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.
- Gather the Big Ideas (2-4 weeks out)
In this step I want to answer three questions.
- What is the main thought/idea I want to convey?
- What is the main scripture(s) I want to use?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”