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Drawing a Line in Your Week: Finishing Your Sermon Prep Early

Saturday Night Special. Gun enthusiasts understand this as any kind of cheap handgun. Others know it as a song from Lynyrd Skynyrd. But preachers employ this term for messages written the night before a Sunday morning service. Now, most of the pastors I speak with don’t usually begin and end their sermon writing on Saturday, but many of them work on their messages all the way up to Saturday night. I don’t. My routine is to write the guts of my message by Tuesday and finish it all by noon Wednesday. I edit my manuscript down to a preaching outline by Thursday morning. That’s it. I don’t even see or think about my sermon until I read it aloud on Saturday night. I like this routine. In fact, I made it a point to shift to message prep which terminated early in the week instead of late. I did so by drawing a line in my week where I said I would not work on my sermon anymore. Let me give you three reasons to consider drawing a line in your week when it comes to completing your message prep.

It puts the right hours on the right things

Many preachers think they need time later in the week to “fine tune” their message in order to improve the sermon from a 60 to a 90. In all likelihood, those extra hours only enhance the message from 80 to an 82. In other words, the improvement isn’t monumental but incremental. And when you consider how much time invested in the second half of the week for sermon prep…including Saturday…it’s just not worth the investment. The message won’t improve as dramatically as you think. But drawing a line in your week is a guardrail that allows you to better steward your time as not only a preacher but a leader. So instead of spending 8-10 hours later in the week to move your message incrementally, free up those hours to impact your church monumentally. Put the right hours on the right things.

QUESTION: What hours are you giving your sermon that you should be giving to something else in your church?

It makes a statement about your priorities outside of preaching

Drawing a line in your week makes you available to the things most important to you outside of preaching. Take family as an example. I don’t spend evenings with my sermon. I spend evenings with my family. Finishing my sermon earlier in the week makes a statement to my wife and kids that they are a priority. Being available to my sermon at the beginning of the week means I’m available to my family on nights and weekends. When I’m with my family I’m truly with them. I’m not thinking about illustrations when I see my kid pitch at his Little League game. I don’t wonder how I’ll intro my message when I’m out to eat with my wife. Drawing a line in my week makes a statement just as much about my life as a husband, father, and friend as it does for my life as a preacher.

QUESTION: What does your current sermon preparation routine say about your other priorities?

It gives you time to work on the ‘how’ of your sermon

Far too often preachers work on the what of their sermon at the expense of the how of their sermon. Unfortunately, hours if not days are given to developing content for a message while mere minutes are given to the delivery of that content. But drawing a line in your week can encourage you to give at least some thought to your sermon’s delivery. If, for example, your line is Wednesday noon for the sermon’s what, you still have quite a bit of time (without running into the weekend) to think through the sermon’s how. And believe me, the how of a message is a big deal.

QUESTION: How much of your sermon preparation is focused on your delivery?

Give it a try. Draw a line in your week. Tell yourself that the sermon prep, for all intents and purposes, is done when you get to that line. You’ll be tempted to blow past it. Excuses ad infinitum. But for your sake, your family’s sake, and your church’s sake consider not only drawing a line in your week…but sticking to it. Let Saturday Night Specials be the rare exception instead of the norm. You’ll be better for it. And so will your family and your church.

Picture of Yancey Arrington
Dr. Yancey C. Arrington is an eighth generation Texan, Acts 29 Network and Houston Church Planting Network fan, and Teaching Pastor at Clear Creek Community Church in the Bay Area of Houston. He is also author of Preaching That Moves People and TAP: Defeating the Sins That Defeat You, and periodically writes for Acts 29 and The Gospel Coalition.

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