Sermons vs Sanity: 3 Steps to Taking Back Your Time
Are you taking too much time to prepare your message for Wednesday night? I know, I know; this is crazy to even think about, but as Student Pastors, we are crazy, so let’s think about it. What if you could deliver the same dynamic, expository, Gospel-powered message, and it only takes about half of the time it takes you to prepare right now? I love to preach. I absolutely love it. It is my favorite thing that I get to do, but it also takes the least amount of time. I get 30 minutes to preach out of my “40 hours” each week, and I found myself taking 8-10 hours each week to prepare. By the time I observed the text, read commentaries, watched 2-3 messages, and wrote the message—it was usually Tuesday afternoon, and I had all this other stuff to do.
To say I was stressed out would be an understatement. Maybe you are in that same boat right now. You’re preparing and preaching really strong messages, but it’s draining you, and you wish you had more time to do other things. Let me say, you do have the time. You have a lot more time than you think. Here are some practical things I used to help cut my prep time but still preach the same message.
1. Start Months in Advance
I used to plan my August series in August…don’t do that! Granted, you don’t want to have your August series in January either, but you do need to stay ahead. For example, I plan my fall preaching calendar in May and my Spring preaching calendar in October. In the summers, I usually do more devotionals (10 minutes or so) instead of preaching 30-minute messages. I also use my summers to really get ahead. I almost have my August series completely done! And then I can start on the next one. Getting ahead will allow you to breathe and not feel the stress of having to do a Tuesday night special.
2. Start Narrow, not Broad
One mistake I used to make was that I would begin my sermon prep with a wide view instead of a narrow one. After I read the text I am preaching from, the first thing I do is write the main point of my message in a single sentence. Carey Nieuwhof says, “If you can’t say the main point of your message in a single sentence, your audience will never remember it.” The main sentence is your bottom line or main point. Now, your bottom line will change. I like to use alliteration, among other things. Once you have your main sentence or your bottom line, go from there. You won’t be chasing as many rabbits if you start with a narrow approach instead of a broad approach.
3. Cut Your Prep Time in Half
Do you remember earlier when I said it used to take me 8 hours a week to prepare a Wednesday night message? Now my prep time is 4 hours a week, at most! When I begin the next series, if I plan ahead, I already have my bottom line. If I have my bottom line, that usually jogs my brain with a good introduction story, and then I go from there. If I start prepping a message at 8 AM, without any interruptions, I can be done by lunch. And I still preach the same and give the same effort, but the quality of my messages hasn’t decreased. If anything, they have increased.
Bonus: Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
This one may get me in trouble with some, but our job is to preach the truth. If you hear a message from one of your favorites, use it! Now be careful with this; you can get into plagiarism very easily. Don’t act like one of your lines in the message is original if Josh Howerton, JD Greear, or Matt Chandler said it and not you. You can be honest and say, “This line came from (insert person).” Your students won’t think less of you; they copy and paste and take credit for it all the time.
Share your thoughts with others in our YM360 community:
- What is your sermon prep time like? How has it changed over the years? How would you change it now?
- What would you add to or take away from this? Are there any other things that have been helpful for you?
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