Monday, June 24, 2013

13 hours to prepare a sermon?

Thom Rainer, president and CEO of the SBC's LifeWay Resources, surveyed* pastors on How Much Time Do Pastors Spend Preparing a Sermon?

The question Rainer asked was about the amount of preparation time for one sermon. He gives a breakdown of the poll by three-hour increments (see above link). He states that in this poll the median time for sermon preparation is 13 hours.** He also broke it down this way -- "70% of pastors’ sermon preparation time is the narrow range of 10 to 18 hours per sermon."

The point of Rainer's post is that pastors spend many hours, often unknown to their congregations, in sermon preparation and that this is a very important job. I took something a little different away from it.

If a preacher takes 13 hours to prepare one sermon, does he take 39 hours to prepare three sermons? Or does the prep time for other sermons decrease in length and importance? Is there any reason to spend 13 hours on one sermon? Does this really suggest their great importance? Or does it suggest American pastors have a weird concept of what a sermon is? If a pastor spends 39 hours preparing sermons, how much time does he spend otherwise studying the Bible and praying for his own learning and edification?

I am afraid that much of what this reveals is that the average pastor really views sermonizing as mostly an academic and oratorical pursuit. He must primp and paint and polish his sermon until he gets it "just right". Maybe if we spent 40 hours just studying the Bible instead of preparing sermons, we'd actually have more to preach!

*Rainer calls his poll "an unscientific Twitter poll."
**"That means that half of the respondents gave a number under 13 hours; the other half gave a number greater than 13 hours."


R. L. Vaughn said...

In another venue Brother Mark Osgatharp commented on this subject, relaying this story: "Your question about length of preparation reminds me of our local association meeting a few years back. The speaker said he had studied and prepared all year long for his sermon and then proceeded to preach a watered down, empty, milquetoast sermon which consisted basically of 'ain't Gawd good' and didn't even get too specific about that. As we left an old deacon brother leaned over and said something to the effect of, 'If he studied all year for that, I'd hate to have heard it if he'd only spent a little time on it.'"

R. L. Vaughn said...

Guess I'm not the only one who thought the hours sounded a little "shady". See:
Do pastors lie when surveyed about work habits?