A few weeks ago I spent some time thinking about my sermon prep process. As I thought about it, I listed out a few steps that I felt like I needed to remind myself of as I spend time writing messages.
Soak it in.
Before you start doing anything with your sermon you need to be able to answer the simple question, "What are you going to talk about?" Do you have a main text or a topic that you'll be talking about? At this point, don't expect to know exactly where you are going with your message, just begin to soak in your topic or text. Read you main text frequently; put it on a notecard and keep it visible. Don't worry about how to explain your concepts, just meditate on your text or subject. This step is all about letting that information soak in so that when the following steps come, you'll have stuff to say.
Break it down.
Now that you've soaked it all in, you have to get something out. Start to break down your text or topic. Are there certain words or phrases that jump out to you as you read the text? Are there common questions that come up when talking about this subject? If you have a particular subject, do I know where I'm going in scripture as I talk about this? During this step it's important to begin to figure out where you are headed. At this point, you don't need to have your message written, but it's important to have an end in mind and begin to outline some of the points you'll make along the way.
Put flesh on it.
Once you know your text/topic well and you've broken it down so you have an idea of what you want to communicate, you can start putting the flesh on the message. What this looks like practically may vary depending on how you like to prepare. This part of the preparation is where you start to move from an outline to actually knowing how the whole thing is going to come together. What stories are you going to tell? How are you going to introduce the message? How will you wrap it all up? Are there illustrations that will help drive home a point? Are there certain parts of the message that need to be explained more in depth? Take time with this step to work out exactly how you want the message to flow.
There are plenty of times where I've felt like I had solid content, and I got up to give the message and I just didn't feel like I delivered it well. All of the times that I've felt this way is when I've felt like I wrote good stuff but didn't own the material. The more time you spend thinking about what you've already written instead of thinking about what you need to write will greatly help you own your message. Spend time revieiwing your message before you give it. Know how it's going to start, where it's headed, and how you're going to wrap it all up.
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