We establish habits for exercise, budgeting, and cleaning—why not sermon prep? Over the years, Craig Groeschel, senior pastor at Life.Church, has refined his message prep and shares it with us below. We hope his routine will serve as inspiration to build or enhance your own routine.
Pastor Craig’s Sermon Process
People occasionally ask about my routine for preparing to preach. After years of trying to perfect my routine, I’ve learned that I prefer to study early, often as early as 5:00am. Anytime I’m working on sermon content, I always make sure I have all the essentials within reach to minimize distraction and keep me in the zone. For me, this includes: my favorite commentaries, semi-healthy snacks, vitamin-infused water, reading glasses, and large font notes.
Below, I’ll walk you through several phases of my sermon prep process.
Phase 1: Gather and outline
My first phase of sermon prep includes gathering and researching. I try to learn way more about a text or topic than I will ever share. Once I’ve gathered information, I produce an outline. I always highlight material in yellow that I want to emphasize and highlight material in green that I’m not sure I will want to keep or delete. (View the structure of my notes for our Habits series on the Open Network.)
Phase 2: You
Once that outline is built with foundational spiritual principles, I shift to what I call the “YOU” phase. During this time, I will spend a couple hours pretending like I’m talking to YOU—the attender. I try to ask myself when an attender might respond with, “Who cares?”, “So what”, or “But, not in my case!” During this phase, my focus isn’t on WHAT I say as much as HOW someone will hear the content. As pastors, we know there’s a difference, right? We know that “knowledge” alone rarely moves people to action. More often, emotion is what moves people to action. My goal is to help you feel an emotional connection with truth. We can help pull out that emotion in the stories we tell, how soft or loud our voice is, and by well-timed pauses.
More often, emotion is what moves people to action. My goal is to help you feel an emotional connection with truth.Pastor Craig Groeschel tweet this
Phase 3: Feedback
Then I move into the feedback phase. This is when I talk through the message with other people in our office to get feedback before I preach. (I also seek feedback right after I preach.) During this phase, it’s important for me to seek balanced feedback from different viewpoints. My experience is from the perspective of a 50-year-old caucasian male who’s been a Christian for decades. I need the perspective of other genders, ages, life-stages, pasts, etc. to make sure my message is relevant to many. You may be asking, “Does your staff really give you hard, helpful feedback?” The answer is yes. They give that feedback because I expect that feedback from them and create an environment for them to feel comfortable giving that feedback. (Watch the Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast to learn more about creating a culture of feedback.)
Phase 4: Final touches
Then in the final phase, I work on finishing touches and editing for overall flow and interest. This part of the process is usually wrapped up by Wednesday at noon. I don’t touch the message again until Saturday. Saturday afternoon consists of two hours of praying and loading the message deep into my heart. Then it’s time to preach God’s Word like it’s the most important thing that I will ever do. And I trust God to do what only HE can do in the hearts of people.
With a few of these tips, we hope your preparation process becomes a bit more streamlined and fruitful. When you’ve built the perfect sermon, head over to the Open Network to find some creative elements to add to it. And, for those weeks where creating your own sermon won’t fit, check out the large collection of messages from various churches available to you free on the Open Network.
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