By Aaron Earls
Apparently, there is more than one way to prepare a sermon. Just ask Scott Parkison and Jeremy Rose.
Parkison, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Manchester, Tennessee, takes a traditional route to sermon preparation. He tries to spend time alone with the text and prays through what God would have him say to his people.
“My wife laughs at me because on Saturday nights, I will often hide in my closet with my Bible and iPad as I go over the sermon I’ve spent all week preparing,” says the father of five.
Most sermons take about 10 hours of preparation, says Parkison. After adding in the time it takes for long-range planning of sermon series and last minute tweaking, Parkison says the total time can approach 20 hours.
Sometimes it’s hard to find that much time for sermon planning and still have time to minister to his congregation.
“People don’t realize how phone calls or walking into my office for a quick chat can completely derail my focus,” Parkison says. “Sometimes, I feel as if people don’t understand the energy it takes.”
Jeremy Rose, church planter and pastor of The Axis Church in Nashville, has developed a method that combines discipleship and sermon preparation in a way he believes makes him more effective and humble as a pastor.
He and a group from the church who have all completed a basic hermeneutics course gather on Monday nights to discuss the passage for the next sermon. Each one has been studying the text for a week. Rose takes notes and asks questions during the discussion.
Rose then spends several hours Wednesday and Thursday studying before finishing his sermon. This method allows him to deliver a sermon with more than 60 hours of research behind it, while also spending time in God’s Word with men in his church.
“It helps keep me humble,” he says. “When someone compliments the sermon, I can honestly say, ‘I wish I’d have written it.’”
Rose is honest about his feelings toward sermon preparation. It’s one of his least favorite parts of ministry.
“I enjoy preaching, I don’t enjoy studying.” Rose says. “But I hate preaching without studying.”
Parkison agrees. “The prep is very laborious,” he says. “I enjoy the delivery far more than the prep.”
Despite viewing preparation as one of the more difficult aspects of their jobs, most pastors spend a significant amount of time on sermon prep.
According to a 2012 Lifeway Research survey, nearly 7 out of 10 pastors spend eight or more hours a week on sermon prep. A quarter spend 8 to 10 hours on sermon prep, while 23 percent spend 11 to 15 hours. About one in five (21 percent) spend more than 15.
Resources for sermon-planning
- Ten Tips to Becoming a More Productive Pastor by Thom Rainer
- Seven Habits of Highly Effective Preachers by Thom Rainer
- The Number of Hours Keller, Piper, Driscoll (and Five Others) Spend on Sermon Prep by Eric McKiddie
- How Six Faithful, But Not Famous Pastors Prepare Their Sermons by Eric McKiddie
- Faithful Preaching: Declaring Scripture with Responsibility, Passion and Authenticity by Tony Merida
- Christ-Centered Preaching & Teaching (FREE) from Ed Stetzer (editor)
- 12 Essential Skills for Great Preaching (Second Edition) by Wayne McDill
- Preaching and Preachers (40th Anniversary Edition) by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Aaron Earls is senior writer/editor of LifewayResearch.com.