The 4 Ss of Sermon Preparation

This is an update of a post called 5 Stages of Sermon Preparation that I wrote over a year ago. The 4 Ss are simpler and more streamlined (all start with the same letter).

This is how I’m thinking about my sermon prep …

I begin sermon prep simply reading—and soaking in—the Scriptures. I like to print my sermon text in multiple translations (from I highlight key words and phrases as I read through the text. I also write down ideas that come to mind. My goal is to spend quality time in the text before I go to the reference works.

Ideally, I try to read through various reference works in one day, if possible. After soaking in the text, I am able to process the information during this stage more quickly.

I start out with study Bibles, such as the Life Application Study Bible, Archeological Study Bible, and The Life with God Bible study Bibles. I try to refer to a couple of different commentaries as well as The Idiot’s Guide to the Bible for a good creative, overview/summary. I like to do as much as I can online (see my post on Online Bible Study Tools; one of my favorites is the extensive translation notes at NET Bible).

After soaking in the text and spending time in the study resources, it’s time to shape the sermon. This part of the process involves picking a point and then building everything around it. I use the map presented by Andy Stanley in Communicating for a Change—ME-WE-GOD-YOU-WE (see my post, One Point Preaching).

The one stage I probably need the most work on is this one. I’m usually shaping the message up until the time of delivery. I would like to have it pretty well shaped a couple/few days ahead of time so that I could let the sermon simmer for a while.

Well, in a perfect world, this is what I try to do. The challenge, of course, is that Sunday comes every seven days, which leaves little room for getting too far behind!

4 thoughts on “The 4 Ss of Sermon Preparation”

  1. I like this summary. It’s pretty much the ideal process that I like to follow and hope to get back into as I return (joyfully) to ministry in the local church. I’m wondering this: at what point do you seek visuals for the sermon? Do you intentionally seek images, video clips, etc? Or do you just use them if something happens to jump out at you? Do you have any good sources that you go to for visuals?
    I’m so excited about your ordination and Joleen’s! There are 3 ordinations and 2 commissionings from our district! I know pride is a sin, but I confess that I have quite a bit of it! I appreciate sweat and tears that have gone into this!


  2. Thanks for the comment, Pam. I knew there were 3 ordinations, but I only knew of 1 commissioning. That’s quite a representation for the State College District!

    The visual part is something I could do better. At this point, I’d probably include it with SHAPE, but it’s something I should be more intentional about.

    It’s funny: some of my best ideas for visuals/props have come early Sunday morning — which is okay if I *have* (or can find) what I need! The kids’ toys have come in handy more than once.

  3. I have been reading and enjoying your posts. In like manner I have 7 stages of a sermon, all ending in ion.
    Inspiration, perspiration etc. The one I have the most trouble with, is the final one – continuation. By that I mean, taking time to pray that seeds sown the previous Sunday are not stolen, but reach full effect.
    The constant demand for the next message often leaves me neglecting the last one. The ministry is no place for laziness.

  4. Maurice, thanks for your comment. Yeah, some sort of emphasis on follow-up is good.

    On a related note, I remember reading where Bill Hybels does some follow-up work on his sermons. I’ve always thought that was a good idea.


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