How much time should I spend preparing a sermon?

By Brandon Hilgemann

In economics, there is principle called the law of diminishing returns.

Put simply, the law states that after reaching a certain threshold, the input yields less output than before.

For example, imagine you own a busy coffee shop. You find that one employee can make say 25 cups of coffee per hour. You hire another employee, and now your shop can make 50 cups per hour.

Happy with the result, you hire a third, and now you make 75 cups per hour. Every time you add an employee you’ve gained 25 cups/hour.

But when you hire a fourth employee, your shop only makes 90 cups/hour (only 15 more).

Wondering what happened, you do some investigating and find that it has nothing to do with capabilities or work ethic of the fourth employee. The space behind the coffee bar is just getting crowded.

If you were to add a fifth employee back there, you might only gain a few cups per hour.

Your shop has a threshold where adding more employees no longer increases the work output. At this point, the investment is no longer worth the return.

That is how the law of diminishing returns works.

So how does this apply to your sermon preparation?


At some point, the return gets less and less the more work you put in.

For example, after 8 hours of sermon preparation, you may have a good sermon. Maybe it’s a 7 out of 10. Another 3 hours may bring it up to an 8/10.

And maybe after another 4 hours, it just may be a 9. But if you want it to be a 10/10, you may need to invest another 5 hours.

You could preach a 10, but you could also use those extra 5 hours to do something that will yield more fruit.

At some point, the investment of time will not produce the results the time is worth.

If you have a large church with a large staff, then maybe you have the time to invest to preach a 10/10 every week. It’s worth it.

However, if you work in the average church, there are so many other things you need to do to minister to your community. Preaching a 7 or 8 every week would be great.

The question you need to ask yourself is, at what point does the time you invest in sermon preparation become a bad investment?

I am not saying that you should slack on sermon prep. Write and preach the best sermon you possibly can. However, many pastors get stuck because they are spending too much time preparing the sermon and other ministry areas suffer.

When your sermon prep input begins to get less output than the time is worth, it’s time to trust God to use the message as it is.

Except for the preaching of Jesus, God has never had a perfect sermon to work with and he still always gets the job done. Let it go and move on to something else.

This article originally appeared here.

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