While seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit is a must and the first step in preparing any sermon, many sermon preparation tools are available to assist in crafting inspiring and life-changing gospel messages. While the usefulness and quality of each will be largely subjective, there are several resources that rise to the top of the list as the best sermon apps and tools.
Every week pastors all over the world put hours into preparing their Sunday sermon, working to understand scripture from the cultural context. Praying and trying to ascertain what it is their congregation needs to hear. Crafting their words with stories and illustrations so the message sticks with the audience beyond Sunday morning and is applied to their daily lives.
Preaching Calendar Template for Planning Your Annual Sermon Series
A free spreadsheet template to help you organize your series ideas and preaching calendar.
What are the sermon preparation tools every pastor needs?
What are the must-haves for preaching?
One essential tool is to be in community with other pastors where you can share ideas, ask for guidance, and gain different perspectives. Our Facebook Group, The Pastor’s Circle, is a safe community where pastors can do just that.
We reached out to The Pastor’s Circle community to get their thoughts on sermon preparation and what tools they believe are essential in their sermon preparation toolbox.
Why Sermon Preparation Is So Important
The spirit can work just as much in the preparation as the presentation. Preparation shows respect for the scriptures. Preparation shows respect to the Lord. Preparation shows respect to the people who will hear your message.– Mark, Pastor’s Circle Member
The idea of preparation is acknowledging you don’t know everything. Or, if you do have enough information, preparation is taking the time to find a way to communicate the message so that everyone can understand it and how it applies to their life.
Teaching people about God is a huge responsibility. Why wouldn’t we prepare to teach this crucial message?
Because it is really important to communicate scripture accurately to the best of our ability. We’ll all disagree about what that means, scripture by scripture, and of course, you’re all wrong, but we’ve been entrusted with something very important, and we need to do it well.– Clayton, Pastor’s Circle Member
Many in your congregation won’t crack open their Bible throughout the week to discover who God is. Their view of God is shaped in large by the pastor’s words from a weekend message. No, that’s not ideal, but it is the reality, so you must share scripture with as much intentionality and understanding as possible.
Preparation allows you to take what you have learned about God and scripture and find ways to help people understand it. Is there a way to give people a life-changing light bulb moment?
As pastors and preachers, we are tasked with going to scripture on behalf of our congregation. As such, we should do it well through prayer, self-study, commentary work, and knowing your congregation’s spiritual needs.– Sarah
Scripture is exciting! Spending time to find ways to convey that excitement with your church will help fuel their excitement for God’s word.
Scripture is exciting! Spending time to find ways to convey that excitement with your church will help fuel their excitement for God’s word.– David
The Best Sermon Apps and Tools Every Pastor Needs in Their Toolbox
Commentary sets are an investment, but it is highly recommended to have 2 – 3 good commentary sets from authors you trust in your library.
A good way to build your commentary library is to buy one volume at a time, especially if you teach through the Bible one book at a time. You can also visit your local library or borrow from other pastors.
There are many commentary options available. Make sure you do your research on the authors and publishers in advance. To get you started, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite commentaries for sermon preparation.
Strong sermon illustrations are vital to crafting a message that will stick with your audience long past the Sunday morning service.
Without an illustration database, you may be tempted to make your sermon fit an illustration rather than strengthen your sermon with the right illustration.
Your illustration database could take a variety of forms.
It could be an Excel spreadsheet, and every time you encounter something that could be used as a sermon illustration, you simply add it to your sheet. Making your spreadsheet searchable makes locating those illustrations easier when needed.
Your illustration database could be a drawer in a filing cabinet with organized folders or a folder on your computer. Whatever it is, find what works best for you and use it.
There are a variety of places you can find sermon illustrations for your database:
- Sermonary is a sermon prep software that allows you to search through an illustration database and easily add it to your message.
- Illustrations.bible is a free website where a new illustration is published daily.
- Pew Research provides research and statistics that you could use to illustrate a sermon point.
- Books can provide and inspire sermon illustrations. Kindle books allow you to highlight and easily find quotes or passages you may want to reference in the future.
- Your own life. Be sure to save your stories and write them down. Otherwise, your sermons will likely be filled only with stories from recent memory instead of the best stories that have happened over the years.
Good Study Bibles
A Study Bible is essentially a very simple commentary. A good Study Bible does a great job of taking scripture and helping anyone understand it. It makes them an excellent resource for pastors as they are trying to craft a message anyone can understand and relate to.
- NLT Life Application
- CSB Ancient Faith
- NASB Zondervan
- New King James
- Harper Collins
- ESV Women’s
A bonus tip for you! If you have a Bible you love and it is falling apart, you can send it to Scriptura, and they will rebind and replace your cover with a beautiful leather cover.
A sermon calendar is essential to any pastor’s toolbox. A calendar allows you to intentionally think through your topics and your series flow for the following year.
Begin with prayer, asking God what He would like you to speak on over the next 12 months, and start building a calendar.
If you are new to preaching, one of the best ways to improve as a communicator is to have a sermon calendar and establish a road map of where you want to go over the next year.
Think of each message as a bucket and start adding to those buckets. As you come across scripture illustrations, articles, quotes, etc., that would be great for a particular message, you can add it to the “bucket,” so you already have several tools ready to use each week.
A sermon calendar is also the easiest way to build a teaching team and allow and plan for a Sunday off. It will enable you to determine which sermons are essential for the lead pastor to teach and which you can hand off to another trusted teacher. You can set the other members of your teaching team up for success by providing them with a well-thought-out topic and plan with plenty of time to prepare.
Research Bookmark (Or Idea Library)
A Research Bookmark or Idea Library is similar to an illustration database where you keep ideas. When you come across an article in the newspaper that helps to express a concept the Bible speaks about, you can take the article and put it in your research bookmark. Then, when you preach on that subject, you will know exactly where that article is, and you can quickly access it.
Organize your collection of ideas by topic. You can use any method that works for you, the John Maxwell notecard method, Evernote, Sermonary, etc… Just find a system that works for you and use it.
When crafting your sermon, starting with a template makes the process much easier. We’ve created a free sermon template to help you out!
Using Sermonary, a free sermon writing software, also streamlines the writing process. Goodbye, cute and paste, and hello drag and drop!
Yes, the Holy Spirit is the ultimate authority and guide in sermon writing and planning. Still, there are so many tools we have been gifted to ensure we are preaching with wisdom and authority in a clear and compelling way. It is a disservice not to do everything in our power to ensure God’s word is heard, remembered, and inspirational, reaching as many people as possible.
Check out the sermon calendar examples at Ministry Pass, and get started today!
Excel Calendar Worksheet
Plan a year’s worth of sermon series in advance with this simple, but powerful spreadsheet!