How to Prepare to Preach When You Have No Time

According to an unscientific poll, Thom Rainer found that approximately 70% of pastors spend 10 to 18 hours in sermon preparation before preaching.

What about the pastors without 10–18 hours?

Many pastors (especially bi-vocational pastors and church planters) have to balance the rigors of a full-time job, family responsibilities, and shepherding the flock into their work week, and an extra 10 hours isn’t possible. And what if someone dies? Last-minute funeral sermons don’t prepare themselves during already busy weeks.

What is one to do?

This is a question we think about regularly, usually in regard to bi-vocational pastors we train around the world. My colleague and LRI trainer, Sean Martin, suggests overloaded preachers consider this simple method for squeezing in more prep time:

  1. Get up thirty minutes earlier than normal and work your way through the text with a hermeneutical principle, taking notes along the way. For example, Monday might be the day for Asking Good Questions, while on Tuesday you consider the structure of the passage.
  2. Keep your notepad with you during the week, and squeeze in times of meditation and reflection on your text, taking notes as thoughts percolate. Your lunch hour may prove fruitful, as well as other random times in the day.
  3. Before bed, take 20 or 30 minutes more to think and pray through the text.

When this is faithfully practiced during the week, it may open up an additional five or six hours for study and meditation on your text.

  1. Come Saturday, a substantial part of the work is done, and you would then need to organize your thoughts and finalize sermon details.

Six months after recommending this method to a group of Haitian pastors we train in exposition, Sean returned and asked what was new. Arnaud, a bi-vocational pastor, eagerly shared how much of a difference this method made in his preaching. With extra study and meditation time, and thus a better grasp of the passage, Arnaud testified that this method has changed him. Now he feels more confident handling God’s Word, and many in his congregation have noticed a positive difference.

Pastor Arnaud (blue shirt) works through 2 Timothy with other pastors in Training National Trainers program.

While there are reasons why following this method isn’t the ideal situation, many busy pastors will never have the “ideal.” If you are able to have considerable sermon prep time, rejoice!—and don’t take your privilege lightly.

But if you struggle to balance full-time work with shepherding your flock, take heart that God knows your situation. He is not a taskmaster demanding you prepare more hours than you are able. He knows your sacrifice and effort. Do the best you can with your time, and pray for grace in your preparation and preaching of God’s Word. God will both help you and honor His Word.

Transformed Pulpits Lead to Transformed Communities

Dear Partners and Friends,

What does a Movement of the Word actually look like . . . on the ground? Here’s the short answer: the Word faithfully taught and preached transforms pulpits, which then transform churches, which then transform communities.

But, is this depth of transformation actually happening?

YES! . . . Consider what’s happening in a security-sensitive Asian country and the story of our in-country leader, Chinh*. Chinh’s life and ministry have been transformed by LRI’s tools for digging into God’s Word. And it’s not just Chinh. This transformation has impacted many local pastors, causing many to repent of misusing and distorting God’s Word.

Chinh’s passion is to equip churches to shower the love of Christ on their communities by meeting social, physical, and spiritual needs . . . acts of love which “adorn” the gospel (Titus 2:10). These churches build schools, care for widows, dig toilets, and help farmers gather their crops when they are sick – they serve both Christians and non-Christians. When asked why, their reply is simple, “Because we love you! And because God loves you so much.” This outpouring of love has created a spiritual hunger among unbelievers to know this God of love. And as a result, many have come to know Christ.

Even this country’s communist government has taken notice and jumped into action – but not in the way you might expect.

You see, trying to police crime-ridden communities has been a nightmare for this country’s communist government. At their wit’s end, they now encourage the Christians they once persecuted to “evangelize other villages so they can be like the Christians”!

In other words, transformed believers make their job easier!

Isn’t that the way it should be? After all, it is through the Church that the manifold wisdom of God is made known to rulers and authorities in the heavenly places (Ephesians 3:10). What a mighty God we serve!

And what an honor that through your partnership, equipping Chinh and others like him in sharing God’s Word is bearing wondrous fruit around the world. Would you consider a gift this month to help us equip more faithful men like Chinh?

With much gratitude in Christ,

Craig Parro


*Chinh’s real name has been withheld for security reasons.

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