by Dennis Wiggs

Prayer and study give birth to sermons. The hours of heart and mind preparation should not satisfy just one sermon. The material should be typed or neatly printed and filed for future reference.

Almost every sermon a young preacher delivers will be his first. The ideas, interpretations, illustrations and outlines should be conserved. If you think you are busy now, be forewarned that the older you get, the busier you become. Prepare well now. The recorded material will benefit you the rest of your ministry.

As a young preacher, I pastored a small mission. It fell my lot to lead the singing, teach a Sunday School class, lead a training hour class and preach twice on Sunday and once on Wednesday evening. The Lord also provided opportunity to conduct a 20-minute daily radio broadcast on a local station. Raising funds for the broadcast and establishing the church program fell on my shoulders. I loved every minute of it.

An older minister pastoring a Bible church in the same city influenced me to study and preach from books of the Bible. Purchasing several individual commentaries, I studied hours each day, outlining and writing out every word. Some church members typed the sermon material. I preached the expository messages on the radio and from the pulpit. That sermon material was typed on 5.5” x 8.5” notebook paper. Notebooks were purchased and divided first into Old Testament and New Testament sermons. Later, notebooks were added to include other divisions of the scriptures.

The sermon material expanded to be placed in nearly two dozen notebooks. When I’m called on to teach a Sunday School class in the absence of a teacher, the material is usually already outlined. When studying for sermons, previously used material can benefit the preparation.

Most young preachers deliver at least 150 sermons each year. Multiply that by 10 and then 20 as the years rush by. This is valuable material that should not be wasted.

Today’s computer programs make it easy for young preachers to type sermons neatly, placing Scripture verses in the typed text. Rather than use notebooks like I did, save the material in the computer, with a good hard drive backup system. Then you can retrieve it by subject, Scripture, date or place preached.

If you do use notebooks, look for notebooks on sale. Label the notebooks neatly and clearly. After the sermon is preached, record the date and place of delivery. Illustrations should be kept in a separate notebook. Record the date you used them since congregations don’t like to hear the same illustrations over and over!

File wedding and funeral sermons in a separate notebook. You may want to purchase a nicer notebook for this material because the pastor’s material is often in full view of the congregation. Be sure to record names of the bride and groom and date of the wedding. Some couples request a poem, illustration, or outline months or even years later.

Determine early how you are going to organize your sermon materials throughout the rest of your ministry. You’ll be glad you did.

About the Writer: Dennis Wiggs recently retired after many years in ministry.

Adapted from Contact magazine, February 1997.