Our question this week is my own - I've been grappling with how to change the rhythm of my sermon prep in order to better meet the needs of my family life. Read on:
I've been preaching for years and have a fairly set routine, which inevitably involves doing most of my writing on Saturdays. Ministry-wise, this has worked fine so far; I feel good about the quality of my sermons and the rhythm of my workweek. Family-wise and sanity-wise, I'm pretty tired of it. I feel like my kids are not getting enough of me on the weekends, and I'm also just tired of the scramble of Saturday writing. I know that some of you have successfully transitioned from a Saturday writing routine to a rhythm that allows for writing earlier in the week. Could you share how you have made that transition, and what your work week now looks like? How do you feel about your sermons on Sunday morning when you haven't been doing intense preparation on Saturday? Are your Saturdays now free for personal and family time, or do you find that you are catching up on other church work that didn't get done during the week? Please share any advice you have for shifting towards a new writing routine!
As an unapologetic Saturday sermon-writer, I can't answer your question, but I can tell you why I landed there. It's not the day of the week that matters as much as knowing what works for you or, if you have partner/kid(s), what works for your household. Lilian Daniel made a strong case in her book, "An Odd and Wondrous Calling," for keeping Saturday free for the family. But if, like me, you have children who spend every Saturday with the other parent, in their other home, it's a different ballgame. I needed weekday afternoons free for my kids, not Saturdays.
Martha hits on two things here that I find helpful. One is that prep is a matter of knowing what works for me, and Saturday writing has certainly worked for me for a long time. It no longer feels as workable as I'd like it to, but style-wise it does still work (meaning, no matter how hard I try to do otherwise, I still find my best writing happens on Saturdays); this is making it difficult for me to shift my practice. Martha also points to the inherent flexibility of church ministry (the flipside of being on-call essentially round-the-clock). I am able to be there for my kids in the afternoons and at other times. It's hard for me (and my kids!) to remember that trade-off when they want time with me on Saturday (or when there are playdates, birthday parties, and baseball games to attend or get them to on Saturdays).
I am no longer preaching regularly but I do remember that I spent a great deal of time on Saturdays to prepare and it always felt a bit irregular when I needed to prepare the sermon on a different day. But I am gratified that you have decided to change your schedule so that you can have more quality time with your family. I wished I had done more of that.
Preparing sermons often is such a gift from God and I loved that time when I could really craft a sermon in peace and quiet. One thing I have learned over the years is that when I am faithful to who I am, (wife, mother, community member, straight, lesbian, whatever) the sermons come more freely and tend to be on the mark. Learning to depend that excellence needs to be tempered by our humanity is also important. Often times we try to achieve excellence in our preaching when God is only requiring us to be faithful to the calls we live out.
Write your sermon on Tues. if need be. Many preachers do. Learn to preach from your back pocket in emergencies. Allow yourself make your preaching craft be more of your life and you will not need to worry. God sends her word where she wants anyway.
Muthah+, thank you for the good reminder that sermons don't have to always be excellent but faithful!
At this point in my life I have stuck with the Saturday morning write and then I end up tweeking Saturday night after my son's bedtime. In the past when I shifted away from Saturday I found that meant that I had to work on my day off (Monday). And even when I did that successfully I still ended up spending at least an hour on it on Saturday at some point. The few times I have preached without looking at the sermon on Saturday, the words felt foreign. Good luck adjusting the rhythmn to a new 'what works for you'.
Your point about working on your day off is well-taken, and actually gets at a question underneath my original question. Is it possible to be a preaching pastor and still get two days off in the week? So far I have found that answer to be NO. I would love for it to be otherwise. But it seems if I don't want to write my sermon on Saturday, I will either be writing it on my day off (Friday), or I will be catching up on other church work on Saturday. Maybe that is the core issue, and perhaps I need to decide whether I'm willing to forfeit my day off to writing in order to have Saturday as a day off.
What about the rest of you? Have any of you successfully transitioned your sermon prep rhythm? If so, have you been able to do it without giving up your day off? Add to our conversation in the comments section! And as always, we'd love to have your questions at askthematriarch[at]gmail[dot]com.