6 Tips for the Bivocational PREACHER
I’ve spent most of my ministry in Church Planting, which has required a bivocational approach. I’ve had side hustles as a fireman and a commercial janitor, and the part-time and now full-time rolls as denominational strategist. For the Bivocational Preacher, time is always a challenge. Here are a few tips I’ve learned from 20 years of Bivocational Preaching:
1. Read through the Bible systematically and make outlines
Your devotional time should be separate from your sermon preparation. However, your devotional time should FEED your sermon preparation. As you follow Jesus, by spending time in His word and prayer, journal your thoughts, outline the texts that jump out at you, and develop a system where you’ll remember where that outline and those thoughts were for when you come to that passage in your preaching.
I love the story of the old preacher that was asked by the young preacher, “How long did it take you to prepare that sermon?” The old preacher said, “About 35 years.”
The older I get, the more my preaching benefits from a systematic reading through the Bible every year.
2. Get a handle on a few solid and simple tools
Sermon prep tools are plentiful. Bible software, commentaries, websites, etc. Most preachers love study, so we can get bogged down with so many tools. As a bivocational pastor I’ve had to cut through my love for the bells and whistles and pull together fewer and simpler tools for each sermon and series. Usually two commentaries, a free online interlinear tool, a Bible Handbook and Dictionary, and my devotional feeds do the trick for me.
This also helps me with one of my goals in preaching. I don’t want anyone to walk away from a sermon I preach and say, “I could never do that.” Simple tools that you can pass along to others for a small costs keeps the preaching ministry of the church reproducible.
3. Have a system for recording quotes, illustrations, and ideas
The morning paper for most of us has moved online. Preachers need a system for collecting data, articles, and quotes that we come across throughout our online lives. D.L. Moody did this with newspapers and books, amassing a collection of quips and illustrations that fathoms the mind. There are numerous online clipping tools and places for storing ideas. I like the Evernote Webclipper. It allows you to create categories and tags for easy location by topic later. I also follow hundreds of blogs and feeds daily in Feedly. Feedly allows you to save articles by categories for easy location by topic later as well. I also subscribe to Preaching Today for $69 per year, which includes an archive of illustrations from the news and history. There are other subscription based services that can be utilized as well.
4. Start preparing early
Monday morning is key to a prepared sermon. If I don’t have at least a rough outline by the end of the day Monday, I’m behind on the sermon the rest of the week. Ideally you can get two – four weeks out. And I recommend preaching series of sermons, where a team can be utilized in planning and the big ideas for the series along with the major tools to be utilized are planned out months in advance.
Smoked meat is the best tasting of all. The key to delicious smoked meat is TIME. Like that, I like to get my sermon outlines done far enough in advance (2-4 weeks) to give them time to fill with flavor and soak in thoroughly. A great Sunday for me is actually, a sermon that soaked for at least two weeks and delivered in the power of the Holy Spirit, and then heading home to pull some delicious beef, pork, or turkey out of the smoker. Yes!
5. Commit 30 minutes to 1 hour everyday
When you’re bivocational, often time does not allow for 4-6 hours of preparation at once. I try to budget 30 minutes to 1 hour each day for a “Sermon Look.” Take a look at your outlines, pray over them, consider any current events or news or quotes to include. For me, this mean getting up extra early or staying at the computer for an extra 30 minutes to an hour. I also like to include discussing the passage with my wife and kids, and maybe a few trusted friends, throughout the week to get their perspective and help me in thinking through communication of the truths to real people.
6. Depend on God’s Power
It’s usually when I’m least prepared and when I feel the delivery was the poorest, that someone comes up and says, “This message changed my life!” What?!?! This always reminds me, that it’s God’s work to use his messengers how he sees fit. All the preparation in the world can’t overcome the spiritual war we’re facing when we stand and proclaim God’s word. We need his power, his presence. To depend on ourselves is to fail in this task.
What other tips and tricks do you know that can help us Bivocational Preachers?