Pastor checklist
What do you consider about your sermon before you preach it? (Lightstock)

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When we were first starting Cobblestone Community Church, I would host an occasional “speakers’ breakfast” in an effort to train homegrown speaking talent for our teaching ministry. In developing the material for those informal workshops, I drew up a checklist of 20 questions that I asked each speaker to use to evaluate his or her planned message.

It remains a mental checklist (though more intuitive for me than mechanical) that I try to apply to my own speaking. Here are the 20 questions:

1. Do I grab the listener’s attention as soon as I start speaking?

2. Does the talk start where people are (with their culture, needs, problems, issues, questions)?

3. Does it come on too strong, too fast?

4. Am I teaching the listener something he didn’t already know?

5. Am I communicating what God says, not my opinions?

6. Have I included an introduction of myself and words of welcome to the listener?

7. Have I included a restatement somewhere in the talk of either Cobblestone's mission (“loving people into life-changing encounters with God”) or distinctives (community-oriented, student-friendly, seeker-aware, outward-focused)?

8. Have I offered an elementary (but not condescending) explanation of the text that will help even a Bible newbie find it without feeling stupid (as well as avoidance of “church lingo” as much as possible)?

9. Have I revealed anything of myself in the talk without revealing anything inappropriate? (So much the better if it’s vulnerable, self-effacing and/or winsome.)

10. Do I interact with my listeners in the talk (e.g., mentioning people’s names, asking for responses, etc.)?

11. Have I included humor?

12. Am I being realistic instead of shallow? Will my listener believe I understand what he’s really going through?

13. Have I touched (not manipulated) my listener’s emotions?

14. Is my talk focused enough (instead of rambling)?

15. Have I played a part in meeting a felt need?

16. Is the “solution” I propose realistic? Life-related? Biblical?

17. Does the structure of my talk logically lead to the conclusion/application?

18. Have I left out anything important, crucial?

19. Have I given clear application for both a seeker and a Christian that answers the question, “OK, what am I supposed to do with this information now/today/this week?”

20. Have I made reference to how my listener can find further help (e.g., prayer counselors)?

In recent years, a few things on this list have changed—for example, instead of either mission statement or distinctives, we try to include in every message a mention of our mission statement or discipleship strategy, which is summarized by the words "seek, share, serve." But overall, the questions still serve pretty well.

So, what questions would you add, subtract or revise?

Bob Hostetler is an award-winning writer, editor, pastor and speaker from southwestern Ohio. His 30 books, which include The Bone Box and American Idols: The Worship of the American Dream, have sold millions of copies. Visit Bob at

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