Ten Tips for Keeping Your Sermon Prep Out of Your Weekend

Ten tips to keep sermon prep out of weekend.png

Don't want to do sermon prep on the weekends? You don't have to! 

Here are ten ways to reclaim your weekends.

1) Choose a day to scan all the lessons for the month ahead

Take notes on themes or stand-out messages. By previewing the passages, your mind can begin thinking about the meaning of the texts and will be primed to make connections through the month as you go about your life. 


2) Block off sermon prep time on your calendar for each week of the month ahead.

First, make note of personal obligations (dentist appointment, kids' recitals, lunch with a friend) as well as work commitments.

Second, be realistic about the amount of prep time you really need. If it generally takes you four hours to draft a sermon but you only block off two hours, you haven't helped yourself and will end up scrambling to finish over the weekend. 

Third, schedule chunks of time for sermon prep for a month out. An hour Monday-Friday? Two hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays plus writing time on Fridays?

Fourth, adjust the plan at the beginning of each week based on what you learned about your process the previous week. Schedule another week out so that you always protect your time four weeks out.


3) Tell your staff that you're not to be disturbed during sermon prep.

The reality is: preparing a sermon takes time. And this time is part of your job, not an additional donation to your parish. It is actually a service to your congregation to protect this time, as devoting those hours elsewhere means your sermon does not get the attention it deserves.

Put a "Do Not Disturb: Sermon Prep in Progress" sign on your door and send phone calls straight to voice mail. Do not schedule meetings or appointments during the time you've designated for sermon prep.

If something needs to give in a week, let it be something other than your prep time. Otherwise, you'll end up sacrificing your personal time on the weekend—again


4) Create a sermon note-taking system and stick with it.

Evernote, Scrivener, OmniOutliner, note cards, or a journal are all great systems. All that matters is that it works for you AND is searchable so you can track down that perfect story or reference.


5) Make yourself accountable.

Find a partner and tell them your prep schedule. It might be a preaching buddy, your spouse, a friend, a parish administrator or colleague. Better yet, exchange your prep schedule with another preacher and help each other stick to it.

Ask them to keep you on track and offer to do the same. Text each other at the start of your work time to let them know you're diving in. Check in after an hour to report your progress.


6) Choose a location that keeps you focused.

Parish office? Home office? Coffee shop? Dining room table? Library? Outside? Brew the right coffee or tea and settle in where your best mental energies flow.


7) Use apps to stay focused and efficient.

(I'm not receiving anything to promote these. I just find them useful myself).

"Freedom" is an app that forces you to shut down all internet access and/or social media sites for a period of time you determine. (Just keep in mind you may need a browser window to conduct sermon research.)

"Focus@Will" is a personal favorite. Music and sound tracks are designed to energize the brain waves we use to focus. Select a track, choose a length of time, and get lost in your work. At the end of each session you can rate your productivity.

"Pomodoro" is actually a method, but there's also an app (that I haven't tried yet) called "Pomo." The Pomodoro method says to work in chunks then break. For instance, focus for fifty minutes, break for ten; focus for fifty minutes, break for ten; then focus another fifty minutes, and break for thirty.

Learn more about the Pomodoro method.


8) Read the Backstory Preaching Facebook post on Monday afternoons.

Get a jump start on your sermon pondering. Read the scriptures Monday morning, then read the insights gained from our BsP Monday Lectio prayer group on our Facebook page

(And if you'd like, you can receive an email notification every time those Lectio insights are posted so you don't have to remember to check the page.) 

9) Increase your efficiency by scheduling time for prayer, "noodling," and sleep.

We are designed to need rest. You can actually work harder by working less, by building in time for rest.

We cannot make ourselves more productive by filling more minutes of our day with work. In fact, the harder and longer we push, the less we accomplish—and what is accomplished isn't our best work.

  • We need time with God: time to rest as a child of God, listen, and exchange our anxieties for a light burden and easy yoke.
  • We need down time to let the scriptures percolate—or "noodle." Once you've read and considered the Scriptures, you are less likely to have a "Eureka" moment if you force your attention to the sermon without break. This space should be unstructured time where your subconscious is free to turn ideas over while your attention is directed elsewhere.
    • Consider walking, cycling, or otherwise enjoying the outdoors
    • Try painting, playing an instrument, baking, or woodworking
    • Get your hands or body busy in any other endeavor, and your mind will accomplish far more than it will sitting at staring at a blank page or screen.
  •  And of course, we also need plenty of sleep for our minds and bodies to function optimally. 

Incorporate all these periods of rest into your week, and you'll be primed to hear the Holy Spirit's message.


10) Get support.

Identify the resources you need to develop a process, establish boundaries, and learn new strategies to ensure your sermon is finished by Friday.

We'd love to help. That's why we're here.

In fact, we've created one-week sermon bootcamps where you can learn the fundamentals to finish your sermons before the week is up by doing it in real time.

Our next sermon bootcamps will run the weeks of Holy Week and Easter. If the thought of sermon prep during that busy season feels overwhelming, join us in our Holy Week and Easter Sermon Boot Camps.


What works for you to get your sermons done on the day you want? What gets in the way? Let me know at lisa@backstorypreaching.com.

Be Good News to Preach Good News,


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By popular demand, we had to add another Easter Bootcamp section!

Easter Camp already sold out, so we added another one! Space is now available for both weeks, but don't wait long before we run out of space for good!

Plan ahead now!

Preach courageously.

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