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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  • There are many dedicated pastors out there. But is it ok for a full time pastor not come in to office during the week but only work from home while babysitting his two very young kids (now 1 and 3)? When you called him on his cell phone, there can be static on the connection or kids scream at the background. When congregation member questioned about his office hours, he became defensive and questioned why the church wants to chain him down. The Church paid him a reasonable compensation worth high 60K, and his wife works. It is enough for him to drive a Lexus. His weekly sermon is based on a book in the New Testament, chapter by chapter, like bible study style. He would not teach or prepare any Sunday School class. He is good at getting members to run activities via emails and texting. Cut the long story short, I am wondering his work ethics. Is it unreasonable to ask Pastor to have set office hours during the week? Is it right for the Pastor to babysit the toddler in the office during office hours? Is this a trend or is it an exception?

  • Randy Smathers says on

    I am a pastoral and Bible and Theology Meager and will be graduating in 2 years with a BA from Nazarene Bible Collage. Any help you could give me on how to become a good sermon righter it would be greatly appreciated. I know most of the time is spent in prayer for me right know.

  • Thanks so much for sharing these results, very interesting. Since I was curious to see how youth pastors would compare to this, I’m doing my own little ‘unscientific’ research and poll. So far the results show a significantly different time investment…

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