Wednesday, September 21, 2011

3 Ways to Evaluate Yourself to the Next Level

Evaluation is not always easy but it's always profitable if our heart is open.  Yesterday I promised to share some things I do to get the right kind of feedback to bring improvement in preaching.  Here are three things I do:

Evaluate Myself
Without a doubt I'm my own toughest evaluator.   Back when I started 25 years ago I would listen to  obsess over cassette tapes of my preaching every time.   (Yeah, remember cassette tapes?  I remember 8 tracks too, although we didn't have them as sermon tapes.  Classic!!)  Then CD's came into existence and I started evaluating those, and now I review the messages online when our sound person e-mails them to me.

I will often put a message on my iPod and listen to it later while I walk or exercise.  I think, "let me detach and pretend I don't know myself and am listening to a stranger.  What would my first impression be of this person talking?  Would I be inclined to keep listening?  To open my heart to what she's saying?  Does this lady keep me engaged?"

One of the first things I do is listen for obvious bad habits.  I think, "what about this woman's preaching distracts me?"  I used to say, "you know" all the time.  For example, I'd say something like, "God wants to change your life, you know?" but I'd say it way too much and more of a nervous habit than a statement of fact.   I worked relentlessly to get rid of the "you knows".  I also worked hard to get rid of the "and...um's".  That took a while in fact I'm still getting rid of every single one of them.  Sometimes one still slips in.

I usually listen to a message recording more than once.  I also evaluate it for passion, flow, response, etc.  I make note of what might be changed the next time around, not necessarily in preaching the message but just in the structure of preparing one for effectiveness.   

Ask Family/Friends
I always ask my husband what he thinks.  Nobody knows me better and he always gives me an honest evaluation.  I know when he tells me that I've hit it out of the park, it's probably true, because he's told me plenty of times that I haven't!  I know I can trust his judgment. 

I also had doubts that I was catching all of the bad habits myself or by asking Larry so I asked friends who listen to me preach every week, "what do I say all the time, good or bad?"  They were more than happy to repeat back to me stuff that I do.  Everyone had a great laugh over it -- myself included.  It's important to be able to laugh at yourself.  I believe this is one of the greatest keys to emotional and leadership health.  Don't be wrapped so tight that you can't laugh at your mistakes.  


Listening to CD's will not give you a complete evaluation because the visual is missing.  If you have video that's even better to evaluate or ask friends about physical traits you have that may be hindering you as well.  If my hair is not styled a certain way I end up pushing it out of my eyes all the time.  I either make sure it's styled/sprayed right or I don't touch it no matter how irritating it is.  A lot of speakers also do repeated things such as adjust their jacket, or other "nervous gestures."  When wearing a jacket I used to do that but have trained myself not to now.  It's all about being aware and re-programming.  Why are you doing this intense evaluation?  Is this all about showmanship or entertainment?  No. Not at all.  You are eliminating distraction so nothing gets in the way of what God wants to do.  You don't want anything to hinder your message and want what you are saying to come through loud and clear and not have people focused on whatever you're adjusting.  Do you want people to remember that God wants them to bring their pain to Him and be healed, or do you want them to remember that you pulled on your bra strap that kept crawling down your arm because it was too loose?  

Consider Enemies
Some of my greatest growth came through the challenge of an enemy.  I didn't set her up as my enemy but she unfortunately wanted me as one.  She was a lady I formerly pastored and had issue with most everything I did.  This was primarily because she wanted the position I held, and what manifested most of the time from her was criticism.  It was searing and it hurt.  I had to become a secure enough leader to look beyond the hurt and use the opportunity to grow.

One thing she constantly criticized was my preaching.  Was all of what she said true?  No, but I've learned there's usually a shred of truth in every lie.  I chose to look for the shred and learn.  Through doing that I got sharper, and can pinpoint strategic times when I went to the next level back then, pushing harder to improve admist all that this lady would say.  At times it was simply in an effort to prove her wrong.  What I realized in the end was that for whatever reason, I did move forward.  She was "God's sandpaper" in my life, for sure.   I could have been bitter, or chosen better.  I chose better.

God will use your enemies to propel you to the next level.  "You prepare a table for me, in the presence of my enemies." Psalm 23:5

2 comments:

sandy said...

I never looked at the "prepare a table for me…" like that before. l liked that. That last point takes amazing amount of grace. For me I just want to shut them out and move on. Yet, look all the time there was gold in them thar hills. How do you process or filter their comments without dismissing them completely?

Deanna Shrodes said...

Sandy, the best way I can explain that I have done it is through a few other blogs or articles I have written on that subject. Not to "answer a blog with a blog" but it's so lengthy it's simply easier...

Here are a few links that answer your question...

http://www.takerootandwrite.com/2010/02/who-do-you-listen-to.html

and

http://www.deannashrodes.com/2011/08/wrong-voices.html

Love you!!