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It is not uncommon for pastors to be asked about their sermon preparation habits.  “How long does it take?”  “What sources do you use?”  “What day do you study?”  There are plenty of other ways used by great preachers, but here is what my preparation basically looks like most weeks:

Monday: No message preparation.

Tuesday: After prayer, I start to exegete ("draw out of") the Biblical text that I will be teaching that weekend.  This means I study the historical, grammatical, and contextual details of the text and the individual words.  I feel this is a non-negotiable for the pastor.  The first rule of Bible teaching is to be faithful to what the original writer meant to the original hearers of the text.  Paul told Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).  I use some software called Logos 4 for much of this.  This is usually done for about five hours in the afternoon.  A rough outline and the flow of the text usually begins to emerge.

Wednesday: On Wednesday morning, I look at/listen to all the resources I can get my hands on concerning the subject.  This includes other pastors, commentaries, books, and Internet research on a particular subject, etc.  This is usually about four hours on Wednesday morning.  I will also begin to write down some specific application—I want my hearers to know how to apply the truths in God’s Word specifically.

Thursday: Thursday is the day when I actually write the message down.  I am not as tied into “points” as I was several years ago, but I still need to structure it.  This includes the necessary time on the introduction, illustrations, and application points.  I do not use a manuscript but a fairly detailed outline.  This also includes anything that will show on the screens during the message.  Writing this down is usually a process of about six hours, most all day Thursday.

Friday: No preparation

Saturday: I will usually go into my study at home around 7:00 p.m. and begin to go over the message.  This includes editing it down a little, going over the outline a few times, adding a few things, etc.  While I don’t technically “memorize” the message, I do want it to feel that way.  When somebody is really tied to his notes, it can come across as insincere.  I will then pray through the message from about 10:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. and then go to bed—there's a long day ahead!

Hope this helps, and God bless your ministry!

Share your process for sermon prep in the comment section below.



Bruce Frank is the Lead Pastor of Biltmore Baptist Church, one of the top 50 fastest growing churches in America. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with his wife Lori and their two sons, Tyler and Conner.

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John Paul Little

commented on May 6, 2011

That's great preparation. But what if you need three sermons a week, Sunday AM, Sunday PM and Wednesday PM? How can one do a decent job on all this plus all the other pastoral duties, plus work a job to make ends meet?

William R. Taylor

commented on May 6, 2011

Yes, I agree with John... that is great preparation. However, I have the same situation. We have a Sunday Morning service, a Wednesday evening prayer service, a Thursday meeting for those seeking deliverance from addiction, I teach high school to support myself and my 3 grandchildren who live with me, have a second job teaching driver education to supplement my income in order to pay the bills... food ministry, clothing ministry, and no paid staff to handle church operations. I do read and study the word daily, but fall short of the 19 to 20 hours of sermon preparation talked about in the article.

Diane Leblanc

commented on May 6, 2011

I totally hear what each of you have shared. I am a 1/4 time pastor and work another job. Finding a balance between all of this along with being a wife has been a tremendous challenge. I have found that consistently preaching a sermon series has been a great help. As for Sunday night we do a bible study format through one book of the bible, which has been a great help. At the end of the day, we are only left with one truth found in John 15:5...Apart from Him I can do nothing!!!

James L. Brinkley

commented on May 6, 2011

Diserning what God wants to address that week is the first thing that I do. Then I pray about the response that the people should make to the message, find the text that addresses the need and after study from every possible source I add the important points. I meditate until I can declare it from my heart with passion and conviction. Most of my Bible study is usually not for a sermon but for revelation. On Sunday I simply share what God has revealed to me when He says it is time. Preparing yourself for delivery is as important as the study and the facts that I will relate. The heart must be touched for it to be of real value. Yours and theirs.

Fernando Villegas

commented on May 6, 2011

I mentioned this a few days ago, but I think part of the problem is the specialization of preaching. In other words, we have this un-Biblical assumption that only the pastor can preach and that preaching requires a seminary education and 19 to 20 hours of preparation per week. This situation results in the frustration expressed in the first couple of posts. But what if we got rid of this assumption? What if we actually did what Jesus did and taught others to do what we do? What if we could find others in our congregation whom God has gifted to preach who will share the preaching ministry with us? We wouldn't be preaching as often, and those 19 to 20 hours could be spread out over two or three weeks or more, instead of one. And we'd have more time for other things like pastoral visitation, which would help us to see how what we are studying intersects with the lives of our members. My experience has shown that this actually results in sermons that connect much more effectively.

Colin Bain

commented on May 9, 2011

MMM.....let me know when you retire. Seems ideal to me. And if you have staff, that doesn't necessarily release time for sermon prep either. I managed 70 staff so I speak from experience. Oh and I also worked as a part-time health professional. Admittedly that was an unique situation, but not much has changed in terms of prep time currently, with no staff and 20 volunteers for community ministry. I really want to applaud you though for making the time. It must come with a cost.

J Willoughby

commented on May 10, 2011

I am of the same mind-set as John Paul. We all do our best to relate the Gospel and do a thorough job of preparation but the reality of being able to devote 20 hours of preparation per sermon per week is unrealistic. I have been told that it is what is required by professors and other pastors but I have never seen any of them realize it in a traditional 3 services a week ministry. We at some point must trust God to give us the words to speak as we live out our calling. We do this without neglecting our preparation, or our people. It really is a miraculous work.

John E Miller

commented on May 20, 2011

I must confess to being concerned at this "lesson in sermon preparation"; exegesis, software, internet research, etc. Prayer is mentioned but is not prominent. The Name of Jesus is nowhere to be found. Too many preachers are concerned with what the congregation thinks of them. We only have authority to point to Jesus.

Jacqueline Yates

commented on Jul 3, 2011

I APPRECIATE THE HELP; EXCELLENT ADVICE

Keith B

commented on Jul 13, 2012

J willoughby....I am serving as a bivocational pastor right now. I work 40 hours a week and still put in 15 - 20 hours of prep time. Anything less I feel would be lazy and irresponsible. I also use Logos 4. It's a great program, and use a similar type approach...but my prep time is split over several evenings a week. Thank you to pastor Frank for the insight to how he does it.

Zachary Bartels

commented on Jul 13, 2012

Very interesting stuff! I for one would like to see this as a regular weekly/monthly feature for a while--just lots of pastors' sermon processes (the famous guys and just regular pastors). Always more to glean and it's always helpful to me to try new things and shake up my interaction to the text so my sermon prep does not become routine!

Terry Frazier

commented on Jul 13, 2012

I didn't know that there was one specific way to prepare a sermon. When I read articles like this one, I will take away what I feel that I can use and add it to what I am already doing. I am also a bi-vocational Pastor with a wife two college age boys and to do 15-20 hours of sermon prep for two messages a week (we don't have Wed. night services at this time) would be very unrealistic. Some of my best messages have been extemporaneous because I let the Holy Spirit work through me instead of always trying to follow a pattern that either I have set up or that someone else has set up. Sometimes I find it best to try to get myself out of the way and let the Spirit do His work. Not that there isn't a need for sermon prep. because there most certainly is, but I think that needs to be tempered with letting the Holy Spirit work and speak through us a Pastors.

Keith B

commented on Jul 13, 2012

@Reverend Frazier....does preparation negate the work of the Spirit? Is the Spirit unable to guide your preparation? Or is He only able to move in you when you're standing in front of the congregation?

Jb Bryant

commented on Jul 13, 2012

@Reverend Terry Frazier - You said "I didn't know that there was one specific way to prepare a sermon." The author said in the first paragraph "There are plenty of other ways used by great preachers, but here is what my preparation basically looks like most weeks."

Jimmie Tempano

commented on Jul 13, 2012

Fernando, I appreciate what you wrote. I believe "the church" has defined the role of the preacher, the head of the local church, as being set apart and is invested with more than is warranted. I believe this results in the preacher being placed in a very vulnerable position and I believe this disempowers the laity. The preacher is often viewed as being a more able and equipped servant of God than the laity. I think this often results in the laity being convinced they are not really equipped to share the gospel "like the pastor". I think this is true whether it is expressed or not. I personally know of a pastor who would not go play video games with his son on Sunday, not because he thought it was wrong, but what if one of his parishioners saw him. That is too vulnerable a position in my view and I don't think that is what Jesus would do. Also, I have read many comments on this site's articles that espouse that a sermon needs to be long to be effective. I would challenge that with a reference to Luke 4 where Jesus read two verses out of Isaiah, spoke one sentence and sat down. If you believe that was not powerful, I would question your logic. Do you think lives were changed as a result of two verses and one sentence? And I wonder what happened after this. I bet guys who had rarely spoken before offered special words. Anyway, my thoughts.

Michael James Monaghan

commented on Jul 13, 2012

The replies remind that 'you can please some , some of the time , but you can't please all , all of the time ?.' And the article , 'teach a wise man and he shall be yet wiser ' ?. It might be good to reflect that Bruce Frank's baptist church is listed as 'one of the fastest growing churches in America'. If so , perhaps the Lord is adding to the church , Such as should be saved . Bruce might be doing something right ?. ps Fernando there is a message for you on ' 5 tough challenges ... board . :)

Fernando Villegas

commented on Jul 13, 2012

michael, got your message from that board and will be leaving a response after I get done with this one. On this topic, I hope my comment (which I wrote over a year ago, incidentally!) didn't come off as a criticism of Mr. Frank's article. Each preacher has to work out for themselves how they will prepare their sermons, and he's got his method. And I'm glad to know his church is growing; although I've got some thoughts about that issue as well, which are off-topic, so I digress! The point I was trying to make was that sharing the preaching ministry with gifted and trained lay members from the congregation can help address some of the issues that are faced in situations such as bi-vocational pastors, multiple preaching services per week, or--as in my case--pastoring multiple churches. But even in a situation where you have one full-time pastor in one church, sharing the pulpit ministry just seems more in harmony with the biblical examples of shared leadership and ministry. In my own case, I also spend about 20 hours on a sermon, but by not having to preach a new sermon each week, I am able to spread those hours over the course of two or three weeks (rather than just one), which gives me the opportunity to meditate on the message of the text for a longer period of time and more fully integrate that message into my mind and my heart. I've been very blessed by the results. Sharing the preaching ministry also has the advantage, as Jimmie Tempano pointed out, of getting the pastor off of that pedestal that the laity too often put us on, and too often with our permission! The pastoral ministry is important, but the pride embedded in our human nature has a tendency to take it to an extreme. Anything other than God on top of that pedestal is dangerous to our spiritual health!

Michael James Monaghan

commented on Jul 14, 2012

Fernando , I agree with your reservation/caution about fast growing churches especially as the biggest church in christendon extolls un-scriptural , non-scriptural and anti-scriptural doctrines . And I do agree with you that the 'pulpit' should be a shared ministry where possible and if people of ability are found in the churches for the reasons you have stated .

Terry Frazier

commented on Jul 14, 2012

K B I never said that the Holy Spirit doesn't work with me and through me during my sermon prep time. I spend parts of the entire week praying and researching for my messages that I deliver to my congregation. I was not being critical of this article or the information in it. I guess my main point was that it seems to be easier for full time Pastors to have the amount of time to prep that Bruce has. I once read that preachers should put in 40 hours of prep time for each message. And it has been said in this comment string that if we don't put in 15- 20 hours or so of prep time that we are being lazy and somehow shortchanging our congregation is a little over the top.

James Sellers

commented on Jul 14, 2012

Pray and work- Work and pray. Our schedules have not caught God by surprise. He knows where we are and what we face. So we do what we can as best we can and leave the results to the Lord. The power of our proclamation of the word of God doesn't lie in the messenger but in the Word itself. The Word is powerful, sharper than a 2-edged sword. We pray for boldness in proclaiming the Word. We pray for understanding of the Word. We pray for the hearers to believer the Word and receive the Word. But the results lie in the hands of Almighty God. So we must commit ourselves to our Lord and the calling He has placed upon our lives. Work hard as everything depends upon us and pray hard because we know everything depends upon Him.

Jb Bryant

commented on Jul 15, 2012

I'm a part time preacher who shares the pulpit of a small church with two other gentlemen. My primary duties are organizational, member involvement, and outreach. My regular job is as a busy consultant. I must admit to spending 15-20 hours on a sermon, starting a few weeks ahead of time. However, I'm trying to learn to change that. There seems to be something fundamentally wrong with spending 20 hours preparing to deliver a 30 minute message on a text that can be read in 3 minutes. Do the people really need so much help understanding and applying the text to warrant that amount of time, or have I (we) been terrible stewards of our time? Is it because a text really takes that much preparation to make it lucid, or is because my (our) priorities are placed too much on delivery and the aesthetics of preaching? Granted, the congregations have a certain set of expectations as to what a sermon is, as do we. But should we work toward changing those expectations?

Keith B

commented on Jul 15, 2012

JB - Yes....we should be spending that much time. If you care to be a good teacher, it takes time. Of course, as you have more years into it (I don't yet), it make sense that your time will be more efficient, and you will take less time. John Macarthur spends 40 hours per sermon....but that is not realistic for most of us. On the other hand, it's not too much to ask for 10-15 hours.

Fernando Villegas

commented on Jul 16, 2012

I think it would be well also to point out that, although I agree that the preparation of sermons takes time, we must also learn how to prioritize our time properly. Keep in mind that preaching is not the only task of a pastor, nor is it even the primary task. Ephesians 4 tells us that the primary task of the pastor--as well as of the other leadership roles mentioned--is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. Spending 15-20 hours working on a sermon at the cost of spending any significant time equipping our church members is not a good use of one's time. On the other hand, spending 5-10 hours on a sermon, if that time is used effectively, may be a wiser use of one's time if it leads to an extra 5-10 or more hours to spend on training our church members. The equipping of the saints must remain the primary task of the pastor.

Fernando Villegas

commented on Jul 16, 2012

JB Bryant, you asked, "Do the people really need so much help understanding and applying the text to warrant that amount of time, or have I (we) been terrible stewards of our time?" Maybe they wouldn't need that much help if we as pastors spent as much time teaching them how to understand and apply the Bible for themselves as we spend preparing sermons for them. I think you ask some important questions which none of us should dismiss too quickly!

Jb Bryant

commented on Jul 16, 2012

Fernando, you wrote: "Maybe they wouldn't need that much help if we as pastors spent as much time teaching them how to understand and apply the Bible for themselves as we spend preparing sermons for them." Exactly right. You also wrote: "The equipping of the saints must remain the primary task of the pastor." Amen again. Our (generally speaking) modern day neglect of these things may well be residue from the days when control by church leaders was the accepted norm - I'm talking extreme control, such as church leaders fighting against translations of the scriptures in the language of the populace. We are certainly far away from that today, and in some traditions the pendulum has begun to swing far to the other extreme. But perhaps our spoon-feeding habits -- such as "doing" all the ministry at the expense of instilling passion for ministry and teaching people to serve; and such as allowing the our people to convince us they need pabulum and don't have the capacity to chew chunks of meat -- maybe these are carryover elements of control. Maybe we fear losing relevance if we relinquish that control. Maybe, just maybe, we look at ourselves too much, and in so doing sacrifice their eternal glory for our present glory.

Judy Humphrey-Fox

commented on Jul 18, 2012

This is my first comment and don't know if we're allowed to mention/recommend a book. However, I've been reading "Pagan Christianity" by Frank Viola and George Barna. It challenges the reader to ask where all of our practices in the church actually come from. This relates to the discussion of the duties of the "pastor" and the "lay people" in all areas of the church, including preaching. I recommend it highly.

Michael James Monaghan

commented on Jul 18, 2012

Hi I done some research about Frank Viola and it seems Frank is very frank about traditional church practices. Frank questions them and snippets of his comments do make interesting reading. Some are concerned that some of Frank's friends have 'emergent church' links. It is difficult to imagine what Frank hopes to achieve, and, as some before , may just be a passing fad ?. But again Frank's thoughts may not be .

Anthony R. Watson

commented on Jul 23, 2012

Before I start pulling down commentaries, and other "sermon helps," I sit down at my desk and listen for God to speak to me. Secondly, I make absolutely sure that the passage of Scripture says something to me first, because if it doesn't, it won't say anything to the awaiting congregation. Lastly, I would highly suggest this book: Teaching Preaching, by Katie Geneva Cannon. It's an eye-opener.

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