What if I were to tell you that a short, 160-page book could completely overhaul your pastoral ministry? You would probably think I’m crazy. Maybe I am, but I read a book last week that is beginning to completely change my approach to sermon preparation. 8 Hours or Less: Writing faithful sermons faster is written by Ryan Huguley, senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Hickory, NC. In this book, Huguley shares his method of sermon writing which takes the daunting task of sermon prep and condenses it into six, 1-2 hour goals throughout the week.
If you’re like me, you would be skeptical that something like this would be possible or manageable. I tried this method as I was reading the book and it helped my sermon prep immensely. Not only was I not having a panic attack at 1:00 AM on Sunday as I’m trying to put the finishing touches on my sermon, but the message was able to “simmer” in my mind all week as I went about my day-to-day tasks.
Many of us preachers are taught a specific method in Bible college or seminary on how to craft a good sermon. We take these tools and use them time and time again in the college setting, but once we get on the field, we quickly realize that the methods we were taught simply aren’t practical for the busy schedule of a pastor. The problem we often face is that we don’t come up with a solid method for ourselves. It’s almost like we revert to “winging it” and find ourselves panicked when we realize it’s Saturday and all we have is our text and a title.
Huguley’s book puts an end to that. Not only does he encourage you to spread out your sermon prep over the entire week, but he also wants preachers to focus on small, manageable goals for each day of sermon prep. Each of these goals takes only 1-2 hours each day. In fact, Huguley encourages pastors to set time limits so we begin managing our time well. Here are those six goals (I’ve used my own words to describe them):
- Monday – Scripture Study and Outlining (2 hours)
- Tuesday – Collaboration (1 hour)
- Wednesday – Introduction (1 hour)
- Thursday – Conclusion (1 hour)
- Friday – Sermon Body (2 hours)
- Sunday – Final Preparation (1 hour)
While you look at these goals, you may notice a few things that absolutely break the rules you probably heard in seminary, but you’ll have to read his book to understand why.
The most important thing about Huguley’s book is that it’s all about writing faithful sermons. It’s not about just getting something together to say on Sunday in the quickest fashion possible. It’s about being faithful to the Word and preaching life-changing sermons. Again, he goes into all the details about that in the book itself.
I’ve only worked this process through one sermon so far, but over time, I believe this method will prove itself worthy. Sure, you may not hit the 8-hour mark your first week. The truth is, 8 hours isn’t a mark – it may take 9 hours or 7 hours depending on your sermon. The point is that we don’t need to slave away for 16 hours on a Saturday to write a faithful sermon and keep putting up with the immense stress that comes with sermon prep.
I would recommend this book to any preacher, especially those who find themselves wearing multiple hats throughout the week. It’s time for many pastors to sit down and finally agree on a method that is practical for them and produces faithful sermons.
8 Hours or Less: Writing faithful sermons faster is available on Amazon in print and digital versions for under $8.00 at the time of this review. It’s worth a shot to get this book and read it through as you prep your next sermon.