I get asked this occasionally and I also ask people it a lot too. “How long does it take you to prepare a preach?” For me its around 20-30 hours spread out over the week with a couple of days of intense prep and others of just mulling it over in a spare moments. I tend to spend less time now that I used to though and it’s certainly a little less painful.
Here is how others answer this question:
Tim Keller (small rural church) – 6 to 8 hours.
Tim Keller (big Manhattan church) – 14-16 hours.
John Piper – All day Friday, half day Saturday so around 14 to 16 hours
Stephen Um –15-16
Matt Chandler – All day Tuesday, all day Thursday so around 16+ hours
Kent Hughes – 20 hours.
John MacArthur – 32 hours through the week
Mark Dever – 30 to 35 hours
It takes Mark Driscoll around 1 hour to prepare. He talked about it here in a facebook Q&A. Here is a short exert:
Q: How do you pull teachable points out of scripture and keep it all together in a coherent message?
A: You can’t say everything a text says in one sermon. If you do, you sound like a commentary and lose lost people and non-nerds.
The point of a sermon is to grab the truth, big ideas, and pertinent details, and with passion press those into the hearts and minds of people in a compelling way by the power of the Holy Spirit.
As a student, there will be things that minister to us personally as we study that don’t best serve our people. So, we can’t share everything we learn, and it takes wisdom and discernment to decide what our people need to hear. The sermon is not to impress folks with our knowledge but rather with our Jesus.
Q about getting good at preaching:
A: Insofar as I know, Malcolm Gladwell is not a Christian, but I think his insights are helpful. He says it takes 10,000 hours to become world class at something (e.g., musician, athlete, etc.).
If this is true, it takes a long time to become a great preacher/teacher. The first few hundred hours are brutal.
I think so far I have preached for around 120 hours so I guess I’m past the brutal stage but still a long way off 10,000 hours. Amazingly Mark has preached over 10,000 hours which would take 192 years at the rate of one preach a week, or preaching say 10 times a week around 19 years. I guess with multi site and other speaking engagements that works out about right.