In a recent issue of his Ministry Toolbox newsletter, Rick Warren suggests the use of homework assignments as a way to make sermons more practical for listeners.

“At Saddleback we often assign some homework! This reflects the way Jesus taught; He often gave assignments by saying, ‘Go and do likewise.’

“Once when I was doing a two-week series on finances, the homework assignment for the congregation was to create a practical budget for the year. We gave people some tools at the end of the worship service; and then during the next two Wednesday nights, we offered a short workshop that taught them how to handle their finances based on the biblical messages they’d been hearing on Sunday.

“It’s not enough just to give people God’s principles in getting out of debt; you need to show them how and what to do by giving practical, follow-up assignments. I like to call them SMART assignments, and they have five characteristics:

* S – They’re Specific. The words more and less are not specific enough. You need to say, “I’m going to do ‘this’ by ‘this’ date.”
* M – They’re Motivational. Does the assignment motivate? If it is not motivating, don’t even suggest it. Otherwise, they won’t do it anyway.
* A –  They’re Attainable. Don’t give assignments that are unrealistic; that will just discourage people.
* R – They’re Relevant. Is it based on the message of the sermon? Is it based on your congregation’s values and priorities?
* T – They’re Trackable. Does it allow people to measure their progress?”

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