As a bivocational pastor, balancing sermon prep time with life as an employee and as a husband and father can be a challenge. To work through that challenge, I have found that I need to be consistent and creative.
Being consistent means to have consistent times set aside weekly to prepare. This helps me focus to keep these times productive. Sometimes when I am writing a sermon, it just does not flow or writer's block creeps in and I am generally unproductive. I simply cannot afford wasted writing sessions. Having consistent allows me to look forward to prep time. It allows me to use idle moments to begin thinking about direction, points, series themes and how a particular passage fits those themes.
Being creative means that I need to “steal” moments to study. I redeem drive time to work by listening to sermons from trusted men that deal with the passage I am preaching that week. I use Siri to take notes during the drive. I use screen shots on my iPhone to mark specific points in those sermons that hit big ideas I want to emphasize. This practice allows me to come back to those sermons and recall important points.
On Monday, I give my mind and heart a rest from sermon prep and process the past weekend in prayer and spend time reading the passage for the upcoming sermon.
Each Tuesday from 2:30-3:30, I brainstorm the passage with some guys; we call this a cohort. We begin to highlight key phrases, verses or words in a text combined with the theme of the series to create a big idea for a sermon. We dig into illustration, ask questions of the text and talk about supporting passages and context. This is a consistent time. Prior to the cohort meeting, I will have read through the text several times and begun to process through ideas to be prepared for this gathering. As I drive home from work around 4:00 each afternoon, I am thinking about sermon direction and praying for our people who might particularly need this message, and then I begin formalize the sermon in my head. I find it helpful to “lay down” the sermon at times giving myself a break and then come back to it. I do this from 4:00-5:30 and spend that time with my family.
My daughter has dance practice from 5:30-7:00 on Tuesdays. I drop her off and head to the nearby Association Office where I go through the notes from the afternoon and the thoughts in my head and the sermon begin to take shape. I like to manuscript the sermon, and I begin writing the sermon during this hour and a half.
On Wednesday and Thursday during lunch I sit in the office of my “real job” and fine tune the manuscript. After those fine tuning times, I will spend idle moments tweaking, praying, crafting and adding illustration or metaphor to the sermon. This happens mostly in the car or in shower. It is important for me to redeem idle moments. After this, I lay the sermon down for the most part and do not pick it up again until early Sunday morning when I get to church about two hours before we start and pray and begin to own the sermon.
Finding a rhythm that works for you is important. Taking advantage of slack space in your days provides short windows of focused opportunity in which you can work on the sermon and allow the text to work on you.