November 5, 2023

Beating the “Off-Season”: 7 Helpful Tips to Keep Sermon Writing Fresh and Inspired

Ever feel like sermon prep time is impeding your creative spark? Sometimes when an idea strikes, it can be hard to find a place to get started between the outlining process, gathering research, and coming up with creative examples for a strong sermon.

Noah Cecil

When my best friend and I were eleven years old, we went to the same youth group. My friend and I weren’t quite the unruly kids who misbehaved, but we were an odd combination of “class clowns” and the kids who paid attention in the front row. However, when it comes to my friend, he can be a little more “class clown” and a little less focused.  

One day during Sunday school, the lead youth pastor was giving his sermon. During the sermon, my friend began to motion his fingers like Spider-Man and discreetly pretended to shoot webs at the wall. Catching a glimpse of my friend in the front row, the youth pastor suddenly let out a loud, “OH NO! I’M BORING YOU AREN’T I?”

The entire youth group was caught off guard. My friend insisted that he wasn’t bored, but our youth pastor elaborated. As a child, our youth pastor would also pretend to be Spider-Man, imagining himself shooting webs at the wall while the senior pastor would preach. The reason? Our youth pastor was so bored that he would imagine shooting a big ball of web, bouncing it off the wall and hitting the pastor’s head so he could finally stop talking. 

While children can be a tough crowd, pastors can still have their off days. It’s not easy preparing a weekly sermon that feels fresh, inspired and ready to move the congregation with what God has to say… it’s also not punishable by a webbed ball to the head if you’re to miss the mark. Whether it’s an off-week or an off-season, every pastor faces their share of “boring” or “uninspired” sermons. 

In today’s blog, I’m here to lend some tips and tools on how to keep sermon writing fresh and inspired for pastors.  

Feeling Uninspired?

Let’s start with that lack of creative spark. Everyone goes through different seasons in their lives, a concept often attributed to Ecclesiastes 3: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted” (3:1-2). 

Some of these seasons of our life may be times of great growth with new opportunities coming along, busier schedules and/or new responsibilities. Some of these seasons may be times of hardship, perhaps experiencing loss, big life changes, or burnout. Some seasons can simply be a time of stagnation where life feels very routine, not much change is happening and you just feel called to rest. No matter what season of life you’re in, whether trying to adapt to change or the lack thereof, it’s not uncommon to find yourself in a creative drought.

When speaking of “uninspired” or “boring” sermons, the point is not just to make sermons entertaining and funny. Additionally, it’s important to understand that not every sermon needs to be the biggest, most poignant, or most inspiring message that you’ve preached yet. Though, whether it’s due to years of preaching (feeling like you’ve gone through the same stories and topics time and time again) or feeling like you’re in a season of stagnation, it’s important to find best practices that keep you feeling inspired.

7 Tips For Sparking Inspiration

Here are 7 tips that can help keep your sermon writing fresh:

#1: Prayer and Bible Study

Starting with the most obvious, teaching on God’s Word should of course always begin with God. Pastors should always seek God through scripture and prayer, meditating on what He might be trying to reveal to you and the congregation. 

With this in mind, there are many ways of reading the Bible and gaining new revelation from the scripture; “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart,” Hebrews 4:12 might say. 

While it’s important to read contextually, historically, or theologically, it’s also important to take in the words as on paper and meditate on what God may be trying to tell you in that moment. With so much time studying the Bible, it’s important to still be able to read scripture with fresh eyes and see what God might be trying to speak to you on a personal level. 

Kristen Wetherell, of online ministry Open the Bible with Pastor Colin Smith, provides five helpful ways of meditating on the Bible here.

#2: Reading Books

Reading is a powerful tool for not only expanding knowledge, perspective, empathy, and wisdom, but it can also enhance one's writing and communication skills.

Additionally, while pastors can learn an expansive worldview of humanity through books on history, philosophy, or world religions, pastors can also gain a wealth of insight into church history, the global church, Christian apologetics, theology, and biblical commentaries through Christian literature. 

Ariel Abke, of education specialist program Pearson: Accelerated Pathways, provides 12 benefits to reading books here

#3: Travel/Sabbatical

Taking trips, whether it’s camping with the family, visiting another state or country, taking nature hikes, or even going on a silent retreat, is nice for experiencing a change of environment and getting inspired. Being in nature gives us more immediacy to God’s creation, inviting us into a space to feel His peace and meditate on Him. Being in a new city on the other hand invites us to be more present in our surroundings, meeting new people, seeing new sights, and enjoying art and culture. 

#4: Spend Time in the Church Community

While leading a church as a pastor has its fair share of time behind the scenes, meeting with church faculty, carrying out administrative tasks, and planning for sermons, it’s important to remain engaged with the congregation on a personal level. 

Spending time with the congregation, whether through small groups, prayer nights, or personal meetings (going out for a meal or coffee), not only allows the pastor to still be part of the congregation, but also gives insight into what people are going through, what questions they might be asking and how it can be addressed on a Sunday morning.

#5: Journal

Journaling thoughts and ideas is a good way of recording touch points of inspiration. Perhaps you’re by yourself at a coffee shop or at home watching a movie and an idea strikes. Having a journal on hand is good for catching those ideas that hit us in the most random moments. 

Additionally, journaling thoughts and feelings is a great way of capturing raw expression, allowing you to look back on certain thoughts and turn them into full ideas.

#6: Enjoying Art

Art is a pure form of human expression and intellect that can either move us in a profound way or upset us. Either way, art allows us to feel and reflect on those feelings, not only providing a way for introspection, but also inspiring us to express our thoughts and feelings.

#7: Collaborate with Others

Collaborating with fellow church faculty, pastors, assistant pastors or elders is a great way of gaining a fresh, new perspective. The collaborative process can allow ideas a space to grow, giving half-baked ideas a chance to fully develop through diverse inputs from other colleagues. 

Writing with others can also give you new ideas on how to approach the writing process. 

A Helpful Tool for Sermon Preparation

Ever feel like sermon prep time is impeding your creative spark? Sometimes when an idea strikes, it can be hard to find a place to get started between the outlining process, gathering research, and coming up with creative examples for a strong sermon. 

Thankfully this process is made easier with the help of sermon preparation apps that create an easier workflow for pastors and even help ideate and inspire topics.

Go and Get Inspired!

Week after week of preparing and preaching sermons, a pastor is bound to have a few misses or may even go through a season of feeling uninspired. If you’re going through this, don’t lose heart! Try practicing some of these helpful tips and tools and go get inspired!

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