A good question for this week- and one that, given the singular (and excellent) reply by our Matriarchs, a question most of us don't have a good answer for just yet.
I hate spending all day every Saturday working on a sermon and liturgy for the next day, but I can't seem to find another sermon prep plan that works. Although I've been a minister for 10 years, I've only been a solo pastor for the past 2 years. As an Associate, I only preached once a month and had lots of time to prepare. Now, I start the week exhausted from the Saturday and Sunday before, can't get my head into the text much before Wednesday or Thursday, get the bulletin done by Friday noon, and spin my wheels all day Saturday. Non-Member Husband is getting resentful of our lost weekends, especially since this call is supposed to be 'part-time.'
Any suggestions? I'd even like to get ahead because I'm going to be doing some continuing ed on weekdays in October. But at this point, I can barely stay even.
I'm often doing sermon work on Saturday, so I'm not a good one to give advice on how to avoid this completely. However, I make it my goal to do enough sermon work during the week that Saturday is a matter of a few, (2-3) hours of finishing and tweaking rather than the whole thing. Then I try to tuck those hours into the early morning before everyone else is awake and/or after the kids' bedtime. (Not that this always works, mind you.) I'm also taking a good hard look at my own procrastination tendencies that prevent me from getting more of the sermon done before Saturday. When I'm completely honest with myself, I see that doing sermon stuff on Saturday is only about half due to urgent ministry tasks that took up my time on the weekdays--the other half is due to my own self-sabotaging choices. This may or may not apply to you.
That being said, the preaching schedule of a solo pastor can be exhausting. Even if you subtract the Sundays in four weeks of vacation and two weeks of study leave, you're looking at potentially 46 sermons a year. (And many small church pastors are tempted not to take all those Sundays off because of the difficulty finding and paying pulpit supply.) During my six and a half years as a solo, part-time pastor I employed various strategies to get breaks from weekly sermon prep even when I was not away on vacation or study leave.
1. Is there a retired or non-parish pastor anywhere near you who would preach for you a few times a year and see this as "service to the larger church" rather than as a paying gig? During my part-time, solo pastor years, a retired clergywoman offered to do this for me and it was a godsend. (Hint: if you are reading this and you are retired or non-parish clergy and you can afford occasionally to do pulpit supply without remuneration, PLEASE consider making this offer to a solo pastor near you!)
2. Offer to be a neutral pulpit for churches in your area who are interviewing candidates for pastoral positions. I think we only did this twice in the six years I was there, but still--it was a welcome break each time.
3. Preach someone else's sermons--with proper attribution, of course. Read one of MLK's sermons on MLK Sunday. Read excerpts from Luther/Calvin/Wesley's sermons on Reformation Sunday. Read a Revolutionary War era sermon on the Sunday closest to July 4. Etc. You don't want to make an every week habit of this, of course. But there are times when it is appropriate AND it gives you a break.
4. Have a once a year "Hymn Festival" Sunday where members submit favorite hymns in advance and the "sermon" part of worship is having several of these folks get up and say something about why a particular hymn means so much to them. Then sing the hymns! Likewise, on the Sunday closest to All Saint's Day, have the "sermon" be a few members sharing stories of departed saints of your church who were significant to their growth in faith.
5. Do a pulpit swap with a church nearby. (You can use one of your very best, already written sermons!) Employ a combination of these ideas to try to get a preaching break at least once a quarter in addition to your vacations/study leave. It gives you a breather that you can use to plan, read and work ahead so that every week isn't such a scramble. It also enables you to point to Saturdays on the calendar when your household could actually plan a day trip or other adventure.
What say you?