Welcome to a Pastor’s Weekend (a.k.a. Be Nice to Your Pastor)

I never take meetings on Fridays. It is the one day in my week totally devoted to preparation for preaching four times the coming weekend. I do some sermon prep every single day. But Friday is all for the sermon. Saturday afternoon too. Then on Saturday night I preach. Once on Saturday. Three times on Sunday.

Lesson 1: Don’t hassle your pastor after Thursday.

A sermon is like a bird that keeps on pecking at your head until you preach it. It’s a constant distraction. It’s similar to the feeling you had in college when you got behind in homework, and now assignments are piling up. You couldn’t do anything without thinking about those assignments. I don’t do anything all week long without thinking about my upcoming sermon. It just keeps pecking.

Lesson 2: Don’t ask your pastor how long it takes to prepare a sermon. He/she is always preparing a sermon. When people ask me that question, I answer, “My whole life.”

Before I preach I hunker down in my office and pray. I am not chatty. I am focused. I am nervous. I am on high alert. Warren Wiersbe, the great pastors’ pastor, who preached at the famous Moody Church in Chicago, wrote, “I wish I had a tunnel from my study to my pulpit.” I totally get that. Because the second I emerge from my office to walk to the auditorium, people start chatting with me.

Don’t get me wrong. I love people. I love the people of my church. And I truly enjoy hanging out and visiting with them. Chatting is a good thing.

Except during those pre-sermon moments when I’m so focused on the spiritual conflict ahead that it’s hard to chat about the weather, or to answer the question if I know where Erich is, or to explain what time an event on Tuesday is supposed to be finished and do they have childcare. Those things are important to me; it’s just that I’m focused elsewhere. To illustrate: Imagine chatting with a boxer on his way into the ring. How chatty will he be? In the olden days, the pastor and elders would emerge from back stage and sit on the platform to start the service. Not a lot of chit-chat there.

Lesson 3: Let your pastor stay focused before his sermon. Especially don’t pick that moment to complain that the music is too loud. Email that complaint and all others to the right staff person on Tuesday. Don’t give the devil any assistance by discouraging your pastor right before a sermon.

After the sermon, I have an immediate sense of release. Chatting is fine. Except after the fourth sermon when I am pretty drained emotionally.

Here’s my weekend rundown:

Saturday, I leave for church at 1:00. I polish up my sermon and do my powerpoint. At 5:00 mic check, and back to my office to change. Service starts at 5:30. I’m already hungry. Service ends at 6:45. Gotta pee. I’m famished. Family goes out for late dinner, or we rush to leave for home around 7:15.

Sunday, I leave for church at 7:00 a.m. Set up my computer for Powerpoint. Review my notes. Drive next door to a school where we hold our first service. Greet people if possible. Check in with leadership. Service starts at 8:00. Service ends at 9:00. I wait to see if anybody needs to chat with me, and drive back to our main campus, where the 9:00 service is in progress. I hope I can park close, especially when it’s raining. I rush into my office. I have to pee, and I have to change the batteries in my microphone pack. Then into the service to preach again at 9:30. Hugs and greetings on my way in. I am genuinely happy to see each person, but my mind is still focused on my sermon.

Preach from 9:30 to 10:15. Greet people, especially visitors. Gotta pee. Time for a protein bar so I don’t get a splitting headache. Drive back to the school next door to visit the young adults at The Well, our service for young adults. Service starts at 10:30. I really like these guys. I visit for a few minutes. They watch me preach on video. Drive back to main campus next door, hoping to find a parking place for the 10:45 service, already in progress. I have to pee, partly because I drink four bottles of water each weekend, and a several cups of decaf. Speaking dehydrates you, and my throat gets dry. So I arrive for the 10:45 service already in progress.

First, I go upstairs to our Video Cafe, which is an overflow room. I visit and greet people there in a very casual relaxed atmosphere. This is a great service. They also see me preach on video. I head back downstairs for my last chance at the bathroom before I preach for the last service. I greet latecomers as they arrive, head into the auditorium, sing a song or two and preach for the last time.

As crazy as that weekend is, I LOVE IT. After the last service, I just want to go home. I have to unwind. As soon as I walk down from the platform, my body’s still present, but in my mind, I’ve punched out, and I’m done with church till Tuesday. Sunday afternoons and Mondays are all about my family. No exceptions. Tuesday, that bird starts pecking again.

The biggest thing I miss: getting to drive together to church as a family. Never happens. That puts a HUGE BURDEN ON MY WIFE all weekend long. I’m gone, and when I’m done, I’m shot. So is Margi. She’s a trooper and I am so grateful for her. She’s the unsung hero of a church’s weekend. On those few weekends I don’t preach, don’t expect me at my own church. You can understand that, right?

I know that we all have our birds pecking at our heads. I’m sure you have your share of hectic work weeks. Preaching is God’s calling on my life, and I wouldn’t trade places with anybody. I have a great church with fantastic people that I love. It’s just, well, hectic. And I’m kind of an introvert. So show a little grace to your pastor, and…

Lesson 4: If you’re in a big church, always mention your name.

Lesson 5: If you’re friends with a pastor, don’t bring up church conflict or problems on his or her day off. It’s fine to talk about the good stuff, but your pastor needs, and your pastor’s family needs, at least one day a week, and at least one set of relationships, when it’s not all about the church.

Last comment: Martyn Lloyd Jones, considered the greatest preacher of the 20th century, wrote that preaching is “the highest, most glorious calling” in life. He “magnified his office.” So do I. I’m glad I’m a preacher: “So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” Acts 20:32, NKJV.


11 thoughts on “Welcome to a Pastor’s Weekend (a.k.a. Be Nice to Your Pastor)

  1. Am I the only one hanging on every word of this blog entry? I love the “behind the scenes” info. Very good stuff.

    Does your stomach ever twist in knots right before going on stage?

  2. Thanks Donny,
    My stomach twists in knots EVERY time I speak publicly. When I first started preaching I got sick to my stomach every single week. (Diarrhea… Too much information?) I’m nervous and edgy and can’t wait to get going.

  3. Visit Zach’s blog to read a funny story about the time he knocked on my door even though there was a sign up that said, “Please don’t disturb” (actually two signs). After that I changed my sign. Zach’s blog has the picture and his blog has the story (see the post from Zach above).

  4. Bill,
    Why aren’t you working on your sermon instead of blogging?

    from Chicago

  5. Glad to hear your stomach gets tied in knots. Really, I am. 🙂 That makes it so that I don’t feel so odd for getting nervous and needing to run off to the bathroom every time I get ready to speak in front of groups.

    Wait a second… maybe I’m NOT so glad. If you still have that reaction after how ever many years you’ve been doing this, that may mean it will never end for me either. 😦

  6. Bill,
    What do you mean you hope you find a parking spot? You’re from Chicago. Find two ugly chairs, a broom and block off a spot. How quickly they forget.

    Matt Anthony

  7. Matt,
    I’m much too proud to use ugly chairs and a broom. I’m holding out for a couple of milk crates (only cold-weather urban people get this one). Hey… you’re interrupting my final sermon prep. Cut it out!
    Nice to hear from you.

  8. “How long does it take to prepare a sermon? My whole life!” That makes sense…and it shows. Your sermons are consistently excellent. I am curious about the process of preparing those gems.

  9. Bill
    Thanks for sharing your process for the sermons. I was filled with joy when I read that you “hunker” down and pray. My prayer for you always is that you let the lord fill you with his words. And for Margi, I have to roll my husband over on his side to stop the snoring but sometimes its fun just to pinch their nose. Hoping you find a quiet nights sleep.

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