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Taking the Pressure Out of Sermon Prep

A longer preparation window reduces anxiety, fosters creativity, and makes us more attentive to the Holy Spirit.

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Scott Shimada

October 27, 2015  5:12pm

Wow - this really helps me. I cannot imagine working on several messages at once. I have a hard enough time with one. But the idea of a longer runway helps. I was like Pastor Ken - waiting until Thursday to do "most" of the work. Maybe I felt like the pressure of a deadline would kick in some extra energy and good ideas would flow. But having 10 days (or a few weeks) allows more time to let things sink in and let creative juices flow. I appreciate this article!

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Jay Ewing

October 27, 2015  4:08pm

I too have often felt a great deal of anxiety when preparing sermons. As a pastor, I desperately want to be faithful to the text, while bringing something fresh and relevant to my community of faith, and there are always plenty of distractions. Ken's wise advice here has become a part my own rhythm over the last few years. It has helped me to rest in the process of of digging into the text, and given me time to allow the creativity to flow. I also run my sermons by other pastors before preaching the sermon, and it is always better because of it. I still regularly feel anxiety around the preaching event, but I am much more confident and prepared these days. Thanks for your wisdom Ken!

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Brian Buhler

October 27, 2015  1:55pm

Oh yes, many neurotic nightmares surrounding the upcoming preaching event. I'm either standing in front of the congregation completely nude or I can't find my notes. After 35 years of doing this, the fear of arriving on Sunday with nothing to say still haunts me. I must be honest, I have a love/hate relationship with preaching because of this. I wish I could discipline myself to a longer preparation window. I believe Ken is right on all levels. Though I don't take the time that Ken does to write and preach a sermon, I've found a rhythm that works for me. Monday and Wednesday are full study days where I see no people or plan no meetings. I don't go into the church! I begin on Monday morning with hermeneutical prep and move to homiletical. By Wednesday afternoon, my manuscript is finished. I don't pick it up until Saturday. The rhythm of study/people/study/people/SABBATH (Friday)/rehearsal/PREACH has worked well for me.

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Jade Holownia

October 27, 2015  12:57pm

Very helpful counsel here. Starting early has definitely helped to take the pressure off sermon prep. Submitting a two paragraph summary to worship leader 10 days in advance seems to get the ball rolling for me. Letting it ruminate brings more creativity to the process. This morning during a run, I got a good (I think) sermon illustration for this Sunday. I work on the draft, present it to my colleagues for "feedforward" on Wednesday, then make some edits to it Thursday. On Friday, I take a sabbath and try not to think about it at all. Then Saturday, I go to the church and practice it a few times. Usually small transition edits happen at that point. It's worth noting that I often feel the sermon is ok, but not great throughout the process. It's only sometimes on Saturday, as I hear myself preach it that I begin to feel more confident that it has value and will be helpful to others.

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Sam Rima

October 27, 2015  12:37pm

This is an excellent article by a gifted practitioner. Like Ken, I too suffered from hyper anxiety related to preaching when I was preparing sermons the week I needed to preach them. However, having served on staff with Ken for the past four years (I am now once again serving in a lead pastor role in Seattle) I was amazed by his sermon prep rhythms. Largely, due to his influence, I am now following a similar rhythm. For example, I have my sermons for the next two weeks complete and am this week working on my first sermon for the Advent series. I have also instituted a "Feed Forward" here at our church, again something I learned from Ken, where I run through my sermon with a few staff members and hand-picked people from our congregation representing a broad demographic and am finding it immensely helpful. Every week I make edits based on their feed forward! I can affirm that my preaching experience has changed for the better and I am enjoying preaching as never before!

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