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:
- Book studies
- Biographical studies
- Topical studies
- 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.