General Ministry
Josh Griffin

I’ve gotten a few requests for me to blog about my process for writing a weekend talk. My process certainly isn’t THE way to do it, but I would say it is definitely what works for me. It might not be something that fits you, the key is to find a process that helps you best prepare to communicate God’s Word to students.

Here’s what I do – would love to read yours in the comments!

Figure out the series arc. What are we trying to say in the series? Where are we trying to move students with this talk? Here’s an example from Save the Planet, a series we did that is now on Simply Youth Ministry.

Whiteboad the ideas using the hero archetype. I learned this part of the process a year ago from Jeff McGuire and love it. Every talk starts on the whiteboard using a circle.

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First draft. Everything on the whiteboard makes it into a Word document and now becomes digital. Points, passages and illustrations start to take shape. I write the talk out word for word, like a transcript. The first draft is 1,500 words.

Second draft. It’s all there in the frst draft, so the collection of thoughts and ideas needs to be honed into a discernable message. The second starts the shaping process. I’m usually fairly happy with it by this point. The second draft usally hovers at or near 2,000 words.

Send it out to a few close friends to review. I learned this one from watching Doug Fields in action – don’t create your messages in a vacuum. Let a few creative/discerning friends talk through it with you for clarity, perspective and editing.

Final draft. From this the bulletin is made and slides with verses on the screen. This is it! The final draft is around 2,000 words, and usually ends up being about a 25-minute talk.

I’ve used this process for the past year and have really loved it – share how you prepare a talk, too!


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  • Josh(ua) says:

    Can you elaborate on the HERO model?

  • kurt oberlin says:

    I love the 2000, for me it has always been six pages at 12 point font is around 5 pages which equals about 30 minutes. (i’ll have to see if that matches your 200 words) In the past I made all my sermon first drafts in a word document but now I have been collecting my thoughts for current sermons and future sermons in a free program called evernote. It’s great, if you get inspired at chipotle (as I often do) you can write something down on a napkin take a picture of it and send a text message to your evernote account, it then syncs when you get back to your computer and you can search for the text within the handwritten napkin. Fun stuff!

  • Matt Cleaver says:

    This was really helpful. I’m always interested in how people craft a sermon. I’ve never heard of the hero model before but will have to look into it. It’s interesting how many people write out the whole manuscript before delivering it. I would be willing to guess that most laypeople assume that if you don’t preach from a manuscript that you don’t ever write one. But I’ve found it really helpful to write out the whole thing word for word beforehand.

    Thanks for the thoughts.

  • jeff smith says:

    First I go to simplyyouthministrry.com and look through the sermon resources there…

    It really varies for me. Sometimes I start with an outline I’ve picked up from somewhere, sometimes something from my own study and thoughts. I don’t usually do a full manuscript, but heavy notes – one page per point. Then I whittle that down to a bulletin style notes that I preach from. In youth group I very PowerPoint driven. When I preach in church, I’m more notes driven.

  • brian pickerel says:

    How far in advance do you do this?

  • Corey says:

    Interesting… so… where does Scripture and prayer fit into this discernment and development process? From what I see in this post, looks like nowhere.

  • Dusty says:

    I write and rewrite my manuscript several times. I even preach from my manuscript but have my outline in a large bold colored font within the manuscript. I highlight all scripture another color as well. Now when I teach from the manuscript I can see my main points and scriptures at a instant. This way I dont catch myself reading my message. The main body of the manuscrpt is only there to assist me if I get distracted or pulled out of rythem by a question or comment. It keeps me from chasing rabits.

    Note to Corey:
    I am sure that everyone that has posted starts and ends their process with prayer.
    I personally feel as if I am in a constant state of prayer while developing a message. Asking God to direct me in the big things like main points, and all the little things like how to phrase a joke so that it gets maximum play without distracting from the message.

    I think the reason most people didnt mention it is because they assumed that was a vital part of the process that everyone was doing.

  • Josh says:

    Corey, this isn’t an exhaustive look at the process. Obviously, Scripture and prayer are the beginning, middle and end of the process. Dude.


  • Josh says:

    Brian – great question!

    Series arc – 2-3 weeks in advance
    Whiteboard – Tuesday
    First draft – Tuesday
    Second Draft – Wednesday
    Give to Friends – Thursday
    Final Draft – Friday


  • Corey says:

    My bad- I didn’t mean to come across as confrontational or dismissive. (This is why the internet is difficult- it’s hard to convey the emotion/intent behind a statement) How I should have phrased it would be “How do you decide what Scripture to talk about?” or “How do you dig into a biblical passage?” That’s more what I was trying to get at. Which is certainly not clear from my previous post. I ask, because find one of my most difficult challenges is figuring out what to talk about….haha!

    Also, of course I don’t doubt that any youth minister worth his or her salt wraps the whole process in prayer. I didn’t mean to imply that at all. Again, my bad.

  • brian pickerel says:

    Thanks Josh!

  • Josh says:

    Cool, man. Scripture, stories and passages usually comes in during the early whiteboad phase, but occasionally we even see it during the formation of the arc of the series. Right now we’re working on a ROAD TRIP series for July (yeah, we’re actually working ahead!), and have the basic feel/direction/arc and have most of the basic passages/stories laid in.

    Because I’m not doing prep on the talk on Thursdays, it is a good time to reflect/meditate/discern what should end up in the final draft.


  • zac says:

    Thanks for the great information but I am a little confused on the terms and what they refer to on the hero archetype. Thanks,

  • Just came across this post. Great stuff here Josh. I really like the team approach to crafting a message. It’s so good to get input from a variety of perspectives. I think the finished product will be more easily understood and effective in communicating what you want the students to learn.

  • Josh says:

    Let me ask Jeff to jump in here and fill everyone in in more detail and/or write up a guest post.


  • Paul says:

    Hey Josh,
    Great stuff! Is this teaching on audio or video anywhere. I’d like to hear more on the subject. My sermon prep is very awkward in the sense of collecting info. I pick up on cultural bits which compliment the scripture/point I am trying to make it. They wind up on scraps of paper, collected and vetted to see if they are relevant or critical to the message. In other words, “Do they make the best point?”.

    The most important thing I do is decide what not to preach. If the bits and pieces are taking me off track that means they are becoming a separate message and are not to be included.

    The last thing I do is ask myself, ‘How much of this message can be best illustrated by a young person?” Tonight at I had a young lady do the responsive reading and it tied the whole night together, let a student lead and communicated the larger message, that we can all do ministry.

  • Klint says:

    Thanks for sharing man, I love thinking on and evaluating the process – and don’t do it enough! I’m doing my prep now…so, apparently going ADD on the web falls somewhere in the process?

    Here’s what I’ve done today and is pretty normal:
    1. First off, our series direction stuff is set about a semester at a time. Specifics come week to week, overview comes sooner.
    2. Consider focus Scripture or topic…Read/pray up! Commentaries, Scripture context, books, web, etc. Open with intentional, focused prayer.
    3. Set out the big idea – one thing I hope we all walk away with after the teaching.
    4. Knock out a rough version: Intro/closer and the “meat”.
    5. Start again because I didn’t like what I did in step 4.
    6. Refine and support. Finalize ideas, content and flow. Add in interactive discussion, visuals etc.

    Somewhere between 2 and 3 there’s some creative planning with a couple other folks to nail down any stuff that needs time to develop.

    Admittedly, I haven’t thought through the process or re-worked it nearly enough. This is just a general pattern that has emerged for me. Honestly, I’m feeling pretty challenged right now to be more dilligent and think carefully about how I execute a hugely important piece of my responsibility as a pastor. Good stuff. Thanks discussing!

  • […] Josh Griffin on preparing a youth sermon. […]

  • […] ministry – how I start with literally a blank word document on Tuesday morning and follow My 6 Steps to Writing a Youth Talk. Then, after the 2,000+ word manuscript is complete and I take the stage, occasionally making notes […]

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