Monday Sermon Cave

Monday

When I come into the office on Monday morning I chitchat with our office manager for a little bit then I tell her to hold my calls and only interrupt me if the church is on fire, and then only if it's on this side of the building.  I then go into my office, close the door, turn off Twitter and turn on Pandora, and work for three hours on my sermon for Sunday.

I know some pastors who work on their sermons even earlier than that, but it seems to me that a lot of the pastors I know do most of their sermon writing on Friday and Saturday.  If you are one of those pastors I highly encourage you to consider the Monday Morning Sermon Cave strategy, and here's why:

1. You may not think you have the time to block off several hours first thing in the week, but you do.  If an emergency came up – a funeral, a sick child, etc., you would find the time to deal with the situation. We find the time for things that are important.  Sermon writing is important. And I maintain that if you do several hours of sermon work on Monday morning then you will actually spend less time working on your sermon, because…

2.  …often the hardest work (at least for me) is coming up with the main message of the sermon.  Once I have a general idea of where I'm going then often I have too many ideas to put in one sermon.  It's kind of like pushing a car. There's a lot of inertia to overcome initially, but once you get moving, it can be hard to stop.  So if you get a general direction for your sermon on Monday morning then you now have the rest of the week to process it and think about it.

For me, coming up with the main point takes a lot of concentration and freedom from distraction. I need a block of time to do this, but once I have the main point some of the work of *how* I'm going to say it can be done in bits and pieces, on the go and throughout the week.

As I'm wrestling with how I'm going to communicate the main message of my sermon I ask a lot of questions.  What examples or metaphors will I use?  What images will accompany the sermon?  Why should people care about this message?  How is it relevant to their lives, or answering a question or need that they have?

These are all questions that I can think about and mull over wherever I am.  My drive to work is about six minutes.  Often I make it a point of not turning on the radio and asking myself one of the above questions and then talk out loud about possible answers. I can do this kind of work in bits and pieces throughout the week, because I already have my main idea from my work on Monday morning. I have "written" large parts of sermons in my car, in the shower, while mowing the lawn, in the doctor's waiting room, etc. But I was able to do this only because I had dedicated a large chunk of time on Monday morning to laying the foundation of my sermon.

This is the method that works for me (your mileage will vary), you may want to give it a go. Sit down next Monday morning and begin your sermon writing process with a three hour block of time – no interruptions.  During that time don't put undue pressure on yourself to get as far as you can. Just get a start.  If your sermon is going to be a finished sculpture on Sunday morning, then think of Monday morning as the time when you get the lump of clay ready so that you can play with it and mold it throughout the week.

Why who didn’t sign the “white paper” matters

UPDATE: A clarification letter that addresses this issue has been released.  It takes a very humble and apologetic tone.  I’m impressed.

 

Last week the big story in Presbyterian circles was “the white paper” and the letter that accompanied it.  These were documents written and/or endorsed by a group of Presbyterian pastors that describe their assessment of the current state of the denomination and several options for moving forward.  I feel no need to comment on the content that they presented, but I do think it is important to address one thing that has been the topic of much discussion.

From what I understand all of the people who signed the letters are male pastors from larger churches.  Personally, I don’t think that the demographics of who signed the letter invalidates or lessens whatever truth may be in the letter.  I believe we should judge the content of what they say on what they say, not who says it.

That being said, I do think it is important who signed the letter because of what it says about the values and leadership of this new movement.  As the course of action became clear these 45 men could have decided that it would be better to take a little more time to find women, elders and people from smaller churches to join them by name in constructing and endorsing this initial public statement.  Since they chose not to do this I am led to believe one of the following:
  • Either they were carelessly ignorant and it didn’t occur to them to seek broader representation in their initial private planning and public statement.
  • Or they intentionally felt it was OK to have the leadership of this movement, including the 7 members of the steering community, very unrepresentative of the PC(USA).
I have no doubt that there are many women, elders and people from smaller churches who agree with most everything in the letter, but if I were them I would question what voice I would have in this new movement.