Surviving (and Thriving) In Sermon Writing

May 9, 2008

Preachers can distinguish in the sermon writing process three distinct phases: organising, drafting and editing.

I. Organising (pre-writing)

a) You need to gather together all relevant notes that you have accumulated before touching a computer key

b) You could refresh your memory on your notes before writing

c) You need to think about the format/size of your manuscript (A4? A5?)

d) You need uninterrupted and ideally, quiet time

e) You need to pray for specific help: amongst other things, for stamina, accuracy, and words.

II. Drafting

a) Write a whole draft in one go (usually takes me about three to four hours)

b) Don’t rush the first draft but don’t agonise over it.

c) Try to write as you speak

d) Be warned: the first draft is liable to be long and clunky!

III. Editing

As you revisit the manuscript, ask questions like:
a) Is my writing clear?

b) Is my writing concise?

c) Is my writing compelling?

d) Is my sermon proportional?

e) Are my transitions smooth/ logical?


  1. I would just add that I always preach through my manuscript OUT LOUD a number of times, and make adjustments to it each time through. It’s amazing how great something can look on paper, but when you hear it, it doesn’t “work.” Even early Sunday morning when I come in and preach through it a couple more times, I often scribble down changes between lines and in the margins.

  2. I usually write my introduction out in manuscript and then do the actual preachment or body of my sermon in outline. I usually write it out first, and then go back and put it in outline form which frees me up from my manuscript where I can walk around and engage the crowd more.

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