Pastors' Forum


Nourishing Yourself and Feeding Others

What do you as a pastor do on a personal level to keep yourself fed and spiritually nourished? What are your personal reading and devotional habits? Also, what do you do in terms of your study and message preparation habits? How much time do you spend reading, studying, and listening to others preach, and how does that integrate into your message preparation?


Pastor Stan Saunders – Chillicothe, MO
I read a minimum of one book per month on a wide range of subjects including: church growth, personal spiritual development, leadership, and non-spiritual novels or nonfiction. I have various Bible reading habits just to keep it fresh. I have read the Bible thru from Genesis to Revelation several times. I sometimes camp out in a book, like Ephesians, for several weeks at a time. Other times I will extensively study a topic. Sometimes, I just randomly read Psalms or Proverbs or the sermon on the mount, etc.

A typical week of sermon prep for Sunday morning sermons begins with reflection and research on Monday. Tuesdays I have staff meetings almost all day. Wednesday I prepare for Wednesday night’s message, which is usually something from my personal sermon files or from a scripture that I have been meditating upon. I begin my rough outline for Sunday’s message also on Wednesday. Thursday is sermon day. The entire day is devoted to finishing Sunday’s sermon outline. This includes cutting material to tighten up the message. Friday I try not to think about the message at all, but usually do anyway! Saturday morning I will work on memorizing my outline. Saturday night I work on memorizing my outline. By Sunday morning I know my message well enough to preach it without notes.

I spend almost no time listening to others preach. I read books mostly to discover the thoughts of others. I have great difficulty sitting still long enough to listen to a message. I can sit still and read. Most of my research from other speakers has to do with illustrations and presentation techniques.

I schedule myself out of the pulpit eight Sundays yearly for vacations, foreign mission trips and just to take the weekend off from speaking. I love to hear my staff preach. They always do an outstanding job, and the congregation really enjoys them also. Several Sundays yearly I sit and listen to them.

Pastor Bill Anzevino – Industry, PA
I’ve learned early in life and ministry that the Gospel only benefits those who mix faith with it. Therefore, in order to maintain a high level of faith, I do what I believe is necessary to feed my faith and starve my doubts.

I begin each day with prayer both in English and in the Spirit, while incorporating specific faith building confessions into my prayers. James said the tongue is the steering wheel of our lives and controlling the tongue is key to setting the course of our lives for good things. The Israelites under Moses failed to enter the Promised Land not because they didn’t know God’s Word, but because they failed to mix with it the most important ingredient – faith. For me, meditation and confession help keep me fed and nourished and position me to respond to life’s challenges with faith instead of doubt. When my son Andrew was born with 22q11, DiGeorge Syndrome, Tetralogy of Fallot and without a left pulmonary artery or immune system, it was faith in four words spoken to my heart in the birthing room that enabled him to receive a creative miracle and grow a left pulmonary artery to normal size in nine months. “Fear not, only believe,” were the four words that took him from “he won’t live through the night, to celebrating his eighth birthday on June 25, 2009, full of life, health, vitality and strength. I believe meditation and confession are key to maintaining a strong faith life.

Regarding what I do in terms of study and sermon preparation, I have found nothing to be more important than spending time with the Father to get His mind and then communicate that to God’s people. Jesus gave us this example to follow: His teaching, preaching and doing were all based on what the Father told him to teach, preach and do. No one knows the people or the needs of the people we minister to better than the Father. Getting His mind is first, and then I get as much information as I can in order to equip myself to minister that subject effectively. This may involve reading books, listening to others preach, studying the scriptures and going online to gather helpful information on the subject. Someone once said to preach effectively, a preacher should study himself full, pray himself anointed, receive from the Spirit, and preach fresh messages from the Word.

Personally, I teach more than anything else. I believe that’s where my anointing is. When Jesus “could there do no mighty work” in Nazareth because of their unbelief, He went about the villages teaching (Mk. 6:5-6). I have found that teaching people how to apply the principles of God’s Word in a practical way in everyday life helps not only to meet the immediate need, but also equips the individual to live a consistent victorious life.

Remember, God didn’t give us His Word so we could gather enough information to become Theologians. He gave us His Word so we could undergo transformation and overcome anything we face in this world with our faith.

Pastor Mike Kalstrup – Oakland, IA
While in Bible School over 30 years ago, one of the guest speakers made a statement I’ve never forgotten. He said, “As a minister you must preach out of your ‘overflow’, not out of your need”. Unfortunately, for many ministers this doesn’t happen. It’s such a true statement and vitally important, but in the real world of ministry responsibilities, it’s easier said than done.

That being said, I endeavor to begin each day in the morning for myself—a time of prayer, worship and usually reading the proverbs or psalms, along with a chapter or so from authors that happen to bless me spiritually. I wish I could say this happens every day, but it does not. As I said, ‘I endeavor’, and I do fairly well.

My devotional time most certainly gives birth to inspiration for public ministry. It can be in the form of supplementing a subject I’m already teaching or preaching on, or to a whole new bible subject. Obviously, as we recognize the needs of our audience and how the Holy Spirit is leading us, we need to be obedient to the direction that’s given. But when it comes to my devotion time, I try not to come with ministry preparation in mind.

Because it’s sometimes common for ministers to have unrealistic obligations placed upon them; whether they be self-imposed or as the result of other people, I encourage any minister to give themselves permission to have time for themselves first, and then care for the needs that ministry represents. You minimize your value to others if you’re personally beaten down, malnourished and unedified spiritually. Bear in mind, it does require a personal discipline, but when practiced, it causes your own life to be blessed along with those to whom you minister.

Understand also, that in each and every one of our lives, there are ‘seasons’ when we need more personal ministry for ourselves than at other times because of the demands that may currently be being placed upon us. So sometimes you need to “come ye apart for awhile” for times of refreshing. Then prepare for your ministry to others through whatever sources or means that can help you to meet their needs. I say, do whatever it takes to give yourself a sure advantage. We live in ‘perilous times’ and you need to be at the top of your game.

Pastor Mark Williams – Rockford, IL
I consume two different devotionals each day: “Fit for the King,” by Thomas Hundley and “The Love Dare,” by Steve Kendrick. I read through the Bible with a daily reading plan. I read the Psalms and Proverbs completely each month. Each night before going to bed, I read scriptures concerning husbands in Ephesians 5:25, Colossians 3:19 and 1 Peter 3:7.

Each week I listen to an hour or more of ministry recordings of various ministers (Fred Price, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Keith Moore, Keith Butler, Kenneth Hagin). I am sure that this practice impacts and influences my own teaching and preaching on a weekly basis.

God bless you all as you also feed upon God’s Word.

Pastor Michael Steward – Powell, OH
There are a couple of ways that I ensure I have ample time to spiritually feed myself. At this time of year, we don’t have a Wednesday night service, so that frees me up a bit more. So during this time I take one day of the week and commit that day to just feed, personally. I go to a local bookstore and spend the whole day there just reading and listening. I don’t study to prepare, I just feed on anything I want. When we do have a Wednesday service, time is more limited. So, I make sure to take periodic prayer and study weeks. My wife and I will go away for a few days to a hotel and just spend time building ourselves up spiritually.

As far as preparing for messages, we have made it a priority that this is my primary function as the pastor and as chief person that feeds the sheep. So, the vast majority of my time is focused on preparation. I am unashamed to do whatever it takes to provide a great message for our congregation. I read, listen, and ‘steal’ anything I can get my hands on. Usually what happens is that I will hear something great in a number of different messages on a certain topic. I will then use all of that information and allow the Holy Ghost to shape my messages from that. If I were to break it down, I probably spend about 1 hour of study time for each minute that I preach/teach. I think that it is just THAT important.

Pastor Sam Smucker – Lancaster, PA
I try to consistently be reading a book on the subject I am preaching on and also be reading a book for personal enrichment. I do this most of the time at home, in the evenings, etc. I listen to teaching and worship CDs as I drive in my car for personal edification.

When it comes to sermon prep, in actually putting my notes together, I spend about one hour for every 4-5 minutes of preaching and teaching. If I minister a 40 minute sermon, I usually spend 8-10 hours in my office putting the notes together. I preach my sermons twice to myself before I preach them in the church. I have found through the years that doing this gives me confidence in sharing the message.

I read five to seven chapters in the Bible daily. Each year I choose a different plan of reading the Word. I go to my office early in the morning three to four days a week to spend 30 minutes to an hour in prayer. Also, before service time I try to spend 30–45 minutes in prayer.

My wife and I try to attend several conferences each year for personal enrichment and growth. I believe we owe it to our congregations to be growing spiritually ourselves.

Pastor Doug Foutty – Parkersburg, WV
As a pastor, it is necessary to have study time for me personally. If I spend all of my study time on preparing my next message, then I go hungry while preparing spiritual food for others. If I am not staying spiritually fed and keeping my own mind renewed to God’s Word, then I am going to be in a weakened state when it comes time to deliver the message to others.

During my prayer time I hear from God concerning my own needs and the areas that God wants me to concentrate on as well as the message that He has for His people. I often am studying something for weeks and months for my own self, and as I begin to prove it and have victory in my life in that area, then and only then does the Lord allow me to teach it.

I have a small church and have to work a secular job. I keep teaching CD’s playing in my car to and from work all of the time. I listen to the same messages over and over before I change out the CD. I am blessed that my friend Wyatt Brown sends me all of his messages every month. I never run out of great teaching. I am currently listening to a Keith Moore series which was free of charge at a meeting of his that I attended.

I do a lot of my Bible reading on the computer, but my Bible studying I do in various translations so that I can write in the Bible and make notes to prompt me. Sometimes it is good just to read the book of Acts or something that kind of reads like a story. Read it in a modern translation to get a general understanding and then break out your study tools to focus on the parts that God used to speak into your life. Read it, re-read it and read it again in several translations. While studying, I try not to take a huge portion of scripture. I want to get the context of it, of course, but I think there is more info. to glean in some smaller scriptures if we allow God time to reveal His word to us. I hope this helps answer your question.

Pastor Al Jennings – Ft. Wayne, IN
Generally I have a set-aside prayer time first thing in the morning. And then in addition to that, my goal is to practice the presence of God throughout the day by having little conversations with Him. For example: telling the Lord how much I love Him, or thanking Him for something He’s done, or acknowledging His hand or favor on my life. Also, I read scripture from the One Year Bible in the New Living Translation.

Currently (as my prayer methods change in different seasons of my life), these are the areas that I cover in my set-aside time: family (including myself), church members and partners, ministers, military and government. One more thing: when I am praying for my family, I say this: “I plead the blood of Jesus over my family (I call each member of my immediate family by name) and I draw a blood line around my family and property that the devil cannot cross, in Jesus name!”

As far as message preparation, I expose myself to a wide variety of material. Often, I come across teaching material that I’m impressed to use in my own messages. I will take that material (book, DVDs, CDs, MP3s, podcasts, etc.) and spend hours digesting it and making it my own. I will edit and adjust the material to fit me; not just sermons, but also business and motivational materials. And of course, I also plan and study messages that I get directly from the Holy Spirit. I’m not ashamed to use other’s materials because you can also get things from the Holy Spirit through others, but I want to emphasize that when you study other’s materials it is not an excuse to be lazy. I thoroughly study the material inside and out; I literally wear it out.

Also, I cannot over emphasize the importance of your daily devotional life, and I’m glad you included that as a part of your question because for me, that’s the foundation of all my messages. I’ve read the New Testament so many times for over 25 years, that even though it seems like it only takes me a few hours to prepare, it really has taken over 25 years. The Lord will use cumulative knowledge he has given you since the time you been walking with him to make it easier for you to prepare, the longer you fellowship with him.

Pastor David Emigh – Sand Springs, OK
I began reading the Bible through the first year I was born again and I do that every year. I find that gives me a great perspective of the Bible over-all. Then I like to read an entire Epistle through at one setting. I will do that several times in different translations to prepare to teach that book.

I like to view the overall context when I minister from the Gospels or Old Testament. I like to find the setting of the story or truth and build on it. I do the same with the Psalms and Proverbs.

I read my Bible every day before I eat and then I like to spend a good amount of time in prayer. This helps me to stay full of the Spirit and full of the Word.

When I am preparing to receive a subject to minister on, I spend a lot of time praying in the Holy Spirit and then listen to my spirit. Usually a thought or a word will rise up from the inside and then I ponder that. Once I have determined a direction from Jesus, I will begin to study the Bible on that. If I know a good author who has written on that subject, I will read after them. I like to use my PC Study Bible. It has a lot of good reference materials.

I like to do series teachings for four or six weeks. It helps me to cover a subject thoroughly, but then I mix it up and do single subjects. If I do a long series I come back and do some single inspirational stuff.

Then in between times, when I am driving, I listen to other people preach and teach. I do my best to minister from the overflow! Glory!

Pastor Thom Fields – Kennewick, WA
Over the years, I’ve found it absolutely vital to maintain a relevant and healthy relationship with the man of God that I call “Pastor.” (Senior Pastors must have a pastor to lead and guide them, just like everybody else.) I’m blessed to have an incredible leader who is willing to invest into my life…even on a daily basis, if necessary. As a matter of fact, if we haven’t yet spoken to each other this week… it must still be Monday! My pastor has all the tools necessary to lead me, teach me, inspire me and feed me. This isn’t because I’m “lucky” either. I believe it’s because I’m “smart.”

It doesn’t matter what level of leadership you’ve achieved. You must have a great leader leading you and you must realize that it isn’t the responsibility of another person to provide you with great leadership. It’s your responsibility to draw upon and submit to that leadership. This is how I stay spiritually, mentally, and emotionally healthy. Even though I’m a Senior Pastor, I still stay constantly connected to my pastor. I listen to his sermons, study his notes, and admittedly, spiritually stalk him – not so I can steal his material – but in order to feed my spirit. In reality, his material very seldom (if ever) finds its way into my weekly messages. That would just be too odd and incredibly obvious due to the fact that we are so different from one another.

I was asked one time, “How long did you prepare for this message?” I answered, “My entire life!” I’m never getting ready for a sermon, but always preparing to share. I don’t spend any time at all building my ministry, but every moment building my relationship with God. I try to read often, study the Word daily, and listen to at least two podcasts weekly (one from a favorite preacher—one from a total stranger). However, I never allow two days to go by without contacting my pastor—NEVER. That’s how I stay healthy.

Pastor Ray Almaguer – Glendora, CA
Many years ago Dr. Roy Hicks Sr. gave me some fatherly advice along these lines. He encouraged me to “always preach from the overflow, don’t just preach from preparation.” As a pastor who preaches every week, this is easier said than done. I believe it is vitally important for a pastor to have his own personal study time in the Word that is separate from sermon preparation. Remember, you are a believer first, then you are a pastor. If someone walked up to you and asked, “What has God been dealing with you about?”, would you be able to answer that question? Ministers must purpose to never stop growing. Ministers need to prayerfully decide to attend conferences that both feed their spirits and stretch their thinking. We also need to read books and listen to CDs that do the same.