When I served as an executive and teaching pastor in Miami, I learned the benefit of planning sermons and teaching series months ahead. I don’t mean the entire sermon completely prepared, but a specific direction for a teaching series and a general direction for each sermon within the series. The advanced planning was not only helped me when I was teaching/preaching, but also helped other facets of the church.
When I served at LifeWay, I was close to research studies like this one and learned that the joke about preachers and “their Saturday night specials” (preacher lingo for sermons prepared at the last minute) is more myth than reality. According to the research, the vast majority of pastors prepare more in advance than the night before, but more than half of pastors are “less than a month out” in sermon planning.
Some find planning their sermons far out impractical. Others fear it won’t allow them to address needs that arise in their churches or moments that surface in the culture because the advanced planning will unnecessarily hold them to a direction. I get the argument but because God exists above and outside of time, He can lead us months in advance just as He can lead us in a single moment.
I plan sermon series and the general direction of sermons within a series several months in advance, and here are four advantages:
1. There is more time to pray over the text and topic.
A preacher does not need to be a believer in advanced message prep to be deeply devoted to prayer. I am confident there are many who pray more deeply than I do who are not as far out in their sermon prep as I am. I have much growing to do. What I have learned is that having message direction mapped out in advance gives me more time to pray over the passage and more time to pray about the sermon.
2. There is more time to meditate on the text or topic and apply it personally.
As preachers we must preach as people who have been transformed by what we are preaching. When the text has transformed the preacher, the preacher brings a profound sense of conviction and transparency to the message. I benefit from more time to meditate on a text, apply that text to my life, and repent of my own shortcomings. And I believe the people I teach also benefit from the Word working on me.
3. Illustrations appear through the lens of the series.
When I have a general direction of a sermon, illustrations and personal stories that help teach the text seem to appear in the regular rhythm of life. It is likely because my mind is often on what I will be preaching in the future, so I see life partly through the lens of upcoming sermons.
4. Opportunities for connection to other aspects of the church can be surfaced.
Advanced sermon planning can help other pastors on staff, not just the preacher. Sermons often provide natural connection points to groups or ministries within the church, and when the staff team has advanced notice, they can maximize these opportunities. It is not fair to give them two days notice. Well, you can but better work happens when they have more time.
This post is sponsored by Southern Seminary, the seminary that helped me immensely in learning how to prepare messages. For more information on how you can study at Southern, click here.