Sermon preparation involves creativity. No, the preacher is not creating truth. God did that. But the preacher is creating sentences, phrases, and even structures that will best communicate the truth.

And like all creatives – artists, authors, architects, etc. – preachers encounter creative blocks. They just don’t know where the next thought or sentence is going to come from.

Mark McGuinness has provided a helpful list of 7 types of creative block (summarized below) and also proposes some solutions (visit his blog for those).

1. The mental block.
This is where you get trapped by your own thinking. You’re so locked into a familiar way of looking at the world that you fail to see other options. You make assumptions and approach a problem from a limiting premise. Or maybe your Inner Critic rears its head and stops you thinking straight.

2. The emotional barrier.
Creativity can be intense. It’s not a comfortable pursuit. Faced with the unknown, you may be scared of what you’ll discover or reveal about yourself. Maybe your subject matter is painful, embarrassing or plain weird. Whatever – all of these fears and qualms are just different forms of Resistance, leading to procrastination.

3. Work habits that don’t work.
Maybe there’s no great drama — you’re just trying to work in a way that isn’t compatible with your creative process. You work too early, too late, too long, or not long enough. You try to hard or not hard enough. You don’t have enough downtime or enough stimulation. Or maybe you haven’t set up systems to deal with mundane tasks – email, admin, accounting, etc – so they keep interfering with your real work.

4. Personal problems.
Creativity demands focus — and it’s hard to concentrate if you’re getting divorced/ dealing with toddlers/battling an addiction/falling out with your best friend/grieving someone special/moving house/locked in a dispute with a neighbor.

5. Poverty.
I’m not just talking about money, although a lack of cash is a perennial problem for creatives. You could also be time-poor, knowledge-poor, have a threadbare network, or be short of equipment or other things you need to get the job done.

6. Overwhelm.
Sometimes a block comes from having too much, not too little. You’ve taken on too many commitments, you have too many great ideas, or you’re overwhelmed by the sheer volume of incoming demands and information. You feel paralyzed by options and obligations, or simply knackered from working too hard for too long.

7. Communication breakdown.
Creative blocks can happen between people as well as between the ears…Sometimes you get blocked by phantoms — merely imagining your work being booed by audiences and mauled by the critics…after years of plugging away at your art with a miniscule audience, you wonder why you bother.

Once you’ve read McGuiness’s solutions, add and prioritize this one:  Two knees on the floor, and two hands in the air.

And if you’re still stuck, then watch this! (Email/RSS readers click here).

I’m sure there are other preacher’s secrets to the “white screen syndrome.” What’s worked for you?

  • Kara

    Such a good ad! Reminds me a bit of the Jeeves and Wooster feel. I won’t ever need to preach a sermon but if I did I’d be ordering!

    • David Murray

      I actually wrote it for non-preachers too, to help them see what goes on behind the scenes!

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