Jon Sampson has a good post on what he is learning from other pastors. This particular topic is about what David Fitch says he wish he had done over the last several years of church planting. It’s a good read. I’m curious what you all think of David’s #1.

1. Spend less time writing sermons, more time listening and speaking truth relationally lovingly into people’s lives. My goal, when I am preaching, is to never spend more than twelve hours a week writing sermons. Preaching the Word is important. It takes skill and practice. Yet the sermon is for speaking truth over people’s lives, not for entertainment. Sometimes the “entertainment” piece takes too much extra work. The sermon proclaims the true reality as it is under the Lordship of Christ and calls people into Him. It is my opinion the reason why sermon prep takes so much time is that often pastors place too much self-importance into it. How many hours a week do you spend on sermon prep?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this issue recently. Let me outline it this way.

  1. To be honest…I don’t think I’m a great preacher. But I do my best.
  2. I spend less time on sermon prep now than when I used to, especially right out of seminary.
  3. I don’t spend less time because of laziness, but because of the demands of work.
  4. Either I spend 20-40 hours of prep on a sermon, or I actually do other things like hang out with students, counsel people, etc.
  5. Who ever came up with that rule that I have heard about 1 hour of sermon prep for every minute of sermon?
  6. And who are these pastors that have 20-40 hours a week to prepare a sermon?
  7. Most pastors I know have lots of responsibility, and don’t have the luxury of everyone doing the work for them while they sit in their office or library all week buried in books.
  8. How relevant (and I mean this in the best of terms), or grounded in the community can the sermon be if the pastor is holed up in his/her study all week?
  9. When it comes down to it, ministry places lots of demands on us, and we have to choose ultimately between very important things. In doing this, I always try and keep people first. If someone needs to meet and it will interrupt my sermon prep, then that person is first, not my sermon prep.
  10. Sermons sometimes seem to be an avenue for the pastor to put on a show or display their prowess. Not all, and hopefully not many, but I often feel like a pastor sometimes spends all that time in prep to impress with their knowledge of Greek and Hebrew.

Full Disclosure: I should probably spend more time on sermon prep myself. But I don’t have a rule of thumb. Some weeks require more, and others require very little. Some weeks I am alone, looking through the Bible, commentaries and the language tools. Other weeks I’m just in prayer. And some weeks I have laid out my whole sermon in my head from my morning commute from Pasadena into work. We all have our methods and I think that is great. But to place a rule that every pastor should do this or that for a sermon is quite unrealistic.

There is a big difference between the pastor at a smaller church who preaches, counsels, does adminstrative tasks, vistis with people, etc., and the pastor at a large church whose only job is to preach. Sometimes I wonder that the large size of a church actually keeps us from putting our hand to the task of things that should be important and that keep us grounded in the daily realities of those we minister to.