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Most church members give little thought to the amount of time it takes a pastor to prepare each sermon. In reality, sermon preparation is a large portion of a pastor's workweek. Unfortunately, this work is invisible to typical church members. They don't realize the enormous amount of time it takes just to prepare one sermon.

I recently conducted an unscientific Twitter poll to ask pastors how much time they spend in sermon preparation. For this question I asked for the amount of preparation time for one sermon. Many pastors must prepare more than one sermon per week, so their workload to prepare to preach is even greater.

I am pleased and appreciative for the number of responses I received. Here are the results of the poll by three-hour increments:

1 to 3 hours — 1%

4 to 6 hours — 9%

7 to 9 hours — 15%

10 to 12 hours — 22%

13 to 15 hours — 24%

16 to 18 hours — 23%

19 to 21 hours — 2%

22 to 24 hours — 0%

25 to 27 hours — 1%

28 to 30 hours — 2%

31 to 33 hours — 1%

The results were fascinating to me. Here are some key points I found in the study:

1. Most pastors responded with a range of hours. I took the midpoint of each range for my data.

2. Seventy percent of pastors' sermon preparation time is the narrow range of 10 to 18 hours per sermon.

3. Keep in mind that these numbers represent sermon preparation time for just one sermon. Many pastors spend 30 or more hours in preparing messages each week.

4. The median time for sermon preparation in this study is 13 hours. That means that half of the respondents gave a number under 13 hours; the other half gave a number greater than 13 hours.

5. Most of the respondents who gave a response under 12 hours indicated they were bivocational pastors.

6. If the sermon was part of a series, the pastors indicated they spent even more upfront time to develop the theme and preliminary issues for the sermons to be preached.

7. Many of the pastors are frustrated that they don't have more time for sermon preparation.

8. A number of the pastors indicated that finding consistent and uninterrupted sermon preparation time was difficult.

Most pastors have workweeks much longer than we realize because of the invisible nature of sermon preparation. As for me, the results of this poll have caused me to pray even more fervently for my pastor. His work is long. His work is never-ending. But the work he does is vitally important.

I pray that we all will remember to pray for our pastors every day.

Thom Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources and the co-author of Transformational Church: Creating a New Scorecard for Congregations.
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Peter Campo

commented on Jul 20, 2013

How long (minutes preached) was the average sermon?

Rob Dennis

commented on Oct 27, 2015

A report from Christian Post reports "The median of all the times reported was 36 minutes. That means that 50 of the sermons were shorter than 36 minutes, and 50 were longer than 36 minutes. Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/how-long-does-a-pastor-preach-98187/#ltyyuCb4VSwShWr8.99

Rodney Shanner

commented on Jul 20, 2013

Brueggemann said if we want to bring a message from the beyond, we must spend time in the beyond (my paraphrase).

Nick West

commented on Jul 20, 2013

I'd love to know how much time was spent in prayer for the sermon compared with study.

Mike Brenneman

commented on Jul 20, 2013

Thank-you, Thom, for an insightful poll and commentary. I fight the same battle and am bivocational. 15 hours of prep is usually enough for a quality lesson, but I usually get 8 to 10. Ouch! Nick West's question is so pertinent. How much time is spent in prayer for the sermon...? Never enough, but one can pray while he is driving (eyes open) or doing other activities that allow thinking and praying time.

Doug Bower

commented on Jul 20, 2013

I would be surprised to find my colleagues spending 13-15 hours in official preparation as the seminary model espouses. However, I figure that every single hour of every single day is part of the preparation. On never knows when something will impact a sermon or sermons. It may come from the Internet or the community or a visit. Thus every hour is potentially a sermon prep hour.

Paul Hull

commented on Jul 20, 2013

I find myself in the 10-18 hour range, depending on the subject. Series preparation does take much more time. And no, it doesn't count the house away from the desk thinking about it.

Ignacio Henry

commented on Jul 20, 2013

I count everything with sermon prep. Praying, looking at websites and videos for illustrations, walking outside meditating and pondering. Hard to put a number on all that.

Walter Swaim

commented on Jul 20, 2013

For me in a small church and being bivocational it is so hard because nowadays to be in sync with the visual demands of our culture we also have to find grahics, then the powerpoint, video clip illustrations then also prepare the small group lessons to go with it. That adds hours of prep that you didn't have to do before.

Roger Schmurr

commented on Jul 21, 2013

Scratch the video clips, graphics, and Powerpoint effort. Put your time into prayer, exegesis, verbal illustration, and careful communication. YouTube is not our competitor; the hearts of listeners are who we are fighting for with the spiritual weapons that our Lord has given us.

Tim Porter

commented on Aug 3, 2013

Pastors need to spend less time with sermon prep and more time equipping the saints. We have lost touch with the world changers spending time behind closed doors. Bivocational leaderships allows you to more readily identify with the saints and not hide behind closed doors.

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