Ask Protestant pastors about the topic for next week’s sermon and they might not have any idea. Or they might have known for months.
Pastors are split over how far in advance they plan sermons, according to Lifeway Research.
About one-quarter of pastors (22 percent) say they pick their sermon topic or passage about a week in advance. Similar numbers pick their topic between two and five months ahead of time (22 percent) or at least six months in advance (22 percent).
Overall, pastors seem to plan on short notice. More than half (57 percent) choose their topics a month or less ahead of time.
Pastors at small churches—those with fewer than 100 attenders—are more likely to plan a week ahead (28 percent) than young pastors.
Also likely to plan a week ahead are pastors older than 65 (29 percent), African-American pastors (38 percent), and those with no college degree (37 percent). Methodists are the least likely to wait that long (8 percent).
Lutheran (16 percent) and Presbyterian/Reformed pastors (10 percent) are more likely to plan a year ahead than pastors who are Baptist (3 percent), Methodist (2 percent), Pentecostal (less than 1 percent), or Holiness (less than 1 percent).
Overall, mainline pastors (13 percent) are more likely to plan a year ahead than evangelicals (4 percent).