How I Prepare to Preach

I could never be a lead pastor. It’s not that I don’t like the idea of leading or rallying people around a vision. I love doing those things. It’s just that I couldn’t handle the stress and pressure of putting together a sermon week after week. Luckily for me, I’m only called on to preach between 8-12 times a year.

Preaching used to scare me to death. We probably all remember those first experiences being some of the most traumatizing of our lives. For most of us, it meant shaky knees, sweaty palms, and a feeling of nausea.

I was relieved to hear that Pastor Craig Groeschel used to puke every week before he took the stage. It’s always good to know you’re not alone.

Thankfully, those days are behind me, and I believe the biggest reason is because of preparation.

I believe ninety percent of nervousness can be eliminated if you are well prepared. The other ten percent is between you and God.

Here’s my process for preparing to preach a sermon. Keep in mind, I’m constantly in prayer throughout the process.

  1. Gather the Big Ideas (2-4 weeks out)

In this step I want to answer three questions.

  1. What is the main thought/idea I want to convey?
  2. What is the main scripture(s) I want to use?
  3. What is the next step I want people to take?

You may also want to include the main points if you’re used to preaching that way. For example, “Three Steps to Discover God’s Purpose for Your Life.” Go ahead and list out the three steps here.

  1. Write a Transcript (1-2 weeks out)

Once you have these questions answered, you can begin writing out your sermon. I write out my entire sermon word for word from the welcome to the closing. This helps me be very intentional with what I want to say, and writing it out helps me to memorize it. I shoot for a word count between 1,800-2,400 words because in my experience this equates to about a 35-40 minute sermon.

  1. Preach the Transcript to Yourself (Monday-Tuesday)

I will then preach through the transcript by myself at least twice, making changes and adjustments as I preach. I also time myself to make sure the sermon is fitting into the 35-40 minute window.

  1. Condense to Notes & More Practice Preaching (Wednesday-Friday)

I will then condense my transcript into the notes I’m going to use to preach from. Once I have my notes, I will use them to preach to myself another two to three times and make any last minute changes.

  1. One Last Look then Preach (Sunday Morning)

I will look through my notes a couple more times, pray one last time, and then take the stage and preach to the congregation.

By the time I take the stage to preach to the congregation, I’ve already preached the message out loud to myself four to six times. This may seem like overkill, and it may be, but this is what it takes for me to be prepared to give my best.

I hope it helps some of you.

What does your sermon prep look like? I’d love to know that I’m not the only crazy one in the bunch, so leave a comment below. Also, if you’re interested in learning more about preaching subscribe to the blog to get my free ebook “8 Steps to More Impactful Preaching.”

Who are You Listening to?

Part Two: Church Conversations

In my last post, we talked about those random conversations that happen before and after services, on phone calls throughout the week, or through Facebook messenger. We discovered to make the most of our time, there are some people we should listen to and some people we should ignore. In today’s post, we want to move from the non-church related conversations to the church related.

If you’ve been a pastor for any time, you know that everyone has an opinion on how you should do church or how you should do your job.

The sad thing is, in many churches the person who farms all week has as much power to speak into how the church is run as the pastor who spends sixty to eighty hours a week working for the church.

This is why congregational voting is a terrible idea. You would never let the passengers tell the pilot how to fly a plane, but you’ll let them run a church. No wonder so many churches are in a free fall.

Hopefully, your church is not one of these churches. If it is, then it’s going to make who you listen to and who you ignore a lot more difficult.

For those of us who’ve managed to get out of the 1800’s, you should know that who you listen to is just as important as who you ignore.

Andy Stanley says, “Listening creates a culture that attracts and keeps better leaders.” And we all know, everything rises and falls on leadership. So, who should you be listening to?

Here are my suggestions.

  • Listen to those who are invested. Those who are serving and giving to your church.
  • Listen to those who are closest to the action. Sometimes talking to a volunteer is better than talking to a team leader.
  • Listen to those who love Jesus, love you, and love the church.
  • Listen to those who are smarter than you. If you’re the smartest person in your church, that’s an issue. Surround yourself with men and women who challenge your thinking.

One of the greatest qualities a leader can have is listening to those around him or her.

But make sure you’re listening to the right people because there are some others that you should ignore or at least redirect to someone else.

Here are my suggestions for those.

  • Ignore or redirect those who aren’t invested in your church. If they’ve been attending for a while but haven’t ever given or served, that should be a red flag.
  • Ignore or redirect those who are trying to speak into a situation that they know nothing about.
  • Ignore or redirect those who love their preferences over loving those who don’t know Jesus.
  • Ignore or redirect those who are constant complainers or critics.

Too often pastors get caught up listening, worrying, and stressing about something someone said that they should have been ignoring. Your mission is too important to get sidetracked by these people. Learn who to listen to and who to ignore.

Have you ever been guilty of listening to someone you should’ve ignored? We’d love to hear about it, so drop us a comment, and if you haven’t already make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Who are You Listening to?

Part One: Casual Conversations

In a given week, I have a handful of conversations outside of those with my spouse, family, and very close friends. I think that’s pretty normal for most people but not for senior pastors. If you’re a senior pastor, you know that number jumps exponentially. The problem is, you only have so much time. So how do you decide who you should listen to and who you should ignore?

Let’s break our conversations down into two categories.

  1. Casual Conversations
  2. Church Conversations

We’ll tackle casual conversations in this post, and then church conversations in part two of this post.

Today, we’re talking about the conversations that happen before and after services, through telephone calls during the week, or Facebook messages in the middle of the night.

Most of these conversations are harmless, but that doesn’t mean they’re beneficial. With a limited amount of time, you need to prioritize who you give your time to.

So, here are my suggestions.

  • Listen to those who are seeking God.
  • Listen to those who are new to following God.
  • Listen to those who are new to your church.
  • Listen to those who are genuinely hurting.

Get to know them, learn their names, and answer any questions they may have.

This would be a great investment of your time, but there are some other conversations that aren’t a great investment.

There are just some people you should ignore or redirect to someone else.

Here are my suggestions for those.

  • Ignore or redirect those who catch you every Sunday and just want to “shoot the bull”.
  • Ignore or redirect those who are just looking for attention.
  • Ignore or redirect those who are weird/crazy. They’re in every church.
  • Ignore or redirect those who are looking to get into a theological debate.

I know this can seem unloving or uncaring and as a pastor you don’t want to come off that way, but if you really want to make a difference in people’s lives, you have to learn who to listen to and who to ignore.

What’s the weirdest conversation you’ve ever been a part of between services? We’d love to hear about it, so drop us a comment, and if you haven’t already make sure to subscribe to the blog to make sure you don’t miss part two of this post and other great tips on church growth, leadership, and more.