This week we asked the Outlook bloggers to share a “ministry hack” they’ve learned. Here’s what they shared.
I have been told by seasoned preachers, “Sunday comes around rather regularly.” This seems obvious enough. I have also been told, “Sunday mornings are relentless.” This too seems rather apparent. Thank you for the profundity.
In seminary, I was trained to spend 20 hours on a 20-minute sermon. As a seminary student, this seemed to me like an appropriate amount of time for thorough study and careful writing. As a solo pastor, this seems like a colossal amount of time as my attention is spread rather thinly across a variety of other responsibilities.
One of my favorite professors in seminary was a preaching professor. Admittedly, I do not know if I would have called her one of my favorites at the time. She knew the manner in which she wanted us to preach and for how long, and she was unequivocal in her feedback. She made clear when a sermon was disjointed and ineffective. No guess work there.
On one occasion, she shared some practical wisdom that was completely lost on me at the time. She said emphatically, “Make an index.” She went on to set the bar low enough for us to reach explaining that we could simply tear stories out of magazines or newspapers and throw them into a box to be used later.
It has taken me over four years of preaching every Sunday to follow her wisdom. A couple months ago, I began making an index of stories and quotes and paraphrases with each document on my laptop organized alphabetically. Whenever I come across a poignant or otherwise insightful story, I quickly include it in my index with a keyword, author, book title and page number.
This may sound like a tedious use of time. It really only takes a few minutes, and it has already begun saving me noticeable time in crafting the final manuscript for Sunday morning. Moreover, some of the pressure is off — I have spent hours before searching for that one story that I know I heard or read somewhere but cannot remember where. Now, when I am preaching on faith or hope or love or repentance or healing or discipleship, I have columns of wisdom to review and choose from.
To new and future preachers, I say, “Make an index!”
SAM CODINGTON is pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church in San Diego. He and his wife Esther have a 3-year-old son, Ezra, and can often be found running at Lake Murray and Mission Beach.