It’s one of my favorite times of the year—I’m getting ready to preach for the first time in ages. With moving, settling into my new job, traveling for work, and a host of other things, it’s been hard to even start looking for opportunities. So, God graciously provided one for me this coming weekend when I head down to Texas to work on a Gospel Project-related video.
Sermon prep methodology fascinates me. I love learning how pastors manage their time to prioritize prayer, study, writing, and practice. Through the years, my own habits have changed pretty drastically. I used to joke that my prep was like “Forrest Gump”-ing my way into a good sermon. It was basically a happy coincidence. I don’t joke like that anymore (and not just because it annoys my wife). Actually, I work really hard to prepare any sermon or presentation. I’ve never considered myself a natural public speaker, so I don’t wing anything.
So what do I do? Today, I thought I’d share a bit about what my current process looks like:
How much time do I spend?
Around 8-10 hours. This is the formal part of preparation: outlining the passage, checking sources, and writing my manuscript. (Yes, I work from a manuscript.) Stewing on the passage, praying, letting it roll around in the back of my head… no idea.
How do I break up my time?
Once I’ve settled on a text (unless it’s been assigned), it looks sort of like this:
- Day one: read the passage three or more times in at least two translations. Get a feel for its rhythm and look for the natural breaks. Start working out the main point. (1 hour)
- Day two: Once I’ve got my main point (the one thing the message is about), I start working on my outline and supporting points. Commentaries start coming into play toward the end of this time. (1-2 hours)
- Days three and four: Write the manuscript and check commentaries. (2+ hours each day)
- Day five: Read through and revise. My read-throughs are a little more elaborate. It’s more like dry-run preaching to myself (and sometimes my wife). (1-2 hours)
That’s typically what my process looks like. It’s not perfect, obviously, and doesn’t always line up to this. For example, sometimes there’s an additional day is needed because I need more time to make my manuscript shine. Other times, I find that what I’m saying doesn’t actually make sense, so I have to scrap it and start over. But despite these minor variances, this process works pretty well.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to start reading Jeremiah 31.