How much time should a pastor spend preparing a sermon?
Recently I watched a video where a rather famous pastor answered that question. His response, “I study and read all the time and it takes me about one to two hours to put a sermon together.”
Yikes! When I heard that I felt guilty because there’s no way I can prepare a sermon that quickly. I’m sure this pastor’s heart was right, but I wish he had qualified himself more. I doubt very many of us are that speedy.
In Haddon Robinson’s book, Biblical Sermons, he wrote that experienced preachers he surveyed spent an average of 16 hours preparing. That sounds more like it to me. That’s probably my average and I’ve been preaching for 25 years.
So, how much time should you spend? It depends.
It depends on…
- how long you’ve been in ministry. If you been in ministry several years, you have a backlog of study material. If you haven’t you will probably need to set aside more study time. I did in my early ministry years.
- how well you’ve kept your previous study notes, sermons, and materials upon which to refer back
- how well you manage your time
- what’s happening around you. Sometimes unexpected family and ministry demands arise that require our time that we other wise would have spent on sermon prep. No need to wallow in guilt when that happens
- your personality…some pastors have the gift of gab and can ‘make up stuff on the fly’ :), some of us don’t; some personalities require the preacher to process what he wants to say more thoroughly
Here are a few thoughts to consider as you answer this question for yourself.
- Schedule your study and prep time during your best, most alert hours.
- Set reasonable expectations. An hour or two is too little time for most just as 35 hours is probably too much
- Use computer tools readily available. I own a Mac and use both Accordance and Logos. I rarely use paper books. These tools have made my study time more efficient.
- Trust God to use your faithful preparation. Seldom do ministry demands allow us to study as much as we’d like. We must do our best and trust the Holy Spirit to fill in the gaps.
How much time do you spend preparing your sermon?
As a Pastor, if you lead, you will face turbulence in your ministry or organization.
One of the most revered men in history, King David, constantly faced turbulence as he led. When King Saul died, Israel faced a leadership future fraught with obstacles.
I Chronicles 12 describes how many groups stepped up to help David make this transition. The Scriptures describe one group, the men of Issachar, in this way.
(they) understood the times and knew what Israel should do — 200 chiefs, with all their relatives under their command…. (v. 32)
All these were fighting men who volunteered to serve in the ranks. They came to Hebron fully determined to make David king over all Israel. (v. 38)
This group modeled what every leader and pastor must live during turbulent times.
- they understood the times: they accurately perceived reality
- they knew what to do: they knew the steps they must take
- they were fully determined to make David king: their passion compelled them forward
As leaders and pastors, the 4 four essentials we must model in turbulent times, as did the men of Issachar, are…
- Define reality
- Shape your vision
- Develop a coherent strategy
- Implement your strategy with passion and courage
Related post: 8 decisions leaders should make during a crisis
I’ve served as a pastor for over 30 years in churches as small as 4 1/2 (my wife, two pre-schoolers, and one on the way) to churches that approached 2,000 attenders. The locations have included the far west, the midwest, the south, and the southwest.
A sampling of responses to the question, “How well do you think Charles did?” would include…
- He was great. I’m sad he moved.
- I’m glad he left.
- His preaching really inspired me.
- I just wasn’t getting fed.
- He really cared about people.
- He was distant and unavailable.
- He had great leadership skills.
- He’s no John Maxwell.
If you’ve served in ministry for any time, you’ve probably asked yourself this question, “How well am I really doing?” If you’ve not asked that exact question, I’m sure you’ve secretly asked yourself some pretty probing ones that made you feel guilty.
I’m beginning a blog series on Guilt-producing questions pastors secretly ask themselves and I’d like your help. I’ve listed a few questions below that those in ministry probably ask. What do you think? What would you add to this list?
- Why do I sometimes want to skip church on Sundays?
- Am I spending enough time preparing my sermons?
- Why do people really leave my church?
- I love my wife deeply. But if I think another woman is attractive, am I crazy? Or worse, am I sinning?
- Why do I feel like I don’t measure up to the expectations of … the board, my staff, my spouse or …? Is it their problem or mine?
- Am I spending enough time with my family?
- Do I pray enough?
- Does owning nice things like a nice house or a new car or enjoying things like a fancy vacation diminish my example? Is it wrong to have or experience what others in my church have?
- Why do I often feel anger inside toward people?
What guilt producing questions do you think pastors secretly ask themselves? I’d love to hear from you as I begin this blog series.
I’m convinced God gave me a ‘Geek’ gene.
From my monopoly on science fair first prizes in high school to my toy tank that fires bb’s to my radio-controlled helicopter that shoots plastic missiles, I love any gadget that runs on electricity. I’m also among an elite 50,000 who bought the very first Macintosh in 1984. I sold a life insurance policy and used the cash value to pay for it. Since then I’ve owned over 20 different Macs and I now sport a brand new MacBook Air. I also use an iPhone 4 and an iPad.
Like I said, God gave me a geek gene.
At the same time Mac blood has flowed through my veins, God infused into my bones a passion to teach God’s Word. I’ve preached over a thousands sermons and I’ve seen my preaching evolve over the years in this progression.
- write sermon notes in the margin of a wide column bible (my eyes can’t see teeny-tiny print now )
- type out the sermon on one half-page and insert into my bible
- type up the full text and insert small pages into the bible so that it looks like I’m not using notes
- print out the full text and place the full sized pages on the lectern
- Preach from an iPad
I love using the iPad now. It took a few weeks to getting used to it, but I don’t think I will ever change. I see three advantages in using an iPad.
- Easily mark up and highlight on the fly
- Keep all your sermons in one place
- You look really cool, especially when the house and stage lights are off…it casts a holy glow on your face
Here’s how I now prepare my sermons and get them to the iPad.
- I write my sermons on my Mac with Word. Accordance (easy to use and trusty) and Logos (quite expansive yet rather slow and cumbersome at times) are my primary study tools. Note: My iPad still has not replaced my laptop and I don’t expect it to.
- I save my Word doc as a PDF file
- I drop the PDF into Dropbox (a free app that allows you to easily move a pc file to the iPad via shared wi-fi)
- I open up the PDF in Dropbox and then open it in Noterize ($2.99). Many PDF markup programs exist. This one tends to be a bit slow in turning the pages, but thus far it works best for me. I would love to use Apple’s Pages program, but at this point they don’t offer highlighting options.
- I then mark up, highlight, and make changes as needed. Our service production team always has a paper copy available in case my iPad goes down.
Here’s a screen shot of what an iPad page looks like.
If you are an iPad user, what apps do you use for preaching? Any tricks you’ve learned?
Each week pastors sit on the hot-seat. We preach sermons in which we invested hours to people who don’t have to be there. We hope what we say helps people grow, helps our churches grow, satisfies our influences, and most of all, honors God. But what happens when someone, especially an influencer, doesn’t like our performance as a leader or communicator? Or, what if they simply don’t like us?
When that happens, it’s easy to become defensive when those people tell us what they don’t like. When I’ve become defensive, I end up the loser. When I don’t, although I may not change his or her opinion in the conversation, I actually win because the other person feels like I listened. Often, I can take a grain of truth from them and realize a growth area for me.
Below I’ve listed 5 responses that make things worse when someone criticizes us or tells us something about our performance that we’d rather not hear.
- Cross your arms in the defensive posture.
- If they tell you that you are being defensive, disagree with them.
- Bring up lots of facts that prove your point and disprove theirs.
- Send them an angry email later.
On the positive side, what has helped you become less defensive?
Related posts. How to Deal with Criticism
Great article on criticism by Tim Keller here.