How Much Time Do Pastors Spend Preparing a Sermon?

Most church members give little thought to the amount of time it takes a pastor to prepare each sermon. In reality, sermon preparation is a large portion of a pastor’s workweek. Unfortunately, this work is invisible to typical church members. They don’t realize the enormous amount of time it takes just to prepare one sermon.

I recently conducted an unscientific Twitter poll to ask pastors precisely how much time they spend in sermon preparation. For this question I asked for the amount of preparation time for one sermon. Many pastors must prepare more than one sermon per week, so their workload to prepare to preach is even greater.

I am pleased and appreciative for the number of responses I received. Here are the results of the poll by three-hour increments:

1 to 3 hours — 1%

4 to 6 hours — 9%

7 to 9 hours — 15%

10 to 12 hours — 22%

13 to 15 hours — 24%

16 to 18 hours — 23%

19 to 21 hours — 2%

22 to 24 hours — 0%

25 to 27 hours — 1%

28 to 30 hours — 2%

31 to 33 hours — 1%

The results were fascinating to me. Here are some key points I found in the study:

  • Most pastors responded with a range of hours. I took the midpoint of each range for my data.
  • 70% of pastors’ sermon preparation time is the narrow range of 10 to 18 hours per sermon.
  • Keep in mind that these numbers represent sermon preparation time for just one sermon. Many pastors spend 30 or more hours in preparing messages each week.
  • The median time for sermon preparation in this study is 13 hours. That means that half of the respondents gave a number under 13 hours; the other half gave a number greater than 13 hours.
  • Most of the respondents who gave a response under 12 hours indicated they were bivocational pastors.
  • If the sermon was part of a series, the pastors indicated they spent even more upfront time to develop the theme and preliminary issues for the sermons to be preached.
  • Many of the pastors are frustrated that they don’t have more time for sermon preparation.
  • A number of the pastors indicated that finding consistent and uninterrupted sermon preparation time was difficult.

Most pastors have workweeks much longer than we realize because of the invisible nature of sermon preparation. As for me, the results of this poll have caused me to pray even more fervently for my pastor. His work is long. His work is never-ending. But the work he does is vitally important.

I pray that we all will remember to pray for our pastors ever day.

Posted on June 22, 2013

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Ben Vernon says on

    What a great article. I’m bivocational like many others here. I just finished my first year in my first appointment as a pastor in the United Methodist Church. I feel the same time crunch as everyone else. It’s interesting to see the range of time spent on sermons is so large, from 10 to 18 hours. Being Bivocational I simply don’t have that time, so I have to maximize my time. I use a bible software program that has a sermon starter feature that has helped me greatly. I wonder if there is an appreciable impact on our sermons based on time spent in prep? Is there a minimum time that has to be spent on a sermon to ensure a minimum value, quality, or what ever the appropriate term would be? I mean there has to be a point in sermon prep that reaches overkill, so there must be some point in prep where you have minimum adequate prep. What are the minimum and maximum thresholds?

    • John Wylie says on

      Ben Vernon,

      Great comment. I do think that insofar as study time is concerned a pastor has to finally reach a point of critical mass. If I spent 30 hours preparing a single message I’ll promise you no one would want to hear me preach it, including me. 🙂

      If you don’t mind me asking, what software are you using that has a sermon starter component?

      • Ben Vernon says on

        Hi John 🙂
        Sure, I use Logos 5 Gold Edition, although their entry level package for pastors, Scholar edition, also has it. The only difference is the number and variety of books. The sermon starter function is amazing and worth every cent! I can put in a topic, like Joy, or a scripture, like Gal. 5:13-25, and the sermon starter gives an unbelieveable assortment of sermon outlnes. You get a variety of broad ranging general areas of thought. Under each area there are numerous subjects. Under each subject there are more specific subjects related to the scripture or topic provided. Under each subject there are quite a few topics bullet pointed. Each topic has numerous scripture that are related to the topic and subject. It’s all organized very logically. Usually there are far more topics under each subject than you can realisticaly preach, so thats where you begin deciding what you want in the sermon. All together there usually is more stuff to work with than you could ever imagine, it’s organized so very well, gives you tons of flexibility, and it’s done in a matter of seconds. Plus, I can easily export the raw material including the complete scriptures including references to Word & have a worksheet to begin my actual review. The software does other research pulling from the entire library, but that requires a different search tool. Between both the sermon starter and the other research tools in Logos 5, I get more material than I could ever have imagined to work with. And, it’s done in seconds.

        Now, it doesn’t take the place of exegesis at all. I still find that I need to do my normal work at delving into the topic or scripture in order to be deeply familiar with it. I don’t feel good about just getting Logos to outline a sermon without me first having a good feel for things. That said, I can craft a really decent sermon very quickly if I need to using this software. I suggest you go to their web site and check it out. I hope this helps.

      • John Wylie says on


        Thank you for your answer. I have LOGOS 5 as well and you just reminded me in your comment that I have that component. I’m going to start using that component.

      • Kelly Wiley says on

        Long hours in the study does not mean that a sermon is so deep that no one can understand it or is boring. When we take the time to get the historical, original language, culture, meaning and application components etc. right we make the Bible come to life for the congregation. The result starts a fire in the congregation where they can’t wait for the next sermon. A pastor who shows how studying makes a rich sermon just makes the congregation want to do their own personal study.

      • William Henry says on

        And even more so if the pastor-teacher involves his listeners interactively to experience the process.

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