Sunday Night: (1 hour) Prayer, Reading and Note Taking
I found about an hour to start reading for next weeks sermon. I find the sooner I begin reading the passage I am preaching any given week the better. Sermons are not written, they are grown. Read my passage 4 times (Exodus 5:1-23) and made notes on my Penultimate iPad app. Read 1 shorter commentary and began thinking and praying out sermon structure.
Monday Morning: (3.5 hours) Reading, Word Study and Taking Notes
Started by reading my passage again and reviewing notes from Sunday night. At this point I still have no idea how I am going to order/structure the sermon, I am merely trying to grasp the passages’ one main thought. I use no more than 4 commentaries during the week for any given passage and this particular morning I use 3. I write out the passage with large margins between each verse. Once the passage is written out, I then insert observations and commentary notes (or references) into the margins between the verses. At the end of 3.5 hours, I have a rough idea of what the passage contains and what the main theme of the passage is.
Here is an example of what my notes look like on Monday morning.
Monday Evening: (1.5 hours) Write Introduction
With the wife and child asleep, I briefly review my notes from the morning. I have a burst of inspiration and decide to go ahead and write out an introduction. The key to intro writing for me is this: Do I have the main theme hammered down or not? Since this particular week, I do, I feel good about writing an introduction that is relevant to the passage I am preaching and will help engage the non-Christians and the disinterested sitting in a worship service on Sundays. After writing and editing my intro I feel good about the rest of the week.
Tuesday Afternoon (3 hrs) Write and Finalize Outline
After a busy morning of leading a leadership cohort, leading a staff meeting and lunch with a church member wrestling with a life issue, I manage to carve out a couple of hours to work on how exactly I can begin to outline this sermon. When writing an outline, my priorities are:
Conformity to the flow of the passage.
Am I true to the narrative as it unfolds? The sermon outline should serve the passage, not the other way around.
Clarity for the sake of the audience.
The outline should present the passage in a clear and compelling way in the context I am preaching it.
This particular week, due to the length of the passage and the complexity of the content, it is a struggle. I spend a good hour reading over my notes from earlier in the week looking for themes and ways to connect those themes as the passage unfolds. Around 6:30pm, I finally feel as if I have a good outline to work with and head home for the night.
Wednesday Morning (3 hrs) Application
On Wednesday’s I usually spend 2-3 hours thinking through sermon application. I look at the outline and then insert application thoughts/illustrations into the outline. I pray quite a lot as I’m thinking through the application of the passage. Various pastoral conversations emerge in my mind as I pray. Elder Council meeting discussions, Counseling sessions, etc. At this point in the sermon prep process, I am asking God to connect my heart, and the heart of the church I pastor, to the text. Since my afternoon is booked solid with other pastoral matters, I wrap up writing out my application points and pack in sermon prep for the day.
Thursday (All Day: 10 hours)
Thursday is deadline day and devoted completely to sermon writing and finalization. I block out every Thursday for sermon prep and put nothing else on my calendar barring very rare occurences. I choose to do all sermon writing on Thursday in a public place, usually a Starbucks. I do this for a number of reasons. The biggest reason being the constant reminder sermon prep in public offers me: (to quote David Helms) people are the point. I take all of my notes (still in Penultimate) and then begin to write, re-write and edit those notes and outline into a 25-27 pg. 5000 word (I use LARGE fonts!) manuscript. I color code certain points in the manuscript to remind me where I am in the passage. After I finish writing my final draft late in the afternoon, I re-read it, edit it, convert it into a PDF, email it to myself and then send my notes to our media team.
I preach 2 back to back services on Sunday mornings: 9:30am/11:15am. Most Sunday’s I spend about an hour praying over and reading throigh my sermon, start to finish.
Now its time to preach and then…the process will start all over again.
Total Prep Time: 23 hours