How to Write Better Sermons

People always ask pastors 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…

Weekly Schedule to Write Better Sermons

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!

Your turn…

Do you have any tips to write better sermons?