Life-Giving Sermon Prep

Approaches that benefit you AND your listeners

woman in a wheelchair writing

How do you put your sermons together? 

How much time do you spend on them? Is preparing them accomplished solely during your contracted work hours — or is it spilling over into your personal life, essentially making sermon prep your volunteer job? 

Does the idea of preparing your next sermon fill you with delighted anticipation? If not, how come?

How about developing your skills as a preacher? How is that going?

Are you growing in your ability to communicate the good news in a way that holds your listeners’ attention from start to finish? That connects with their lives? That invites them to be transformed — and then go out to do the same for the world? 

And where is God in the process? 

Does sermon prep in and of itself feel like spiritual respite, as if you get to go away on a micro spiritual retreat to wallow in good news — that transforms you?

Effective sermons offered consistently over a lifetime of ministry are the result of these factors:

  • A sermon prep process that works for the preacher, their ministry position, and their household, and doesn’t leave them feeling worn out, harried, or resentful.
  • Steady growth in their preaching craft that communicates the gospel clearly and directly to their unique listeners, and makes them feel energized, confident, and willing to take risks.
  • A deepening relationship with God that results from sermon prep itself and fuels their courage, vulnerability, and humility to proclaim the gospel.

However, when any of these three — process, craft, or spirituality — are not life-giving to the preacher, then sermons aren’t as life-giving for the listener. Here’s what happens over time. 

When a preacher’s process isn’t dependable or contained, the result is stress and that stress spills over into other aspects of ministry, personal, and home life.

When craft development stalls, preachers fall into ruts. They preach in the same style with the same messages and the same stories until they feel bored with preaching.

When their spirituality doesn’t deepen during sermon prep, the initial thrill of feeling called to preach fades until preaching is just one more thing to get done in a week. Moreover, without a steady connection to God their courage falters to proclaim bold messages of gospel justice that people desperately need to hear.

Conversely, when process, craft, and spirituality are integrated, preachers feel energized and excited to preach and sermon prep becomes one of the favorite parts of their week. 

That energy and excitement affects everything.

As Eliza Doolittle croons, “Ah wouldn’t it be loverly?” 

It is loverly, and entirely, consistently available. 

Here are some ideas to move in this direction. 


Schedule sermon prep on your calendar and protect it with at least as much care as you do your medical — and pastoral care — appointments. 

Enlist the parish administrator’s aid to protect your time by turning away drop-in visitors and take messages to leave you in peace. 

Again, think of pastoral care appointments: would you let a drop-in visitor walk into that meeting? Then don’t let them walk in during sermon prep either, because during that time your appointment is with God and all your listeners. 


Apply a different sermon style. 

For example, if your go-to pattern is “The Four Pages of the Sermon” try “Lowry’s Loop,” or vice-versa. 

If you ordinarily use a story as a sermon anecdote, try using a visual object to “show” rather than “tell.” 

If you routinely preach didactic sermons, try writing an entire sermon as a story. 


Create a sermon prep “liturgy” by designing a ritual of space and time so that sermon prep is set apart from other aspects of daily life. 

For example, prepare sermons in a designated location where you associate sermon prep with sacred inner quiet (which still can happen if your preferred spot is a special and noisy coffee shop!). 

Turn off computer and phone notifications, light a candle, and practice contemplative breathing for five minutes. 

Next, journal your thoughts, worries, and to-do lists to get them out of your system. 

The result is being fully present to receive a gift of time-out-of-time for you, and be fully available to receive the Spirit’s word for your listeners.

Like these ideas? Want to go even deeper? 

Join us for Backstory Preaching’s six-week Sermon Camp!

Running from May 22-June 30, you will:

  • Examine and redefine your sermon prep process. 
  • Develop new sermon skills that energize you now, and get added to your sermon crafting tool kit to use forever.
  • Re-create sermon prep from a “to-do” to a “get-to.” 

Find out for yourself why preachers say things like this about Sermon Camp:

“I fell in love again with preaching. I had lost it but Sermon Camp brought it back,” from Selena Blackwell. 

“I am very thankful that I was able to participate and decrease my stress level when it comes to sermon prep,” from Rachelle Luitjens

“Lots of great insights and approaches to loads of common challenges,“ from Ben V. 

Transform the process, craft, and spirituality of your preaching in Sermon Camp for life-giving sermons throughout your ministry, for you and your listeners.

Register at:

  • Lisa Cressman

    The vision for Backstory Preaching woke the Rev'd Dr. Lisa Cressman in the middle of the night, and she's been trying to keep up with the Holy Spirit ever since. She's Backstory Preaching's Founder and Steward, sharing insights from 25 years as an Episcopal priest, preacher, spiritual director, and retreat leader. Lisa is the author of Backstory Preaching: Integrating Life, Spirituality, and Craft and a Certified Daring Way facilitator. She holds a BS in Nursing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an M.Div. from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, CA, and a D.Min. in Practical Theology from Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, IN.

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