No one cares if you lead a good staff meeting.
There are hosts of things that pastors have and need to do each week – visiting the sick, leading the staff, vision casting, prayer, and so on – but don’t deceive yourself, your job is about what you deliver on Sunday. Don’t believe me? Ask yourself: What is my congregation talking about at lunch Sunday?
Of course your congregation is going to want you to be everything – friendly, out-going, caring, a great administrator, a theologian, and whatever else they can come up with, but if you had to reduce your job description to one sentence it’s this: Preach good sermons. It’s the least forgivable duty you have. As Peggy Hill once said of her retiring pastor, “That man works half a day one day a week….” Like it or not, the sermon is they only work some people think you do.
That being the case, you need to prioritize your weekend around delivering your best on Sunday.
Here are super Saturday and Sunday practices I’ve gleaned from close friends and a few of my preaching heroes:
- Exercise on Saturday: A solid exercise regimen throughout the week can greatly increase your energy for life. Exercising Saturday will help align your energy to preach. Exercise releases endorphins, clears your mind, and adds confidence for Sunday morning. Many of my Saturday treadmill sessions are filled by me running through the sermon mentally and picturing myself delivering it. Plus, a hard work-out on Saturday helps you sleep better.
- Enjoy Your Saturday: Some of the best preachers I know slave away finishing sermon on Saturday. I’m glad it works for them, it couldn’t for me. With two school-aged kids, Saturday is the only day we have together. I don’t think about touching anything on the sermon – or even mentioning it – until they are tucked-in and sleeping. They deserve to have all of me at least one day a week.
- Go To Bed: I have frequently disappointed friends (and my wife) by not being able to stay up or stay out late on Saturday night, but I have a bedtime. I never watch Saturday Night Live. I don’t see “film at 11.” I’m asleep. I have a bedtime.
- Wake-Up Earlier: Most days I wake-up between 5:00-5:30, but on Sundays it’s even earlier, 4:30. I want the quiet time for devotional reading, to tune into other worship services online, to make final edits, and, most importantly, to rehearse my sermon again and again. By the time I arrive at church, I’ve been working for 4 hours just on delivery. Hopefully, when I deliver the sermon my mind is clear, my heart is right, and I can relax.
- Fuel Up: They say that preaching one sermon is equal to an 8-hour work day in terms of the energy you expend. That’s probably not right, but it’s darn close. You already know the “preaching coma” you experience Sunday afternoon. That’s why you need to eat a healthy, fuel-filled breakfast. No, that’s not the doughnuts provided at church! In fact, stay away from those. You need high-energy food. One of the greatest gifts you bring to your congregation is your energy, your enthusiasm to worship God and be together. A good breakfast will help you.
- Ditch Your Bible Class: I know this is tough, but teaching a Bible class (which people statistically don’t bring guests for) lacks strategic reasoning and divides your focus and attention. What’s more, there are plenty of other people capable of teaching Bible class. If you need proof just look at the biggest and fastest growing churches. The pastors don’t teach a Sunday morning class. In addition, if you have Bible class, that time should be used to make sure all the elements of your worship service are in place and ready to go. Plus, the time spent preparing classes each week will be freed up for creativity and writing. NOTE: If you’re not ultimately responsible for the Sunday morning service, you need to renegotiate the understanding with your church.