There’s a running joke among preachers, where sermons are referred to as “Saturday Night Specials.” It’s one of those jokes with an element of truth. Every small church pastor knows the feeling of a busy week of ministry, outside jobs, counseling, maintenance — and an emergency crash sermon prep session on Saturday night. (Or Sunday morning!)
I know the stress & pain in that. Recently, I’ve had to a few times, with our 6th baby arriving in September.
But for some, it’s a distressing, stress-filled, regular occurrence.
Often, it’s just a function of life. But for some guys, it goes deeper — down to a fundamental doubt about whether it’s really a good thing to prep sermons in advance.
Here are 5 reasons why you should plan your sermons in advance:
1. It makes your sermons deeper.
Can I break something to you? You’re not naturally deep. Unless you’re reading deeply and broadly and bringing the wisdom of the “sages of the ages” into your messages, you’re not naturally deep.
There’s a verse that sometimes floats around among preachers, which needs to go: “Open your mouth, and I will fill it.”
“Open your mouth, and I will fill it.” I always want to respond: “Yes, with hot air!”
In all seriousness, Psalm 81:10 is a verse about God’s provision for his people. He’s talking about good actual food, not things to say. If God suddenly gives you an opportunity to preach, and you had no chance to prepare, I’m sure he’ll bring to mind what you should say. If you take your weekly appointments to preach and treat them the same way — you’re not trusting, you’re just slacking!
2. It makes your sermons more enjoyable.
Very, very rarely a communicator comes along who can talk well without a plan — and still be fun to listen to.
You’re not that guy. I’m not either. I have to remind myself regularly — “You’re not naturally fun to listen to. You need to work at being enjoyable.”
Illustrations, stories, statistics, graphics, quotes, humor… these make you more fun to listen to. Unless you have a brain that files a vast repository of these things, and then can call them up in a moment’s notice, you’re going to need a plan. You’re going to need to think ahead about topics & what you’re really trying to say.
3. It keeps your preaching balanced.
Every pastor has areas that they are naturally comfortable with talking about, and passionate about. For some it’s ministry, or evangelism. For some, it’s a prophetic call to repentance or surrender. For others, it might be messages of comfort and hope, or biblical study with Greek verbs & background.
Rick Warren says there are 3 kinds of messages: Build up, Fire up, and Hold Up. Your congregation needs all three, but I guarantee there is one of those three that is easier for you than the others. And without planning, you’ll default to the one that’s easiest, and deprive your congregation of the other elements they need.
Planning enables you to purposely move away from your “comfort zone” and give your congregation something else that they need.
4. It makes your messages more helpful.
It isn’t easy to be truly helpful.
It’s easy to make a series of observations about life, and how people aren’t doing it right. People do that all day on Facebook and Twitter. Politicians do it all the time on the campaign trail.
But if you want to HELP, you’re going to need to create easy to follow steps, concrete actions… you’ll have to be really clear, and give people courage to accomplish something.
And THAT takes real thought, and real thought takes time.
5. It gives you more time to pray and “soak in the truth.”
I once heard a pastor say, “You can’t rush reflection.” That’s true.
Part of what makes a message deep is that it has had time to touch your heart. And that is hard to find on Saturday night with any regularity. To give it time to touch you, to form your thinking & character, you’ll need to start early.
What about you? How often & how far do you plan your sermons in advance?