How To Build A Sermon Preparation System

Consistency or talent?

If you know Aesop's Fable about the tortoise and the hare, you can see the power of consistency.

But consistency is hard to find in pastoral ministry.

We don't exactly work 9-5, do we?

So a lot of us rely on talent instead.

When it comes to preaching, our busy schedules leave us scrambling to find time to be ready for the weekend.

Why do we settle for this? And what can you do about it?

Here's my suggestion:

Develop a sermon preparation system.

In my experience, you can't make yourself more talented.

But you can get the most out of the talent you have by being consistent.

And if you want to be consistent in your preaching, here are four elements of a healthy sermon preparation system:

1. Use a sermon preparation schedule. 

Ever find yourself scrambling on a Sunday morning to put the finishing touches on your sermon?

An excellent preparation schedule helps you clarify the blocks of time you need to turn a sermon idea into a message you're ready to preach.

And by planning and protecting time to prepare, you can dictate when you finish getting ready. Want to finish on Wednesday? Build a schedule for it and stick to it? Want to do all of your preparation on Saturday? Build a schedule and stick to it.

Currently, I use a two-week preparation schedule. Here's what it looks like for the next sermon that I'm preaching on Sunday, March 26th:

  • Sunday, March 12th - read Ephesians 5:21-33 between 15-20 times
  • Monday, March 13th - research original languages, commentaries, and other sources
  • Thursday, March 16th - finalize the main idea of the sermon
  • Tuesday, March 21st - write rough draft of the sermon
  • Wednesday, March 22nd - write final draft of the sermon
  • Saturday, March 25th - read and pray through sermon before bed (make edits if needed)
  • Sunday, March 26th - read and pray through sermon 2-3 times before preaching

2. Create a template to organize your sermon.

One of the most overlooked areas of consistency in your preaching is how you organize your message.

If you've heard the phrase, '3 points and a poem', as it relates to preaching, then you can see what consistency looks like in organizing your sermon.

Consistent organization helps you save time and energy because you don't have to reinvent all the movements you want to take in a sermon. And consistent organization helps the people who are listening to you because they learn to follow along based on how your message is structured.

Oh, and let's not make this an excuse to be lazy and boring in our preaching. Consistency should provide guard rails for increased creativity inside of a familiar structure.

The structure I use has four parts:

  • Make A Connection - Introduce the sermon in a way that grabs attention and piques curiosity
  • Drive To The Text - where I do the bulk of my explanation and illustration of the Scriptures
  • Show How It Matters - apply the main point of the sermon, with primary emphasis on the response called for in the text
  • Take Them To Jesus - from the text, show how Jesus models obedience where we disobey and how his redemptive work provides what we need to respond with honesty and hope

3. Make the main idea in your message memorable

After clarifying the main point of both the text and your sermon, you have an incredible opportunity that you can't afford to miss.

Take what you've said clearly and make it compelling. 

Use word pictures and tools like rhyming, alliteration and contrast to bring your main idea to life.

One way I do this consistently is to turn my main point into a question and answer. It's effective because of the combination of a genuine question that we address in the text and answer in a clear, compelling and creative fashion.

4. Preach for a response.

While God is the one who gives people ears to hear and a desire to respond, part of our job is to mediate that response.

So you should expect and call for a clear response to God based on the text that you're preaching.

In an interview that I did with Pastor Joby Martin of Church of 1122 in Jacksonville, FL, he shared that he sees three primary responses in the Scriptures:

  • Head - change in belief
  • Heart - change in affection
  • Hands - change in behavior

Do The Next Right Thing

To learn more about what it takes to build a Sermon Preparation System, download our FREE resource, The 3 Systems You Need To Preach Better Sermons.

It will help you evaluate your preaching and provide clear next steps to help you continue to grow as a preacher.

Comment below with questions or observations. And feel free to share this with others using the menu at the bottom of the screen.

Thanks for the opportunity to help you get the most out of your preaching!

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