Practical Tips on How To Do Sermon Prep - Leader.Church


Practical Tips on How To Do Sermon Prep

Here, Dick sits down with pastor Rob Ketterling of River Valley Church to discuss the practical tips for sermon prep. 

Video Transcript Below

Dick Hardy 0:00
Hey friend, it’s great to be with you here on this Leaders.Church video. Today, I’m with my good friend, Rob Ketterling. from the great state of Minnesota. Are you guys getting cold up there yet, Rob?

Rob Ketterling 0:09
Actually, it is. It’s in the 40s right now and the golf season is coming to an end.

Dick Hardy 0:17
Well, I just want you to know when you said golf, a few years ago, I called Rob, it’s not like we talk every day of life. But I called you on the day that I was the first person you said, “I can’t believe it. I hit a hole in one.” You were celebrating life that day.

Rob Ketterling 0:34
It was amazing. I only have one.

About Rob Ketterling

Dick Hardy 0:36
Well, I got you on that day. Rob has had a great ministry path, serving as the founding pastor for River Valley Church in Apple Valley, suburb of Minneapolis. Do I understand 25 years ago?

Rob Ketterling 0:49
Yes, 25 years. We just celebrated our anniversary last week, 25 years!

Dick Hardy 0:53
You lived to tell about it. Unbelievable.

Dick Hardy 0:56
We want to talk with Rob about the subject of sermon prep. We know that pastors every week of life, every month of life, every year, they’re always in sermon prep. Rob has a lot of good things you’re going to enjoy hearing from you today. So, Rob, kick us off. What do you got to say about sermon prep?

Rob Ketterling 1:17
Man, I know what it’s like to have a sermon every week. So, I can identify with the person that’s watching right now going, “Every week. I’ve got to come up with one. I know sermon-gut, Saturday night sermon-gut when you’re preaching Sunday. By the way, we have Saturday night service, it has changed my sleeping pattern. Because I am already done. I’m done preaching the sermon on Saturday night. Then I’m like, “Oh, this is what it’s like to sleep on the weekends.” I get that.

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.

Rob Ketterling 1:53
Here’s where my sermons start. And people say like, where does it start? I’ve had been asked this before, and I have a little journal here. It’s kind of an ostrich skin thing or whatever. Some missionary gave it to me. I love it.

Rob Ketterling 2:06
In my journal, this is literally my journal where I just talk to Jesus and write down my devotion thoughts. In the first three pages of it, it says, sermon ideas. So, I was reading Hebrews 7, and I just got, the person who gives the blessing is greater, the greater blessing. Then I thought, I’m going to write a sermon about who gets the greater blessing.

Rob Ketterling 2:31
I just keep going through it as I see something, it just sparks in me like Psalm 106. Some of you might want to steal this one. There’s a progression to washing away our sins. He’s says cleanse me, purge me. I wanted to do a sermon on the progression of cleansing. All of these ideas get written in here.

Rob Ketterling 2:40
There are other times when I’m not focused on God and He gives me an idea anyway. One of the things I’ve noticed is when you’re in an anointed atmosphere, things populate. I’ll be listening to a sermon and realize God is doing something. I’ll get a sermon within a sermon. I get as many of those thoughts down and then get back to the original sermon.

The Week-to-Week Schedule

Dick Hardy 3:36
Now, when I think of what pastors have to do in terms of building out their schedules. It’s one thing to think through their schedule week-to-week. It’s something else to see it in a broader context.

Rob Ketterling 3:53
When I started out, I wasn’t very organized. I’ve met all these mega church guys, and they’re really organized. A lot of them are introverts and super organized. I am an extrovert that wasn’t organized that God organized.

Rob Ketterling 4:19
I have paper and digital. I’m 54 and I call myself a tweener. I’m half paper and half digital. So, I’m going to show you some old school stuff and some digital stuff. There we go.

Rob Ketterling 4:35
This is old school, and I think we can see it. That’s my calendar just for the year. It’s funny, it got revised, and it says 15 days to flatten the curve, eight weeks to stop COVID, COVID extended… It shows dates I need to be at, things that are important. My traveling schedule, who am I traveling for?

Dick Hardy 5:04
Oh, and that’s all color coordinated for you.

Rob Ketterling 5:06
That’s colored coordinated. If I’m doing something for River Valley Church or for Front Row Ministries, which is our ministry. It’s color coded for am I speaking at the event? Am I attending the event? So, it’s all color coded?

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.

Rob Ketterling 5:22
Then I also have the same thing with my preaching calendar. I think you guys can see that. Because we’re multi-site, this is actually pretty big. It says, what campus am I at on the Sunday? Where am I going to be on Saturday? I’m obviously recording on Saturday at Apple Valley. But it shows the series. It shows who’s preaching it. When are the campus pastors preaching who our guest speaker is going to be?

Rob Ketterling 5:49
I try to lay out the whole year, but it’s subject to change. COVID change everything. I went from preaching and series to preaching this week’s message? I just felt like preaching and series in COVID was like, you were tone deaf and I was just like, no, this week is when you walk through the fire. I’ll be there. Then next week is Psalm 91. And then next week is what’s the next new normal? It just changes.

(You can download both of these documents at the bottom of this blog.)

Rob Ketterling 6:21
I charted out, I keep track of how many weekends I preach, because I try to do about 32 a year. People will say, 32. Well, I used to do 48. Then I started sharing the pulpit, with our team and with others. Now, I’m doing 32 in Minnesota, but I might do 10 more in another country or state. So, it’s all laid out there.

Rob Ketterling 6:51
It’s all planned. Then I’ve got the digital so just the yellow notes in your iPad or your phone. If I get a sermon idea, I will jot it down there.

We All Have Fears

Rob Ketterling 7:03
I was talking to a senator and he said, “You know, we all have fears. We all have anxieties. Everybody has disappointments. Everybody has hurts.” Then I thought, “Oh, I’m doing a series on that.” I’m going to do a series called fear, anxiety, disappointment and hurt. Because everybody’s got ’em.

Rob Ketterling 7:23
Then if I go through it, I just search my notes, I write the word sermon. If I’m doing a sermon idea, I just write teaching. If I was to type in teaching here, I’ll get this.

Rob Ketterling 7:36
This is what I just did yesterday, I dictated on the phone, so don’t steal it. All you preachers are going to steal. 🙂 This is the leadership teaching. I wrote, “What do you do when you hear the whispers.”

Rob Ketterling 7:47
This is fresh. I just dictated this yesterday. I put, “There will always be whispers in your life. Moses heard the whispers of the people in their tent. David heard the whispers after his son had died.” Remember, he’s praying, and he hears him whispering and he goes, What happened? And they said, “Ah, he died.”

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.

Rob Ketterling 8:07
Then I put Jesus to whispers to another level. He knew the thoughts. He said, “And Jesus, perceiving their thoughts.” Even went beyond whispers. Then I put some whispers or murmuring that there’s problems. Some whispers are concerns that your people want to tell you. Is there truth with them? Are they trying to heal you? Are they sabotaging you in their whispers?

Rob Ketterling 8:35
Then I wrote down lastly, God speaks to us in a whisper. That literally was dictated to Siri while I was driving. I just thought, “Man, I wonder what the whispers are.”

Rob Ketterling 8:47
So, I this is how I prep on a big level.

Delivering the word

Dick Hardy 8:52
That is so good. So, you’ve got your old school scratched all out. You’ve got your digital. Then of course, you’re starting to pull it together. We’ve got just a minute or so left? How do you then try to take those random thoughts that come every place and zero them into the delivery the Word,

Rob Ketterling 9:11
I start file and I start adding anything I can but then I don’t do it myself. This is probably the most important thing. I have a team of staff/volunteers that helps me research every week. I tell them what my text is, and my research and they do the research.

Rob Ketterling 9:28
Another thing is, I probably read 300 old school sermons every year, from people dead and gone. Preachers like Spurgeon, Finney and CM Ward… as far back as I could find. So, I’m constantly hearing what dead people said, hearing what my crew says. What is God saying to make the sermon.

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.

Dick Hardy 9:55
Well, give us a give us a parting shot. What’s one final thing you want pastors to remember today on sermon prep.

Rob Ketterling 10:05
I sweat the flow of the sermon. That’s what I sweat. I want the sermon to make sense. So, I’m saying, “How is this going to make sense in the flow to people?”

Rob Ketterling 10:18
I imagine 12 people in a jury box that I’ve got to convince that God wants them to do this. There might be a man that is running a business, a woman who is in a network, a single mom, a new Christian and non-Christian, and I put them in my jury box. I think about them. I am trying to compel them to do what the Word of God says.

Rob Ketterling 10:44
So, I tried to say, “What are their objections? What are they thinking? And how can God connect with them?” I am sweating the flow to make sure they get it.

Dick Hardy 10:52
That is so good, Rob. That is so good. This has been very helpful. I know you’ve offered to send us a couple of those old school sheets you showed us for your schedule and sermon prep, get us a copy. There’s nothing proprietary about it. If a pastor wants to be able to run with it, make it their own, more power to you, guys and gals.

Dick Hardy 11:11
Really, thank you, Rob, for giving up your time today. Thank you, pastor and church leader for watching this video. We pray that you have a great day today and a great day this weekend. God’s hand is on you. We pray that the very best in your sermon prep is going to deliver the word that God’s put in your heart week-in and week-out. Make it a great one today and be blessed.

Downloads from Rob Ketterling

Sample Doc 1
Sample Doc 2

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
5 Ways to Get That Sermon Started
Preaching for Life Change
Fighting the “Last Minute” Fatigue
The 3 Parts of an Altar Call
2 Preaching Lessons Learned from COVID-19

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