5 Ministry Lessons From A Meteorologist

5 Ministry Lessons From A Meteorologist

Aaron Buer

Digital giving apps and tools

Recently, I found myself in the most unusual and enlightening conversation.

My friend Bob and I met with a meteorologist (it took me seven tries to spell this word correctly) from a local TV station. We asked to meet with the weatherman because we wanted to improve in our ability to preach at a camera.

Turns out TV meteorologists talk to a camera a lot.

In the student ministry I lead, fully half of the teachings we deliver are through video.

Let me tell you, preaching in an empty room to a camera is a challenge.

In addition to our student ministry environment, most people experience our weekend services through video. For example, when I preach in our weekend services, our broadcast auditorium seats around 900 people, while somewhere in the neighborhood of 9000 people watch the sermon at one of our campuses or through Livestream.

All this is to say that learning to preach well to a camera is pretty important for us.

Funny thing though, this conversation with the meteorologist didn’t go how I expected. Most of what I took away from that conversation had very little to do with speaking into a camera.

The meteorologist, whose name is Matt, actually shared quite a bit about connecting with people and ministry in general.

I know what you’re thinking:

What in the world does a weatherman know about church work?

Well, for starters, he is a Jesus follower and his family attends our church.

Also, think about it this way: The job of a meteorologist is to take complex raw data that people need, but don’t understand, and then communicate it in a way that makes sense and is useable.

That’s almost exactly what a preacher does. Fascinating.

Anyway, I found the conversation so entertaining and interesting that I thought I’d share 5 ministry lessons from Matt the weatherman. Enjoy!

1.Self-Deprecating Humor Builds Trust

Most of our conversation with Matt the Meteorologist revolved around effectively communicating with people.

Since he attends our church, we asked him for feedback on our speaking and preaching. He communicates for a living and so he has a lot of insight into effective communication.

I found it interesting that his first response to our request for feedback was this:

Bob, I love your self-deprecating humor.

First off, I was offended because I’m clearly funnier than Bob.

Anyway, back to the point.

Matt the Meteorologist explained that the way that Bob uses humor, which is often getting the audience to laugh at something silly or dumb that he did, is actually an excellent communication tool.

Many Americans, especially younger generations naturally distrust organization and public figures. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that when an unchurched 25 year old comes to your church, their natural response will be to say,

I bet this preacher is a fraud.

Self-deprecating humor blows up that idea. Self-deprecating humor builds trust.

People think:

I like this person. They don’t take themselves too seriously.

Obviously, there is a way to take this communication tool too far. Too much self-deprecating humor is counterproductive because it undermines credibility.

But, just the right amount can be a very effective communication tool.

2.Manufactured Emotional Moments Feel Inauthentic

Not all the feedback Matt the Meteorologist gave us made us feel good.

When asked what he didn’t like about our communication style, he mentioned that when we try to manufacture emotional moments we sometimes come across as inauthentic, which is a nice way of saying fake. Ugh.

Again, I think Matt the Meteorologist’s comments capture the sentiment of younger generations of Americans who place a high value on authenticity. This means that preachers have to be very careful in how they manage their own emotions on the stage.

Also, strategies like having the worship team come out to play “Jesus chords” at the end of the sermon while the pastor invites people forward to respond to the message can feel a little too slick.

Church people often find these moments normal and meaningful, but younger outsiders might just be rolling their eyes and looking for an exit.

Obviously, this feedback was simply Matt the Meteorologist’s opinion, but if you are a church that is interested in attracting and keeping young people, it might be worth considering.

3. Ask: What Do People Need

When it comes to delivering the forecast, there are a million details you could share: barometer readings, wind speed, humidity, cloud cover, precipitation, we could go on and on.

The same goes for communicating in church.

When it comes to the sermon, there are so many details we could include. The original meaning of a particular word, what the name of the town means, the background of a particular character...

Something that Matt the Meteorologist said has stuck with me:

You have to ask yourself, what do people need?

In other words, of all the details available to share, what do people really need to hear?

What do they care about and what will impact their lives?

That’s the information Matt uses to build his show. The same goes for preaching.

My senior pastor taught me to start every week of sermon prep by praying:

What do your people need to hear this weekend?

Preaching and teaching is often about trimming down 20 great ideas and concepts to 1 to 3 great ideas or concepts that people really need to hear.

Great communicating requires asking the question: what do people need?

4. You're Never Too Good For Feedback

Matt the Meteorologist has been delivering the weather report at his TV station for somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty years.

That’s a long time. He’s a real pro. He knows what he’s doing.

Something that I found surprising is that he still has to endure feedback sessions from his superiors.

In other words, people are still telling him:

  • Don’t do that with your hands
  • Don’t wear that shirt
  • Why did you choose to focus on “x” instead of “y”
  • Competition in the television industry is fierce. People choose this show over that show all the time. Constant growth and improvement is crucial.

    Twenty years in the biz and Matt the Meteorologist is still getting constant feedback.

    What does feedback look like in your environment? Are you still seeking it out?

    Do people feel comfortable giving you feedback, knowing that you’ll listen humbly?

    When’s the last time you changed your approach because of feedback?

    Feedback loops are crucial to continual growth and improvement.

    5. When Your Public Life Invades Your Private Life

    It turns out that churches are sort of public.

    What I mean is that a lot of people see you and know you but you don’t always know them. This reality can lead to some awkward interactions.

    The larger the church, the more true this becomes.

    A few years ago, the day after my first opportunity to preach in a weekend service at our church, I was passing through a TSA checkpoint on my way to catch a plane to New York when the security agent stopped me and said:

    Nice sermon yesterday

    The TSA agent? Really?!?

    I knew then that my life was about to get a little weird.

    These days, someone always recognizes me everywhere I go in my city. All of us experience this to one degree or another in the towns we serve and lead in.

    We asked Matt the Meteorologist how he handles people he doesn’t know coming up to talk to him in public places.

    Here’s what he said,

    I always just thank them for watching

    What a great perspective. He doesn’t get annoyed. He doesn’t try to hide. He just acknowledges that it is a privilege to serve people.

    I love it.

    Wrap Up

    Well there you go. Turns out that maybe we in ministry have more in common with the meteorologist from our local TV station than we were thinking.

    We’d love to hear your thoughts on these ideas. Feel free to share a comment below.

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