July 3, 2013

What to Do When Procrastination is Killing Your Preaching

 

In February I gave away 5 Free Creative Sermon Series Ideas we’ve used at New Life. My hope was to help fill the gap for those that don’t have a creative person or team to support them in forecasting future sermon series ideas so they could benefit by being better prepared. The response to this particular post has been tremendous. In fact, since February it has been viewed 954 times (good numbers for my blog)! I’ve noticed a pattern however that has triggered the writing of this post. By any given Wednesday, the views for 5 Free Creative Sermon Series Ideas begin to rise and by Thursday, Friday and Saturday it gets an increasing amount of views.

My assumptions could be wrong, but my guess is that the increase of views as Sunday approaches may indicate we have many pastors procrastinating the preparation of their messages until late in the week, hoping to find some last minute help. Now I know there are great resources everywhere on the web, like membership sites and free downloadable sermon packages everywhere, but the best way I can help you is to teach you how to stay ahead in your sermon prep, which will lead to better preaching instead of procrastinating, waiting until the last minute, and preaching a painfully bad sermon that kills the people listening.

I did cover my personal approach to sermon preparation in my post 7 Steps to Successful Sermon Prep, but I wanted to address procrastination as it relates to your sermon preparation and preaching.

To procrastinate is to put off intentionally and habitually the doing of something that should be done. Notice that procrastination is a habit you intentionally work at that prevents you from doing your best work. We know we should be preparing, but at some point we make an intentional decision not to, then find ourselves hurrying to throw something together that’s going to benefit our hearers. That’s likely not going to happen, so how do you and I give the greatest attention to preparing to deliver the greatest message that has ever been entrusted to mankind? How do we break the bad habit of procrastination that’s killing our preaching?

Find a Place of Solitude.

One of the first things you need to do to stop procrastinating is stop pretending you can prepare in places where people are. Wherever there are people, they will find you!  Now I’m not saying avoid people, but when you're in preparation mode, you have to seek a quiet, uninterruptible place. Personally, I have stopped trying to prepare at my office. When I’m asked to preach, I send out an office email letting everyone know I’m working from home.

Start Early in the Week.

Thom Rainer observed that 69 percent of pastors say they spend 10-18 hours in sermon preparation. If that is the case, my advice it to start early in the week if you are waiting to prepare your message the week of. The earlier you start the more unlikely the unexpected will push you into procrastination. We never know what a day or week is going to bring our way, and things do come up that take priority over preparation, but if you are waiting until Thursday and “something comes up,” you are now having to cram 10-18 hours of preparation into Friday and Saturday.

Allow Yourself Time for a Break.

If you're stuck, stop and take a breather. Eat lunch, exercise, walk away from the computer, go outside and breathe deep! Taking a break will rejuvenate and refresh you so you can get back and put the quality study time that is required into your sermon. It will prevent you from grinding to a halt in your prep, but don’t allow your break to exceed an hour because you will begin to step into procrastination’s territory.

Make a Goal to Get Your Outline Done.

I don’t always have every detail, illustration, or story to complete my outline, but I commit to at least finishing the main points of my outline so I can continue to think about the best way to fill it in. Don’t get stuck in the details, but be determined to define your direction from beginning to end! Details will come if you get your outline done. It’s a lot easier to color something if the lines are drawn. Draw the line, color it later! This is not procrastination; this allows you to get your creative juices flowing again.

Stay at Least a Week Ahead in Your Preparation.

Once you're ahead, stay ahead! When you give yourself some margin in your preparation, the pressure is off and you can focus more of your time in polishing your message. Becoming a great communicator will never happen if you're always working from behind.

Exercising these five procrastination killers will help you accomplish your best work during your preparation and ultimately assist you in delivering a sermon that your hearers will delight in. If you're preaching next Sunday, don’t wait until tomorrow. The best time to prepare is right now!

What are some things you do to avoid procrastinating during your preparation time?

Image • Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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