Stephen Um on Sermon Preparation

I am fascinated with how pastors study and prepare for sermons. While certain principles overlap, the rhythm of preparation varies widely between preachers.

Stephen Um has generously shared his rhythm on the Gospel Coalition blog. Here’s a thumbnail sketch of his sermon preparation.

  • Tuesday: 2 1/2 hours of group discussion with pastoral staff, 4 hours of research.
  • Thursday: 4 hours on broader themes, commentaries, theology, etc.
  • Friday: AM-application. PM-manuscript/outline.
  • Saturday: PM-3 hours of review and pray over sermon.
  • Sunday: 6am-9am prayer.

Three elements stand out to me. Three elements challenge me.

  1. Community. Um spends a couple hours with his staff working through the passage. I don’t hear of too many pastors doing this, but what a great way to align your staff and generate ideas.
  2. Prayer. I am both impressed with how much Um prays and that he considers prayer to be a formal part of sermon preparation. This is refreshing and vital.
  3. Time. This is one of the most extensive schedules I’ve seen. In Biblical Sermons: How Twelve Preachers Apply the Principles of Biblical Preaching, various preachers offer their prep time averages. One preacher totaled as low as 8 hours a week, while another topped out at 20 hours a week. Most were somewhere in the middle. But Um’s week, depending on his Friday hours (which he does not specify), would consistently breach 20 hours. I am genuinely impressed by his commitment to preach the Word well.

Um’s testimony of faithfulness exhorts me to prepare sermons all the more diligently. I hope it spurs you on too.

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Derek Griz

I am a Christian, a husband, a father, and a pastor (Immanuel Church). I write from those perspectives. Connect with me on Twitter (@derekgriz).