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15 Practical Steps When Preparing A Sermon

Oct 15 2019

1. Panic less. Pray more.

The thought of starting to prepare another message may make you feel anxious, especially if you’ve only just finished preparing and delivering your last sermon, however rather than the roster causing you to panic and stressing, instead let it drive you to seek God even more for the revelation and wisdom that only He provides. 

2. Study.

Study the text. Study with the God thought you received at the front of your mind. As you start to prepare a sermon it’s easy to become distracted by all the new different thoughts that can lead to other thoughts – suddenly you don’t know what the message is about, your head so full of different topics and themes. When you start to feel stuck or unsure – ask yourself what was the initial God revelation?

3. Clarify what do you want people to know and what do you want people to do?

A test of how well you’ve prepared your message is the clarity you have regarding exactly what you want your audience to know when you’ve finished, and even more importantly what you’re expecting them to do differently now with this information in their minds.

4. Think about who’s going to be in the room.

When preparing a message it is easy to fall into a trap of unconsciously thinking that everyone in your audience is in the same season as you and therefore is going through what you’re going through.  

So how will your sermon help someone who’s in a different season? What will this say to the family with young kids, the person who has been in church faithfully for years, the student in College, the person going through a divorce or in the midst of a financial crisis?

5. Craft transitional statements.

Without intentional transitional statements, moving from one paragraph or thought to the next can feel clunky, like in a car when you try to shift gears without using the clutch. A transitional statement such as “…isn’t that true in life…” or “…don’t we all feel like that at times…” can ensure that your line of thinking smoothly flows from one thing to the next.

6. Work hard on application.

As preachers we are required to show people how they might be able to take the Word of God they heard on Sunday, and apply it to their lives on Monday. Ask yourself how will this message affect their everyday life – when they are at work, within their marriage, in their business. What is the application of my revelation?

7. Script your sermon.

While everyone is wired differently and many great preachers are able to write down a few notes on the back of a napkin, it is highly recommended to write out your sermon in advance word for word. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you read it out word for word, but during the preparation stage, it clearly reveals how your thoughts flow together and the specific words you want to use for key sentences.

Our global Senior Pastor, Brian Houston, says to our team that, “you should preach from notes you’d be proud to show your Senior Pastor.” The idea being that your notes most likely reveal the investment you’ve made into your message preparation.

8. Record yourself and listen back to it.

This is valuable not only after you’ve preached the message but even before it. If you’re able to put aside the time why not record yourself as you read your notes out-loud, and as you listen back to yourself consider how your message would land to those that are about to listen to it this Sunday.

9. Talk it through with someone.

It can be incredibly helpful to either chat through your ideas with someone trusted or even send over your notes in advance. Ask if there is anything that doesn’t make sense or that they would suggest doing differently.

10. Don’t try to hit a ‘grand slam’ every time you preach.

Perhaps you’re in a church where it feels like other preachers on your team always seem to conclude their sermons with the whole congregation on their feet in spontaneous applause as they respond to the power of the message. Discouraged?

It can be tempting to try and achieve the same result, but it’s critical to remove that pressure from yourself and simply be faithful to who God has called you to be, and ultimately focus on helping people fall more in love with Jesus.


Which leads us to…

11. Focus less on impressing people and more on helping people.

12. Don’t just preach to the front row.

In a church with a healthy culture of leadership you expect and hope that your front row is engaged and leaning in as you preach. However, as you prepare, consider how your message might be received by those seated on the back rows – how will your message speak to and inspire them?

13. Speak from the heart and to the heart.

The most powerful preachers speak ‘from’ the heart and ‘to’ the heart. As you prepare – consider, what do you want people to think? What do you want people to feel? What do you want people to do? When you speak from the heart and to the heart it causes people to ‘feel’, which builds a bridge between simply thinking and taking action.

14. Inject yourself into your message.

As you prepare your message, don’t assume you need to mimic your favourite preacher in order to improve but rather focus on bringing who you are to the message. Over time you’ll grow in confidence and embrace your own uniqueness.

15. Keep Jesus the main character.

Whether you’re preaching from the Old or New Testament it is not only always possible, but always critical to find Jesus in the text. Our posture when preparing a sermon should always be to ensure that we step out of the spotlight and put Jesus in his rightful place.


This thought was inspired from a webinar entitled ‘Preparing & Delivering Your Best Sermon hosted by Josh Kimes during Online Open Week in September 2019. 

Online Open Week is your opportunity to receive impartation and leadership training direct from the Hillsong team through live webinars.

If you would like to watch the full webinar recording or find out more about future events from the Hillsong Leadership Network, click here.