Want to know a terrible secret?
Most preachers don’t know how to prepare a sermon well.
Monday to Saturday they feel the heavy pressure of having to deliver unique, inspiring and powerful messages week in and week out.
They struggle alone preparing sermons for 10-18 hours a week, that’s 400-720 hours a year.
Because they never invested the time to study the best preaching strategies and techniques.
The truth is preparing sermons doesn’t have to be stressful or time-consuming – there’s a better way!
In this post we’re going to focus on Below is a simple 7 day, 7 step guide on how to prepare a sermon well that looks like this:
- Dig into the Word
- Make your sermon sticky
- Flesh out your outline
- Polish it up
- Do nothing
- Practice what you preach
- Let yourself go
If you find this doesn’t quite fit with your schedule or way of working, feel free to tweak it and make it your own. Over time you’ll find the right rhythm that works for you.
Day 1: Dig into the Word
Goal: To study the scripture text to get to the core of what it’s saying.
Step 1: read the scripture
Any good sermon preparation starts with opening up your Bible and reading though your chosen verses a few times to familiarise yourself.
Identify the main idea of the scripture by reading a few chapters before and after it to better understand the context.
Step 2: study the scripture
At this point you can look at biblical commentaries, study guides and lexicons to dig a little deeper. Grab a notebook and pen and take notes of what stands out.
It’s likely you won’t use thee findings in your actual sermon but it will help you see the scripture from every angle and give your a rounder, fuller understanding.
Day 2: Make your sermon sticky
Goal: Make the main idea short and punchy enough people can remember it easily.
Step 1: Create a sticky statement
Take your main big idea and play around with it until you can make it as succinct and precise as possible.
This is the one phrase you definitely want your members to take home with them and carry through the week.
There’s a few ways to do this:
- Make it rhyme. “There’s no win in comparison.”
- Use alliteration. “If you want your life to count, be gripped by the God of grace.”
- Or make it echo. “You are of infinite worth to the infinite God.”
- Or make it a metaphor. “The root of murder is anger. Only God can uproot it from our hearts.”
- Or make it contrast. “A life devoted to self ultimately leaves you alone.”
Step 2: Define the final destination
Think about and write down your end goal by asking these 4 questions:
1. What is my message about?
2. Why is it important?
3. What do I want them to do?
4. What is the single most persuasive idea?
You want to make it clear and most of all, applicable.
Step 3: Outline your sermon
Now you have you have a clearly marked destination, you can begin writing your sermon outline as the way of getting people there.
Here’s a super effective sermon outline taken from module 1 of the Preaching Rocket training program:
Section one: Why is this important?
Here’s why you need to listen.
If you don’t listen to this, you forfeit something. There is something at stake.
The next few minutes are worth your time.
I’m not the hero of this story…you are.
I want to create common ground.
Here’s a story that shows we have something in common.
There is a problem or challenge we both share.
We’re about to discover the solution, together.
Section two: The answer
I am going to unpack the solution to the tension I created in the introduction.
Here is the bottom line.
I’ll repeat that bottom line several times from this point forward.
I’ll illustrate the botton line.
I’ll show it, not just say it.
I’ll show you why you MUST buy into the solution I’m presenting.
Here are the results.
Don’t you want to be a part of this?
We’re in this together.
Section three: Imagine
Imagine what this would look like if it became reality in our lives.
Repeat the bottom line.
Tell a story to illustrate what could happen.
Tell them what they can do this week to act on this.
Day 3: Flesh out your outline
Goal: Add flesh to the bones of your outline and personalise.
Step 1: Beginning and the end
How you start a sermon is crucial. People will decide in the first 90 seconds whether or not you’re worth listening to.
Mix it up, engage them from the get-go and they’re far more likely to stay with you until the end.
Similarly ending a sermon well is just as important because you want them to take action on what you’ve said.
Step 2: Add illustrations
A great sermon illustration can take a person from:
“I think I sort of get it” to the “Ah, I see exactly what you mean!” light bulb moment.
Over the last 3 days you’ve probably had a few ideas of stories you can use to illustrate your main point. Drop these in your sermon outline.
Step 3: Fill out your outline
Now you’re ready to go ahead and finish your outline from beginning to end using the sermon outline I gave you above.
Day 4: Polish it up
Goal: Go through your sermon again and make it better.
If days 1-3 have of your sermon preparation have gone well, day 4 will be a walk in the park.
Step 1: Add any other illustrations
If you feel adding another story or illustration will help complete your sermon, feel free to add that in.
Step 2: Finalise your sermon content
It’s helpful at this point to ask the following questions:
- Is the sermon interesting and engaging enough?
- Is the main idea clear and memorable enough?
- Will the message help people in their daily lives?
- Is the message practical and the application obvious?
Make any other tweaks until you’re happy.
Day 5: Do nothing, seriously
Goal: To relax, take a break and spend time with your family (you deserve it).
Ideally this would be the same day as your day off so you can do whatever you do to re-create yourself… reading in a coffee shop, a spot of fishing, going to the movies with your wife and so on.
Don’t look at your outline, just let it simmer away in your subconscious.
Having a day off is just as important in preparing for a sermon than a work day because you want to go into Sunday feeling refreshed, refueled and re-energised.
Day 6: Practice what you preach
Goal: To rehearse your sermon out loud until you know it instinctively.
Go through each section of your outline and rehearse it out loud in real time. As you hear the words coming out of your mouth you’ll not only remember it better, but you’ll notice words that don’t quite fit or come up with better ways of saying things.
In a recent preaching webinar, Gavin Adams recommended practicing your sermon in full at least 5-7 times.
Day 7: Let yourself go
Goal: Preach the word!
Preparing sermons better will most certainly lead to you preaching better.
You’ve started with your end goal in mind and your sermon will take your church on that journey. You’ve made the Word applicable so you can train your people to be doers of the Word.
90% of unchurched people choose a church based on the preaching
Not many people realise that the number one way of growing your church is having the ability to deliver memorable and engaging sermons week-after-week.
That’s why investing in yourself as a preacher is the single biggest thing you can do to unlock your church’s growth potential.
If you truly want to see a dramatic improvement in your preaching and claim your Saturdays back from grueling sermon preparation there’s only ONE program I really recommend. Click here for the step-by-step preaching system I follow.