How Much Time Should Be Spent On Sermon Preparation?

One of the questions I get asked from time to time by fellow Christians is, "How long does it take you to prepare a sermon?" Among themselves, preachers will often compare notes on the same subject. Lifeway Research did a study of how pastors spend their time. The most interesting part of the study was the amount of time pastors said they spent on sermon preparation. A graphic showing the results for mainline and evangelical pastors respectively is below:

Sermon Prep 2

How long does it take me? As long as it takes. I don't say this at all because I don't like sermon preparation. In fact, I love it. I say, "As long as it takes because I've always found sermon preparation comes quickly some weeks, and come rather slowly other weeks. On average, I would say 10-12 hours a week…not counting any time spent putting together multimedia and on top of foundational research I do before the series starts. If you throw that in…I'm probably around 14-16 hours per week. I've spent as little as 5 hours and as many as 35 hours on one sermon. Despite what you may be thinking…the 5-hour sermon had nothing to do with a time crunch. It was one of those where God just delivers most of it right away (on Wednesday for me)…it's just in your heart and flies out of your fingertips. That sermon was on stewarship from Matthew 6 called, "More than Money." It's one of my favorites to preach to this day. The 35-hour sermons? One from a series I did on Revelation, and another my very first Pepperdine Keynote back in 2003 on Joseph and Potiphar's wife. Most of the time, it's the good old routine 12 hours or so.

Here's the question: How long do you think it SHOULD it take? If you preach, how long does it typically take?

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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2 thoughts on “How Much Time Should Be Spent On Sermon Preparation?

  1. I look at sermon prep like worship prep. I like to look at worship by the month or 6 weeks depending on how many series the preacher will preach on. My prep continues even while in a service, something will hit me during 1st service and I will change a song then or definitely during second service. I’m sure you have had an experience where you prepared a sermon and delivered a different one. So, I like it when you said as long as it takes.

  2. I’m not sure exactly how long it should take to prepare a sermon. For me it is certainly different from week to week. But the thing that I have noticed more often than not is that I never “put a sermon to bed”. It is never finished for me (as far as preparation). In fact, some of the greatest insights that I have had into a particular text have come during the preaching event. May God help us all to be more intentional about the way that we serve the church as those with the calling to preach!!