How to Preach a Sermon Every Week
I remember sitting in church as a kid listening to my dad preach a sermon week after week. Over time, I worried that he would run out of material one day. After all, there are only so many chapters in the Bible!
Now that I’m a pastor myself, I’ve realized that the Bible contains enough content for many lifetimes of sermons. Yet, preaching a sermon week after week can still be a challenge. Preachers experience writer’s block like everyone else. We all dread sitting in front of a blank word document, taunted by the little blinking line waiting for us to start typing.
So how do you preach a sermon every week?
Here’s a bird’s eye view outline of my sermon process. I hope it’s helpful for preachers and for anyone who experiences the pressure to turn on the creative button with an imposing deadline.
2-6 Months Out: Calendar, Series, & Scheduling
Knowing what sermons are coming up, at least a few months in advance, is essential. To get this done, you must set aside time to outline a sermon series, assign a teaching text each week, and work it into the calendar. Our church utilizes Planning Center Services as a central platform to keep track of all of this.
Knowing what sermon series are on the horizon allows you to accumulate ideas, visuals, and research over time. One easy practice is jotting down thoughts or quotes in the notes app on your phone. If I have a book that I think will go along well with a series, I will add it to my reading list to get through it ahead of time.
“Knowing what sermon series are on the horizon allows you to accumulate ideas, visuals, and research over time.”
Having sermon series outlined with a title and teaching text is also essential if you want to schedule other speakers effectively. It’s almost impossible to get someone to agree to sign up for a speaking slot if they don’t have a clear understanding of what they are speaking about.
Monday: Research (2-4 hours)
Other than letting a sermon idea simmer on the back burner, I don’t touch it until the week of. On Mondays, we have staff meetings, and I’m following up from the weekend, but I always try to start at least working my way through some study resources. This way, my thoughts about the teaching text begin to percolate.
It’s important to note that I’m not deciding on the topic or text for a sermon on Monday. I should already do that work months ahead of time. I look at the calendar, grab a stack of books from the shelf, and start reading. I jot down any notes that stick out to me at the bottom of a word document in a bulleted list.
If you don’t have great study resources, you can always spend a few hours at a library. Before I owned good books, I would visit the Boise Bible College library each week. You should start investing in building up a study library or a tool like Logos Bible software if you are preaching regularly.
“You should start investing in building up a study library or a tool like Logos Bible software if you are preaching regularly.”
Tuesday: Writing (4-6 hours)
On Tuesday, I like to start my day at a coffee shop. Getting off-site helps minimize work interruptions and spark creativity. I often begin the day extra early and don’t check my email until I return to the office. You need to stay distraction-free during the writing process and allow yourself to enter deep thought.
Some weeks I get into a flow, and the entire sermon comes together without much trouble. On other weeks the writing process is more of a grind. The important thing is that I’m never staring at a blank page. I already have the Bible text, study notes, and ideas all written down at this point. The only piece of the puzzle to figure out is how to organize my thoughts coherently.
If I’m getting stuck on one section of the sermon, I’ll move on and write another section that is a little more self-explanatory. I don’t write my sermons from start to finish. In fact, the introduction is often one of the trickiest parts to get right, and I usually leave it for last. I find it easier to know where the message is heading before I understand how to get things started.
“I find it easier to know where the message is heading before I understand how to get things started.”
Another tip if you are getting stuck is to talk out your ideas. I often turn to a co-worker and share some thoughts on the sermon. Sometimes they provide feedback, but it’s more to see if I can verbalize the idea I’m trying to convey on paper.
Remember to take breaks if you need to at this step in the process. I usually move from a coffee shop to the church office after a couple of hours to give myself a change in scenery. I often run after three or four hours of writing to clear my mind. I drink plenty of water and ensure I’m eating food to think straight. It’s incredible how much more effective you will be when you intentionally manage your energy levels.
Wednesday: Slides, Questions, Outline (2 hours)
If all goes well, I’m wrapping up any final sermon writing on Wednesday and taking care of a few loose ends in the preaching process. I briefly summarize the message (3-5 sentences) for the YouTube & podcast description. I create discussion questions for our Life Groups to go through and email over my slides. Finally, I will take the long-form manuscript and condense it into a one-page outline.
After completing the outline, I don’t touch the sermon until Sunday morning. Some preachers live by the saying, “the sermon is never finished.” I personally think that would be a horrible way to live! I can rest easy knowing that Sunday’s sermon is ready if I’ve prepared well. It is a blessing to have at least a couple of days where you don’t have to think about creating content. Rest is a necessary but often overlooked aspect of the creative process.
“Rest is a necessary but often overlooked aspect of the creative process.”
The reality is things don’t always go as planned. Additional ministry opportunities arise, and life happens, which can delay the sermon writing process. Last week I stayed home from work sick on Wednesday. Due to a meeting-packed Thursday, I didn’t finish the sermon until Friday (usually my day off)! When things don’t go as planned, you must do your best with your time. Trust God to use whatever you have to offer that week.
Sunday: Preach (2 services)
I arrive at the church building more than two hours before the first church service begins. After taking care of any last-minute setup (unlocking doors, setting out parking signs, etc.) I settle down in my office to look over the sermon. I will print my notes and highlight the passage in my preaching Bible. If I don’t have time to outline the message during the week, I’ll take care of that during this time.
When I first started preaching regularly, I would practice speaking the entire message out loud ahead of time. Now, I typically talk through the introduction if I have time. Otherwise, I’ll sit quietly, reading through the outline and teaching text. This an excellent opportunity to pray that God would speak through me.
“This an excellent opportunity to pray that God would speak through me.”
This leads me to one more tip for preaching a sermon every week…
Pray throughout every step.
Try to cover every single step of the sermon process in prayer. I once heard Pastor Jon Tyson from New York say, “A prayerless sermon is a powerless sermon.” I live by those words.
I pray for direction when creating teaching series. I pray that God provides the right guest speakers to bring an outside perspective to our church. I pray as a way to process the research. I pray before, during, and after writing. I pray on the drive to church, in my office before service, and during the song before I get up to preach. I pray on the Sunday drive home that people would put into practice what they’ve heard from God’s Word.
You get the point—pray. Remember Psalm 127.
Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. – Psalm 127:1
When you preach, you have the responsibility to do everything you can to communicate God’s Word clearly. And then you trust God to do everything you can’t do.
(For more from Joshua, check out joshuabranham.com.)