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robyn mellar-smith – what does a bowl of jaffas have to do with it?

One of the things that has given me great joy as a pastor is mentoring our youth leaders in preaching. I meet monthly for lunch with our 4 youth leaders aged 17-23, and last year thought that maybe I would add value to our sessions by teaching them to preach.

We started off by looking at Paul Windsor’s “First Fifteen” – the method by which I was taught to do exegesis at Carey Baptist College. What a lot of fun we had! After we had worked through this, I asked them to pick a passage and they chose James 4:1-10. We then proceeded to work through the “First Fifteen” with this passage. I was delighted with the illustrations they came up with! To be honest, I’d love to go over all my passages with them – they had such unique ideas 🙂

We decided that they would do a sermon for our Sunday morning congregation “tag-team” – five minutes each. One would do “the world”, one “the flesh”, one “the devil”, and one would do the application and summarise. We spent several sessions going over what they might say, with each of them contributing ideas to the others. Then they individually wrote out their pieces, practising together and gently critiquing each other.

On the day they were fantastic, with the sum-up guy producing a huge bowl of jaffas and giving some away to members of the congregation, to signify us giving away authority in our lives to the various areas outlined in James 4:1-10. Instantly memorable! The congregation loved it.

They were so outstanding that I suggested that next time they preach two at a time so they could have a longer time each to speak. The first one was last Sunday and was amazing.

This time they fitted into my series in the Gospel of Luke, rather than doing a one-off sermon. Their exegesis was quicker, their ideas better, and they were more confident in their speaking. They still had to do a lot of preparation work, but we met regularly and talked about how they were doing.

You would have to be there to receive the full extent of their offering because the whole youth group was involved in illustrative skits before the sermon but if you want to have a listen, have a look at

They still have a little way to go in getting their exegesis into a fully flowing message, but I understand that. And, like most beginning preachers, they tried to say too much. (I’ll put my hand up for that as well.) But on Sunday I was intensely proud of them and the congregation was too!

Are you mentoring anyone in your congregation in preaching? And if so, what have you found helpful?

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Robyn Mellar-Smith is a daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, and the pastor of Epuni Baptist Church in Lower Hutt.


  1. Miriam says:

    Love it, Robyn! What a great way to start nurturing and developing gifts that might be latent in your team. One of my pet hates is when churches jealously guard the pulpit/music/etc for only proven “professionals.” How are young people/beginning people meant to find out what they might be capable of if they’re never given the opportunity? Great idea to do it as a team and have some materials to work through with them.

    And what a treat for the church as well, getting some different, youthful, perspectives – but knowing they’ve been ably assisted and guided by an excellent, more experienced preacher 🙂

  2. Reuben Munn says:

    Hi Robyn

    Great to hear of your success in developing emerging preachers. I like the idea of having two or three of them tag-team on one message.

    I’ve been working with a couple of our emerging preachers this year and have loved it. The biggest challenge I’ve faced is discerning how much input I should have in their preparation process. I’ve found that the most critical point for me to be involved is when they’ve got a solid outline, but before they start writing it out. I’m finding that having a good discussion with them at that point helps to crystalise the big idea and structure of their message and gives them confidence to get on with writing it.

    I also need to resist the temptation to try and get them to preach it exactly like I would! I want them to find their own preaching voice and approach the message in their own way. Like you, I’m still learning the art of teaching preaching, but it’s great fun.

  3. Allen Hince says:

    Hi Robyn,

    It certainly is very satisfying to train others in this extraordinary task we call preaching.

    Over the last 2 years I have worked with 2 people who showed an inclination to preach and it has been one of the most rewarding aspects of ministry. I love seeing their initial excitement about a month out as they visualize themselves preaching and bringing great conviction; then about 2 weeks out confused over all the info they have; then a week out a very-near panic attack comes upon them knowing that they have to actually stand in front of others and say something – beautiful! The process is amusing because I go through it – great expectations, confusion, anxiety… Yet, God is in the mix and I see these budding preachers genuinely experience God’s grace – and they know it.

    …in preaching we can experience God in very unique way and I have found that a little trust in what God has laid on our hearts through the study of the text goes a long way.

    Good to hear from you Robyn.

  4. Robyn Mellar-Smith says:

    Allen, I love your description of how people’s countenance changes over the month before preaching. I hadn’t thought of that but it’s true 🙂

    Thanks all for your encouragement!

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