An open Bible being read

Sermon prep for the non-vocational preacher

An open Bible being read

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.

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