Editor's note: As preachers develop their signature method of sermon preparation over the years, they often enhance their process by "cherry picking" from the sermon prep schedules and checklists of others. When someone preaches in a way that consistently intrigues and speaks to us, and we wonder how they do it, the answer may well be found in those schedules and checklists.
PreachingToday.com: Are there any key questions you normally answer, or paths of thought you typically take, as you study a text and write the sermon?
Dave Stone: I try to determine the main take-away from the text. Then I try to translate that into the best take-away for my audience. As I write my sermon, I attempt to give that central theme plenty of ways to breathe through the sermon. I do that through relevant illustrations, supporting scriptures, humorous stories, and biblical examples. When I write my conclusion, my goal is to challenge the listener to some type of action. I typically will ask myself the so what question. In other words, in light of what I have just taught, So What? That in turn leads me to the specific challenge I will give.
What schedule routine do you follow in sermon preparation?
Stone: We try to determine our sermon series several months in advance. At that initial stage, our hope is to have a title, text, and perhaps some direction. Then about one month before the series begins, we have a creative planning team that meets to discuss what creative things we can incorporate into the messages. That may not be something done in the sermon—it might be a song, drama, testimony, or video—but we look for creative ways to supplement and enhance the bottom-line message.
As for the sermon, on Monday morning I meet with the worship and preaching staff, and we talk about the service as it is laid out. I will then share some outline thoughts and invite others to share any ideas for supporting scriptures. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I try to work on my sermon at least three or more hours each of those days.
By noon on Thursday I try to have a ten-page manuscript. I then have a working lunch with three other guys on staff who love preaching, and we spend an hour slicing and dicing suggestions. On Friday I continue to add last-minute ideas and edit the manuscript.
On Saturday afternoon I practice it and send it on to our tech crew. After I preach the message in our Saturday night worship service, I will receive voicemail suggestions and encouragement from the same gentlemen who read over the sermon on Thursday. On Sunday morning at Waffle House®, I will continue to refine the message. I will call my changes in to the tech department to modify their slides, and then I will preach the sermon two more times on Sunday.
Dave Stone is the former Senior Pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky,