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How Preparing A Sermon is Similar to Writing Blog Posts

On Sunday I preached a sermon at my local church. I used to do this weekly when I worked as a minister years ago – but it’s been a while since I had to do it (funnily enough I find it a lot more nerve wracking getting up in front of a couple of hundred people to speak than writing a post for tens of thousands!).

As I was preparing for preaching last week it struck me how similar my ‘workflow’ for it was to putting together a blog post (although a blog post is usually a lot quicker in my experience).

This video identifies some of the stages I went through last week that are similar to how I go about writing many blog posts.

Notes: See the full sized video here. Video shot on a Panasonic Lumix DMC GF1 (aff) – here’s why I use that camera.

Video Transcript

I’ve had this video transcribed below for those who prefer to get it that way. The transcription provided by The Transcription People.

Hi. This is Darren from ProBlogger. Welcome to another video post. Over the last week or two I’ve been doing something that’s a little bit out of the ordinary for me, but something that I used to do all the time. Those of you who know me and have been reading ProBlogger for a while who’ve read the book will know that I used to work in churches as a Minister and as part of being a Minister I was delivering Sermons every week or two to a few hundred people in a church. Whilst things are a little different now in that I’m speaking to a lot more and I’m writing using text rather than voice, there’s some similarities that I’ve noticed this week in preparing a Sermon, a one off Sermon, to the way that I write blog posts and so I thought I’d share some of the process that I go through in creating a Sermon which I think transfers fairly well over to writing a blog post or preparing a video post.

Selecting a Topic

The first thing that I noticed I was doing last week was just selecting a topic. Actually that was a bit easier for me with this Sermon that I was, I was preaching in the last day or two, because I was given the topic.

The Minister of the church that I go to said, “Darren I want you to speak about work and faith and how they intersect together”.

Selecting a topic can be one of the biggest problems for bloggers, just trying to work out what to write about on a day by day basis. I, what I do is have a folder on my desktop on my computer which just has lots of different text files which have, have titles or main points that I might write. Really what, what those text files are is just identifying big problems that my reads might have. So whether it be my blogging readers on ProBlogger, how to start a blog, how to get traffic, how to monetise a blog, the big sort of picture problems that people have.

On my photography blog it’s, it’s more about how to choose a camera, what lens you might want to add to that camera, how you might hold that camera, how to compose a picture. These are sort of big picture topics that I write about and I identify.

Refining the Topic – Break it Down into Smaller Problems

Then it’s about refining the topic and beginning to think about what you can say in it, and for me this is about breaking the topic down into smaller problems that people might have, and so in the Sermon that I was writing about this week which was on the topic of work and faith, I began to identify some of the key problems that people might have in that area, you know, when their, their work and the choices that they are, are making in their work, clash with their values for instance. Thinking about those sorts of issues within the larger topic, and the same thing’s true when I write a blog post. I try and break it down and identify, you know, maybe two or three or four problems that people have when it comes to that larger problem, larger topic, and what I find is that if you can identify two or three problems, small problems that a reader might have is that you then have your points that you can then work through in the post.

Identify What People Already Know

After that what I then try and do is actually try and work what does my reader already know. A lot of people skip this type of thing but I think it’s really important to acknowledge what your readers already know, because then you can build upon that. They may already know it because you’ve written about it previously and then you can link back to that so that you can build a little a, extra depth into your post, but then, then you can then identify what they don’t know.

Put the ‘Bones’ into Place – Your Main Points

Then what I do in the preparation of a Sermon is start to put the bones into place, I then look at it almost like a skeleton, I try and put some main points in place. It may not be very exciting points at this point, it may not be interesting yet, but they’re main points that I want to make through the preaching of that Sermon or the writing of that blog post. So as I’m writing a blog post I try and break it down into four or five points that I might to communicate over that post.

Flesh it Out – Add Interest and Depth

Once I’ve got that skeleton in place, once the bones are there, you then flesh out and this where it gets fun, this is where you can add illustrations, this is where you can add metaphors or analogies or you can tell a story, this is where you can use pictures so for me this is the part in the creation of a Sermon where I’m, I’m thinking about my PowerPoint and how I can make it visually interesting.

This is where I’m thinking about, you know, bring in Bible verses or quotes from people, this is where you’re fleshing it out, you’re adding muscle, you’re adding depth to your sermon or your blog post. For me as I write blog posts I’m looking at what other people are writing in this area and trying to add quotes, or I’m trying to find a famous person’s quote, or I’m trying to add a photo. This is where you’re trying to make it interesting. Quite often bloggers just communicate their main points but they don’t actually go to the trouble of making it intriguing, making it enjoyable for your readers to, to read.

Refine, Focus and Cull

Once you’ve started to add that depth, what I usually find, particularly when I’m preaching a Sermon is that I usually have too much stuff. Yesterday I preached the Sermon, I had 22 minutes to speak. Once I got the bones and then added flesh to it, I had 45 minutes worth of content, so this is where I began to practice it, I began to actually verbalise it and I began to refine and cull it. This is where I started to remove some of the things that I’d added to add interest because they were actually distracting from the main points and they were making it too long.

So as I’m writing a blog post quite often I do a similar thing. I start to add content to it and then I get to a point where I’m about to publish and then I, I read through it with quite critical mind and look for things that I can take out, things that might be distracting from the main point, things that might be making the post too long. You want to be useful with your posts but you don’t want to actually go over the top with it.

So then you’re at a point that you’re able to deliver it and hopefully if you’ve been practising it, if you’ve refined it you’re able to do that, you know, in a good way on your Sermon and hopefully as your blog post, you’ll have something that people not only can learn from but they also find interesting and intriguing to read. I hope that gives you a bit of insight into how I go about it. That’s the type of blog that I write, I write how to contents so that probably applies a little bit more to that type of content than some other types, but I’d be interested to hear about the processes that you go through in, in the creation of a blog.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Elle Wong says:

    If you come across a writing block, try using the AIDA formula.
    Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.

    Start by having an end in mind of what you would like your readers/listeners to achive from this sermon or blog post. Once your headline/title is in place, throw in bullet points then construct them into an easy to grasp reading flow.

  2. I like the advice to go over and remove the extraneous stuff. Sometimes when you write in a blog it’s much more casual and you have a tendency to write the first things that come to mind.

  3. Steve says:

    Being a minister and a blogger, I can certainly relate!

    One of the biggest hurdles for me is trying not to repeat things I’ve said before over and over. I deliver a sermon each Sunday and have been doing for nearly fifteen years. It gets hard to think of something new to say.

    I have not been blogging that long, but then I post nearly every day. Finding fresh content can be a challenge!

  4. Darren,

    Quick off topic question… what type of camera are you using for your video?

    Your video is crisp and professional I actual watched it, that is saying something for online videos now days!

    Wes

  5. Kevin Warhus says:

    Expressing your interests passionately is a great way to go about blogging. Its interests users and makes them want to refer your writing to others to read so they can discuss. Blogs are a great way to draw attention to your company’s website as well. Ive recently hired a local marketing firm to help increase my business’s website traffic and have been very pleased with the results.

  6. Spot on, Darren :D Sometimes I share to our Youth group at church and I often use the same methodology/process flow as if I’m writing a blog post. Although I guess honestly I haven’t been as thorough in preparing a blog post compared to delivering a sermon or a topic at church :D

    Often at the end, I use a previous sermon summary to make a blogging tip post as often it can be applied to blogging in general!

  7. hokya says:

    i think sermon is harder than posting :-)

  8. Novell says:

    I never thought i had created thousands of sermons already!

  9. Darren,

    I think its amazing how you compared Blog posts to a sermon. I cant thank you enough on all of the wonderful info that you give on your site.

  10. I find this works for me just like your idea of setting up the bones and adding the flesh (content). I see this idea as also helpful in writing a posting.

  11. Christian says:

    Hello Darren,

    Nice post/video. Having preached a few sermons I cannot compare them directly to blogging although the general workflow is similar.

    The amount of time I put into a blog post (2-3 hours) is much smaller than the 10-20 hours I put into a sermon, although lack of training and experience may be an issue there.

  12. I think it’s true.. After having a sermon with your followers, all you need to do is to guide them if they’re really following you the way its meant to be.

  13. Being a pastor myself, I believe this is so true. Also, it is a lot harder to get up in front of a few hundred people on stage then on the web. BTW…Did the church record the sermon? I’d life to hear it! You truly are an inspiration! Thanks

    Estevan Montoya

  14. Cheri says:

    Does the church where you delivered the sermon do podcasts or other digital versions of their sermons? I’d be really interested in hearing your sermon or reading it. I’m actually working on developing a blog that talks about balancing the the life of a Christian Scholar and thought the topic would relate well.

  15. Being a new blogger, this is very pertinent information. I hope you don’t mind if a create a template/outline from this to help me with my blog posts. Thanks!

  16. Vince says:

    Hahaha… so you are a pastor before? Well, yes, I do agree with this post. And this is what I usually do, post my sermon, add some songs, daily devotionals etc.

    It is like journaling, but the difference is, you are making it public.:)

  17. Thank you great tips, practice makes it perfect, while I did my PhD presentation use to be nerve racking for me. My supervisor use to tell me if you have half an hour speech, prepare for an hour, because when you get nerves you do forget most of it!
    Amazingly it was true but I found if I practiced my talk over and over again, well in advance I was ok, since then I won awards for best talk in more than one occasion. Now presentation is my favourite skill, and like talks I found blogging need a lot of planning, practising to make it perfect, I find it so much harder than writing my PhD thesis but practice will eventfully make it perfect.

  18. Des Walsh says:

    Thanks for sharing, Darren, on various levels. You are a leader in many ways.

  19. Darren, I have been reading your blog sporadically for a couple years now (I’ve dabbled with some blogs, but nothing “pro” yet (ha!). Well, coming across this post, it dawned on me how you have kept your ministerial work completely out of your website and blogging work… I think you are to be commended for that. Not once do I ever hear you get ‘preachy’ with your blog readers, or even hint at pushing some type of spiritual message, whereas others might get very tempted to take the power and reach of this and your other blogs, to try and mix in some religious cause. Maybe you know what I mean? Anyway, you keep it utterly separated from your blogging here, and I think that is the right approach – and not just from a business standpoint. ;)

    The only time you ever mention the church is when you are simply giving an example to make another point with (such as this post).

    This makes me want to hear to you actually preach! :)

    I wish you continued success in all your endeavors.
    - Eric

  20. Lumen Photo says:

    Although the post on luck has now been closed to comments,
    I wanted to say how interesting it was. There are certainly different kinds of luck out there, some earned and some that seems just plain fortunate!

    best

  21. Hi Darren,
    Awesome video mate.
    I’m a christian too and over the years have prepared bible studies and played music for the service etc…

    Preparation is Key to any type of presentation.
    written, spoken, music, video what ever.

    I also find that the similarities between evangelism and sales almost make them the same thing.

    People are ready to hear what they need to hear in their own time and pushing anything on people is really not the way to go about helping them make a decision.

    You give a nice balance to everything and I’ve actually featured this post to show people how to prepare a blog.

    Thanks again mate.

  22. Yohan Perera says:

    Hi Darren,

    Blessed to know that you were used to be a minister and you still preach occasionally.

    I have been following Problogger RSS feed using my RSS reader for quite a long time. However I didn’t know that you are preacher, until you posted this one.

    I blog at The Virtual Preacher and one of the biggest challenges I had was that my site was getting stagnant. How ever in one of your posts you discussed about holding on without giving up too early.

    You also said, a blog might be slow to grow but check if it’s steady in it’s growth….

    I am glad that I took your advice. I also used some of the instructions you have provided here to tweak my blog. Now I have more readers, and more visitors are becoming subscribers. Thank you for your hard work…