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.