Sermon Survival 1: Pre Preparation

For most MHPs, “preacher” is a significant hat we wear, and Sunday comes every 7 days whether we’re ready for it or not!

Now that I’m about 250 sermons into my role as preacher, I’m looking afresh at all aspects of sermon preparation and delivery as well as sustainable ways to keep fresh in the “pulpit.”  In upcoming posts, I hope to create a conversation of shared resources and ideas on sustaining health in “the weekly preaching mill.”

Please take a moment to share a comment on your process and/or an aspect of sermon preparation and delivery you’d like to discuss!

I’ve been told by a songwriter friend that sermon preparation sounds a lot like song writing – the process is personal, unique to each individual and hard to collaborate. Nevertheless, here’s my pre preparation schedule – what I do to prepare for the Tuesday when I open my mac to start the upcoming sermon:

1)  I keep a running document of sermon series ideas that are floating around in my empty head. Currently I have enough ideas for about 2 years of series.  NOTE:  SOME OF THESE IDEAS ARE TERRIBLE and have been sitting on my idea folder for over year, but hey, enough ideas should generate enough good ideas.

2)  Once per year, I send a portion of the series idea list to a group of trusted friends (leadership team, staff, select volunteers) within the church to seek feedback and other topic suggestions.

3) Two or three times per year I get away on retreat.  Among other things, I pray over my sermon calendar, look at the feedback from friends and build and refine a 9 – 12 month sermon calendar. NOTE, I don’t have the sermons outlines, but I have a series laid out – name, overall theme, scriptures, length of series.

4) I’ve found that knowing what is coming up in the next 6 months gives me a great timeframe to process, collect stories and sort ideas in my head.

5) On my trusty mac, I keep a running file of stories, ideas, voice memos and links for each sermon series, so when I’m ready to start preparation, I already have material to go on.

6) When its time to start a series, I open the running file and sort all the random series ideas into specific sermon chunks.

7)  I start preparation for a particular sermon on the Tuesday before I preach, so my actual final preparation is 4 1/2 days.

So that’s my “pre preparation.”  Looks overwhelming, now that I’ve written it out, but I have found that it keeps me fresh and ahead of the “grind” and most of all somewhat immune to the craziness a week can bring.

Do you have a pre preparation schedule?  If so, I’d love to hear what works for you

3 Replies to “Sermon Survival 1: Pre Preparation”

  1. Steve- Met you at one of the “long, slow dinners” this summer. Great to “see” you here! Good stuff–thanks!

    Mine looks almost exactly like yours. I’d give a shout out to Evernote–a free online tool that I use rather than a Doc. A virtual filing cabinet, it gives you the ability to write or “clip” stuff from the internet that prompts ideas or could work as an illustration. In my experience, it’s one of those tools that fades into the background and helps you more than it distracts you.


  2. Chris – great to hear from you and I’m keen for the next long slow dinner. Fantastic community there. I’m loving evernote and just now converting to it from my previous convaluted system


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