Managing Preaching’s Physical Demands

October 29, 2007

On Sunday evenings I feel near death. On Monday morning, just tired. On Tuesday, I’m gritting my teeth to climb the mountain again.

Preaching is exhausting work isn’t it? Not only the preaching act itself – which can leave you feeling as out of breath as a sprinter – but the preparation beforehand: rather like running a marathon prior to the main event!

(photo courtesy of Jesus-is-Saviour.com)

This is not something we should moan about, fellow preachers, since the call to word-ministry is a call to hard work (see 2 Tim 2). However the exertions of preaching are something we must manage, not least to sustain a long-term ministry.

So how do we manage preaching’s physical demands? Let me suggest, by managing several related areas:

1. Managing the diary

Its a common joke among our staff team that we’re hoping to switch to an eight day week. Every pastor knows that there are always more demands on his time than he can possibly meet. Yet how often do we attempt to fulfill impossible expectations? Our diaries are over full, and the next week ‘when things will be less busy’ never materializes.

The result is not only the neglect of our own family (who don’t see us except on holidays) but the neglect of our congregation. For unless we have exceptionally high energy levels, we will be walking into the pulpit tired. My own conviction is that the pastor shouldn’t climb the pulpit exhausted. How then can he preach God’s Word with accuracy, fervour and force, when his overworked body is running on half-power?

Going the Distance (How to Stay Fit for a Lifetime of Ministry) by Peter Brain
A Busy Christians Guide to Busyness by Tim Chester
Time Management for Pastors

2. Managing sleep

Though the God of Israel will neither slumber or sleep, the same should not be said of the pastor of the church! But why is it important? Well, firstly because sleep is an admission of our submission to God and trust in His sovereignty (see Psalm 127). Reason enough! Significantly as well, though, sleep is also essential for the physical demands of preaching. According to one expert, lack of good sleep can contribute to problems with poor memory, erratic moods, nervous system difficulties and even a diminished immune system. Its not hard to see why such problems would have a negative affect on our preaching.

I recommend David Gunderson’s article “A Theology of Sleep” for more practical thoughts on this area. Some of his main recommendations are:
1. Fight to have pure motives when you think about how much or how little sleep to get.
2. Monitor your body and how much sleep you need.
3. Brace yourself for the rest of life by reminding yourself that the tension in this issue will remain.
4. Try and plan to get good, consistent sleep (e.g., ear plugs, consistent bedtime and wake-up time, quiet room, bedtime patterns, etc.).
5. Don’t feel guilty about sleeping!
6. It is not inherently selfish to ask someone to be quiet so that you can sleep (see Prov 27:14).
7. Beware of loveless sacrifices (1 Cor 13:3).

Also, The Theology of Sleep by Fred Sanders

3. Managing food

Though we should expect the spiritual resources God may offer us in preaching, we should not neglect his physical assistance. I, for one, can be negligent in this area. Not once or twice, I have left the house on a Sunday morning, remembering to grab a piece of fruit as I run out the door (and this is my breakfast!). We can be so consumed with feeding the sheep their spiritual food, we can forget the physical food God has given to sustain us.

This is not to say, though, that preachers should eat lots of food before preaching. Overeating can be as disastrous as undereating, leading to that heavy feeling which slows the body down when it needs to be firing up.

For more thoughts on this, listen to A Biblical Understanding of Eating by Robin Boisvert (Sovereign Grace conference)



  1. […] Colin Adams added an interesting post today on Managing Preaching’s Physical Demands.Here’s a small reading:Though the God of Israel will neither slumber or sleep, the same should not be said of the pastor of the church! But why is it important? Well, firstly because sleep is an admission of our submission to God and trust in His sovereignty … […]

  2. Tremendously helpful post, Colin. Thanks!

    I fear the evangelical church has a tendency to glorify those who ‘burn out for the gospel’, to the detriment of the much greater need to ‘burn on’.

  3. Great ideas.

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