Dr. Thom Rainer recently published the average time pastors spend in sermon preparation. Here are some of the findings that interested me:
1. Seventy percent of pastors spend 10 to 18 hours in preparation for one sermon. Many pastors spend 30 or more hours in preparing messages each week.
2. The median time for sermon preparation in this study is 13 hours (half spent greater than 13 hours).
3. If the sermon were part of a series, even more time was spent upfront to develop the theme and preliminary issues.
That’s a considerable amount of time, especially when you consider that most of the responses under 12 hours came from bi-vocational pastors. That means full-time pastors likely spend about 18 hours (or more) to prepare a single sermon. And the survey found “many of the pastors are frustrated that they don’t have more time for sermon preparation.” Given the average number of times these sermons will be delivered, it makes me wonder about the best use of a pastor’s time.
I’m not saying that sermon prep time is unimportant—it is! However, in terms of lasting Gospel impact, I wonder how much better a sermon that took 20 hours is than one that took 10 hours. And I wonder if those 10 hours could be invested differently in the kingdom. Assuming the purpose of the church is to make disciple-making disciples,
What if all the pastors who weren’t already doing so spent that 10 hours discipling people who would go on to disciple others?
Conservative estimates put the total number of churches at about 350,000. Let’s say 10% of that number—35,000 pastors—invested half their sermon prep time into discipling four people who were expected to go on to disciple four people, themselves. And let’s assume only a 50 percent success rate. After the first year, there would be 105,000 disciple-making disciples. Then…
Year 2 = 315,000
Year 3 = 945,000
Year 4 = 2,835,000
Year 5 = 8,505,000
Year 6 = 25,515,000
Year 7 = 76,545,000
Year 8 = 229,635,000
By Year 9, we would have reached the entire U.S. population (just 10 percent discipling four at a time with only a 50 percent success rate).
Is it possible to reach the U.S. for Jesus in less than a decade by cutting sermon prep time in half?