How long does it take to prepare a sermon?

time-preparing-sermonsI’ve been asked how long it takes me to prepare a sermon. Here is an estimated breakdown:

– Read the text in the ESV Bible, determine the pericope. (5-10 minutes)

– Survey the syntax in the original language. Make sure that I’m identifying the subject, verb, object properly. How embarrassing to get the grammar wrong and emphasize the wrong clause, or preach a participle as a strong imperative (unless the participle is modifying the imperative, then should be connected). I admit that I need a grammar nearby to stay fresh. Also, if there’s a major textual variant, I’ll look at it just enough to be aware of it. I generally don’t make mention of it unless it significantly alters the meaning of the pericope. Even so, no major doctrine stands or falls on a variant. I use Logos Bible Software and this all takes around 30 minutes. Now mind you, this doesn’t include word studies and such.

– Take a look at interesting words or interesting constructs. Identify any chiastic structures. Again, I use some tools on my software for this. I use Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich, generally, and will dig into Collin Brown’s New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology as the next step up for more thorough research, and then the comprehensive “Big Kittel” on occasions when I want to look at a word even further. (20-30 minutes)

– Once I get a grasp on the grammar and definitions of the main words, I’ll make a note of anything that possibly requires explanation if the ESV isn’t the most helpful translation. This doesn’t take too long. (10 minutes)

– Biblical-Theological survey of the text. If certain words, themes, or constructs are reoccurring within the same book or corpus of literature, I’ll look at most all of the cross references. This is a fun part of the process. You start to see how this unit fits within the whole and bring out the meaning of the text within the broader context. (30 minutes)

– Redemptive-Historical survey of the text. Does the text bring out any themes that explicitly tie in with the grand narrative of Scripture? If not, then it might support a theme within the book that ties in with the narrative of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. I like to riff on these connections as a way to remind people of the big picture. It might be but a few sentences, or as much as 25% of the sermon, but I try to hit these notes every sermon. (15 minutes)

– Theological survey. If a major doctrinal point is made, or if the text is a proof-text within a theological system, I’ll spend some time examining such claims. I generally don’t touch on this in the sermon, as I often find it more a distraction, but I will make comment if I strongly disagree with how the text is used, or reaffirm its traditional use if major orthodoxy shines in the passage. (0-30 minutes)

– Commentary survey. I read through about 15 commentaries on the text. Depending on the length of the text, this can take anywhere from a couple hours to 3-5 hours. I read pretty vastly as far as the commentaries are concerned, some of the church fathers, Calvin, and mostly modern academic commentaries. I will look at the Preaching the Word series and some other homiletical commentaries to get a feel for how the text should be preached.

– Sermon survey. I rarely listen to sermons anymore, but will sometimes read a few sermons on the text to see how others have preached it. I only do this on occasions. Tim Keller and John Piper are the main two guys I go to since their software is easy to use within Logos software. (30-60 minutes)

– Outline. I like to preach through the Scriptures verse-by-verse, but may do a thematic outline if it’s more fitting. I’m know for using alliteration, but only use such an outline maybe half the time. (30 minutes)

– Meat and potatoes. For each verse, I will write out the main things that need to be said. This will also include notable quotations from my research and illustrations. A word on illustrations: I don’t feel the need to dig for illustrations every sermon, but will sometimes spend quite a bit of time thinking about how to accentuate an important and yet difficult concept. Preachers shouldn’t be doing this extemporaneously in the middle of a sermon.  (60-90 minutes)

– Final edit. I read my outline and make any necessary adjustments. (30-60 minutes)

– Prayer

You can do the math, but it roughly averages out to around 9 hours. This is for sermons. I spend considerably less time for home group Bible studies, which generally take 1-2 hours.

Also, I often take breaks throughout this process, sometimes chopping it up into 3 sessions. I generally do it in two sessions on separate days. I’m also spending quite a bit of time reading through Biblical-theological volumes that are pertinent to the book I’m preaching through. I didn’t include this in the sermon prep time, proper, but there is quite a bit of time dedicated to reading in general, and in connection with what I’m preaching through in particular. For example, I’m preaching through Luke and have worked through at least a dozen books on themes in the book. I read about 5 books on parables alone. It would be hard for me to calculate all that reading time and divide by the umber of sermons on Luke, but there is more time committed to the task of understanding the text, not to mention the thousands of hours spent in past formal education that brings to the text some acquired tools and understanding that actually expedites the sermon preparation, as lengthy though it may seem.

© 2014, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.

, ,

Leave a Reply