Guest post from Kevin Halloran of Leadership Resources.
According to an unscientific poll, Thom Rainer found that approximately 70% of pastors spend 10 to 18 hours in sermon preparation before preaching.
What about the pastors without 10–18 hours?
Many pastors (especially bi-vocational pastors and church planters) have to balance the rigors of a full-time job, family responsibilities, and shepherding the flock into their work week, and an extra 10 hours isn’t possible. And what if someone dies? Last-minute funeral sermons don’t prepare themselves during already busy weeks.
What is one to do?
This is a question we think about regularly, usually in regard to bi-vocational pastors we train around the world. My colleague and LRI trainer, Sean Martin, suggests overloaded preachers consider this simple method for squeezing in more prep time:
- Get up thirty minutes earlier than normal and work your way through the text with a hermeneutical principle, taking notes along the way. For example, Monday might be the day for Asking Good Questions, while on Tuesday you consider the structure of the passage.
- Keep your notepad with you during the week, and squeeze in times of meditation and reflection on your text, taking notes as thoughts percolate. Your lunch hour may prove fruitful, as well as other random times in the day.
- Before bed, take 20 or 30 minutes more to think and pray through the text.
When this is faithfully practiced during the week, it may open up an additional five or six hours for study and meditation on your text.
- Come Saturday, a substantial part of the work is done, and you would then need to organize your thoughts and finalize sermon details.
Six months after recommending this method to a group of Haitian pastors we train in exposition, Sean returned and asked what was new. Arnaud, a bi-vocational pastor, eagerly shared how much of a difference this method made in his preaching. With extra study and meditation time, and thus a better grasp of the passage, Arnaud testified that this method has changed him. Now he feels more confident handling God’s Word, and many in his congregation have noticed a positive difference.
While there are reasons why following this method isn’t the ideal situation, many busy pastors will never have the “ideal.” If you are able to have considerable sermon prep time, rejoice!—and don’t take your privilege lightly.
But if you struggle to balance full-time work with shepherding your flock, take heart that God knows your situation. He is not a taskmaster demanding you prepare more hours than you are able. He knows your sacrifice and effort. Do the best you can with your time, and pray for grace in your preparation and preaching of God’s Word. God will both help you and honor His Word.