I've talked about why UU sermon writing takes more time, why UU ministers don't preach every Sunday, and why the dynamics are tougher for part-time ministers. Next I wanted to talk about some models for making this situation more workable, particularly in light of the changing dynamics of church life. But before I do that, I want to talk about one more thing that really belongs in Part 1 or 2, which is for whom does sermon-writing take the most work?
My suspicion is that there are two categories of ministers who need the most time for sermon-writing. The first is ministers who are new to the ministry. These ministers don't have a large number of old sermons to draw from, although they have a handful from seminary and internship. Their advantage is that their seminary learnings are fresh, and that they've had more recent experiences of being regular worshippers at other ministers' worship services, but they have a disadvantage of less experience in the work of writing sermons week after week without pause.
The second category of ministers who take more time for sermon-writing are those who have been in their current pulpits for several years. Any bank of sermons they had coming into that pulpit has been used up, and they have to cover the same holidays for years running and bring new approaches each year.
These two categories of ministers will need the most time for sermon-writing. Those who will need the least time are those coming to a new pulpit from an old one, who have built up a bank of sermons from which to draw. While every preacher will need new material to respond to events in the world and in the individual church, and most sermons will need a rewrite for a new context, these ministers are still at an advantage having large blocks of sermons that they can use from week to week.
This is particularly a useful feature in interim ministry, of course, because that ministry has all the regular work of ministry plus particular goals of the interim ministry period to achieve. Having blocks of sermon-writing time freed up for the other work is important. The down-side of this is that if the congregation gets used to the level of activity of an interim minister using old worship materials, then they may expect that same level out of their newly settled minister, as well.
Up next: changing models for the changing church