Fighting the "Last Minute" Fatigue - Leaders.Church

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Fighting the “Last Minute” Fatigue

Pastor, tell me if this has ever happened to you. On the day you normally set aside for sermon prep, let’s say Wednesday afternoon, you have an unexpected emergency. So you move it to Thursday morning, but then the Children’s Pastor just has to see you. And Friday is no good, because of your kid’s baseball game.

So you’ve pushed it off to the very last minute, Saturday night. You struggle to stay focused, stressed by “last minute” fatigue, and come up with a sermon that is not an A effort.

This may happen from time to time. Unfortunately, what I see more of is pastors who actually plan for last minute sermon prep. They put off writing their message until late Saturday. What they don’t know is that it’s causing them headaches in other areas of ministry too.

In this post we’ll look at 4 tips to long-term sermon planning:

Set Aside Time
Eliminate Distractions and Interruptions
Invite Trusted Help
Focus First on What’s Most Difficult

While you may be reading this and think, “Well, I can do it because I work well under pressure,” let me dispel that myth. No one works well under last minute pressure. Not only do you cut corners and skip important steps, but it will actually weigh heavy on your heart and mind up to the moment you finish it up.

In no other area of ministry would you allow this to happen. If you’re honest, your Youth Pastor would not get away with planning an event the day before. Your Worship Pastor needs to have songs ready to go long before the weekend service. So why would you put off your sermon prep to the last minute?

Most pastors I speak to that work under these conditions don’t really plan to. It just seems to happen to them each week. And that’s the problem. The old adage goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

The fight against “last minute” fatigue can be won with careful long-term planning. That means you set your yearly calendar well in advance, giving yourself plenty of space to sort out how each series will go month by month. Doing this allows you  to have enough time to study each week.

Have you ever sat down to write your message for the weekend and realized you don’t know where to start? Take a look at the Sermon Starters PDF for a multitude of effective strategies to get you started.

So why are so many of us resistant to long term planning?

Everyone has their own reasons for avoiding it. Here are just a few.

  • It Takes Away Inspiration

Some pastors believe that long-term sermon planning actually removes the Holy Spirit from the equation. In other words, when you wait until the last minute you are allowing the Spirit to direct you. The truth is, the Holy Spirit can work days, weeks, and even months in advance!

  • I tried that already

Have you ever given sermon planning a shot and came up empty? Many have. The frustration of failing to gain traction with long-term planning can turn some of us off. However, with the right techniques you can master this skill just like any other.

  • I don’t have the time

It takes some dedication to plan out the year, month by month. And that means sacrificing an afternoon or two twice a year. But you will actually gain more time week to week by being further ahead.

Think of long-term sermon planning as a muscle. Over time, you can grow stronger by exercising it regularly and often. It may be difficult at first, with aches and pains, but eventually it’s second nature.

Here are four tips to get started and keep going with long-term sermon planning that will knock out your last-minute fatigue.

Set Aside Time

The first step in long-term sermon planning is to plan the planning. In other words, pick a time that you can sit down and get to work.

This should be a time when you do your best work, not what works best for your schedule. So if you’re a morning person, pick a time before noon. But if you’re at your best later in the day, then put it on your calendar for afternoon.

It’s not enough to set aside time, you have to put it on your calendar. This is part of your work schedule, so don’t let anything else fill that spot up. And mark it as an important meeting. That way you won’t get interrupted or distracted.

Want your sermons to get better every single week? Check out It Takes a Team to learn about 4 teams you can build or involve in your sermons.

Eliminate Distractions and Interruptions

That’s the next step, to eliminate those distractions and interruptions. Turn off your email notifications, put your phone on silent, and shut the blinds. Keep your office door closed. Put a “do not disturb” sign up if you need to.

If you tolerate distractions, you are saying that what you are doing is not important. And it is!

When you have long-term sermon planning down, you can be more focused when others need you. So keep out anyone that isn’t helping you.

Invite Trusted Help

On the other hand, do invite those in who can help you. Pick a team of creatives and researchers who know their stuff. But follow the same rules about distractions and schedules.

If someone can’t make the appointed time, no matter when you meet, then they may not be the type of trusted help you need. Instead, find those willing to assist you on your schedule. And when you meet, have everyone stay focused on the task at hand.

Focus First on What’s Most Difficult

That’s the most important ingredient, focus. If you can stay on task, not only will you accomplish a lot but you will do so even quicker.

The key is what you focus on first. One way to get to the most out of a meeting is to focus on the most difficult thing first. In business training, this is called “eating the frog.” No one likes to do it, but if you have to do it you might as well do it first.

When you get the most difficult part of your day or meeting out of the way first, the rest will go by even quicker. Tackling that big issue also takes it off your mind. You won’t dread doing it because it’s behind you.

These are just a few of the tips and techniques that will help you be better at long-term sermon planning. From creating a preaching calendar that syncs with your church’s rhythms to finding a rhythm in each of your sermon prep meetings, you’ll discover more tips and techniques in the Church University Preaching Track.

It’s my hope and desire that I can help you and any other pastor get past the last-minute fatigue. It breaks my heart when I hear pastors who wait until Saturday evening to plan their sermons. But it’s a joy when I learn that some have figured out how to get ahead and stay ahead effectively!

Check out these blogs on preaching, as well.

It Takes a Team to Create Sermons
Why Should You Ask for Help with Preaching?
How to Preach Online and In Person
The Top 5 Preaching Questions Asked
Sermon Illustrations: Finding the “Just Right One”
Emotionally Healthy Preaching
Doug Clay on Preaching Sermons Online
Practical Tips on How To Do Sermon Prep
5 Ways to Get That Sermon Started
The 3 Parts of an Altar Call
2 Preaching Lessons Learned from COVID-19


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