When Time is Short

A good friend wrote the following:

As I anticipate teaching preaching overseas, I realize that I need to take seriously the lack of time that these pastors have for sermon prep. I feel like my training has prepared me well both to practice and to teach a strategy for preaching that requires quite a bit of time, and many western pastors have that luxury. My students will not.  Any suggestions?

I’ve seen this in many places, as well as in teaching bi-vocational preachers in the west.  How can the preaching process take less time without compromising what matters?  Where can the time be trimmed, without compromising the end product?  Here are some possibilities:

Remove the Passage Selection Headache.  Encouraging them to plan a series (typically through a book), allows study to overlap and build, and it takes away the stress of finding a passage from scratch every week.

Encourage preachers to preach one thing well, not to preach everything in one. Most people feel that preaching should be both an exhausting process and an exhaustive presentation of every exegetical detail in a text – so in some ways teaching them to preach is about teaching them what is not preaching, even though they have heard it every Sunday from others.

Remove pressure to discover endless clever illustrations. I’ve tried to remove pressure to chase quotable illustrations, encouraging good handling of, and effective descriptive of the text (so that if they explain a text, or tell the story well, summarize the main point and apply it specifically, they can feel like they are really preaching).

The default starting point for a narrative sermon outline is helpful.  I find giving a simple default outline for narratives to be helpful (so they aren’t scratching their heads about outline when it often can be as simple as tell the story, clarify the main point and then apply it.)

Recycle Bible study.  If people are preaching twice in a weekend, I encourage preaching twice off the back of one set of exegesis (that is, go back to the same passage and apply it further or chase issues in a different way).


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