When I began preaching, I dramatically underestimated it’s physical dimension. All of my energy went into the preparation of the soul and the sermon through study and prayer. It’s hard to fault this, at one level. However, my ignoring of the physical part of my being left me feeling irritable, tired, and useless to my family for the rest of Sundays. On Mondays, I felt as though I had been up all night–I was tired, my throat was hoarse, and I was grumpy. I also began to realize that ignoring my physical being made me a poorer preacher. I had less energy, less mental clarity, and though I’m a major extrovert–less desire to be around people. Why? I was just tired.
Some experts have put the physical toll of preaching a 30-minute sermon at an 8-hour work day (physical labor). Think about that–all of that work jammed into 30 minutes. For those who preach multiple services, the toll can be enormous. I have friends that take weekly shots of vitamins, experience chronic pain from depleted adrenaline, and a host of other physical problems because of the toll preaching takes on them. Most of them are among the most disciplined people I know–which is why they are seeking ways to solve this unsustainable pace. Nevertheless, preaching just takes a lot of energy.
Pay attention to the physical side of preaching. If you are a church member, consider passing this along to your minister, and incorporating this into your life as a worshiper. What can be said of preachers can also often be said of worshipers. If you are tired or in poor health during worship, it will impact you more than you think.
Over the years, I’ve developed a process for preparing myself physically for Sundays. It’s made a huge difference in the joy factor of Sundays–and the speed of my recovery after preaching. Here it is:
Four Ways to Prepare for Sunday Physically
Be Mindful of Your Health Every Day. If you aren’t exercising, eating properly, or sleeping enough, this isn’t just impacting your preaching. It’s impacting your entire life–whether you realize it or not. If I go into Sundays in good health, the foundation is already laid. Simply eating sanely, getting enough rest and staying active will do more for your physical well-being than a thousand sit-ups. It’s basic, but VITAL to consistent preaching.
Next, Be Mindful of Saturdays. When I was in my twenties, I loved to stay up late and watch SNL. Now, I watch it on DVR, or not at all. I also make it a point to exercise on Saturdays. It helps me sleep better, and remind me that I’m preparing myself for something physical. It’s like a baseball player putting on his cleats and glove. 90% or better of Saturday mornings, I lift weights and do some cardio training. I go to bed by 10 if at all possible, and never after 11. Spare me the “I’m a night owl” nonsense. It’s a matter of science. You don’t preach as well on five hours of sleep as you do on eight. It takes too much clarity of mind and physical energy to think sleep doesn’t matter. Exercise and go to bed on time. It sounds simple, and it is. So, do it It will make a huge difference.
Earliness is Next to Godliness. I wake up by 5:30am on Sundays–and often earlier. I used to be a the church building by 6:15am. When New Vintage Church met on Sunday evenings, I morphed the routine. Now, I begin a minimum of three hours before worship begins. I eat while going over my notes. When I get to the building, I turn on spiritual music that feeds my soul and look over them again. I then walk the building, praying and picturing who might be there and what God might do that morning. If any volunteers are on site, I greet and thank them–telling them it’s going to be a great morning. Then, I go back to my prep place, turn the music back on, and do the final run through of the sermon. I only practice delivery one time formally. Maybe twice for a really important one–because I want the sermon to sound authentic, not overly canned. My goal is to be completely finished with all prep 45 minutes before the assembly starts. Why? First, so I have plenty of time to handle any unforeseen problems. Second, so I’m not a frenetic mess and don’t see people as interruptions to my preparation. They aren’t. If you see people that way, that means you aren’t prepared. Also, if you ignore your emotional being on Sunday mornings, as Jesus said, “Thou art a fool.” In the world of preaching (and ministry in general), earliness is next to godliness. This principle is minister-law at New Vintage Church, and I would encourage you to implement something like it at your church. Worry about Sunday before Sunday or long before most people show up. Then, worship the Lord and enjoy His people without worry.
Diet. As mentioned above, I start the morning by eating plenty and hydrating while I look over my notes with fresh eyes. I eat whatever I want to within reason. Gone are the days when I would drive through Jack in the Box for tacos as my breakfast. Now, I go to a sleepy little dive of a breakfast place and eat some eggs, have some juice, begin drinking lots of water, some coffee, and make sure I have plenty of B vitamins in me. Eating early makes sure any food coma has passed by the time I preach. It also allows me to look forward to the morning knowing I get to begin this way. Guys who set their alarm clocks for an hour before church starts are crazy and miss out what can be a thoroughly enjoyable part of the Sunday morning experience.
Don’t Preach 52 Sundays A Year. Please don’t. If you do, your church is probably bored with you anyways. For a church with one service, I would recommend 48 Sundays a year max–and 46-47 is even better. Drop that number 2 weeks for every additional service beyond 1. It will preserve your creativity, your voice, and your adrenal glands. Right now, some are going, “That’s what we pay him for!” or thinking your elders will never let you do it. Maybe not. But, you should try to persuade. You should also assure them someone at least 80% as good as you in the pulpit will replace you. For most of us, it isn’t hard to find someone 120% as good as us with a little effort If you preach 52 Sundays a year, without significant time off between the Sundays, you are in a sprint my friend. You will run out of gas–especially if you prepare more than one message per week, and probably if you only prepare one weekly message.
What do you do to prepare for Sundays? What good preparation habits do you recognize in your preacher?