Intro to Preaching: Craft an Effective Sermon by Friday

Online Bootcamp:

  • Course orientation: Tuesday, August 4, 7pm Central Time
  • Sunday August 9 – Thursday August 13: 1 hr. per day at 7pm Central Time
  • Participants should plan on 2-3 hours daily during Bootcamp for the live session, video, and sermon prep

Online Course continues: Monday, August 10 – Monday, September 28, 2020. Participants should plan on about three hours per week including the live session, reading, videos, and chat discussion
Videoconferences: Tuesdays at 7pm

A sermon is a gift we offer those who listen to us.

It’s a gift that melds together God, Scripture, life experience, our listeners, the world, and all of our academic training. It’s a message that proclaims the Good News of Jesus Christ, that he died, rose, and brings us into eternal life. The only way this is a gift from the heart is if we know the one we proclaim. We have to know Jesus Christ personally if we’re going to have the integrity to suggest that others will want to know him better, too, and that through him, the world can be transformed.

This is where we start with preaching. This course will focus on Lectio Divina as a personal prayer practice, and as a prayerful means to build an authentic sermon. You will learn to read the text as if you’ve never seen it before, to notice what piques your curiosity and makes you want to dig deeper to learn more,  and then to tell a story about it. This is a way to craft a message that you believe and that others will believe, too.

Preaching is an art form, too, like no other.

Preaching is not a performance, nor is it a persuasive speech, and yet many of the elements of those disciplines are part of effective sermons. They all have clarity of message and purpose; they’re crafted for a particular group of people at a particular time from a particular point of view; they hope to keep the attention of the audience and try to make themselves as easy as possible to follow so no one gets lost along the way.

Preaching does all this, while looking at the gap between God’s invitation to join in building the Kingdom, and all our various refusals to do so. What is it about us that turns God down time and time again? Preaching also explores grace. We turn God down, yet Jesus loves and forgives us anyway. How come? And what difference does it make anyway? These are all aspects of crafting an effective, authentic sermon.

In this course, we will move from listening to God’s word for us to practical methods of offering words of Good News to others in a sermon. We will follow a grid that moves us from Belief Statement (‘What is the Good News I believe?’) and Hope Statement (‘Why does it matter that others believe this?’) to the Human Condition (‘What stands in our way of believing?’) and the Invitation to Transformation (‘What does God want us to say ‘yes’ to?’).

At the end of this course, you’ll have had enough practice with these tools that you’ll be able to hear the parts of sermons that work and don’t work; continue to use these tools on your own and with others; and know how to continue to develop your sermon craft.


This group will meet and post regularly in a closed Mighty Networks group, including participants from local formation programs across the Episcopal Church. If you have any difficulties, you can email Lisa Cressman at

All Zoom meetings will originate in the Mighty Networks group (just show up there and click to begin!).


Each week you will be participating in a responsive discussion with students from across the country, and connecting with a mentor around specific questions. You’ll produce two sermon texts and videos.

A key competency for this course is the ability to record video of yourself, using a cell phone or other tech.

Course Materials

  • Video series accessible in your online course space
  • A .PDF workbook to be sent by email upon registration

Instructor: The Rev. Dr. Lisa Cressman

Lisa is a priest of over 25 years, canonically resident in Minnesota (living in Houston), and she is the Founder and Chief Steward of Backstory Preaching, a vision that literally woke her up one night and is now very much a reality.

Lisa is the author of ecourse Craft an Effective Sermon by Friday, and Backstory Preaching: Integrating Life, Spirituality, and Craft. She oversees a year-long mentorship program, several preaching classes and camps, and two subscription communities, as she continues to foster the growth of spiritually-grounded, practically-oriented, effective sermons for everyone. This is her 3rd year teaching Homiletics 1 at ECMN.

Comments from previous participants:

The weekly zoom meetings were great! I really appreciated the Backstory approach: if we’re not experiencing the good news, we can’t be authentic in sharing it.

Using the Zoom video ‘conferencing’, the almost ‘in-person’ class sessions were meaningful, instructive, and personal. The use of the personal video making was a challenge at first but proved instructive in itself, and the results were even more so. Comments from peers and from the instructor were helpful.