Our 2018 preaching gift guide will help preachers find inspiration, craft better sermons, and have more fun preaching in 2019.
Organized by the Backstory Preaching pillars of Process (how we get sermons crafted), Craft (skill development), and Spirituality (growing closer to God), this round-up is sure to please preachers (and their congregations!).
For a few more ideas, check out our list from last year: The 10 Most Inspiring Gifts for Preachers (2017 Edition).
1) Willpower Doesn’t Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to Success by Benjamin Hardy—$12.75
If you want to streamline your sermon prep and schedule, Benjamin Hardy offers insightful, practical advice to shape your environment so you can do your best, most efficient work.
One of my favorite strategies comes from Chapter 6: “Remove Everything that Conflicts with Your Decisions.” If we’ve made the decision that next week’s sermon must be done by Wednesday, it’s not enough to say, “Just do it.”
Rather, Hardy suggests we need to identify and eliminate as many decisions, distractions, and options from our environment as possible. When we are proactive to prepare the mental and physical space for our decision, finishing our sermon by Wednesday becomes so much easier!
If you’re looking to simplify your life and ministry, this book offers practical, real-life suggestions to identify your pitfalls and order your environment to make it easier to accomplish what’s most important.
2) Pilot FriXion Ball Knock Retractable Gel Ink Pens, 0.7 mm (10 Color Set)—$19.70
I love these pens! They are truly erasable pens in a variety of colors.
Creativity studies show that hand-writing lights up the creative parts of our brains, leading to more ideas and associations. Thus, when planning your sermons or taking notes, writing by hand can be more fruitful than typing. These pens give you the flexibility to erase and reorder your ideas. Plus, they’re just more fun!
3) Moleskine Notebooks (Various sizes, Colors, and prices)
I pull out my journals and pens whenever I need to do a brain dump of my to-do list, doodle, or write that awful first draft I don’t want anyone else to read.
I really like Moleskine brand. They come in a variety of sizes and colors, and you can choose whether the pages are blank, lined, or dotted. Some even come with a pocket in the back to stash paraphernalia.
What I like most is that these journals are stitch-bound so they lay flat. That’s great for writing across the page.
4) Ingenuity by Lisa Thompson—$20.52
Preaching is one tool to help move the world toward shalom, to invite the will of God on earth as it is in heaven. One way preachers can help usher in a kingdom that reflects a “first-shall-be-last-and-last-shall-be-first” reality is to center voices that have been historically marginalized.
While most of us are familiar with male and white preaching perspectives because of the historical leadership of our religious and academic institutions, the Church has often missed out on the vibrant, prophetic, and necessary perspectives of women and people of color.
In Ingenuity: Preaching as an Outsider, Lisa Thompson brings the wisdom and experiences of Black women to the craft of preaching. She offers rich insights and practical help for all preachers.
"Written from the deep well of the spirituality of Black women, Thompson has given us a remarkable guide for what preaching should be and must be for the times we are in. Accessible, thoughtful, probing, pastoral, prophetic—all come together in this text. A must read for anyone committed to faithful excellence in proclaiming the word."
-Emilie M. Townes, Dean and E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society, Vanderbilt University Divinity School
I am honored to say that Dr. Thompson will be a guest lecturer in 2019 for The Backstory Preaching Collective+.
5) Mind-Mapping Software
I make mind maps all the time.
I find them invaluable to visualize my ideas and make connections between them. I most often make mind maps on paper, but paper mind maps have a major drawback: limited space.
When I’m working on a big project, I need lots of room to extend ideas ad infinitum. Plus, I sometimes need to send those ideas across the digital airwaves. For those reasons, mind-mapping on my computer can’t be beat.
Think this might be a useful tool in your preaching life? Christopher McFadden explains mind mapping and suggests “17 of The Best Mind Mapping Tools (Online, MacOS and Windows) in this article. Some of the tools are even free!
Look for the one that suits you best and add it to your wish list!
6) Writing Prompt Books by Piccadilly, Inc.—$7.99-$14.99
How do we become better preachers? In part, by becoming better writers. And for a bit of structured writing practice, I enjoy the many writing prompt books by Piccadilly, Inc.
300 Writing Prompts asks questions from the silly to the poignant to get you thinking:
“What do the clothes you’re wearing right now say about you?”
“Look around. What’s wrong with this picture?”
Complete the Story gives a sentence or two and leaves the rest of the page to write a super short story:
“Sometimes kids are the only ones willing to say what's really on their minds, and our family needed a little dose of honesty. We almost never said something straight out. My mother was the worst. All she could do was….”
Grab one of these gems and write a little every day. See what this consistency does for your creativity and sermon-crafting!
This is the most profound book about God I’ve ever read outside of Scripture.
In fact, I wrote a blog post just a few weeks ago about some of the insights I’ve gleaned from this treasure: “What Matters Most When the World is Falling Apart.”
Etty was a non-practicing Jew in Amsterdam when the Nazis invaded. In her early twenties at the time, she prided herself as one of the young intelligentia of her social scene, feeling no need for religion. But as she begins reading a broad collection of literature prescribed by her psychiatrist, including the New Testament and Rilke, Etty finds herself overcome by the presence of God as the deepest reality there is—though she’s embarrassed to admit her burgeoning faith.
Etty shows us how even when we are at our most faint-hearted, God gives us the will to seek others’ well-being before our own, the capacity to forgive and love our enemies, and the vision to see that nothing is more real than God.
8) Hubble's Universe: Greatest Discoveries and Latest Images by Terence Dickinson—$23.79
Be inspired by God’s astonishing imagination in the cosmos!
The images in this book are gorgeous, combining multiple techniques to make visible what is typically invisible to the human eye. We get to see what only God saw when creating the universe!
Marvel at the pictures in this book to appreciate what an average speck Earth is in the vastness and infinite variety of the universe. The perspective will increase your gratitude that somehow you get to be part of it.
9) Taizé Music Albums—$10.99-$12.52
You know the saying that the one who sings prays twice?
With Taizé chants you can pray not just twice, but continuously!
For the uninitiated, the ecumenical monks of Taizé, France, created a form of musical prayer and worship to draw the world together across Christian faith traditions and national borders. Many of the lyrics are phrases from Scripture, and many are sung in Latin as a way to equalize the experience since no one speaks Latin as their modern tongue.
The chants are hypnotic in their elegant simplicity, but are kept fresh with descants. Start or end your day with the kind of musical “ear worm” you’ll be happy to have on repeat in your mind.
I recommend these albums, both available through Amazon or iTunes:
Get your Advent 4 and Christmas Eve sermons done by December 22nd so you can enjoy the holiday!
In the busy week leading up to Christmas, bootcamp participants can relax, knowing their sermon prep time is handled. With guidance from a mentor and in the company of other preachers, you’ll craft two sermons you’ll be excited to deliver—and develop skills you can apply all year long.
Enroll with code EARLYCHRISTMAS10 for a 10% early bird discount.
I hope whatever you find under your Christmas tree feeds you and your listeners all year long. Perhaps you might even give yourself or a gift or two. After all, it's a gift for your congregation, too!
Wanting to gift a course to the preacher in your life?