1. Prepare ahead of time.
Many people assume that the sermon begins once the pastor begins speaking on Sunday. Listening to a sermon, however, should start before that. By Saturday night (and hopefully earlier!) we should begin turning our hearts and minds to the Lord’s Day. We should make sure that we get enough sleep on Saturday so we aren’t too exhausted on Sunday morning.
For those of us with young children, more preparation than this is usually needed. Have bags been packed with snacks? Has the car’s gas tank been filled? Have we considered the passage that will be preached this coming week? Sometimes it’s helpful to read through the passage at least once before Sunday morning; that way we can more readily receive the good news that God has prepared for us.
2. Pray for your pastor’s preaching.
Part of our before-service preparation begins during the week, well before Sunday. We pray for the minister, asking for God to bless his sermon preparation and delivery of the sermon. This also builds in us a degree of eagerness to hear God’s Word preached, and our thoughts are more mindful of the blessings we receive each week as we gather for public worship.
3. Examine what you hear on Sunday.
For some people, it is helpful to take notes during the sermon. Jotting down relevant Bible texts that relate to the passage, writing down the sermon outline, or recording those gospel “zingers” can lift our hearts and help us to minister to others in a time of need. When you get home, take out a commentary or two and read through sections about that passage in Scripture.
Did the preacher stick faithfully to the text? What insights did he have to leave out for the sake of time that might illumine the text and deepen your understanding of God’s Word?
4. Meditate after the service on the passage preached.
Take some time after the service—perhaps on the drive home—to discuss what the sermon was about and how it might apply to your life. Allow your own children to ask difficult questions, and use it as an opportunity to help them make Christianity their own.
Go beyond “Did you like the sermon?” to asking more reflective questions such as “How has this passage made you appreciate Jesus’ work for you?”