Why a Pastor Should Work Ahead (And How to do It)

Work Ahead

Most pastors, because of all that is on their plates have this revolving conversation in their head: It is Monday, they are tired and worn down and they don’t know what they are going to preach on this coming Sunday.

They start scouring the internet to see what their favorite megachurch pastor is preaching on or they read a book in hopes of finding some kind of inspiration or story to steal, or they read their Bible in hopes that God will speak to them and show them their sermon.

Not all pastors are like this, but sadly, many are.

There is another way: work ahead. 

By working ahead, you are prepared for what is coming up, your sermons are not last minute. In fact, I just had two pastors tell me they spend 8 hours Saturday night working on their sermons. 8 hours! That’s crazy.

Every pastor wants to work ahead and when we hear pastors say that they have their next 3 sermons written, a part of seethes in anger.

While I don’t work like that, I write the sermon I’m going to preach on Sunday leading up to Sunday, I can tell you what I am planning to preach on for the next 12 months.

One of the biggest benefits to this is how it helps you to research. By knowing the topics I will cover over the coming year, when I read a blog or article that connects with that, I’m able to save it into Evernote.

But how do you work ahead? How do you know what you are going to preach on for the next 12 months? Here are some ways I’ve learned to do it:

  1. Write out books of the Bible or topics you’d like to cover. Don’t underestimate your passion for a topic or books of the Bible. Often, the next series you should do is one you are passionate about. What is God saying to you right now? How are you growing personally? Can you make that into a series? Is there a book of the Bible speaking to you right now?
  2. Ask your church, staff, and elders for suggestions. On a yearly basis, I ask for input. Granted some people give me input throughout the year and when they do, I add it to my growing list. A pastor should always have a running list of possible series or sermons they are thinking about. Often, the questions that come up in counseling or conversations lead to great sermon series as well.
  3. Get away for some solitude. When I finally decide what I’m going to preach on, I get away. I pray through the books that have been on my heart, topics that are bouncing around in my head and things others have said to me. I often do this in the summer time to lay out the following year. So, this past summer I was laying out 2015.
  4. Map out the series for 12 months. To effectively work ahead on prep, research, and creativity, I find a year a good standard to be working from. I am always amazed when I am reading a book that has nothing to do with a sermon topic and I find a great quote that I can use in 8 months. This saves so much time the week I work on the actual sermon. In fact, just this past week I landed on my big idea for a sermon I’ll preach in 9 months.
  5. Create Evernote folders. Evernote is something every pastor should know and use often. If you are unfamiliar with it, here are two resources I’d recommend: Evernote Essentials: The Definitive Guide for New Evernote Users and A Guide to Evernote for Pastors. I have a folder for different topics: leadership, gay marriage, marriage, dating, eating, health, divorce, parenting, schedule, pace, etc. I also have one for each book of the Bible, whether I am planning to preach through it soon or not. When I’m reading a blog or article online I simply use the Evernote shortcut for Chrome and send it to the correct folder.

I can’t tell you the benefits of this. I am never wondering “what am I going to say this coming week” which drastically lowers my stress level and raises the quality of a sermon because whenever I preach, it has been in preparation for a year.


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