Preacher! Here’s Five Ways to Beat Preacher’s Block
It’s Thursday and some of us have been trying all week to come up with a great sermon. We’ve done a lot of exegesis, read commentaries, put our fingers to the keyboard repeatedly, and prayed, and prayed, and prayed, and still we’re not finished. It just isn’t flowing like it sometimes does. And now it’s Thursday afternoon and the temptation to scan the websites for a ready made sermon to download is starting to creep into the mind. Don’t do it! You’re just a bit stuck! God still speaks a word for you to share with your congregation! Take heart preacher we’ve all been there, often, it may seem lonely, but you’ve have lots of company. I’m there so often I’ve come up with my own little plan of action for getting unstuck in sermon prep. Maybe it will help you!
Take a break.
Seriously. Get up and walk away from the computer. Go do something else for awhile. Take your spouse for a cup of coffee or just a walk in the park, whatever, just take a break!
Do something physical.
I used to serve in a church that had a great gym and I’d go in there and shoot baskets for half an hour. It was amazing how different my mind would work after a little exercise. I guess there’s just something about getting the blood flowing that helps us think better. We preachers are a sedentary people . Even if we’re not stuck in sermon prep we could probably use a little exercise.
Talk it out.
When I’m really stuck I’ll take whatever notes I’ve made, my Bible, a pad of paper, and go into the sanctuary. I’ll stand where I do every Sunday morning and begin speaking out loud. I’ll read the Biblical text, look at my notes, and just start talking. At this point I’m not even concerned about making sense, I just start talking. It’s helpful to use a voice recorder, or app on my phone like Dragon Dictation, to record what I’m saying. While I’m speaking, I’m listening. I’m listening for those moments that are clearly not from me and then I write them down, or be sure they are recorded. It’s been amazing how often this simple practice has gotten me unstuck. A little caution, I have to check what comes off the top of my head with the biblical text, you know, just to be sure I’m hearing from God and not the bad pizza from lunch.
Bring in the team.
Preachers, I don’t know where we got the idea that for the message to be authentic we had to go it alone. When you are stuck is a great time to experiment with a team approach to writing a sermon. If you have a youth pastor, a music leader, a secretary, call them into the office and read the text together. Ask them what they see in the text, what jumps out at them? They very well may see something different than you do, and that’s a great way to get unstuck! Don’t have a staff? Call some church members, I promise you they’ll love it! Granted, they may never let you hear the end of it, but it’ll be a great bonding experience!
Face it, there are times when we’re just trying to force it. It’s better, even on a Thursday afternoon (or a Friday, or a Saturday), to just start over than to try force through a message that just isn’t flowing. Pick a new passage. Pick your favorite passage. It’s ok, on occasion, to go back to that good old stand-by sermon. Reacquainting yourself with that faithful old friend might just be what keeps you from getting stuck next week.
That’s it. That’s all there is to my little plan of action. What’s yours? What do you do when you’re stuck? I’d love to hear your ideas, after all, this plan may not work forever!
Grace and Peace, Rich