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How to prepare your sermon

This post is part of the series on Preaching for youth. When I started preaching regularly, I had to find a good way of doing sermon preparation. I must admit it took me a while to find a method that suited me. My biggest challenge was to let go of what I felt I was supposed to do, what others were doing and instead allow myself to do it my own way.

You see, there are lots of ways to prepare your sermon and there is no one right way. You’ll have to try different things until you come up with a method of sermon preparation that fits you. What works for you will depend on whether you’re a topical preacher or an expository one, whether you’re a last minute person or more of a planner and quite honestly how much time you can spend on sermon preparation. All I can do is tell you how I prepare my messages:

I pick a topic or passage

Sermon preparation has to start with finding the right topic or passage to preach on. In an earlier post I explained how you can find topics to preach on for youth, using the topical preaching route or the expository preaching route. I’ve used both in the past. This step for me consists of a lot of thinking and even more important: a lot of praying for guidance in the whole process of preparing a message. I’m a planner, so I do this usually four weeks in advance, sometimes even more.

I study the passage

When I’m reasonably sure which passage I want to use, I start studying this passage. For me, that means reading the passage in different Bible translations and different languages. To get a feel for the context, I usually read the chapter before and after the passage, sometimes more. I then read a few commentaries on that passage to get some background info. When it’s from a Bible book I don’t know very well, I might read a general commentary on the Bible book.

If you’re a topical preacher, chances are that you’ll be using more than one verse. That means you’ll have to study all the texts you’re using to prevent you from false theology. It’s fairly easy to find isolated verses that support our ideas or main point, but you have to study their meaning and context as well to make sure they do indeed fit our key message.

I’ve found it easier even when doing a topical sermon, to use one bigger passage as the foundation for my sermon and then support it with several smaller passages or verses, than to use only small verses. I then study the bigger passage in depth, derive my key message from here and do a quick ‘check’ on the other verses I use.

I look at important words

I have a friend who is a preacher who always studies the original Hebrew or Greek text, often even translating it himself again to get a deeper feeling for the passage. I admire his devotion and in depth study, but I lack the time and quite honestly the skills to do that. I do however check to see of there are any special words being used in the passage and if necessary, I do a quick word study.

I find the key message

Every sermon has to have one key message, one point that you want to stress. And that key message has to be derived from the passage you’re using. I personally don’t think it’s good preaching (or good theology for that matter) to just use a passage as a vehicle to preach on something else entirely. We’ll go deeper into deriving a key message from a Bible passage in a later post.

I take time to think

For me, a crucial phase of sermon preparation is taking the time to think about my sermon. Some may call it meditating, but somehow I’ve always felt that word to be too lofty for what I’m doing, which is basically let it rest for a week or so. I don’t usually work on my sermon in this period, but I do think about it a lot and I write down all ideas I have. I think about stories I could use, or personal illustrations. I debate what to use for an introduction and how to end my sermon. Sometimes I’ll think of rhetoric techniques I could apply, or a fitting ‘refrain’ (a short sentence I let come back in the sermon over and over again).

I write

I still write out all my sermons, even though I don’t really need the exact text anymore once I start preaching. But for me, it’s part of my sermon preparation. I love writing and writing my sermon out helps me to check my reasoning, my transitions and my structure and it is a good way for me to ‘beautify’ it with rhetoric means, refrains, synonyms, etc.

I reread

After having written my sermon, I let it rest for a few days and then I reread it. Usually I will do some fine tuning and then I’m done. Sometimes I will let my husband read it, to make sure my point is coming across. I love discussing my messages with him and get a fresh opinion.

And that’s it. What I haven’t mentioned here is the praying I do in every phase of my sermon preparation, but obviously that’s crucial. Like I said at the beginning, this is just my process and I’m sure there are a dozen other ways that are just as good, you’ll just have to experiment till you find a method of sermon preparation that suits you.

What does your process of sermon preparation look like? What works for you and what doesn’t?

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0 thoughts on “How to prepare your sermon

  1. A specified topic to keep the student growing spiritually

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