One pastor said it took him about 30 hours each week to prepare a sermon. Another pastor thought he could do it in about 6-8 hours. For me, it takes months. Let me explain.
Like any pastor in a small church, I wear many hats. And I don’t have a full time secretary to “protect” my study time. That means I can’t guarantee that every week will allow me large periods of uninterrupted study time. I also like to take time to think on a text before I preach it. So here is how I handle this.
I usually take a day or two in the summer to plan the preaching schedule for the year. I prefer preaching through a book of the Bible, though I usually do plan in a topical series or two. I try to get the general theme and purpose of the book I’ll be preaching out of. I take time to figure out how the book breaks down to preaching sections and even try to get the main theme or point of each preaching text. Then I slot these into my calendar. When I preach topical, I still want each sermon to be based on one key text, so I try to get those figured out and slotted on the calendar. I might work through the fall sermons even a bit more than the ones from January and on as I will try to take another day later on to flesh those out.
When I come to the beginning of the series, I again take some extended time to work on the whole book. I want to be clear on the main theme and how that fits each of the preaching sections. At this point I may even adjust some of the passages depending on how things fit with the theme and the calendar. I like to give people a good introduction so they know where we are going as we journey through the next sermon series.
I take Mondays off, so Tuesday is the start of my weekly sermon planning.
-Tuesday: research the text, check out commentaries, even begin thinking of possible illustrations, keep eyes open for illustrations that come up in the news or in my reading, etc.
-Wednesday: work through the material again in order to come up with the main “big idea”, develop a preaching outline
-Thursday: begin developing the sermon, I generally write out the whole sermon.
-Friday: finish up the sermon, build my power point presentation as I generally like to use it because I know how much of a visual person I am.
-Saturday: all through the process, including Saturday, the sermon is “percolating” in my mind.
-Sunday: I’m up and at the church early so I can preach the sermon out loud, it’s interesting how different things sounds sometimes when I preach it out loud compared to reading it on paper. This is when I make any final adjustments and pray over the sermon and the service.
And then, because it’s been on my mind all week, I’m able to leave my notes from time to time and not just read them. I know my content very well. In this way I work on the sermon a little at a time and can generally fit it around all the other meetings and interruptions that come up.
And so, my sermon planning actually occurs over months, not just the week before that Sunday.
Hope your sermon planning goes well!