5 Reasons Every Pastor Should do Sermon Prep Outside the Office

pastor's prepping for sermonsI’ve been a pastor 30 years and only in the last few have I discovered the value of studying outside my church and home office. I’ll go either  to McDonalds (cheap food) or Panera (good atmosphere and the place I prefer). Both provide free Wi-Fi. I don’t recommend spending all your time away from the office, but I’ve found that doing so at least once a week benefits me and the ministry in these ways.

  1. Productivity: Less interruptions from others.
  2. Creativity: A different environment spurs it.
  3. Focus: Less distractions help me concentrate better (like cleaning up our office or playing with something on our desks that can distract us in our offices).
  4. Energy: A different ambiance/atmosphere gives me more.
  5. Stress management: I feel less of it in a neutral environment.

One other suggestion. To block out noise, I use ear buds plugged into my iPhone and listen to nature sounds on the Ambiance app.

Have you discovered any other advantages of studying outside the office?

Related posts: The iPhone App that Improved my Concentration

Interactive Preaching with the iPad

preaching from an ipadI’ve posted a few blogs about my journey using the iPad to preach (see related posts below).

Thus far I’ve loved using it. I own the original iPad and I’m waiting to upgrade until next year’s version releases.

Here’s my current sermon prep and delivery process.

  1. Write sermons on a Word doc on my Airbook.
  2. Convert doc to a PDF.
  3. Drop PDF into Dropbox on my Mac.
  4. Open Dropbox on my iPad.
  5. Open the PDF in Noterize.
  6. Mark up my PDF.
  7. Enthrall millions with my eloquent preaching (oops, Freudian slip there…I meant preach to a few hundred) :)
  8. Here’s a snapshot of what one page looked look from last week’s talk on spiritual gifts.

    preaching with an ipad

    This week I’m trying something new.

    Top 10 Ways to Handle the Church Critic

    pastors handling church criticsOne well-worn adage reads, “The two things you can’t avoid in life are death and taxes.”

    I’d like to suggest one more, for those in ministry.

    The two things pastors can’t avoid are…

    people late to the service and…


    Having served in full-time ministry for 30 years, I’ve experienced my share of critics. I’ve responded well to some and not-so-well to others. When I’ve sensed a good heart from the critic, I tend to respond with more grace.

    As Abe Lincoln said, “He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.

    Here are 10 ways I’ve learned to respond to my critics (actually 9, I’d love to hear your 10th).

      • Give them your ear, but within reason. Don’t allow someone to destroy you with caustic criticism.
      • Let your body language communicate that you are truly trying to understand.
      • Avoid an immediate retort such as “Yea but,” or “You’re wrong,” or some other defensive response.
      • Breath this silent prayer, “Lord, give me grace to respond and not react.”
      • Before responding take a few moments to check what you’re about to say. Abe used to suggest counting to 100 when you get angry. That may a bit of overkill, but he is on to something.
      • Look for the proverbial ‘grain of truth’ in the criticism.
      • If you see more than a grain of truth and you can’t process it alone, seek feedback from the safe person in your life. (see my blog post on What to Look for in a Safe Person).
      • Ask God to keep you approachable to your critics (within reason). You probably don’t want to vacation with them. :)
      • Learn from your critics on how best to deliver criticism to others. When someone delivers criticism that you received well, ask yourself what about how they did it made it easer to receive. For those who botched it, remember to avoid their tactics.
      • …… tell me how you’ve responded to your critics. I’d love for you to give me a 10th.

      Related posts.: How to Deal with Criticism.In this article I suggest a simple acrostic in responding to critics…LEARN

      Can Vacations for Pastors Stifle Ministry?

      Pastor VacationsI’m reading David Platt’s book, Radical, along with the guys in my two men’s groups.

      I just returned from a vacation to the beach.

      And, I’m feeling conflicted about the effects of my vacation on my spiritual and ministry life.

      A pastor I served under at two churches captured the biblical concept of rest in this phrase: Divert daily, Withdraw weekly, Abandon Annually. I believe God wants us to periodically rest. That means He endorses vacations.

      But after being in a ‘beach’ environment for a week, I realize how self-indulging a vacation can become. For many, a vacation becomes a time to eat too much, drink too much, spend too much, and generally indulge too much.

      Don’t get me wrong. I do love the beach, the sun (I’m from Chicago), the great seafood, and the break from pastoral leadership demands. But I’m wondering if I need to re-frame my future vacations, especially as I’m reading Platt’s book.

      This quote in chapter 1 struck me.

      I could not help but think that somewhere along the way we had missed what is radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable. We were settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves.

      So, as I contrast a vacation to spiritual commitment, I’m wrestling with how to make the two biblical concepts compatible so that my vacations lead me to greater commitment to Christ and to more effective ministry.

      I’d love to hear what you think.

      Related post: 8 Point Checklist for Pastoral Body Care

      The Millionaire Pastor – an Oxymoron?

      how much money do pastors make?I just finished the audio book The Millionaire Messenger by Brendon Burchard. He’s authored two New York Times Bestsellers, speaks to thousands, and offers a plethora of training materials. He became a multi-millionaire before he turned 30.

      His inspiring book (even for pastors) challengers its readers to become experts in their field and become millionaires in the process. Unlike other self-promoting gurus, Burchard comes across with a servant’s heart. I truly believe he is not in it for the money. I thoroughly enjoyed his book yet it raised this question in my mind. Should pastors aspire for great material wealth?

      One of Burchard’s theses is, the more money you make, the more you can help people, which raises these questions.

      • Is it true that the more money a pastor makes, the more he or she could help people?
      • Should there be a limit on how much a pastor makes?
      • Would it be wrong for a pastor to become a millionaire?
      • Is the phrase “millionaire pastor” an oxymoron, an apparent contradiction in terms?
      • Contrasting answers to these questions abound.

        Rick Warren made millions from the sale of The Purpose Driven Life yet gave away 90% of the profits, lives in a modest home, and drives a used suv. On the other hand, a few years ago I watched a TV preacher deliver a sermon justifying his ownership of a Bentley, a $200,000 car.