Do you ever get stuck in a sermon prep rut? I do. Sometimes the sermon comes together like a beautifully crafted work of art. But other times I struggle to make progress in my study. It’s hard to break out of sermon prep stuck-ness. I’ve learned a few things that help me overcome these stuck times, and I want to share them with you. Here’s 16 things you can do this week to get unstuck in your sermon prep:
1. Put away your study materials and pray for ten minutes about nothing but your sermon. Preaching is supernatural work and prayer reemphasizes in your own heart that you are utterly dependent on God to empower you to preach effectively.
2. Read the text five times slowly. It’s amazing how quickly we tend to move away from the text to study materials and sermon formulation. Put away everything else and just read the text multiples times letting it speak to you.
3. Open the voice memo app on your smart phone, hit record and start preaching what you have so far. You may find that speaking the words helps you formulate them better or in a different way than writing.
4. Run your content by someone else and see what they think. This can be done informally with a friend or fellow pastor. I explain how to make this part of your regular sermon prep in my guide to preparing sermons in a team.
5. Take a break from studying for a while and come back to it later. If your mind is foggy, walk away from it for a while. Think about something else. Do completely unrelated work for a few hours.
6. Go for a walk. A brisk walk. Or a run. Get your blood pumping and some much needed oxygen to your brain.
7. When any thought (ANY THOUGHT) about your sermon comes to mind during the week immediately make a note of it. Immediately. Never assume you’ll remember the amazing insight that comes to you at a random time during the week.
8. Summarize the entire message in one paragraph. Wherever you are in your study, distill the whole message into one paragraph. This will force you to focus and clarify what you are trying to communicate.
9. Talk about your content with anyone who will talk about it with you. Listen and take notes. This is similar to #4 but the difference is that you do more listening than presenting. Fish the idea out just enough to get them to comment on it and then listen carefully.
10. Do something kind for another human being. It’s amazing how serving someone can get you out of a rut.
11. Scroll your Facebook NewsFeed and read the first three articles your friends posted. Think through how you would use them as supporting material/illustrations. Even if you don’t end up using them, the exercise gets you thinking.
12. Ask a question on social media about something that relates to your sermon. This is a great way to get input from lots of people really quickly.
13. Explain your main point(s) to a child and ask them if they understand. The process of making your message understandable to a child helps to simplify it in your own mind. If you can’t explain it to a child, you’re not ready to explain it to anyone.
14. Summarize the entire message in one sentence. This is like #8 but one step further. This sentence usually ends up becoming my main point.
15. Listen to a sermon on the same text. Listen to how some other preachers dealt with the text/topic you’re studying. If you end up using their ideas always give proper credit.
16. Check out some helpful posts and podcasts on sermon prep at PreachingDonkey.com Preaching Donkey is all about helping you communicate better every time you preach.
photo credit: Saturday 128