We vowed to preach the word … in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2), so should we be surprised when an out of season experience sneaks up on us? No matter how much we love to prepare and preach sermons, or teach group lessons, we will all eventually run out of energy and need to recharge. Although you won’t be able to avoid sermon fatigue altogether, these suggestions have helped me to stay more fresh than fatigued.
Preach Less Often
I don’t know how many times I have felt the burn of sermon fatigue, only to realize that I had been preaching too many Sundays without a break. I try not to preach more than two months in a row without a break.
Believe it or not, your people could use a break from you as well.
All of us know itinerant or denominational preachers, retired pastors, or lay-teachers who would love the opportunity to preach for us. You may also have a future pastor in your pews who needs your vote of confidence.
Change Your Scenery
The simple recipe for church growth in the book of Acts was a devotion to prayer and the ministry of the Word. When history’s first pastors stopped growing, the first Christian church stopped growing (Acts 6).
My strategy for heading off sermon fatigue has been to devote a full day each week off campus to sermon preparation. Additionally, I have tried to spend one or two days off campus studying and praying between sermon series (roughly once a quarter). One office interruption is all it takes to derail me to the point of uselessness, so getting completely alone with God is good time management.
Plan Further In Advance
I know, I know … there is nothing “simple” about sermon planning. You might be surprised how much advanced planning will simplify your weekly preparation. Nothing takes more concentrated energy then starting from a blank page with 66 books in front of you.
An added bonus is how much this helps your worship leaders. I just turned in four months of sermon titles and texts to my worship team. As they brainstorm ways to engage people on Sunday mornings, they are motivating me to up my game as well.
Prior to settling on my spring and summer series, I consulted some of our pastors and lay-leaders. I wish I had done this more often earlier in my ministry. Perhaps I was reluctant to solicit feedback because I was too insecure to admit that I needed help. Perhaps I underappreciated the creative synergy that comes from collaboration. Primarily, I was too lazy to consistently organize a feedback group.
Give it a try, and see how much fun it is for you and everyone else you involve.
This may send some of my academic friends into convulsions, but hang with me. Some of my best sermons came from a place of resting in God, not wrestling in study.
I tend to overthink everything and miss the obvious truth in front of me.
We should preach with an aim to bless, not impress our people. Small group teachers often fight this same temptation.
Instead, just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please people, but rather God, who examines our hearts. For we never used flattering speech, as you know, or had greedy motives — God is our witness — and we didn’t seek glory from people, either from you or from others. (1 Thessalonians 2:4-7 CSB)
Speak the truth in love and let God do His miraculous work through His Word and through you, His servant. Whenever you feel the burn of sermon fatigue, take a break, because our message doesn’t depend on any one messenger.