Avoiding the Saturday Night Special
As a sermon resource provider, we realize that occasionally pastors come to our website as a last-minute, last-ditch option for the weekend. Whether by lack of preparation time or lack of creative ideas, sometimes Saturday comes and it becomes an all-out cram session for Sunday morning. Don’t kid yourself—the average church-goer can spot a “Saturday night special” message by even the most skilled of preachers. Lack of spiritual and personal preparation are clearly evident from the pulpit. Practically, here’s how you can avoid the last-minute sermon.
Choose a study day besides Saturday. Even if you are bi-vocational, a study day outside of Saturday is crucial. Wednesday or Thursday often make the best days—or evenings. Set aside 4-6 hours of time, even at night, to do the bulk of your Sunday preparation. Make this day and time “sacred” and as free of distraction as possible.
Don’t rely solely on your daily time with God for sermon prep. Before work in the morning during your prayer and Bible study time is not always the best time to be preparing your message. God wants to speak to you as an individual, outside of your responsibilities as Pastor and preacher. Daily time can also become less pleasant if it begins to feel more like work than time alone with God. Often God will communicate through this time for your preaching, but don’t let that be the only time you’re in the Word to prepare your message.
Get accountability. You must be accountable to someone for your sermon preparation. Larger churches have staff teams that press their Pastors for his sermon material so they too can be prepared with worship and other elements for Sunday. Even if it’s just you, have someone close to you help you manage your time to study ahead of the weekend—your spouse, a close friend, deacon, elder or fellow pastor.
Separate planning and preparation. Sermon planning is the process of determining what you will preach, in a general sense, and when—a sermon calendar for the next 52 weeks. Choose a day to “sketch out”, in rough terms, what you might cover during the year in your preaching, so that on any given week, you already have a general idea of what you’ll be teaching. Planning the broad strokes and then fleshing out a message both in the same week is very difficult.
Build in breaks. Not even the most experienced, trained and best staffed Pastors can go 52 weeks a year without a break in their preaching schedule. For a bi-vocational pastor this is doubly-challenging. Look ahead through the year and find times when you can take a break. There are many creative and interesting ways to supply the pulpit, even without dollar resources, so that you can rest your mind and heart on the occasional Sunday. Have an all-worship service, ask a friend and fellow minister to preach, let a missionary guest have the pulpit, or plan a service of testimonies from your congregation—the possibilities are endless.
Author: Eugene Mason, Communications Director for Cross Pointe Church under the leadership of Dr. James Merritt.