I am out of the office today, but hopefully I will be doing some of my most important work: preparing for our next series of sermons. (Warning: this post will probably be terribly boring to people who do not preach regularly, so I will not harbor any bitterness you if you skip it.) I will try to offer up some cliff’s notes that I hope will be helpful to those who preach regularly.
First, I pray. I realize this might be a given, but as we all know, it is easier to think about praying, or feel prayerful, than it is to actually pray. I think it was Merton who said, “In matters of prayer, we will be beginners all our days” (or something to that effect). Whoever said it, that’s true for me. I still have to work hard at prayer. I still have to write down my prayers and work hard at listening for the whispers of God. There are no shortcuts, and we dare not attempt God’s work without God’s help. (That goes for all of life, not just sermon preparation.)
Usually, by the time I’ve blocked out time to prepare for a sermon series, I have a few ideas on paper that offer direction and an inkling of how things might play out. I hold onto those ideas loosely though, because I really want God to help me know what to preach next.
Second, I read the Bible and write copious notes while I read. The notes would be terribly confusing if read by anyone else but me. (If I am writing really fast, they are often quite confusing to me.) There are usually five or six things that come out of those notes that end up being the themes for the messages.
Third, I try to get a general sense of, “Know what, so what, and now what?” In other words, what do we want people to know; why does it matter if they know it; what can we/should we do with it? After that, the worship planning team and I figure out how to title, illustrate, and effectively communicate the series.
There it is in an abbreviated nutshell. If you read this entire piece, then I shamelessly ask for your prayers today as I plan. Thanks in advance.
What helpful tools and/or practices help you prepare for teaching?