If you’re like most pastors, you’re a very busy person. Maybe you see other pastors writing books, blogs, or articles, and you wonder to yourself how in the world they pull it off.
Transforming a sermon series into a book takes some time and thought, but it’s not as daunting as it might seem. Many pastors do this on a regular basis, like John Piper and others. If you’re still on the fence, read more about why you might want to consider taking on a book project as a pastor, or why not.
Time management and productivity are worthy of their own blogs, but we’re not going to get into that in detail here. Based on my years of editorial experience with busy pastors, I would like to share four tips with you on how to turn your sermon series into a book.
Tip 1: Map out the main points of your sermon series
All preachers have a method for how they prepare for their sermons. And there are probably as many methods as there are pastors! Here’s a simple way to think about preparing for your sermon: map out your plan. Think through your one big sermon idea and the couple supporting points you want to make.
This may seem obvious, but verbal communication doesn’t always translate well to the printed page. And that’s okay! Know this means you need to have a logical flow to your ideas so that they make sense on a page. If you start outlining your idea in well-thought-out written form, you can refer back to these big ideas later to help give your future book cohesion.
In seminary, it’s common to hear in basic homiletics course to apply the 3 a.m. test to a sermon. What’s the 3 a.m. test, you ask? Well, if a congregant woke up at 3 a.m., what is the simple, memorable phrase they would remember that conveyed the meaning of your message?
Apply the 3 a.m. test to the main ideas you hope to get across in your book, and aim to be concise.
Tip 2: Write manuscripts for your sermons
This tip goes hand in hand with Tip 1. Again, not all pastors prepare in the same way, but if you can prepare your sermons from a manuscript, you’ll kill two birds with one stone. You will have (hopefully) thought through your sermon carefully and concisely, and you’ll have spent time flexing your writing muscles.
Even if you use an outline system to preach from in real time, writing out an entire sermon as a part of the process helps with precision of thought, and will give you a written record you can re-appropriate for the purpose of your book.
Tip 3: Have your sermons transcribed
In order to have your sermons transcribed, you at first need to be prepared to capture the audio recordings of your sermons. And if you already have these recordings, then take the extra step to have your sermons transcribed.
There are many reputable, accurate, and fairly priced services you can use to transcribe your sermons within a week or less. Once you have the transcription, set aside time to edit the material so it reads well.
Tip 4: Make writing a regular part of your schedule
This tip builds upon the above. Even if you don’t fancy yourself a writer, making a bit of time each week to go through the exercise of putting your thoughts together in writing will go a long way in strengthening your writing muscles.
If you can, commit to writing every day, even if it’s only 20 or 30 minutes. You can do this by editing your transcripts, or writing a manuscript of your sermon. Whatever activity you do, if you keep at it regularly, before you know it you’ll have lots of written material to use for your future book.
Writing is a legitimate call of pastoral ministry, and turning your sermons into a book is an excellent way to express the specific mission and message you feel called to communicate.