If you find yourself stuck when preparing a sermon, here are a few tips that can help boost your creativity and innovation.
Let’s talk creativity and innovation. Whether you’re a content creator, a preacher or someone who designs programs or ministry, this is a season where creativity and innovation are needed. What we were doing doesn’t seem to be doing it.
Now here’s the problem: You’re tired. Your schedule is full. And you have a church or a ministry to maintain. Where do you find the time for creative thinking? How are you gonna innovate when Sunday is coming?
I have a few ideas from my own creative process as a preacher.
Here’s an awkward reality. Most of your best ideas occur in the shower. Yup. That’s weird. Or, let’s make this less weird. Your best ideas hit you on your commute or on your run. Why is this?
Here’s how it plays out in my life. Early in the morning, I spend an hour or two in very focused work—writing sermons. I’m trying to figure out the main idea, how thoughts connect, and what images will stick.
Then, I stop and take a shower before heading into the office for meetings. In the shower, after very focused creative or problem-solving work, when I let my brain just wander, that’s when my best ideas just pop into my head. There’s something about letting your mind wander after deep thinking that’s actually incredibly strategic.
There is a way to take advantage of the way our brains naturally work. Try scheduling thirty minutes of unfocused free space right after deep brain work. Take a walk. Go for a drive. Straighten your hair.
Just, make sure you bring a notepad. I’m telling you, there’s something about letting your mind wander right after deep thinking that unleashes something powerfully creative in your brain. Just try it.
Some of the most creative ideas in my sermons don’t come from me. I’m a big believer in the power of collaboration. In most cases “we” is a lot smarter than “me.”
Here’s my process. I work alone on Monday, putting together initial thoughts on my upcoming sermon. Tuesday morning, I write a rough draft.
Then, on Tuesday afternoon I bring this rough draft to a team of people who write our devotional materials and sermon discussion guides. I invite them to share feedback on my fledgling sermon, and I write down their comments.
On Wednesday morning, I begin by reading through their comments and considering what I should incorporate. Then, I write a 2nd draft of my sermon, either Wednesday or Thursday morning, depending on what’s happening that week.
On Thursday afternoon, I do what I jokingly call a “dramatic reading” of my sermon for a group of four or five people, whose perspective and feedback I highly value. After the “dramatic reading,” we usually talk for 30-40 minutes and I take a ton of notes.
Then, on Saturday, I begin my day with their feedback and rework and practice my sermon for Saturday night services.
Finally, after the service on Saturday night, I sit with two other leaders in our church who share feedback on what worked well and what could be improved.
By the time I preach again on Sunday morning, I’ve included three purposeful rounds of input from others. All this additional perspective and feedback leads to a much higher level of creativity than I could ever come up with on my own.
Now, you might be thinking, “Your sermon process is nuts.” Maybe it is. But, my point is, whatever creative work you do, find ways to inject the creativity of others into the process. The final product will always be better when you include creative thinking of other people.
My creative process for sermon writing starts at least a month before I preach. I attempt to do two things to free my mind for maximum creativity during the week of preaching.
First, I take a few study retreats each year to focus on long-term planning and study. On these retreats, I’m working weeks or even months in advance.
Second, I typically do all my studying before the week of preaching. In other words, I’m never reading commentaries on the passage I’m preaching the same week I preach on that passage.
By doing this work in advance, I’m able to focus my energy specifically on how I will structure and communicate the sermon during the week when I’m actually preaching.
Here’s my point: creativity requires margin. The mad scramble to meet deadlines is usually no friend to creative thinking and innovation.
So, for the creative work you’re responsible for or the innovation that your church needs, how can you construct your schedule in such a way to free up space for creative thinking? There will never be space in your schedule for creative thinking when you need it unless you build it in.
Our churches need creativity and innovation right now as we figure out how to serve and minister in a quickly changing culture. I hope this has been helpful.
If you're feeling like you don't have the time to implement margin or fresh perspective, then check out these tips on how to master your calendar.
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