I mentioned in my mind dump on Monday that we have our sermons for 2014 planned out and I got a few emails from guys asking how we plan that far in advance, what goes into it, how we decide what to do that far in advance, etc.
So, here are some thoughts.
First, why plan that far in advance. This often gets debated. Should you plan at the last minute or plan ahead. The fly by the seat of their pants guys will often say, “I’m waiting for the Holy Spirit to speak” or “If you plan that far in advance, you will take the Holy Spirit out of it.” I’ve learned that the Holy Spirit can speak 1 hour before I preach a sermon and 1 year before I preach a sermon. I just need to listen. I think planning ahead is biblical and wise, whether it is your life or ministry. Can you take the Holy Spirit out of things by planning that far in advance? Yes. You can also take the Holy Spirit out by being a last minute guy because you are more likely to preach what you want to preach.
Here are a few things I think through when planning a preaching calendar:
- What have I already preached on. It is important to know what you have already preached on and not repeat it. If you have just done 3 NT books of the Bible, change it up. We try to alternate between old testament and new. It doesn’t always happen that way, but that’s the rhythm we seek to have. We are in John right now and before that we did Ecclesiastes, Ephesians, Joshua, and before that 1 & 2 Peter. You don’t have to rigidly lock into that, but it helps to make sure you are preaching different books, topics and genres of Scripture.
- What topics do I feel like my church needs to hear. This gets at who is at your church, who you are hoping to reach, what questions your culture is asking. Every year at our church, we seek to preach on marriage, relationships, generosity, and money. We will hit those topics every single year regardless of what books we preach through. Why? Our culture is always asking questions about those things. In this point, you need to think through time of year. We talked about doing a series on pain and suffering in February, but people aren’t asking those questions then. They are still asking questions about meaning, purpose and how to have a better new year, be a better person. You can argue those aren’t great questions to ask, but you can’t argue with the fact that they are asking those questions.
- What haven’t I talked on recently. This helps to identify the places you gravitate towards and help expose things you are afraid to address or have simply skipped. This is when you look back at your old sermon schedule and see where you’ve been.
- What am I passionate about. This can be good and bad. It is good because you have to preach what you are passionate about. Otherwise, no one will listen. It is bad because you can easily preach what you are only passionate about. It took me 5 years at Revolution to preach through a whole gospel. Why? Because I love the NT letters more. That can be unhealthy for a church if it goes too long. Other preachers stay in the gospels and ignore Paul, or ignore the OT.
- Where is my church going. This is a vision question. What is coming up in the next year that you can preach towards? If you are praying about planting a church, preach towards that. If you feel like you need to preach on generosity or grow in community, preach that vision. This means though, as a pastor you need to lead with vision and know where you are going.