Planning Your Preaching Calendar

The time has come for me, as a pastor, to begin planning my preaching calendar for this year. In fact, the time came a couple of months ago, and the LORD allowed me the opportunity to set aside a few weeks in January (with the help of a couple of preachers in our congregation) to recuperate from the craziness of the holiday ministry season and spend some time seeking the LORD for this new year. I want to encourage every pastor and preacher to devote some time and prayer to planning his preaching calendar ahead of time. Let me share a few things that I have learned in recent years.


Why it is helpful

Every day of the year we preachers know that “Sunday’s coming.” It is a reality that cannot be avoided, and that weighs on our heart. We know the responsibility that is ours before God to minister His Word to His people. It is a responsibility that we do not take lightly. And there is nothing more stressful than knowing that you have a preaching responsibility, and not knowing what you are going to preach about. If we have no plan, no direction, we are starting from scratch each and every week. We waste valuable time just asking the LORD, “What now?” And when we have 3-4 preaching and teaching commitments a week, the stress can become unbearable. Planning the direction of your preaching and teaching schedule ahead of time does amazing things to reduce that stress. It frees you to focus the time you also need to give to administration, counseling, visiting and many other weekly ministry responsibilities. It also allows you to promote upcoming themes on your website or promotional material. The benefits are too many to mention. The same God who can fill your mouth with His Words at a moment’s notice will also give you long-term vision and direction in feeding His flock if you seek Him.

 

What to include

Pastors are accountable before God to preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). We are responsible for how the flock is fed spiritually. Our aim is to see believers grow and mature in the things of God. We cannot just preach our favorite passages and topics. We can’t avoid passages and themes that are complicated and controversial. If it’s in the Bible, we are responsible for communicating it. Planning ahead of time to preach on different themes and topics holds us accountable. When you plan your preaching calendar, let me encourage you to consider including:

  1. Book studies
  2. Biographical studies
  3. Topical studies
  4. Key passages

Last year I preached through the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), Hebrews 11, and 1 John. I preached a series on the family, a series for new believers and a series on the Beginning (Genesis 1-11). The previous year I preached a series through the life of the Apostle Peter. The goal is a well-rounded spiritual diet for God’s people.

 

Who to involve

Part of the responsibility of church leaders is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12). This includes preaching and teaching. I know that many preachers are very jealous of their pulpit, or feel that they are paid to be the ones behind the pulpit all the time. But that is not true. We are the overseers, and we are God’s men to cast the vision and lead the congregation to follow the LORD’s direction, but the church is a Body. Some of those in the Body have been called or gifted to preach, and we must give them opportunity.

Let me encourage you to set aside times in the year in which you allow others in your congregation to minister the Word. It may be a younger preacher getting started and needing experience. It may be a retired preacher needing to use the “burning fire in his bones” (Jeremiah 20:9). It may be someone on your pastoral staff. But it is good for God’s people to receive the Word from different people. It reminds them that it is God’s Word, not man’s word. It is not about the messenger, but about the Message. And we pastors set the tone and help guide this attitude in our congregation.

There are also special days throughout the year that a guest speaker can be brought in. Annual holidays, church anniversaries, revivals, conferences, or the pastor’s family vacation. These are also times that need to be planned ahead of time. You can work your preaching series around these events, perhaps using these breaks to end or begin a new theme.

 

Planning your preaching calendar can be a difficult task. We need to seek the LORD and listen to His voice. But it is incredibly rewarding, both to you and to your congregation. If you have found any specific thing to helpful in this area, please share your comments in the section below.

Start Your Sermon Prep Early!

Preachers are well aware of the mounting pressure that builds throughout the week as Sunday approaches.  Yes, there are many details to orchestrate for the weekend services and activities, but it all pales in comparison to the weight of sermon delivery.  God’s people come to His house to hear from Him and His Word.  And this burden of ministry rests squarely upon the pastor’s shoulders.

Adequate study and preparation is a process that takes many hours.  That is, if you want to avoid the “Saturday Night Special.”  However, there are so many responsibilities and interruptions that hit us throughout the week.  And with each delay or detour in our plans the pressure kicks up a notch.  In the back of our mind we always know that there is a message to prepare for, and we are not ready.  But, ready or not, Sunday’s coming.

What have I found that works for me (if I just do it)?  Start early.  I mean, Monday morning – or Tuesday, if that is when your work week begins.  Before the staff meetings, before the Wednesday message, before the mail and phone calls.  Start taking notes and drafting your initial thoughts on your text.  Get something down on paper.  Don’t worry if the points are clear, or if it even makes sense!  Just start early.

This way you have several days to allow your thoughts to gel, to read commentaries and do research, to think of illustrations.  The congregation will be greatly blessed by it, your family will be blessed by a not-as-stressed husband and father, and you will be able to give your full attention to other matters at hand.  I wish I could say I am consistent at this, but the Lord knows the truth. But I have experienced it enough to make it my weekly goal.

What have you found to be helpful in sermon preparation?

Lessons Learned

 I believe it would be fitting for me to share some personal thoughts and lessons learned from the opportunity our church, Vandalia Baptist Temple, recently had to host the World Baptist Fellowship Fall Meeting. The emphasis of this “semi-annual” meeting is always world missions, which is very close to my heart. My wife Megan and I accepted the opportunity with “fear and trembling,” and wanted to give our best for the Lord and His servants. We felt so inadequate, but trusted God to put people in place to help accomplish the task.

It was an overwhelming experience to see God at work. And that reminded me of some important truths:

  1. Planning is important, but God has to meet with us. We did our best to prepare and organize what we thought would be a blessing to God’s servants. Not everything came about the way we wanted or planned. But we knew that if anything of eternal value was to happen, God had to do it, and anoint every speaker, song and service with His Holy Spirit. I believe He did – to His glory!
  2. Prayer makes all the difference. If God has to meet with us and do a supernatural work, then we have to seek Him in prayer. Not just talk about it, but do it. Each service provided us the opportunity to pray over our pastors, college leaders, and missionaries. What a thrill to hear the voices of God’s servants joined in intercession! I believe God’s presence was tangible during those sacred moments.
  3. Teamwork is essential. I know the host pastor often gets much of the “thanks,” but an event like this is never the work of one person, just like every other ministry for the Lord. I could not have done it without my wife, our staff, and our amazing church family. But beyond that, we received constant encouragement, advice and assistance from our Mission Director and fellow pastors. Teamwork is indeed essential, and it is something which I believe God blesses.
  4. There is so much to be done. As I opened my heart and shared ideas for our fellowship to engage the next generation of missionaries, I seemed to have “hit a nerve” (in a positive sense). There is a growing sense of urgency to take whatever steps are necessary to be more effective in world evangelism and in reaching the next generation for Jesus Christ. We face many challenges as churches and as a fellowship, but God has not called us to a task for which He will not equip us. May we work together, pursue excellence, and focus on the cause which unites us all as Great Commission pastors, missionaries, and churches.

It was our honor to serve the World Baptist Fellowship through this meeting. The 26 missionary families and dozens of pastors who came were such an encouragement to our people. God even used this meeting to lead our congregation to its highest Faith Promise commitment in our church’s history! I appreciate every word and expression of gratitude and encouragement that we have since received. God has branded these truths on my heart, and for that I praise Him. Let us “SO RUN” (I Cor. 9:24).