Everyone has those moments where we get stuck. Many don’t want to admit it, but they happen to all of us. Especially writers! I can attest to my fair share of writer’s block. I’ve even heard horror stories of some writers suffering for years with it.
As a pastor, you really can’t afford sermon block. With 52 weeks in a year, there are (at least) 52 biblical messages you’re responsible for. Hitting a roadblock means lost time and divided focus. How do you get over those blocks?
By no means do I own a silver bullet when it comes to overcoming sermon block. But I do have enough experience to help you out. Below are 10 ways I’ve used to move past my sermon block and get on with researching, writing and delivering messages that reach people. I hope they work for you.
1. Take a Mental Break
Get up. Walk away from your desk. Set a timer, at least 15 minutes but no longer than an hour. Then think about something else. You may need to read a book or magazine article unrelated to your sermon. Turn on the TV or listen to a podcast.
But whatever you do, give yourself a mental break from your sermon. Once your break is over, those notes will still be there. And you’ll be rested and ready to tackle it more clearly.
2. Do Something Physical
On that note, you might as well get up and move around. Maybe there’s a problem faucet that needs your attention. Haven’t mowed the grass in a while? Go out there and get it done. Moving your body physically will actually jog your brain and spur on creativity.
I allow a physical break at least once an hour while working at my computer. I get up, leave my home office, walk up the stairs, and find something to occupy my hands and feet. Not only is it healthy for me, but it’s a great way to keep the process moving.
3. Get Some Help
Don’t be arrogant enough to think you can do it all on your own. From time to time, you need to ask for help. The greatest preachers you’ve ever heard use a team behind them. Trust me, I know. So find someone you trust to offer a hand through the sermon blocks.
That person could be a staff member, a key volunteer, a good friend or even your spouse. Someone who knows your style and thinks a lot like you. They may not give you anything concrete to use, but just bouncing ideas off of them can be helpful.
4. Just Preach It
If you get stuck, why not just preach the sermon and see where it goes? That may mean getting up from your desk and moving into the worship center, standing on the platform like you would on a weekend. Or maybe just pace around your office while you let the words flow.
You might be hitting some speed bumps because you’re on
the wrong road.
While going over what you’ve already written down, you can riff on the next few lines. Have a notebook handy because once the words start coming, you’ll need to capture them.
5. Call Another Pastor
It’s always good to talk to other ministers. Maybe you can ask them for help with your particular sermon. “Have you ever preached from John 17? How did you approach that?”
But you don’t need to ask for help. Just have a conversation. Let the other pastor fill you with good, spiritual advice. And then get back to your sermon with a fresh perspective.
6. Watch a Sermon
View a message from a minister you like. It doesn’t have to be one on the passage or idea you’re working on. Just hear the speaker out.
Listening to someone else preach can spur you on. It motivates you to get back to work. It may even give you an idea or two. The point is to get back into the flow of preaching and writing.
7. Review Old Sermon Notes
Look at some of your old notes, particularly from a sermon you felt went really well. First, just take a look at the structure of the sermon. That will give you the confidence to finish the one staring you in the face. You’ve done it before; you can do it again!
Also read through the sermon, paying attention to your tone and pacing. Let that old message remind you of how much fun it is preaching and even preparing a sermon.
8. Start Over
You’re not going to like this one, but trust me — it works. Sometimes when I hit a roadblock in my sermon prep process, I have to take all my notes and put them aside, shut down my computer, and grab a blank notepad. Then, I just start fresh, outlining anew the passage or idea I’m working on.
Most of it comes from memory and what I’ve already done, but that blank piece of paper usually sparks fresh ideas. It’s almost like clearing out the clutter allows me to see the road ahead.
9. Throw in the Towel
Could it be you’re stuck for a reason? Perhaps it is God’s way of saying you’re not on the right track. You might be hitting some speed bumps because you’re on the wrong road.
There’s no shame in throwing in the towel on a sermon idea, even for one you’ve already made an investment in and like a lot. You can always come back to it later.
Last, but certainly not least, get on your knees and ask for God’s help. I’m assuming you’re doing this before and during the process, of course. But I have to say that this is my No. 1 tool in overcoming any kind of sermon block.
It shouldn’t surprise me, but it does. Every time I just stop and say a quick prayer, the Holy Spirit can give me just the right words to kick-start the rest of my sermon.