The first time we preach a sermon on a typical Sunday, we often feel engaged, energetic, and fully present to the task.
We connect with the sermon and our listeners. Adrenaline keeps us alert, focused, and in the moment.
But if the sermon has to be repeated at multiple services, many preachers don't feel the same level of connection to their words or their listeners. Whether the sermon is in manuscript form or preached without notes, many preachers experience boredom or feel a bit "removed" from the experience.
If this is the case for you, here are 9 tips to prime your body, mind and spirit so you can be fully present each time you preach the same sermon.
Body: Manage Your Energy
Eat and drink well. Complex carbohydrates and plenty of protein keeps your blood sugar at a steady state. Be sure to drink plenty of water and, if so desired, coffee too. A healthy snack, like a banana with peanut butter, between services can keep you going strong.
Sleep well. Get plenty of sleep throughout the week—and especially Saturday night—to feel alert and "in the zone." Sound impossible since you're usually staying up late the night before (or waking up early Sunday morning) to finish your sermon? Backstory Preaching's independent study e-Course Craft an Effective Sermon by Friday teaches you how to solve that problem!
Exercise well. Keeping our bodies in good condition helps us sleep better, releases endorphins so we feel better, and increases mental sharpness, too. Regular exercise is best, and if you're a really early riser, a walk or yoga session first thing can clear your head and prepare your body. Even a few stretches when first climbing out of bed Sunday morning can go a long way to help you feel ready for the demands of preaching.
Mind: Manage Your Attention
Mix it up. One of the reasons we may not be so "with it" for repeated sermons is boredom. If that's the case, keep yourself on edge by mixing up the sermon a bit between services. Have two versions of the sermon ready to go, for example, by moving the placement of a story. In one sermon place the story as the introduction, but in the second, move it to the middle. Another idea is in one sermon refer to people in the generic as "he," and in the second as "she." Even small changes like this can keep you in the moment.
Imagine who's listening. If someone you particularly admire were going to attend the second service of the day, how would that affect your focus level? It would probably sharpen it! Write ten names of such people on separate pieces of paper and put them in an envelope that's easily accessible between services. Before the next service pull one name out at random and slip it unseen into your prayer book or bible. Just before the sermon, see who's "in" the congregation for that service!
Forget the first service. The first sermon has come and gone—forever. Your only concern is the people in front of you now. These are different people: name some of them. They have different pastoral and spiritual concerns: what are they? See these people as you process into the service. Look at them during the prayers and hymns. See them before you open your mouth to preach. How do these people need to hear this message of Good News?
Spirit: Obey Your Call
Create a ritual. Professional athletes, musicians, and stage performers often have rituals prior to the game or performance designed to bring them fully into "the zone." The zone is an almost altered state of being when the outside world remains outside the stadium or performance hall, and the only reality is the here and now where they give all of themselves to the task at hand.
Preachers deserve and need rituals too. What will it take to give over your entire being to God in the hopes God will use every part of you—heart, mind, and spirit—to proclaim the Gospel? Create a routine you follow every Sunday morning without fail, using food, prayer, physical movement, music or silence while commuting, practicing your sermon and adding its final touches so by the time you arrive at the church building, you're fully available to God.
Be alone. Sometimes all it takes is three minutes. Three minutes to give God thanks and let the first service go, to breathe in the Holy Spirit anew. Just three minutes to sense the change in energy in the building as people leave one service and prepare for the next and notice the change of the angle of the sun. Just three minutes alone with God can help you re-collect yourself and re-connect with God so you know you won't actually repeat the sermon during the next service but offer an entirely new event, one that has never happened before and will never happen again. Just three minutes alone with God in your office, in the vesting room, in a side chapel, or if necessary, a bathroom stall. Just. Three. Minutes.
Keep silence. As you stand in the pulpit or on the floor near the people, keep holy silence. Ten seconds, twenty, even a seemingly interminable thirty seconds will bring the room's entire attention, including yours, to the proclamation about to begin. During that silence, breathe. Breathe in the holiness of this moment. In your mind's eye imagine yourself as Elijah standing alert and expectant in the entrance to the cave, waiting for God to pass by, waiting to see the face of God, waiting for God's word to break open heaven and earth and make them one. Keep silent and then with all that you are and all that you have, honor God by speaking the Word.