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laura giddey – a first for everything

Last month was a month of ‘firsts’. I began my first full time job and worked my first full time week. I received my first full time pay-check and got into my first habit of getting up on time. And I preached my first sermon in this new job at the weekly youth gathering that I’ll be running. This sermon was also the first one I’ve preached where I had to provide some direct application and discussion points for small groups to consider immediately after the message.


It is these latter two points (not the pay check or the alarm clock one) that I will try to unpack here. And feedback is always welcome!

I was certainly nervous at the prospect of leading my first youth group and giving the message to a new group of young people. Even the previous week, upon picking up a person from high school for afternoon tea, I had to frantically remind myself, “I’m 22, I don’t have a curfew, I’m not in school, I can drive after 10, I’m not (that) hormonal; you do not intimidate me!” as I braved the crowds of students. Yet even with this ‘blessed assurance’ teenagers can still be scary. I can’t tell them that of course and so I approached Sunday night with some trepidation. Was I trying to impress them? No, of course not, because I am working in the power of Jesus Christ and 15 year olds have no hold over me! But underneath that, I was eager for their trust.

My message was on ‘Loving Each Other’ and I focussed on how we are instructed to love people that we value but also people that we don’t. I likened loving people to giving them a Kinder Surprise; something that they don’t expect and something that causes them to re-think. I talked about forgiveness and how hard it is to love someone that is hostile towards you. I hope that my mix of illustrations and depth into the text helped them to read these words of Jesus in a fresh light. But I also hope that the message showed them that I am genuinely working through these issues of faith just as they are; that we are pilgrims on the same journey. Is it ok that I hope for both these outcomes in this first message of mine?

I was also given the challenge of preparing something for the youth to discuss in relation to the message in their small group time following the talk. Although this was the first time I’ve done this intentionally, I have often tried to consider how my sermons are relating to my congregation. As I do my ‘First Fifteen’ of sermon preparation I write down the names of 4 people that I know will be in the service and who all represent a different stage of life and faith. They may each have different takes on the themes but I remember them as I prepare so that parts of my message can relate to them individually and I can pastorally consider them in my planning. Sounds good, right? Well writing these study questions took that planning to the next level of difficulty. What brief but not nebulous questions could I offer the leaders and youth to move them to look at the passage and message further? Is it worth even giving them questions if the girls go off on tangents and the boys struggle to get 2 minutes of relevant discussion? Those are gross generalisations but you know what I mean.

How helpful are these questions that we preachers often provide for small/life/connect/cell/ ‘insert community related word here’ groups? Do they help or limit meaningful discussion on the sermons we have tried so hard to craft? Should we rather offer teasers; statements and passages from the text and sermon that they can re-read and dwell on?

These are my first thoughts as I begin my first full time preaching/teaching/pastoring career.

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Laura is the Youth and Young Adults Pastor at Shore Community Church in Albany (Auckland) and makes excellent brownies.

4 Comments

  1. Geoff New says:

    Thanks Laura. And congratulations on your first post here (is that correct?). I have thoroughly enjoyed reading it. You have raised some very good questions concerning questions post-sermon. I’ve always loved the way the Book of Jonah finishes: God’s question there (Jonah 4:11) hangs in the air waiting for an answer from Jonah and anyone else who reads it. There is the same sense in Luke 15 at the end of the Parable of the Prodigal Son the 3rd story in the trilogy in that chapter). The question is implicit: will you, the elder brother and everyone like him, do what the previous two parables describe? Celebrate with the angels over the lost being found. So in answer to your question above – based on these two passages – I favour the teasers as the option. The kind of statement/question that is annoyingly uncomfortable. The kind that is part of the DNA of the text. Or – in true 1st XV style – faithful to your sermon proposition and/or enduring image. Keep up the good work Laura.

  2. What a great first post Laura – and congratulations on the other ‘firsts’ as well. I hope we read more of your posts and your experiences on this forum.

    I’m with Geoff on this one. Ask questions, but don’t necessarily answer.

    I also like stories, a lot. I like to start my sermon with a story – and usually one that involves me in some way, like something I have experienced or seen. That means that the story is real to me and so (I hope) is the application which follows it.

    My wife and I are currently reading a great book on the Psalms called ‘Signposts’ (by Derek Tidball) and each reflection on the Psalm has a ‘signpost’ that illustrates the exegetical unpacking of the Psalm which preceded it. Signposts are the same as stories and questions I guess: they lead the reader/listener to look elsewhere for the answer. And that means they keep on thinking (I hope).

    Thanks again for your post. It has got me thinking too!

  3. Stu Print says:

    Hi Laura.
    I remember as I neared the end of college, I asked a young adult whose wisdom I valued and who I thought might be honest with me a question. How effective was I at leading a small group for young adults? He answered that I allowed good discussion, but then everyone would turn to me for the answer. He said that most people went away and never thought about what we’d discussed. He encouraged me to leave questions unanswered, because then they may go away and think about it, and dwell upon it, and God thoughts would become written on their hearts. As I’ve dwelt on this, I think he’s right, and it allows room for the Holy Spirit to answer their questions rather than me, or you. So go ahead, be a teaser!

  4. Greg Liston says:

    This is my favourite post on KMP so far. I have nothing insightful to add to the discussion :-), but thought I’d let you know.

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