When your ‘time budget’ for a sermon is a maximum of 8 hours you need to find a plan to make sure you use that time well.

I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to communication and several years used to spend probably twice that time in preparation. I guess when you’ve got the time you can do that. These days I neither have the time available nor would I like to use it that way if I did.

So I have made a commitment to spend no longer than eight hours in sermon prep. If after 8 hours its rough and dodgy well then so be it. I think sometimes the difference between 8 hrs work and 16 hrs work is incremental and the 80/20 rule probably applies. While I find that a little hard to come to grips with at times, it is where I am at and I am learning to be content.

What I have found to be invaluable is what I will call the simple process of ‘gestation’. I spend 3 or 4 hours on Monday doing reading, study and writing, just gathering ideas and forming thoughts about what I will be teaching. Then I don’t touch it again until Friday and almost invariably in the time in between a sermon has formed. The ideas have taken shape, the emphasis of the passage of scripture has become clear and the sense of ‘God’s voice’ has had time to penetrate. On many occasions I sit at the computer on Friday morning and am finished with it by lunchtime.

And today was one of those days. As well as meeting with a mate and doing some retic for a friend I managed to write a sermon. It took 2 1/2 hrs but its done.

Ok its going to need a couple of fine touches but I’ve managed to get the guts of it on paper. I even like how it is looking. If only I’d known about ‘gestation’ 7 years ago…

To be fair I think what is actually happening is that there is a part of my brain ‘on the job’ 24/7, like a computer program running in the background. While I work digging trenches and laying turf something is ticking away in the back of mind forming and developing. At times it can be hard to trust that it is actually happening, but so far that’s how its been.

Now if only I could get it down to 2 hrs prep I could fit in another 6 hours of surfing…

1 thought on “Gestation

  1. I’ve found that this process works for me too. I stumbled on it in college when I had to turn in rough drafts for a entry level English class. Then went I got into ministry I applied this to everything. Like for a retreat I’m leading for high school students this weekend, I came up with the theme before Christmas. I just let it sit for the most part. When thoughts came to me I’d write them out. Periodically I’d plan times to come back to it. Rob Bell calls this “buckets.”

    I bet if you switch to the surf-prep method your sermons will get better. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

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