How much time should a pastor spend preparing a sermon

how to write a sermon a sermonHow 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?

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  • Jeremiah Vik

    Great article. Colleagues that I’ve had this discussion with seem surprised that a bi-vocational pastor would put 14-16 hours into sermon prep. Some think a greater dependency on the Holy Spirit allows for less time in preparation. I feel that the more prepared you are, the more God’s Spirit has to work with.

    • charles stone

      Jeremiah, totally agree that the more we prepare, the more the Spirit can work.