Keeping Your Preaching Fresh Requires Time

Keeping Your Preaching Fresh Requires Time

We are at the beginning of a series of posts on how to keep your preaching fresh.  Here’s the first post in this series.  Keeping your preaching fresh requires time for preparation.  That’s the theme for today.

The Old Way

I found one of my first sermons ever while rummaging through my files.  I was in seminary at the time, and used that sermon as a “traveling sermon”.  In other words, I used it as I would go around to various churches to preach during those years.  I remembered several things about that sermon:

  • It was short.  When I included the time to read the passage, the whole message took only 17 minutes.  In fact, after I preached in my home church, one older woman came up to me and said, “You’ll be a good preacher when you learn to preach longer.
  • I spent many hours preparing that message.  At that time, before computers took over our lives, the only place you could go for information was to the library.  So, I did.  Since I knew that I would be graded on that message, I took special care researching the meaning in several commentaries, and even read it in the original Greek language, looking for any special cues that I might receive from that source.  Many hours were spent getting everything “just right”.
  • When I think about that message now, I can offer several critiques of the structure, style, illustrations, etc., but it got a pretty good grade back then, and more importantly, got many compliments from the listeners in the churches that I visited with it.

The Battle To Keep Preaching Fresh

When I got into my first church, however, I found that it was a battle to set aside time for preaching preparation,  to keep things fresh.  I jumped into ministry wholeheartedly.  Here are the things that I did every week in that little church.

  • I prepared two sermons each week, since I preached morning and evening.
  • I prepared a high school Sunday School lesson each week, to be taught before the morning worship service.
  • Then after the evening service, I lead the youth group, preparing the lessons for those high school kids.

In addition, there were many things that began to invade my time.

  • Weddings were important, and I did at least three  premarital counseling sessions before the wedding.
  • Funerals were intrusions as well, requiring time with families prior to the event itself.  In addition, I prepared a specialized funeral message.
  • Discipling took time.  We had many new Christians in that congregation, as well as those exploring Christ.  I met with each of them for 6 sessions to discuss the basis for belief.
  • Hospitalization visits were expected in that church.
  • Counseling was also an expectation, since most of the people couldn’t afford to go to a professional counselor.
  • In addition, there was the weekly bulletin.
  • Regular meetings that required preparation.
  • And we had a bus ministry.  I was the one who made sure they were maintained regularly.

Wow!  Even as I write that list, I recall the exhaustion that would strike me on Mondays, the day set aside for rest and family time.

Remember the title of this post:  Keeping Your Preaching Fresh Requires Time in preparation.  I tell you these things not to impress you or to feel sorry for the me of that time.  Rather, I want to impress on you how easily other things begin to intrude on your time if you are full-time ministry, and maybe even more so if you are doing ministry part-time while doing many other things.  The point is: keeping your preaching fresh requires time for preparation.

Time To Keep Your Sermons Fresh

How much time do you spend in preparation of your sermons?  Here’s a survey done by Thom Rainer, church consultant.  You can check this to see where you fit among pastors in general.

So, how do you go about keeping your preaching fresh when there’s no time?   Here are a few guidelines that we will continue to explore in subsequent posts:

  • Start your sermon preparation early in the week.  The pressure of the last minute sermon can become overwhelming.  This means that you will have too…
  • Get control of your schedule.  I began to look at my calling.  My calling put a priority on preaching.  So, I kept a time study for two weeks, listing every 15 minutes what occupied my time.  As a result, I went to the Elders of the church and proposed several changes:
    • I was cutting the lawn for the church and parsonage.  I told them I wouldn’t do that anymore.  The reply from one person was that, “Pastor  ____(My predecessor) always did it?”  My response was: “I checked with him and he doesn’t want to do it anymore, either.”
    • I asked the church to hire a part-time secretary to take the load off the administrative/office responsibilities.
    • I recruited someone to take care of the bus and van that the church owned.
    • I recruited a couple to take over an adult Bible study that I was committed do.
    • I evaluated everything to see if this was one of the responsibilities that I could equip someone else to do.

Challenging, yes, but my preaching got better as I prioritized my time.  More about this next time.