I said I would blog on the preparation needed for a service such as the ones I prepped for last Sunday. I am doing this both as a way of reflecting on what I did and how it worked; and also because I think it might be interesting to people who have not before prepared for a service.
So here goes; here are the stages I went through in preparing for the Sunday Service.
1. Get the readings for the day - 3 weeks beforehand
For me this means going to the lectionary, finding the right week, the main service and then noting down the OT, Psalm, NT and Gospel readings allocated. I tend to load them onto my iPhone so I can read them easily each day.
2. Pray on the readings - for 2 weeks
I like to read and pray on the readings for a couple of weeks before the service. This helps me really enter into the text, the meaning and hear what message I am meant to be conveying. At this point I will usually note down any thoughts or themes which are speaking to me.
This photo shows my thoughts on the themes for last sunday.
3. Finalise the order of service
For last Sunday I was focussing on mission in Africa so I used the Kenyan Anglican Church liturgy. easy; pull it off the shelf in the sacristy and run with it.
4. Organise the hymns
For our church this means speaking to the organist and other musicians about who wil be playing; and then liaise with them to ensure that the theme of the service will be reflected through the hymns. It is an iterative process I have discovered and works fabulously as long as the preacher knows enough in advance what they plan to say.
5. Research the text - 1 week before the service
I sit down formally a week before the service and read the texts in different bibles; I look at commentaries getting some more detail about the historicity, theology and interpretations of the readings.
As you can see, this means a desk full of information which can be overwhelming but is easier to cope with when prayer is used.
6. More prayer - ongoing
You can't underestimate the power of prayer in the preparing of a service; for inspiration, for messages, for calm, for words. And for me, for images because those I know don't come from me!
7. Develop the themes - the week leading up
I keep going back to the themes from the readings and with prayer look at the three or four main points that are to be focussed on in the sermon. This I find hard because I hate to miss anything out; but I have learned the hard way that too much dilutes the whole thing.
This week I was clearly guided and it was given to me that "Salt of the Earth and Light of the Earth" should be the focus.
8. Draft the sermon - week leading up and by Thursday.
I have a number of techniques for drafting the sermon.
First I make notes, normally on my iPhone - rambling, confusing if necessary.
Second I try to form these into the structure.
Third I write bullet points for a sermon that I could read if necessary.
Fourth I mind map the outline of the sermon which is a back up if needed.
Fifth I write the four or five messages on a small piece of paper, this is my crib sheet for the podium.
9. Add elements of the sermon's message into the whole flow of the service - by Thursday
As a member of the congregation I value the work put in when a service feels like a whole; when the messages of the sermon are introduced and reviewed throughout the liturgy. This is what I like to do myself and this takes work once the sermon is written; it is well worth it though.
10. Rehearse, pray, hand it over to God - till the second before the service starts
did I mention prayer? without it I would never embark on the crazy activity of putting myself in front of a congregation. I pray mostly for the holy spirit's words on my lips, strength in my stomach and love in my heart.