5 Tips to Prepare Sermons a Year in Advance

5 Tips on Preparing Sermons a Year in Advance. Adam Hamilton, pastor of the largest United Methodist Church in the US, The Church of the Resurrection shares some techniques that have contributed to his success.
sermons

I’ve read several great books related to the church, one such book that I believe every new preacher needs to have in their library is by Adam Hamilton, “Leading Beyond the Walls.”

Several pastors with large churches have written books stating that they prepare their sermons in as much as two years in advance. I use to wonder how in the world they could do that. It takes me an entire week to get a single sermon ready for a Sunday morning.

Adam Hamilton describes in his book how this is accomplished. I would like to review in this blog:

  • The purpose and goal of preaching a sermon
  • Model How Jesus Preached
  • Sermons Prepared a Year in Advance
  • List a brief summary of Adam Hamilton’s, ‘The Five Aims of Preaching’

I know that you may not have time to read his book and I hope that this blog serves to highlight helpful tips to spark your creativity in preparing  your sermons. In a future blog I will expand on the chapter dealing with Adam Hamiliton’s The Five Aims of Preaching.

4 Reasons People Turned Off from Church

Boring-church-service

One of the treasured books I have on my shelf is called, “10 of Today’s Most Innovative Churches” by Elmer L. Towns. This is an old book, but some of its content is still applicable today.

Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church made the list of the top 10 most innovative churches.  In the 70’s  Hybels had the second largest church in America with 14,000 members.

Hybel recalls before starting his church how he and several volunteers canvassed the neighborhood to find out why people were not interested in attending church and why OVERALL attendance across the mainline denominations were plummeting.

It is interesting to note that their findings in the 70’s are very similar to today’s findings.  The top four reasons include the following:

  1. Always asking for money
  2. Services are boring
  3. Church irrelevant to ‘real’ life
  4. Pastors make them feel ignorant and guilty

So what did Hybel and his team do with this information?

Ask for money.  At first Hybels did not even collect an offering, people would just place donations in a basket in back of the church. As his church grew it became necessary logistically to officially collect an offering. Although regular attendees were encouraged to tithe, visitors were not expected to contribute and were encouraged to just sit back and enjoy.

Services are boring. Hybels structured his services to accommodate the fast paced, multimedia generation.  He did this by creative programming using music, video or dramatization and biblical message in a language that people could relate to.

Church irrelevant to ‘real’ life. People often believe that the Bible is out of date.  Hybel set out to make sure that everyone of his sermons touches ‘everyday life’ proving that God’s Word is relevant.

Pastors make them feel ignorant and guilty. After hearing several people admit this, Hybels made a point to never talk down to people or to make them feel guilty in order to get them to take action.

As I recall reading about Hybels start in ministry, I must admit that we have the same issues today almost 40 years later. We live in a faster paced society which is dominated by visual technology whether it is television, cell phones, iPads, netbooks, Facebook or Twitter.  We have lots of distractions and lots of choices.

It’s really baffling that the average church is offering the same audio programming to a culture that is so visual. It’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round whole.

I believe if we took the time to invest in creative programming, we would attract more people to our churches.  Doing this would reduce the time we would have to stand in church asking for money.  Nothing’s worse than always asking for money when the services and programming are predictable and where people can’t ‘see’ where there donations are making a difference.

And yet we continue to ask why we can’t keep the seats filled.

Do you believe these reasons are still the top reasons why people still aren’t coming out to our churches?

Churches Not Growing are Dying

church empty pews

We need to explore why our pews are empty and resolve to ‘FIX’ the problem.

I was in the nail shop and sat next to a woman probably in her late 60’s who was finishing up.  She had her hands in the dryer.

We greeted each other and began our small talk.  She asked politely, “Where do you go to church?”

For African Americans headquarters is usually the church.  So in our culture, this question is ‘commonly’ asked.

I answered her.  She then asked me how many members we had.  I told her about 300 members. She leaned back on her chair saying, “Whew, that’s a ‘big’ church.”

I never really saw my church as a big church especially since on Sundays it wasn’t uncommon to have a few empty pews.  I told her that we had two services.  Her body language was such that I thought we were hot stuff.

I was merely trying to suggest that it took two services to get to 300 people.  I figured I would take the pressure off me and ask her about her church.  She told me the name of her church, her pastor and added proudly that she was born, raised there and had been there all of her life.

Familiar with the area, I asked her how close was she to the popular XYZ church.  She told me that they were right across the street from ‘that’ mega church.

I couldn’t resist, so I asked her how many members did her church have.  She replied, “Uh, 100 or so.” Because of her body language and tone I believe 100 was a stretch from reality.

Then it came, unsolicited, I may add, “Our pastor knows all of us by name.”

I went to a workshop once where a pastor of a mega church stated that if your church is not growing conversely it is dying.  No church wants to be known as a dying church, but sadly many churches across America are dying.

What does this suggest?  The answer is that many of our churches are not doing a good job of evangelizing.  Many of us are simply not inviting people to church.  As pastors, for the sake of the Kingdom, we need to ‘bite the bullet’ and explore this dilemma, but many of us are afraid of what it will uncover.

A district superintendent visited one of the churches he was responsible for tricycle-236108overseeing.  He noticed that most of the people in attendance were in their sixties and seventies.  He asked his pastor why there was not even one young person in church when on his way to church he passed a playground filled with kids and stepped over a tricycle on the way into his church.  The pastor had no response.

The truth is that many church aren’t interested in growing their congregations.  They are happy with status quo and with their pastor knowing their names as if that were some real badge of honor.

THE ‘G’ WORD. I am sad to say that even in our church although evangelism is a very high priority, we have been silenced when it comes to publicizing the ‘G’ word.  “G” stands for ‘Growth.’

Growth makes the masses scared.  It suggests loss of intimacy, a loss of control , a loss of identity or even the possibility of being lost in the crowd. So what is the answer? How do you manage this dilemma?

A church can not survive the test of time on membership in their sixties. Soon, if not already,  the church will be funded by pensions, social security and disability checks. The duration may last longer for the church that is paid off and in somewhat good repair.  However, let’s not forget we have to pay the pastor along with his or her benefits.

We all must come to terms with the fact that our churches are either growing or dying. We need to do an assessment and ask the question, ‘why aren’t we growing and then resolve to put measures in place to attract others to our churches.

Why do you believe many of our churches are dying?

 

 

 

 

 

Bishop Eddie Long’s Wife Returns and Speaks Out

 

STAY or GO? – STAY! At a recent meeting with the women’s ministry at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, Vanessa Long spoke about her personal struggles during husband Eddie Long’s sexual misconduct allegations in 2010.  We could tell she wrestled with the decision with whether to stay or to go as she announced that she was filing for a divorce, then rescinded, then filed again.  And now she is back again and revealed an intimate part of her life with the women at New Birth.

HURTING, ANGRY, SHAME, EMBARRASSED! She stated that last year she was in a storm and she got off the ship.  She stood before the women bare, saying “As much as I love my husband, my family, my New Birth Family,  I could not take another minute PRETENDING to be OKAY.” This spoke to the pain she felt.  The infamous MASK church folk usually wear was off.

AIRING DIRTY LAUNDRY. I must say that I respect Bishop Long and the leadership of New Birth who gave her the platform to share what many churches have come to term “AIRING THEIR DIRTY LAUNDRY” instead of hiding them like most churches do.  I believe it speaks to humility and a greater concern for the healing, restoring and reconciliation process.

HEALING TAKES TIME. As I write this post, I am happy for Vanessa, Bishop Long and the New Birth family. However, counselors, both secular and Christian, would agree that before Vanessa can help minister to others, she will need totally healing.  I would suspect that that wound is still open and susceptible to a great number of triggers reminding her of those painful events.

NO APOLOGIES. NO FAILURE.Vanessa tells the women of New Birth that it was also extremely difficult to return because she felt like she failed the very people who needed  her to be their strength because, they too, were in the storm and they elected to stay.  To that I say, “WHAT?#! But they were NOT the wife.” That’s not reasonable. How could you give out strength you did not possess yourself? “How could you minister strength to others when you needed ministering to?

ENTITLED.Vanessa was entitled to do what she needed to do for the sake of her sanity. And for that, she owes no one an apology.  Eddie was her husband.  When you get married you become ONE. She needed to get away to preserve herself for how ever long she needed.

THE SPIRIT WORKS! I am happy that Vanessa allowed the Spirit to give her the strength to return, pulling up the ‘LOVE RESERVES’ to make a bold move in order to extend forgiveness and to reconcile.However, it must be said that before she can minister to others, she needs to be ministered to. Weighing in on her statements it is clear that her healing will be a work in progress.

LEARN FROM OTHERS. Lastly, I pray that all pastors truly realize that ‘betrayal’ cuts deep and is extremely painful for SIN extends and has a long reach as it impacts everybody attached to you or who has things in common with you.  As pastors, I pray we learn from the painful experiences and mistakes of others lest we too, fall prey to the traps of the enemy and risk losing it all.

May God Bless the Long & New Birth Family

What are your thoughts on the video clip? What sayeth you?