me out, and I know He realizes the situation I'm in right now with my time. I think my lessons now are just as effective as the ones back when I could prepare for a whole month.

Katrina said...

I totally agree. I take my preparation as seriously as you do, and put lots of time and prayer into it as well. I feel such assignments are a responsibility and a privelage, not just a duty or assignment to carry out. And some people's procrastination disgusts me--probably because I kind of expect everyone else to take their talk/lesson as seriously as I take mine. (And, I write my talks out, like you do, for the same reasons. Especially the one I gave yesterday that was full of historical facts and dates that I could never have remembered.)

At the same time, maybe it's our particular test of patience to learn how to forgive the procrastinators and boring messages, to be patient with others' shortcomings, and to listen as well as we can to glean what we can from each delivery.

DeNae said...

I'm with you on all of this. I've been a teacher in the church for the better part of 19 years, and I have a hard time sitting through lessons or talks that are poorly prepared. This doesn't always mean UNDER prepared, though. Some of the WORST RS lessons I've sat through were so insanely overprepared that there was no room for discussion, the spirit, or expression of testimony.

It takes time to do a good lesson. But mostly it takes spiritual preparedness. And that is infinitely harder to achieve.

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