I read an article a couple of days ago from Thom Rainer of Lifeway Research, titled, “Seven Fascinating Insights into Where Pastors Do Their Sermon Preparation.” The article, like many of Rainer’s articles, resonated with me. I find myself in each of the first 6 insights. (Spoiler: #7 is meant to be a joke. . . I hope.) So, today, which happens to be my sermon prep day, I thought I would write about how these insights are reflected in my process and give you a little look behind the curtain at my sermon prep sweet spot.
- “The location is largely personality-driven.” My personality type, according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, is INFJ. I believe I am a unique type of introvert. I don’t mind engaging and interacting with people, but it does exhaust me. I find rest and refreshment in being alone. However, I am not productive in solitude. I get much more done in a place where there is the right amount of activity. That amount is somewhere between chaos and solitude. If I need to get something done, I must go someplace where I’m not alone, but I won’t be bothered either.
- “The church office is the least favorite location for sermon preparation.” Amen! I have no problem with the environment of our church office if I am doing anything else other than trying to study, research for, and write a sermon. The chances of being interrupted by one of a million things are exponentially greater there. And, if I’m in the office, I want to be available to work with my staff on the things we have going on in the week(s) to come and to do ministry to those come through the door, by appointment or unexpectedly.
- “The place of sermon preparation is a factor of routine for many pastors.” Tuesday is the day I set aside for sermon preparation. That’s become my routine. Having a routine day and place has helped to foster the habit in my life and, it helps to activate my mind to study and write. I used to make fun of old people and the plethora of routines in their lives. Now, I’m older and really understand the value of routine.
- “Coffee shops are popular sites, and seem to be growing in popularity.” Right on! Starbucks is my preference. It’s nice to have a selection of coffee and tea at the ready. Plus, I have 6 family members who are Starbucks Partners, working in my area. I have tried working at a few of their stores because I like to show my support (that employee discount doesn’t hurt either.) However, after touring most of the Starbucks near me, I have narrowed it down to 2 or 3 that I prefer. There are several factors that make them just right. There has to be the right type of crowd. Other students working or soccer moms grabbing a latte are a good crowd. The “loud-talking on the phone so I can flex how important I am” or the “I’ll flirt with this barista for her entire shift trying to get a laugh and a phone number” crowd is not! Either way, those crowds don’t need or want anything from me. So, I’m free to hide in plain sight behind my laptop. The seating space must be adequate. I don’t want people sitting all up in my business. There must be easy access to power outlets, clean bathrooms and good lighting. It’s Starbucks for me!
- “Home offices are a distant second for places to prepare sermons.” I have a “home office” of sorts, but it is more conducive to paying bills and working on projects than studying. There are just too many distractions at home. I have boxes of comic books, a television, video games, and a refrigerator all trying to get my attention the whole time. Plus, I prefer to keep my home as my sanctuary, the “Me Place,” rather than a workplace.
- “Rarely is the place a silent place.” Silence when I’m worn out is refreshing. Silence when I’m working on a sermon is maddening! The idle chatter in the background is usually more like white noise to me. If someone is a little too exuberant in their conversation or the subject matter really catches my attention, I’ll put my headphones on and disappear into a fabulous world of jazz music.
So, here’s what a typical Sermon Prep Tuesday looks like for me. I go to my Starbucks of choice for the day and find the right table near an outlet or a window. If it’s not available, I pick the closest one to it so I can be ready to pounce as soon as it opens up. I go through my Habit Stacking routine (insulin, breakfast, quiet time, 750 Words.) Then I’ll check email, text messages, and social media notifications to get those distractions out of the way before I dive into sermon prep. Here’s where the headphones usually come out, the jazz music fires up, and the deep dive into the passage begins. By the end of the day, two or three cups of coffee are consumed, a sermon outline is done, and I’ve begun putting the meat on that skeleton. It’s normally finished up on Wednesday morning. Thursday, I give it a once over to see if God has laid any new illustrations on my heart. And Saturday evening, I put a little spit and polish on it to get it nice and shiny for Sunday morning.
Curious to know how it turns out? Check out crosspointefontana.com and listen for yourself. Shameless church website promotion aside, I do appreciate the sermon feedback.
Do you preach, teach, study on a regular basis? What is your sweet spot?