Thursday, 15 April 2010

How long does it take to write a sermon?

22 hours a week on sermon writing?  That is how long "effective" leaders spend in this survey (h/t Paul Walker) compared to 4 hours for the comparison leaders.  A commenter on Paul's blog has already questioned the definition of "effective", however I want to look at this a bit more.

One of the questions that I want to know the answer to is how often they preach, and for how long.  For example how long would Rob Bell put down for sermon prep?  I wonder how  long he spends making each of his videos?

4 hours for the others is also interesting.  When I was on a placement I was told by the vicar that their training incumbent taught them to spend an hour of writing for every minute of the sermon - so an 8 minute sermon would take 8 hours.  Somewhere on the web I found a vicar who blogged that he felt that he should spend at least one session, about 4 hours, on sermon prep.  I don't preach every week - so my average would be lower still.

It also struck me that in a bigger church there would be more people to do the other things - so if there weren't other things that I had to do would I spend 22 hours writing a sermon?  Well, perhaps it depends on what "writing" entails.  Reading more widely, watching more films for illustrations, talking to people more about it - perhaps I would do these things, but then I do them now and don't call them sermon preparation!

Oh - and if the effective leaders are so good at making time how come they sleep 14 hours a week less?


  1. Mmm.. I thought as you got better at things it took less time rather than more.
    What is that story about an old preacher who was given 10 mins notice to preach a sermon and after the sermon someone said that it was amazing how he preached with only 10 mins preparation. To which he replied that it wasn't 10mins preparation, it was 50 years.

  2. The fallacy in such research studies is that it treats sermon writing rather like digging a ditchto which you can assign a certain number of man(!)hours. I prefer to use the language of flow and the marinade (thankyou ladies!) I start the preparation weeks before and soak myself in the passage. Shaping it for delivery may only take a couple of hours. But I would rigorously defend against the notion that by doing this that I am just throwing a sermon together. The sermon is not a crossword puzzle or essay. It is the interaction of the holy spirit the sacred text and the life of the preacher. Involving my unconscious in the preparation process is central. And you can't put a time on that.

  3. Thanks John - that was helpful. Somewhere else I posted about getting a sermon illustration from Home Alone 2 - does the whole of watching the film count as sermon prep time? :)



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