NASHVILLE – Most church members give little thought to the amount of time it takes a pastor to prepare each sermon. In reality, sermon preparation is a large portion of a pastor’s workweek. Unfortunately, this work is invisible to typical church members. They don’t realize the enormous amount of time it takes just to prepare one sermon.
I recently conducted an unscientific Twitter poll to ask pastors how much time they spend in sermon preparation. For this question I asked for the amount of preparation time for one sermon. Many pastors must prepare more than one sermon per week, so their workload to prepare to preach is even greater.
I am pleased and appreciative for the number of responses I received. Here are the results of the poll by three-hour increments:
- 1 to 3 hours — 1 percent
- 4 to 6 hours — 9 percent
- 7 to 9 hours — 15 percent
- 10 to 12 hours — 22 percent
- 13 to 15 hours — 24 percent
- 16 to 18 hours — 23 percent
- 19 to 21 hours — 2 percent
- 22 to 24 hours — 0 percent
- 25 to 27 hours — 1 percent
- 28 to 30 hours — 2 percent
- 31 to 33 hours — 1 percent
The results were fascinating to me. Here are some key points I found in the study:
- Most pastors responded with a range of hours. I took the midpoint of each range for my data.
- 70 percent of pastors’ sermon preparation time is the narrow range of 10 to 18 hours per sermon.
- Keep in mind that these numbers represent sermon preparation time for just one sermon. Many pastors spend 30 or more hours in preparing messages each week.
- The median time for sermon preparation in this study is 13 hours. That means that half of the respondents gave a number under 13 hours; the other half gave a number greater than 13 hours.
- Most of the respondents who gave a response under 12 hours indicated they were bivocational pastors.
- If the sermon was part of a series, the pastors indicated they spent even more upfront time to develop the theme and preliminary issues for the sermons to be preached.
- Many of the pastors are frustrated that they don’t have more time for sermon preparation.
- A number of the pastors indicated that finding consistent and uninterrupted sermon preparation time was difficult.
Most pastors have workweeks much longer than we realize because of the invisible nature of sermon preparation. As for me, the results of this poll have caused me to pray even more fervently for my pastor. His work is long. His work is never-ending. But the work he does is vitally important.
I pray that we all will remember to pray for our pastors every day.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Thom S. Rainer is president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. This column first appeared on his website, www.ThomRainer.com.)