Thursday, September 17, 2015

Plan your preaching for 2016

Now is the time to begin thinking about your preaching plan for 2016. As a bivocational pastor I found that planning my preaching schedule in advance was a major time saver and added continuity to my ministry and my preaching. It also ensured that I had the needed resources when it was time to prepare my messages. Another benefit was that it allowed for better worship planning.

My planning was fairly simple. I would take a sheet of paper and write down the dates in the left column. Since our church had a morning and evening service I listed AM and PM for each date. I then took a calendar and noted holidays and special events on the Christian calendar on the appropriate dates. One piece of paper gave me a quarter of the yearly calendar.

Once I had the mechanical pieces in place it was time to think and pray. Did I sense God wanted us to have a specific focus for the upcoming year? Were there issues in the church that needed to be addressed? Were we about to enter into a significant time in the life of the church? Each summer after Father's Day I would preach through a book of the Bible or a significant section of Scripture so I would spend some time thinking about that series of messages.

Sometime around the middle of November I would begin listing sermon titles and texts on the paper for each Sunday. By noting the dates of special events I not only ensured I didn't overlook one, it also showed me when I had stretches of Sundays I could do a series of messages and when I needed to do a stand-alone sermon.

I never planned the entire year of messages in the fall of the year, but I did try to work 3-6 months out. At the end of each month I would give the next month's sermon plan to our worship leaders so they could coordinate the services with the messages.

Earlier I mentioned this allowed me to have the resources I would need to prepare my sermons. This was especially important for the series I would preach through a book of the Bible. I was able to purchase the commentaries and other helps that would be needed for a more in-depth look at these books.

A busy pastor may wonder how to find the time to do such planning, but this is time well-spent. I found that the demands on my time were less around the holidays so this was an ideal time for such planning. Once I finished my planning I could focus my time each week on sermon preparation and not on wondering what to preach about the next Sunday. There are few things worse than when you realize on Friday that you still don't know what to preach on Sunday.

I've known the occasional pastor who would plan their preaching schedule, sometimes a year in advance, and never veer from that schedule no matter what happened. This is a mistake. One pastor got into trouble after 9/11 because the following Sunday he preached the message he planned to preach that day a year earlier. Like many churches, this church had numerous first-time guests that day wanting to know if the Scriptures had anything that would address this disaster, and they left hearing nothing.

I did my planning but remained flexible. If another message was more timely or needed due to some unforeseen event, I changed the message to fit that need. However, that seldom happened. Develop a preaching plan for 2016. Both you and the church will benefit.

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