Home Worship Planning Preaching Resources Hey Preacher: Preparing the Preacher

Hey Preacher: Preparing the Preacher

By Derek Weber

Stock preacher sermon

The question foremost on most preachers' minds is, “How do I prepare another sermon for this week?” Sundays come with what seems to be frightening regularity, so the drive to get the sermon ready is relentless. What is often overlooked or pushed to the side by demanding schedules is the important task of preparing the preacher. This may seem like an obvious statement and preparing the preacher is what happens when the sermon is being prepared. It means getting the words, mood, and moment right. All of this is true for the preaching moment, but it doesn’t go far enough in preparing the preacher for the ongoing task of preaching. We need to reclaim our first love, as the church in Ephesus was warned in Revelation 2:4. As preachers, it is a part of our proclamation that we present a witness of our walk with Christ and a life of wholeness and wellness and ongoing commitment to growth.

So, what does it mean to prepare the preacher? There are many aspects of the preaching life we could explore, but let’s focus on these five: Devotional Life, Wellness, Reading, Listening, and Engaging.

Devotional Life

Devotional life is often neglected in the busy life of a preacher, but spending time with Jesus is a primary means of filling the well from which we preach week by week. The time we spend in God’s presence through various disciplines and activities — even if we are not necessarily looking for sermon content —prepares us for preaching. “How is it with your soul?” is the question John Wesley put on the agenda of every class meeting. In so doing, he reminded all of us, preachers included, of the centrality of our devotional life.

Our devotional life can take many different forms. Perhaps some neglect this area of their discipleship journey because they are overwhelmed with options. The following are some suggestions to help you choose.

The time we spend in God’s presence through various disciplines and activities — even if we are not necessarily looking for sermon content —prepares us for preaching.

First, whatever you choose to do should become a regular habit that fits your personality. So, if you are a morning person, dawn prayer time might be ideal. If you come alive outdoors, then communing with nature might be where you spend time with the Creator. If music speaks, if writing communicates, if silence soothes your soul, then, by all means, pursue what resonates.

Whatever you choose, please work to make it hard to surrender that time. You might need to put this time on your calendar as an official event to protect the space and to remind you of its importance. In our busy lives, we often find our devotional time suffering as we seek to be available to our congregation and community. Using the oft-quoted instruction to “put your own oxygen mask on first,” we can claim that advice to be ready to be present and available to our congregation and community. We must properly prepare our souls. Without consistent attention to the inner life, we will have difficulty maintaining the resources for pastoral care and preaching.

While we stand by the advice to find a practice that fits your personality, we also suggest that, on occasion, you try out different devotional practices. Having a mixture of consistency and innovation in our devotional life keeps us fresh and striving to find new and deeper ways of growing closer to God and sustaining/transforming our souls. We are reminded that the result of any practice is to grow closer to God. In so doing, we are reminded that our preaching and our ministry in general is a partnership with the God who calls.


Just as with our devotional life, those in ministry can feel as though spending time paying attention to wellness takes us away from our “real job” of doing ministry. But we need to understand that ministry flows from who we are as people, embodied and in community, and that paying attention to wellness is a part of our ministry. Time and attention are needed to tend to our wellness holistically.

So, what do we mean about tending to wellness holistically? It is permitting ourselves to take care of ourselves. We care for our bodies through movement, exercise, and healthy habits. We care for our mental health by paying attention to warning signs of depression or burnout. We seek help from trained therapists when necessary and seek trusted confidants with whom we can share our struggles and joys.

The third dimension of wellness is paying attention to our nexus of relationships. Caring for and being present to our families and spending time in healthy relationships beyond our areas of work help make us well-rounded people who can handle the daily interactions of ministry. This helps provide a secure foundation for preaching.

Beyond physical and mental wellness, we also need to take the time to tend to our personal vision. Who we are and who we are becoming is a significant part of our preaching. Our witness and testimony affect the messages we craft and deliver. Therefore, a strong sense of call and direction, a vision of what God has in store for us, is part of tending to our wellness and preparing us to preach.


Words are the tools with which we preach. Even the most visual preachers must have a firm grasp on the power of language to preach well. Good preachers take time to read—not just to find sermon illustrations, although that often happens. Immerse yourself in words, well-written, well-crafted words that communicate ideas well and elicit emotional responses powerfully. Read regularly. Read all sorts of genres; read what you enjoy as well as what will stretch you. Read from a variety of perspectives; read authors who are different from you, in ethnicity and geography, in theological stance and political persuasion. We don’t read to confirm what we already believe, but to open our hearts and minds to a deeper experience of the world and to develop an appreciation for the power of words. No one expects the preacher to become a writer or a poet. Instead, by immersing yourself in words well used, you will take care when it comes time to prepare your sermon and use words to good and powerful effect.


Let us also surround ourselves with the spoken word. Preachers should be listeners. In some cases, we are listening to words used well, especially when we read and listen to those who speak well and are able to motivate and inspire their hearers. We might listen to other preachers we admire. We live in a blessed era where we can listen to sermons by the hour on YouTube and other platforms. But let’s not limit ourselves to preachers. It could be argued that stand-up comedians are a lot like preachers. There are comedians who do comedy well and those who don’t, and there are preachers who preach well, and others who do not. So, we have to be discerning as we listen. But there are others to whom we should be listening: teachers, innovators, businesspeople, even politicians at times.

Listening is not only hearing words and their use. We also need to be listening for content. What are people talking about? We should listen to members of our congregations, members of our community, leaders, and wise ones among us. What concerns do they have? What joys do they celebrate? People sometimes complain that preachers answer questions no one is asking. So, we need to listen to those around us. One preacher declared that the call to preach carries with it a license to eavesdrop. We listen in on the conversations that surround us, not for secrets or illicit information, but for the depths of the hearts of those around us. Where are people hurting? For what do they long? Understanding the people to whom they will be preaching is vital information for the preacher before working on a sermon.

We are also cultivating the ability to listen for the voice of God. For some, this means shutting out the noise of this world and withdrawing to a quiet place to listen carefully, through meditation and intense biblical study, to hear that still, small voice. For others, this is about listening to the conversation of this world and discerning the affirmation or contradiction of the word of God. God speaks in and through the people around us; learning to hear is an important skill for those preparing themselves for preaching.


Sometimes listening is simply absorption; we are listening silently to the words around us. But we should also be ready and eager to engage. Engaging doesn’t necessarily mean projecting yourself into the conversation by giving your ideas or taking over the conversation. Rather, by engaging, the preacher is using active listening. Active listening is reporting back what was heard for confirmation or correction. It means asking further questions, digging deeper, wanting to know more. Active listening is about helping all members of the conversation think about implications and applications of the knowledge being shared or explored. Perhaps this would be done by describing scenarios or visioning outcomes. It is a way of helping all participants in the conversation see connections and outcomes. And we can push for responses. By doing so, we find out where the growing edges are in people’s thinking and acting. Don’t let conversation partners get away with incomplete thoughts.

Preparing the preacher is a holistic exercise that must be undertaken with awareness and intent. We are inviting preachers to take seriously living their lives as a means of preparing for the regular task of preaching. Only with adequate preparation can we fulfill the call to preach compelling sermons.

Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.

Contact Us for Help

View staff by program area to ask for additional assistance.



* indicates required

Please confirm that you want to receive email from us.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please read our Privacy Policy page.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.