I like to use this sermon preparation worksheet to develop upcoming messages. Preaching and teaching are first and foremost a calling. However, there are some basic guidelines that I’ve found helpful over the years as I’ve worked to prepare sermons almost every week.
Keep in mind, you probably have a method of note-taking and providing mental cues that work best for you. If so, stick with what works for you in those areas. The worksheet is only a guide to help you prepare for the message that you want to convey, not change your unique delivery and the special ways that God uses you to convey His heart.
Save yourself and your team time by downloading the sermon preparation worksheet. As a bonus, you’ll also receive the Sermon Series Planning Worksheet too!
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Below is an outline of each step included in the sermon preparation worksheet, with question prompts too.
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Step 1: Prayer: What does God want me to say?
There are times that I wrestle with what to preach about. Similarly, I flip back and forth between bible verses and watch other preachers on youtube too. Eventually, I humbly realize that I have probably not spent enough time asking God what He thinks I should share about.
Prayer is the first step to delivering an effective message in any setting. Start there!
Step 2: Purpose: Why is this message important?
As you prepare to deliver a sermon it is helpful to ask yourself questions like:
If people do not hear this message, what will happen?
What do people need or long for as it relates to this sermon?
What action step or decision should I lead people toward that will make their life better?
Simon Sinek once said that infusing a message with passion requires two things from him: 1. To only speak about things that he cares about and, 2. To only speak about things that he understands.
Answering questions like those above will help you to have a clear vision of why sharing it matters and as a result, connect more deeply with the heart of the message.
Step 3: Problem: What problem does this solve?
As preachers, we want people to engage with what we’re saying. Of course, we want to inspire others to change and increase the desire for God and His Word. Unfortunately, most people are tired and in a hurry. They want answers that will immediately help them.
Every day people pay for solutions to their problems. For instance, whether it’s lawn care so that they have nice green grass, or a plumber to fix a leaky pipe, people will invest in fixing an issue that they’re having.
Identifying a problem that your next message resolves will do at least two things with your audience:
- Help you to be empathetic toward them.
- Peak interest from them.
To identify the problem ask answer questions like, What do people want that is related to my sermon and what is keeping them from getting it? Next, write your thoughts down using the sermon preparation worksheet so that you’re able to consider potential problems.
The void between what people long for and what is keeping them from it is the problem. Therefore, clarify the problem and express it. Then dig deeper into the problem by considering how this makes them feel and why it is wrong that it exists.
Providing clarity around the problem and expressing why it is difficult will help your audience to connect with you faster.
Step 4: Plan: What do I need to know?
The amount of time it takes to prepare a sermon can vary from week to week and even from person to person. Furthermore, it is a balance between trusting God to provide you with the words and being familiar with what God is speaking to you.
I believe the time used preparing for a message is a holy time. It’s a time to receive, to learn and to hear from God. Also, planning a sermon is a time to be challenged, convicted and convinced by what you are about to deliver.
Because of this, take time to study the context of the passages you are using as well as cross-reference other passages to support the ideas you want to convey. Make the effort to clarify big ideas. Also, read commentaries and listen to sermons that have been shared on similar topics. Of course, take notes on everything and create a resource of information to build your message with.
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Planning your message will further empower you to deliver the message God has given you with conviction and confidence.
Step 5: Plot: How can I effectively communicate this sermon?
After you acquire the information it’s time to structure your notes into a map that you can follow to deliver the sermon. Your notes should be organized in a manner that is easy for you to follow. Although this is an easy step to overlook it is an important aspect of the sermon preparation worksheet!
Also, providing your message with a little structure will help those listening to grow with the information that your sharing. Otherwise, they are left on their own to assemble something meaningful with the information that you share.
Think of dumping out a box of lego’s onto the table and never providing the instructions. The pieces are important but the user may build something different than what was intended, which is not all bad but could leave the person scratching their head about what to do with all the pieces.
Structuring your sermon is like providing the lego instructions to those listening. The structure helps the listener understand how to assemble the pieces of information you’ve given them.
Your message should have a direction that it is heading; a clear beginning, middle, and end.
Below are a couple of sermon “roadmaps” that help plot out your message.
WHAT –What do you want your audience to know?
SO WHAT – Why does it matter?
NOW WHAT – Which next steps should they take?
HOOK – How will you create immediate engagement?
BOOK – What text are you using for the basis of your message?
LOOK – What does all of this mean?
TOOK – How can what you’ve shared be practically applied?
Nancy Duarte suggests that any great speech follows a very basic structure. If you’d like to check it out click Learn How To Shape Your Next Message.
Donald Miller teaches a seven-part framework in his book, Building A Storybrand. Storybrand’s goal is to help people to “Clarify Their Message.”
“The human brain is drawn to CLARITY and away from confusion.”
One of the key attributes of the framework is understanding that as the communicator, you’re not the hero, you are the guide. Therefore, help your audience find answers to their problem.
I have used this framework to construct several sermons and find it super helpful!
These methods, among others, will help provide structure for your next sermon.
Step 6: Points: Which statements do I most want people to remember?
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In this step, you will comb through your notes to identify key thoughts and ideas that you believe people most need to understand. Once you identify them, begin wordsmithing the statements to make them as clear and concise as possible.
Consider if the statements are easy to remember and write down. A good exercise is to make them “tweetable”. At one time, twitter’s rule was a tweet could only be 144 characters. That is to say, can your statements be condensed into only 144 characters and still convey what you mean? Practicing this is important not for the sake of tweeting but to help ensure that your main points are short, memorable and understandable.
Step 7: Practice: Where is there room for improvement?
I believe spending time in prayer, preparation and practice provide freedom for the communicator to trust that God will use the message and to have confidence in the calling to preach.
As painful as it can be, go over your notes OUT LOUD. Yep, let yourself hear what you sound like.
Read through your notes, internalize them, allowing God to securely place the message within your heart. Carey Nieuwhof says his best piece of advice related to sharing a message is: Don’t memorize your talk. Understand it.
The goal is to internalize and understand the message not to memorize it and speak it flawlessly. Also, identify areas where transitions are rough and think through how you will make them smooth and seamless.
Your understanding of your message as a whole will deepen as you spend time absorbing it through practice.
Allow this sermon preparation worksheet to be a guide and not a master. However, I do believe it will help you to provide a more thoughtful, convincing and engaging message the next time you deliver a sermon.
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Do you currently use sermon series or have you ever considered it? If so, keep in mind a thoughtful approach to the next series of messages at your church will be appreciated by your team, congregation, and even the community.
If you or someone you know will be planning an upcoming sermon series, check out this post: Create Messages Your Church Cares About: How To Plan An Engaging Series In 4 Steps
Or, purchase the bundle now that includes both the sermon preparation worksheet and the series planning worksheet together.
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