Preaching Articles

Do you ever get stuck in a sermon prep rut? I do. Sometimes the sermon comes together like a beautifully crafted work of art. But other times I struggle to make progress in my study. It’s hard to break out of sermon prep stuck-ness. I’ve learned a few things that help me overcome these stuck times, and I want to share them with you. Here are 16 things you can do this week to get unstuck in your sermon prep:

1. Put away your study materials and pray for ten minutes about nothing but your sermon. Preaching is supernatural work, and prayer reemphasizes in your own heart that you are utterly dependent on God to empower you to preach effectively.

2. Read the text five times slowly. It’s amazing how quickly we tend to move away from the text to study materials and sermon formulation. Put away everything else and just read the text multiple times, letting it speak to you.

3. Open the voice memo app on your smart phone, hit record and start preaching what you have so far. You may find that speaking the words helps you formulate them better or in a different way than writing them.

4. Run your content by someone else and see what they think. This can be done informally with a friend or fellow pastor. I explain how to make this part of your regular sermon prep in my guide to preparing sermons in a team.

5. Take a break from studying for a while and come back to it later. If your mind is foggy, walk away from it for a while. Think about something else. Do completely unrelated work for a few hours.

6. Go for a walk. A brisk walk. Or a run. Get your blood pumping and some much needed oxygen to your brain.

7. When any thought (ANY THOUGHT) about your sermon comes to mind during the week, immediately make a note of it. Immediately. Never assume you’ll remember the amazing insight that comes to you at a random time during the week.

8. Summarize the entire message in one paragraph. Wherever you are in your study, distill the whole message into one paragraph. This will force you to focus and clarify what you are trying to communicate.

9. Talk about your content with anyone who will talk about it with you. Listen and take notes. This is similar to #4, but the difference is that you do more listening than presenting. Flesh the idea out just enough to get them to comment on it, and then listen carefully.

10. Do something kind for another human being. It’s amazing how serving can get you out of a rut.

11. Scroll your Facebook NewsFeed and read the first three articles your friends posted. Think through how you would use them as supporting material/illustrations. Even if you don’t end up using them, the exercise gets you thinking.

12. Ask a question on social media about something that relates to your sermon. This is a great way to get input from lots of people really quickly.

13. Explain your main point(s) to a child and ask them if they understand it. The process of making your message understandable to a child helps to simplify it in your own mind. If you can’t explain it to a child, you’re not ready to explain it to anyone.

14. Summarize the entire message in one sentence. This is like #8 but one step further. The sentence usually ends up becoming my main point.

15. Listen to a sermon on the same text. Listen to how some other preachers dealt with the text/topic you’re studying. If you end up using any of their ideas, always give proper credit.

16. Check out some helpful posts and podcasts on sermon prep at Preaching Donkey is all about helping you communicate better every time you preach.

What do you do to get unstuck?

Lane Sebring is a teaching pastor, speaker and author. He leads The Current, a worship gathering of young adults, in Northern Virginia. He created, a site to help preachers communicate better.  He has a B.A. in Communication from the University of Central Oklahoma and a Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. He lives in the Northern Virginia / DC area with his wife Rachel and their daughter, Olive. You can connect with him at and

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Talk about it...

Tom Voigt

commented on Jul 9, 2015

Some great practical suggestions...thank you!

Karl Frank

commented on Jul 9, 2015

Great post, especially number one (1) . Would also add, continue to PRAY during the whole process . And ESPECIALLY PRAY before actually giving the message by yourself and then PRAY with the entire congregation that G-d's word, through the Holy S-irit, would enable each one listening to further their walk with our L-rd and S-vior .

Helio Fabio Castro

commented on Jul 9, 2015

Congratulations Dear preacher!I am a learner of English and enjoy reading God?s word and I Read a wonderful advise it?s like a wise article simple but that say the way anyone can improve the insights of an amazing sermon that runs to God !

Keith Roberts

commented on Jul 10, 2015

I often prepare a "mind map" using Tony Buzan's ideas. I take four sheets of 8 1/2" x 11" paper and tape them together. Then I draw a circle in then center of the four pages. This is the nucleus of the diagram and will be where I note subject, length, venue. I branch out from there with audience purpose, introduction, anecdotes, key ideas, other scriptures, and anything else that I find germane to the message. It can be a messy diagram but I find it invaluable to get ideas from my brain to paper.

Jeff Strite

commented on Jan 17, 2020

Good suggestions Lane... and since you asked, I'll share what works for me. Several years ago I started an illustraion file (which now numbers several 1000 quotes, stories and stats, categorized in a little over 100 topics). I add to this file as I read news stories or get ideas from emails from friends. This illustration file serves as inspiration for how to make sermons come alive for my audience. To begin my sermon prep (after prayer, of course) I create a Word document where I copy that main text and any supporting passages I think might be helpful in the sermon. I put as many scriptures that I can find that support or expand on the main text in this doc. Then I read the main text a couple of times trying to discover the flow of the scripture. I start asking questions: Who is speaking? Why did they say what they said? What motivated them to do what they did? Etc. Most of my sermons are based - not on bullet points but - on questions that seem to intrigue me as I've completed this part of my prep. At this point I create a Word document where I list my observations and thoughts (and thoughts and observations of others). This helps me pull the strands of my thoughts together on a single page and can be helpful as I expand the sermon. Next, I accumulate as many illustrations in another Word document that I think might be helpful. This last document may run 5 or 6 pages... and I may end up using only one or two of the illustrations. But the point is - having accumulated these specific illustrations, I now have an illustration file totally dedicated to what I'm seeing may be the flow of the sermon. Lastly, I choose one illustration (it could be a song, a story, a quote - whatever will help lay the groundwork for the sermon) to be my opening illustration. There have been times that I have decided the illustration I originally have chosen isn't working for me... and I choose another. But I regard my opening to be critical to setting the tone for the rest of the sermon. I've been told that the first 3 minutes or so of a sermon is critical for catching the attention of the audience... and I believe that is true. Unlike many preachers, I rarely know where a sermon is going when I get started. I try to sense where God wants it to go and follow that trail. Thus, I may not even know how the sermon should end... I like to be surprised. And I often am.

Gabriel Bhekie Dominic Khauly

commented on Jan 18, 2020

Great suggestions that helps alot thanks..

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